Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Considering using the Mass Battles rules for Starship Combat



Starship combat is almost as bad as Hacking. One character gets a chance to shine while everyone else sits back. Sure some games and ships let one person pilot while another character mans a gun turret, but it still means that only two skills can come into play. And worse, it tends to be baked into the rules that only these skills are useful in this situation.

How about a change? How about we let the players figure out how they might use their individual skills to help in a starship combat situation? Hackers might try to hack the enemy ship, shutting down its weapons or creating ghost targets for it to fire at? Engineers could overdrive the engines, academics could convey an enemy ships's weaknesses, non-coms could assist in damage control... the point is that if a player wants to be involved then they only have to figure out how they can help.

And in Savage Worlds, the Mass Battles rules can cover this with little modification. I just need to rate each ship in Tokens. And for every Token lost, the vehicle takes a Critical Hit.

Granted it's a thought in progress, but I think it has merit.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

I Hate Dealing With Money



I'm slowly getting back the use of my arm, but dreading those emergency room bills I'm about to get hit with during the holidays.

But enough about real life.

I hate dealing with money. In my opinion, the pursuit of treasure is what makes the Murder Hobo meme. I admit I've killed kobolds for their shoes at 1st level. I've stripped enemy bodies clean all to maximize my profits. After all, treasure made you more powerful. The more gold you had, the more healing potions and armor you can acquire.

That was all well and good in a game like AD&D where death and theft was all of the plot you needed, but collecting enemy footwear would look a little awkward in a game like Shadowrun. And what happens when you have all the equipment you need? What do you do with all of that extra money you acquire? For my characters that had no interest in cyberware or fortress management, the result was wealth without purpose. I didn't need to adventure. The only reason I kept that character going was because I wanted to play, but any economic challenges my gm through my way (like everyone has to pay 20 credits if they want into the club where the adventure is happening) was a non-issue. I was so rich that it didn't contribute to the story. In time we just stopped worrying about tracking money.

For those of you who don't know, the Optional Wealth rules for Nemezis has been made into a free pdf download from DrivethruRPG. It handles wealth in a very abstract way and for games where the heroes are can come from very disparate incomes. It creates a Wealth trait rated as a die type and you roll for whether you can purchase an item. My only issue with the system came up in play when a player failed his roll to buy a gun earlier in the game but succeeded with a raise in his attempt to buy a car later. But it didn't occur to me until much later that I could have explained this away with "the gun required cash, but you were able to get a loan for the car." It can get a little twisted when purchasing multiple items of the same cost. Still, if you have players who are willing to go along with the idea that this is a game, it's a cool resource.

If I were to work it into my Cargo Run rules from "Adventure...or Deliver Cargo", I would award a +1 to wealth Purchase rolls when the crew gets their payday. And a -2 if the screw up the delivery (as well as owing a favor to the client).




Thursday, November 12, 2015

On Damage, My Damage

Today's post is full of pain.

I was driving home last night on my bike when, yet again, another idiot facing my direction turns left in front of me causing me to crash. Unlike last time, I was doing 50 mph (the speed limit on that road is 55). The person involved fled the scene.

So I dislocated my shoulder, fractured my Humerus, and spent the night in an ER.

So no game posts this week. However I am spending some downtime reading Sly Flourish's The Lazy DM and hope to post my thoughts on it soon.

Peace Ouch!


Friday, October 30, 2015

Happy Halloween! - And Checking Your Dice

I came across this interesting video that has a neat trick for checking your dice. 


Now some of you might use this to find dice that roll well. Just a reminder, if there is no risk, there is no reward. I can't imagine a game more boring than one where I always win.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Setting Building Method Alpha


Sometimes when we start building a setting, it flows easily. Many settings already have a shorthand that we can use, like fantasy or cyberpunk, where we don't need to detail much about the setting. We can just drop our characters into the setting and move along. We are all on the same page.

But sometimes we try something new, we build a world from the ground up and we get lost. Here's a helpful worksheet to keep you on your path in Setting Design. I named it alpha as it will no doubt get upgraded as time goes on. But so far this has really helped me to keep focused on my settings.

Genre

First you should pick the genre of game you are playing. Is it Fantasy, Historical, Western, Modern, Cyberpunk, Space Opera, or Hard Sci-Fi? Is it a combination of these genres? Make a note and start looking up these Genres on TV Tropes. Tropes are the shorthand of any genre and using these will help your players get a quick feel for your setting. They will also help you in filling out the rest of this worksheet.

Trope Characters

What are the typical, iconic characters of your genre? Who are the type of people that wind up in your trope's adventure. This will prepare you for the types of characters your players will want to play and it may also point to some new rules you may have to add it your setting. For instance, if your setting occurs in Victorian style England or the universe of a Dune styled empire, then a character's Status becomes very important in social encounters.

Trope Villains

Who are the heroes likely to go up against? What are the typical villains that will populate your setting? List them out. Just rough character types here, you don't have to flesh out each villain. Just list things like: Pirates, Mad Scientists, Corrupt Religious Figures, etc.

Trope Locations

Some settings are more about the environment than the characters (like Alice in Wonderland). Even if it isn't, locations can be inspiring and set the tone of your setting if done right.

Magic?

Pretty basic. Will your setting have magic and what will it look like? What are it's limitations? What do people think of it?

New Rules

What new rules will be required to give your setting that Trope feeling? In horror games this might take the form of sanity/fear rules, Status rules as mentioned earlier, or things like starship construction. The danger here is that you might go overboard or add too many new rules that just bog down the game. Design only those rules systems that your setting requires. Try not to add more than a couple of new Edges or Hindrances. Often times what is already in the rulebook will cover what you may want to do.
Also, try to keep the new rules simple. You don't need more complications in your life.

New Gear

Is there any special gear that your game requires that isn't already statted up in the core book? Generally this is vehicles, spaceships, or other weapons. It also might include high-tech gadgets that are disposable versions of Powers.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Ill Effects of a Gaming Haiatus

I find this interesting. I have been working on my sci-fi setting for nearly a year now it seems, and I haven't played Savage Worlds in about two years.

So I lost my last gaming group to a variety of life problems, as well as the fact that no one wanted to play Savage Worlds. All of the gaming I have been doing has been Pathfinder Society. Nevertheless my life feels unfulfilled with that system and I want to get back to creative action. I promised myself the next game I was going to run would be Savage Worlds Sci Fi and I started working on this setting.

Now it's a year later, the setting isn't done (not because it is exceptionally detailed, I just can't get my mind to settle on the setting background). I'm beginning to think that part of my problem in making this setting is that I have no players. That I haven't had players in a long time.

I need to get off my butt and start running again.Part of my brain thinks that once I get players for the system, details will just fall in to place. I will be able to build on what the players want and not just what's rattling around in my head.

I'm thinking that technically I have enough of my sci-fi setting to start running it and that the rest can just be made up on the way. I take courage that works like Daring Tales of the Space Lanes really offered no setting but still were a lot of fun.

So today's lesson I learned is "Get out there and play!"


Monday, October 19, 2015

Sci-Fi Star Maps

Yeah, I know. I've been gone a while. Life, as always. Plus it is getting harder to come up with things to post. So let's try this topic as I don't see much advice on it anywhere on the intrawebz: Making a star chart for your sci-fi setting.

Obviously your map is going to be tied to your setting, so one can inform the other. It's best to decide what kind of sci-fi you want (or its scope) before you start on your map.



Single System Future

In this type of setting humans haven't traveled far. There might be moon colonies or inhabited asteroids brought into orbit, maybe there is even a colony on Mars. Here you needn't worry about a star map but you should decide how many environments there are, what their purpose is, and what makes them feel different to the players.

The Beginnings of FTL

The next step of Single System Future (and you should start there). The humans have visited a handful of local star systems and established colonies. fairly easy, just pick local stars and give them planets. Again, try to make the locations feel different. Also keep in mind that this setting really lends itself to exploring new worlds. We have the means to reach them but are just now taking those baby steps.

Restricted FTL

This is one of my favorites for space opera/space fantasy. The idea is that we can travel FTL, but we can only jump a specified distance and we need to end that jump in a system. Or FTL is accomplished through gates, leaping from one system gate to another. I like this because your star map now has terrain, or paths. Jumping to a system may require a circuitous path leading through five different systems. It is also the best explanation for why there are still "wild" planets that haven't been charted, as they are out of reach of the current engine technology or gates haven't been established yet. Then during your game if you want to run an exploration session, introduce a new engine or gate that can get the heroes there.

This map is laid out more like a maze with a few nexus points where trade routes converge. Your map could encompass a few worlds or a few hundred. How much work you are willing to get involved with is up to you.

Unrestricted FTL and the Sector Cheat

Unrestricted FTL means the heroes can jump anywhere, at any time, for any distance. The Last Parsec is a good example of this. In theory the stellar map includes millions of systems... take it easy, don't hyperventilate. Breathe into a bag. We got this. Allow me to introduce you to the Sector Cheat.

The basic idea is that if FTL is so ubiqutous, then it is less likely you will run into "single planet" species, unless they have already been conquered by a spacefaring one. So most species, or at least the strongest ones, will have dominions or Sectors that they control: The Kargan Expanse, The Melatonka Protectorate, etc. Carve up the galaxy into chunks and assign a species to control those areas. Even if they are all a part of the same empire, these sectors will have a drastically different feel under local control.  Now that you have those Sectors, write some basic description about how those Sectors operate, what kind of Government do they use, etc. DON'T start sticking planets in them at this point. It is unnecessary. Save that for the adventures.

So let's say you want to do an adventure on an Ice World mining colony, and you want to challenge your players by making it in a very restrictive part of space. Well, the Kargans have strict control so name the planet and drop it in there. Or if you want the same adventure planet in a place full of slaves and corruption, drop it in the Mealtonka Protectorate. The point is to build your planets as you need them and drop them in a Sector that will may make life a little more interesting for your heroes.

The one problem I have with Unrestricted FTL is that there isn't much in the way of a good explanation for unexplored worlds. Still, Star Wars didn't have much in the way of unexplored worlds (in the movies) and they got along just fine.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Deus Ex Machina

Sorry for being gone so long. I've been taking care of my Autistic niece and that's taken all of my patience and free time. I admire any parent that is willing to take on that task with losing their cool.



So...let's talk Deus Ex Machina. Most old hats already know what this means but RPG gaming is getting some new blood who could use an explanation of what it is and why it's a problem. And it is still a problem, make no mistake. I've been through at least two published Pathfinder Scenarios that dipped into DEM.

Deus Ex Machina means "God in the Machine". It was a staple of Greek Drama where the heroes would struggle against insurmountable odds, only to have the Gods intervene at the end and set the world right again, reward the devout, and punish the evil. The message tended to be "Man is nothing, and always subject to the will of the Gods". The problem is that we don't think that way anymore. Our heroes can succeed, can change their destiny. We strive, we fight, and sometimes we win. 

In RPGs, it is the same. We are the heroes when we play. It's our challenge to overcome, our story.

Now let's say you have fought your way to the Big Bad through a hell of blood and dead orphans. Your party is pumped and ready to unleash a rage of righteous whoopass on the bad guy. Then all of the sudden a more powerful NPC comes in, says the Big Bad is far too powerful for you, and defeats the Big Bad on his own.

Do you feel cheated? I do. Who the heck is this NPC anyway? He didn't share the battles leading to this point. He didn't earn the right to be there. And if he was so powerful, why didn't he just deal with the entire problem himself? But he came in, and he took away your story, your player agency, and your glory.

Typically this occurs with bad GMs that insist on adding their own PC to the party. The GMPC then becomes a hero who can do no wrong, and far more powerful beyond the rest of the party. It's the biggest mistake a GM can make (seriously even not learning the game rules takes a back seat to this one.)

Now on to Pathfinder. There shouldn't  be a GMPC problem because these are printed and published adventures and Pathfinder Society is very strict about running the games as written. So why is DEM showing up here? Well I think it's because the writer wants a big finish to the adventure, like a fight with forty Hobgoblins (this happened). However, these big finishes are often too big for a party of six to handle. Rather than scale it down, the writer adds in a very powerful NPC to balance the odds.

So let's count the issues...
1) The heroes are being shown up by an NPC. It's no longer players' story.
2) There may be a big ending, but the heroes will only participate in a small part of it. So the big finish is just set dressing.

It makes me wonder why any adventure writer would think the big finish is worth it?


Monday, August 24, 2015

Economies Part 2 - The Rebuttal



Hey folks. There were a lot of good responses to my last post that were useful. I do want to address the idea of a Wealth stat - or die and the problems I have had with it. Also I wanted to go more into detail about how purchases add or don't add to the game play experience.

The Wealth Trait

This suggestion came up and to tell the truth I was using this several years ago in one of my first Savage Games. The problem I and my players found was in the swingy-ness of the rolls. For example-

  • The player in question wants to buy a new pistol. He rolls his wealth die and fails. So he moves on to another vendor and decides to buy a car. He aces the roll and buys a car. This actually happened and left the player questioning how he could have enough money for a car but not a pistol.
So the randomness doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Even if you figure in some haggling, the odds that someone could haggle a new car down to below the cost of a common firearm breaks belief.

Which brings me to the gameplay experience


Now was there anything wrong with just letting the character buy the gun? It wasn't going to break my game so it really isn't an issue of balance. In Savage Worlds there isn't a power creep of items like you have in D&D.  Sure a Bazooka is more powerful than a pistol but it has several built-in drawbacks: weight, slow reload time, lack of concealability, and the fact that any law enforcement will shoot at you on sight.

The mechanic of purchasing equipment is binary, meaning you either can buy it or can't. There's no challenge in purchasing, no extraordinary successes. You either get it or you don't. I'm not sure that it qualifies as a fun game mechanic. Even in D&D, the characters eventually gain enough money to make purchase-limitations inconsequential. 

Ultimately equipment acquisition comes down to game balance. Do you want the characters to have access to that or not. If you deem the object to be too powerful, you will find a reason that the heroes can't have it even if they can afford it, and whether you are counting coins or not. 

Love to hear more feedback.


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Economies - A New Way To Play?



If you are a fan of Savage Worlds and you haven't been tuning in to the Savage GM's Hangout, you should. 

So here I was wallowing in a lack of inspiration to get back into writing my blog or diving back into Starpunk, then I listened to their podcast on Money and my brain has reopened.

The podcast touched on an interesting point about in-game economies, and that is the fact that you don't necessarily need one. 

Here is the problem I tend to have with game economies like D&D. The players go out, defeat monsters, gain enough treasure to technically retire, and come home. When the next adventure starts, the hero has lost no money for living costs, just the money he has spent on his equipment. His treasure hoard builds and builds.

Some people like this style of gameplay. They need these rewards to feel like they have gained something at the end of each adventure. In fact the accumulation of wealth starts to be the focus instead of the adventure. Case in point - "I loot the bodies".

But can a game be played without monies and prices? Yes, and in fact some games have been doing it for a while: Military and Espionage games. In these games, a characters gear is usually picked or assigned to them by the agency they work for. But what about regular games where the heroes aren't a part of a wealthy organization? Games like Starpunk? Well...I'm thinking of just applying common sense to the problem.

Starting Gear

The hero starts with whatever gear makes sense for the character. If he's a bounty hunter then he will have a weapon, handcuffs, and possibly some armor. I might make it a simple armor if he's just starting out. If a player wants their character to start out with something a little more advanced, then they should make a compelling argument. It will likely give me something in their backstory that I can use against them later.

Buying Gear

If a hero wants to get a new piece of gear for some reason and it's believable that an average person could afford it, then they buy it. If they have the Poor hindrance then you might be more stingy about what they get. If someone has the Rich edge, that's going to open up a lot more options to the group. Getting special or illegal items may still require a Streetwise roll.



Voila, no bookkeeping.

One big reason I like this idea is that the price of equipment always seemed like an artificial barrier to me. Being poorly equipped should be a function of whether or not the character is prepared as opposed to what the character can afford.

Encumbrance

This is one that I will be keeping an eye on. If characters could conceivable acquire a great many tools and weapons, the player may mistakenly think that he/she has access to it all at any time. Nope. Like any adventurer he/she is going to have to pick and choose which gear they are likely to need and hope for the best.

So it's a simple idea and I don't see much that can go wrong. If a player wants a piece of equipment that you feel may unbalance the game, then money doesn't really come in to it (especially since in most games the players have hoarded enough money to buy the item). So balance issues will come up whether you are counting pennies or not. In the end you will still have to GM your way through game balance.

Leave a comment if you find a fault in the idea.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Flash! Aaaahaaaaaaah!

So I'm hoping to wrap up a really bad month. Here are the highlights...


  • Scooter engine is slagged
  • Phoenix Arizona in July
  • Custody battle for an Autistic 17 year-old
  • IRS wants a lot more money
  • Still working overtime


So my plate has been very full and rpgs have been very far from my mind, at least in forming opinions that I can post about. But then Pinnacle had to go and make announcements at Gen Con.

Suffice to say...


It's coming to Savage Worlds. And the fan boy in me is splitting in two.

I love this movie, for all of the bad acting and dialogue I still love it. (However while the teaser in the Pinnacle clip was taken from the movie, I'm unsure if that's the version of the license they are going for.)

I am also a big fan of Slipstream as many of you already know. So it feels kind of strange to have Flash-Gordon-With-The-Serial-Numbers-Filed-Off being replace by Flash Gordon.

Also, it's called Flash Gordon. Like Doctor Who or Solomon Kane, any character made is just going to be a second banana in the universe. In Slipstream the story revolved around whatever heroes were playing at the time. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm still going to buy it. I'm not made of stone. I'm just not sure if I'll get much play out of it. But as long as there are plenty of production photos of Ornella Muti... okay that sounds sexist but Princess Aura was my first childhood crush.

It may be wishful thinking but I'd love to see an updated Slipstream launch with this.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Rolling When You Need To Roll



Still rocking the mass overtime, making updates difficult.

So let's talk about when to roll the dice. More importantly, when not to roll the dice.

JiB over at the Savage GM Hangout describes rolling as "Whenever the player and the GM disagree about the outcome of a certain action." That's a good paradigm, but I think novice GMs (and some experienced ones) need a little guiding on when to agree with the outcome.

For example: I had a GM who had us roll for just about everything. If I wanted to land the ship, I had to make a piloting roll. If I wanted to drive a hoverbike, I needed a piloting roll. But these were mundane tasks. People weren't shooting at me. There wasn't a meteor storm or earthquake going on. And heaven help me if I didn't have a piloting skill, which was a real possibility given the limited skills you could get in Star Wars Saga. Every time we attempted anything it was a nail-biting experience and that didn't feel very Star Warsy.

Honestly it didn't make any sense to me. In Star Wars everybody can drive or fly a ship or use a computer. These are ubiquitous technologies. So why then are so many characters unable to do any of these things? The answer is that the GM was doing it wrong. Per the book, anybody can perform a mundane task in Star Wars. Everybody can fly a hoverbike, but only some can make it do a barrel roll. Everyone can pilot a ship, but not everyone can fly it through an asteroid field. Anyone can use a computer, but not everyone can reprogram it. 

Mundane or easy tasks shouldn't require a roll. Unfortunately some games still have a difficulty level for Easy. The concept that a hero can fail at any task is a bit annoying. If I had to roll in order to walk across the room in D&D, then I'd always have a 5% chance of falling on my face. What happens if I roll a crit? Do we really need to test every piece of minutiae? 

Another time to let the player's have their way is when it is crucial to the story.

For instance:


  • The heroes need to find a clue to advance the plot or identify the criminal.
  • The heroes have to get passed a trap or cave in or something that blocks there path. You can make them roll to avoid damage but they shouldn't have to roll to get through.

Keep these in mind and it may help to speed up your game, or at least curb flagging player interest.



Friday, July 3, 2015

Starpunk Alien Races - Droids, Kryx, and the Nemondi

Three final alien races to round out the core concept.

Droids

Droids are sentient machines with a variety of appearances. Some appear almost human, some are purely mechanical. They are built as servants to their “masters” and typically fill the rolls of butler/maid, personal assistant, mechanical repair and construction, and in some cases they are “personal companions”.
  • Pacifier Circuits: The droid cannot harm, or by inaction bring harm to sentient beings. This gives him the Pacifist Hindrance (Major).
  • Construct: Droids are immune to poison, disease, and effects that target the mind. Droids cannot heal naturally. To heal a droid requires the Repair skill—which is used like the Healing skill only with no “Golden Hour.”
  • Programming: Droids begin with a free d6 in one skill, representing their original programmed role.

Kryx

The Kryx are bipedal, insectoid aliens from the swamp world of Navereen. They are extremely intelligent and prefer cold-facts and science to “poetic license”. To a Kryx, art is the beauty of design that follows function. The regard the Swiss Army knife as the only artistic contribution made by Humans.
  • Curious: The Kryx drive for knowledge can sometimes place them and those close to them in danger. Kryx start with the Curious (Major) hindrance.
  • Intelligent: Kryx start with a d6 Smarts instead of a d4.
  • Survivor: Insectoids are evolved to handle some of the nastiest of environments. +2 bonus to resist all negative environmental effects (heat, cold, pressure, etc.)
  • Natural Weapons: Sharp protrusions in their carapace or their hardened claws can be used in combat for Str+d6 damage and grant +2 to Climbing rolls on all but completely sheer surfaces.


Nemondi

The Nemondi or horned humanoids renowned for their business acumen and adherence to fine print. The Nemondi culture treats everything as a business arrangement. A child is expected to negotiate and barter their way into adulthood. The practice of Indentured Servitude is alive and well among the Nemondi (however with some very strict protections for the “merchandise” and heavy penalties for abuse) and is considered a form of apprenticeship, allowing the Nemondi to collect skills and information that they can share with their homeworld. Quick witted and seductive, it is said that the best way to negotiate with a Nemondi is to have one of your own.
  • Charismatic: All Nemondi start with the Charismatic Edge for free.
  • Honor the Contract: Nemondi always honor their deals, but beware of that fine print. This is the equivalent of the Code of Honor (Major) hindrance.
  • Business Acumen: All Nemondi start with Knowledge (Law) of d6, reflecting their knowledge of contract negotiation as well as local legalities.
  • Low-Light Vision: Nemondi come from a dim homeworld. They can see in the dark and ignore attack penalties for Dim and Dark lighting.




But, but, but... what about an aquatic race?

I consider it, I really did. However I decided against it and it's all because of Aqua-man and Gnomes.

You look confused. I will explain.

Gnomes were a primary race in Advanced Dungeons and Dragons back in the day. Since then, everyone expected that Gnomes would be a playable race. However, no one to my knowledge ever plays them. The same goes for Mon Calamari in Star Wars or Aquatic characters in general.

As for Aqua-man, do you know how many crimes are committed under water that require a spandex super hero that can talk to fish? Yeah. Likewise, while adventures may occur in underwater locales the ability to breathe under water isn't going to give much of a bonus, especially since the non water-breathers will have to find the means to overcome the issue or your running a solo adventure for the Aquatic.

So I'm going to leave them out of the core races.There is always the option for a player to build one on his own as a minor race, and for the characetrs to encounter them as an npc race.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Starpunk Alien Races - Baasti and Dragho

Here are two more races for the Starpunk setting, the obligatory beast-person and dragon/reptiloid.

Baasti

Baasti are near-humanoids from the Baast system. They retain much of their primitive animalistic heritage such as fur, claws, and fangs and are slightly taller than humans. Baasti gain improved senses depending on their offshoot heritage (Callari-Baasti have excellent night vision while Pelani-Baasti have exceptional hearing).
  • Claws: Baasti have retractable claws that do Str+d6 damage and grant +2 to Climbing rolls on all but completely sheer surfaces.

And may choose one of the following bonuses:
o   Low Light Vision: Callari-Baasti eyes amplify light. They can see in the dark and ignore attack penalties for Dim and Dark lighting.
o   Keen Senses: Pelani-Baasti have exceptional hearing. The gain +2 to Notice rolls.

Drahgo

Drahgo are huge reptilian beings with horned heads and long tails. They lived a primitive, non-spacefaring existence until they were discovered by less reputable elements within the Empire. Soon, Drahgo bodyguards and brutes were found across the star systems. Drahgo may not be as advanced as other spacefaring races, but never mistake them for bumbling idiots.
  • Natural Weapons: The tails, claws, and teeth of Drahgo allow them to tail slap, claw, or bite in combat for Str+d6 damage.
  • Reptile-Blooded: Though not truly cold-blooded, Drahgo are not comfortable in cold environments. They suffer a –4 penalty to resist cold environmental effects.
  • Size (+2): Drahgo are so large that they gain a +2 to Toughness.
  • Strong: Drahgo start with a d6 Strength
  • Too Big: The Drahgos’ large size make it difficult to use any technology that isn’t specifically made for them (including computers and starship controls). This is the equivalent to the All Thumbs (Minor) hindrance.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Starpunk Alien Races - Humans and the Shuuto

I've been away from my sci-fi game design for a while to the point where I have to reread what I've written to get back in the saddle. I actually took the whole weekend off (at the insistence of my wife that I was working myself to death). I finally have some time to work on my game, my blog, and tomorrow I'll try to get some Shuuto drawn. Shuuto are an alien race for my setting, kind of a mix of the ferrets from Weasel Patrol/ Fusion and the Jawas of Star Wars.

The Humans and the Shuuto share a special bond so I'm going to throw their descriptions in her together.

Humans

Humans are a relatively new race to universe. They traveled into the known star systems from a distant world on generation ships that moved slower than the speed of light. So much time had passed since they left their homeworld that none are aware of its location, let alone the reason for their exodus. Lacking a homeworld or any form of centralized authority, humans are regarded as the “gypsies” of the galaxy, living anywhere and adapting.
  • Adaptable: Humans start with a free Edge.
  • Riff-Raff: While humans have found acceptance in the lower classes of all races, wealthier or more respectable members of the races view them with disdain. Humans suffer a -1 Charisma modifier when dealing with authorities.
  • Kindred Spirits: Because of their similar homeless disposition, the Shuuto treat Humans as brothers (big brothers that help a Shuuto out when things get rough). Humans get a +1 bonus to Charisma whenever they deal with a Shuuto.


Shuuto

Shuuto are small furry beings similar in disposition to rodents. They can be found in nearly every corner of the galaxy, usually scavenging among the refuse or stowing away on cargo vessels. They have a fear of open, unprotected areas and deal with this by wearing many protective layers of clothing. No one is certain if the Shuuto have a homeworld. Aside from some junk worlds and Shuuto caravan ships, the Shuuto never represent a majority of the populace on any known world.
  • Agoraphobia (Minor): If stripped of his garments or left in an open field, a Shuuto suffers -2 to all of his Trait tests.
  • Danger Sense: Shuuto are used to dealing with predators. They start with the Danger Sense edge for free.
  • Scamper: Shuuto are often one step ahead of danger. They roll a d10 running die instead of a d6.
  • Scavenger Constitution: Shuuto are immune to disease.
  • Small: Shuuto are half the size of most of the typical races. Subtract -1 from their Toughness due to their smaller size.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

NPC Concept- Nargaster the Great

Right now with the time crunch of work going on, I take whatever inspiration I can get. Today's post was inspired by discussion on Gaming BS podcast as they were talking about overused tropes such as Elminster, who sounds as if he has become a Mary-Sue. As I was listening on my long motorcycle ride home, my mind came up with a more twisted, and perhaps more truthful version of Elminster. Behold, Nargaster the Great!

Legend: Nargaster is a swarthy master magician that could wipe out a horde of dragons with one magical sneeze. In every village he has left many a buxom lass heartbroken yet "satisfied". He is considered one of the greatest living legends of the world and where he goes, justice follows.

The Truth: Nargaster is a wimp that knows a few minor magic tricks. His legend is a result of his childhood sweetheart, Grezelda the Bard, who's heart he inadvertently broke. Rather than compose "rage ballads" of his inadequacies, she has built him up to a legend that he can never live up to. The tales have even taken on a life of their own and many great deeds that are accomplished by other heroes are becoming attributed to Nargaster.
Whenever he tried to cash in on his fame with towns, he found himself asked to do magics he is incapable of against threats that would squish him like a bug. And as for the ladies, when faced with the reality of Nargaster they tend to unleash mocking tirades. Nargaster has now been branded as a cheap, weaselly impostor of himself.

Nargaster is not a bad guy. He genuinely does want to help people and will often try to recruit adventurers to help those in need. Unfortunately whenever the heroes are successful, Nargaster's fame grows and the forgotten heroes take it out on Nargaster.

Nargaster would work as a reoccurring npc, always trying to drum up help for some village in need. 

He may also have his own character arc: The only way for him to break out of Grezelda's curse is to actually become the Nargaster she has built him up to be. Having the heroes help him to become that person could be a great moment in the game. Heck, maybe they can even get him and Grezelda back together!

Yeah this type of character is fit for a Fantasy campaign and I have been hounding on sci-fi a lot lately, but as I said I have to take my inspiration where I can.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Here's a Few Links I'd Like to Share

First up is from Geek and Sundry and Wil Wheaton. It's his new live-play videos of the Ashes of Valkana. It uses the same game system that the Dragon Age rpg uses. The system is intriguing...

Introduction to Valkana

The Journey Begins

Evil Awakens

I really like the production of it: the die roll display and the occasional art pieces flashing. I also respect the fact that he isn't using a game board and is sticking with "theater of the mind".

And a rather lengthy review of D&D 5E from Kurt Weigel. He reviewed D&D 4E (Part 1, Part 2) once upon a time and it was scathing and full of flame. Watch them both to see how things have changed in the industry's big bad baby daddy.

If you aren't familiar with Kurt's reviews then you should check him out. He has reviewed a lot of Savage Worlds games and he is a fan of the system. His review of Marchland convinced me to head over to Drivethru RPG to pick up a copy. Kurt has also been a guest on Jerrod "The Savage Daddy" Gunning's Savage Worlds GM Hangout.






Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Regarding Figure Flats, Tri-Folds, And Pogs

I'm feeling over-worked, but very crafty.

So people seemed to really enjoy the Slipstream Tri-Folds. I'm considering doing some more "paper heroes" in the future. However I'm unsure of the format that works best for people.

For me, the best format is 2-sided flats that I can mount into game stands. They collapse for easy storage and I can carry a huge amount of figures in a Plano deep storage box.

I built the Slipstream characters as tri-folds because that's how Pinnacle made their set and I wanted to maintain compatibility. However tri-folds seem frail and hard to manage imho. Sure they stand on their own but once they are glued together they take up more storage room and are still quite delicate. Also a slight exhale over the game surface may scatter them, more so than flats on stands.

Then there are the pogs, or tokens. I also make these since facing isn't really an issue in Savage Worlds (or most games these days now that I think about it). You still get a lot of storage, but you sacrifice full body art. They are very stable and if you glue the pictures to inexpensive wooden discs from your local craft shop then they won't slide around when people breathe. Just when they bump the table while reaching for more pizza.

So which do you guys and gals prefer for paper heroes: Tri-Fold, Figure Flat, or Pog? Leave a comment if you want to be immortal...

And speaking of Pogs...



Triple Ace Games announced these new and totally cool gems for their Helfrost setting.

These are awesome and beautiful. I wish the folks at TAG good luck on their sales. 

A few people like me are wishing for some generic versions but I don't know if that's possible. The artwork is very integrated with the pog, so they would need to shotgun a whole bunch of art onto them and pray that people would want to buy the sets. The safer bet is to stick with IPs.

Still it is giving me ideas for some homemade Pogs. They wouldn't be as sturdy or cool as the official ones but for crafty gamers on a budget...

One idea was to use a rotation wheel in a sleeve, like those old decoder wheels or the life trackers for Magic the Gathering. Problem is that would put an axle pin right in the center of the art.

Another idea is to print out pogs and coat them with something that would allow me to use wet or dry erase markers. I'll have to think about that for a but as I'm worried that the constant erasing and marking might slow down gameplay.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Starship Update


Sorry for the late post. I have been putting in about 60 hours a week at work and it doesn't look like it's going to let up anytime soon.

Still I decided to take Sunday off. With the wife gone I am able to focus on that nagging Starship problem.

Step one, I jotted down how I wanted starship operations to feel.

  • I wanted crew participation, not just a pilot
  • No starfighters, only starships
  • Tactics
  • Minimal weapon variance


And it hit me that what I wanted wasn't Star Wars space combat. It was Star Trek space combat. So I decided to have a look at other people's conversions of Star Trek space combat.

As I pointed out before in my post about Simplified Ranges, someone had already beaten me to the punch. Namely Michael S Callahan in his Red Alert conversion. I gave it another read through and found it had a lot of good ideas. This got my creative mojo flowing again and I took a look at my own Starship design.

The fact is, what I had designed wasn't bad either. It just needed a brush up. I need to add the Event Cards idea I came up with for in between adventures. That will take care of the Cargo runs and other logistics of running a starship. And the Red Alert conversion gave me new ideas about how the crew can contribute to the ship's operations.


Essentially what this all boils down to is that my mojo was unstuck by looking at the genre through a different setting's lens. So Star Trek styled ship combat in a dirty Star Wars style universe. I'm liking the sound of that.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Dogged Indecision


It's one of the things severely cramping my mojo right now, and why I am spending so much time (too much) on starship design. The problem is a lack of clear vision of how I want starship combat to work and feel. It's a trifecta of clashing issues: reality, individuality, and cool-ality. 

The reality of space combat is incredibly boring. And even though I'm not shooting for reality, some aspects of common sense keep dogging me. For instance why is every ship armed in Star Wars? A stock light freighter coming off the line is equipped with a laser cannon. In reality things would be more like Firefly where civilian vehicles don't run armed, they just run.

Individuality? Well, what sets my setting apart from thousands of others? Do I make space combat more unique or do I just keep doing the same thing everyone else is doing?

And Cool-ality. What will my future players enjoy? What do people like? Do they even want a (semi) unique yet common-sense approach to space combat because it is different or do they want Star Wars with the serial numbers filed off?

Self-editing is the problem here. I keep going over and over the same rules, the same design concepts, all because I can't work out which of these three voices to satisfy. This is where having a second voice, a writing partner, makes all the difference. Unfortunately I'm all alone here on space station Yelp. Unless you count the voices in my head.

If anyone has any advice to get me out of this rut, I'm all ears.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Musings - Another Concept for Starship Combat.



I'm filing this under musings since I haven't developed the idea at all. I'm working overtime at my job in preparation for our big E3 unveil so my time is scarce.

The issue is getting players involved in the workings of the starship during combat. Usually it's the pilot's time to shine but then you end up with everyone twiddling their thumbs. Maybe someone mans a turret and fires a gun but it's still a very limiting model. So what if we let the players use their imaginations and the strengths of their characters in combat?

Yup I'm talking about using the Mass Combat rules for starship combat. Well I want it to be a group effort, right?

For instance:


  • A hacker may try to infiltrate and sabotage the enemy ship's systems.
  • Engineers may tweak the engines or shields to assist the ship maneuverability and defense.
  • A scholar may have vital information about the enemy ship's performance and weaknesses that could aid the pilot.
  • A gunner could help by firing the offensive weapons linked to the tactical computer.
Starships won't have Toughness, they'll have Tokens and each Token lost would be a critical. It's a big departure for starship design and it doesn't follow the typical combat model, but I just can't help but think that this may be the better way to handle crew combat.


Thursday, May 28, 2015

Slipstream Trifolds Part 2!

Did I say no post this week? You know I couldn't stay away.

It's finally done, the second sheet of Slipstream Trifolds!



I finished out the races, but there wasn't much left to do. The page wasn't filled so I included two Mudmen and two Raptormen per sheet. I also added two big monsters: the Rastagar and the Kriplixx. Stat them up as you see fit.

I admit that doing all that drawing was wearing on me. I had to re-do the Rurite Female because the first drawing was terrible, boring, ugghhh. By the time I got to the big monsters, I was just slapping quick pencil and ink strokes down. They also came out pretty good. It seems I do better with gesture art than I do while taking my time. Maybe I should stretch that out and see if I can come up with an art style from it.

But I ramble.

Next week I'm going back to looking at how I handle starship design. I've reviewed the Vehicle Conversion guide that was put up on Pinnacle's website. I was also looking at the vehicles in the SWDEX and how they were converted. It seems that some designs are wrong (at least as far as wiki is concerned). I also looked at other sources of real world vehicles converted to Savage Worlds rules, such as those found in Thrilling Tales by Adamant Entertainment. It turns out that they didn't follow the SWDEX design either (of course the printing predated the SWDEX).

So while I have been racking my brain to make something consistent with vehicles in the SWDEX, I find that it's not really possible, nor is it necessary. Internal consistency is key. I can create whatever conversion rules I want as long as all of the vehicles in my setting follow the same design rules.

That was a liberating thought.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

On My Honeymoon!

Yup, no post this week. I was single for twenty days and now I am remarried...

... because I live life Fast! Furious! And Fun!
... because Savage Heroes don't think, they act!
... because a bad marriage may have left me Shaken, but my Spirit has never been so high!
... and according to my new wife, I'm too dangerous to be left unsupervised.

See you next week!


Sunday, May 17, 2015

Adventure... or Deliver Cargo?


I've asked several groups of players "What type of character would you play in a sci-fi setting?" Invariably they say they want to be smugglers or traders. But the answer is misleading. What they really want is to be free of obligation or allegiance. They want to go wherever the wind takes them.

They don't want to spend each game making transport contracts, balancing the books, and studying which ports need what commodities.... all the things that preoccupy the minds of real cargo haulers.

Sure, cargo deliveries can be a source of plot hooks. You have...
  • Deliver dangerous cargo
  • Deliver cargo that other people don't want delivered
  • Deliver cargo that other people want to steal
  • Steal the cargo, then deliver it

And of course there is the ever popular plot twist "The client betrayed you!", which every player sees coming.

But lets face it, cargo delivery can be a bit monotonous. The real adventures that the heroes will be involved with are going to be illegal, personal, or outside the bounds of simple cargo runs. The Sci-Fi Companion has rules for trade, logistics, wages, and etc if you really find number crunching interesting. I would prefer another way, and Interludes may offer me a solution.

Think of the show Firefly. Non-consequential cargo runs conducted between planets (the jobs that get the heroes to the start of the adventure) are run off screen between episodes. We see them just finishing up a job when things start getting interesting.

So in that vein, at the beginning of each game we might assume that the heroes have made a cargo run that has taken them to the new planet. 

First, roll for the payday...


3d6 x $100 That's the profit the heroes earn after ship logistics are paid for (fuel, food, maintenance). This ought to keep the bookkeeping down.

One person can take the roll of negotiator (no cooperative rolls) for haggling the deal. For every Raise they score on the Streetwise roll, they increase the amount by $200. A Success leaves the payday unchanged. A Failure reduces the payday by $200.

Then Draw an Interlude card for the ship...


The card draw determines how things went for the crew.

Clubs
Something bad went wrong with the job. Rather than earning a payday they now owe the amount. They can either pay up, get hunted, or do a favor to whoever holds the lien (plot hook).

Diamonds
The job went smooth and everyone got paid. Each crew member gets a cut.

Hearts
The job broke even (no extra cash beyond the logistics fees), but the heroes gained some information or favors. Each crew member gains an extra benny for the adventure.

Spades
The job went even better than expected. Not only does the crew earn its payday but they also gain vital information or inspiration for the next adventure (+1 benny/ each).

So what do you think? Poll on the right hand side of the page.


Overheard at Pathfinder Society Today...

"Everybody make Fortitude Saves. Okay nobody caught Malaria."

"I Chase after her."

I laughed for an hour.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Toughness vs Hit Points



I have seen some debates on this. Typically someone is asking which is more realistic.

The answer: Neither.

If you want realism in your game, then you'd have a hit location chart with severe consequences depending on where you got hit. The number of push ups you do that morning or your healthy diet won't make a lick of difference to a bullet that impacts your cranium.

The argument stems from the misconception that these systems are trying to model realism, when they are really trying to model fiction (literary, comic book, pulp). Why? Because they bend the laws of the universe to give the hero a chance. And because it is a game.

In a real firefight there is a very good chance that the hero will be killed or permanently disabled with a single bullet. That wouldn't be much of a story. What would Star Wars be if Luke had suffered major brain damage from the Tusken Raider's attack? I bet Obi Wan would have wished he had started training him earlier then. Besides, Reality is just the cage we build for ourselves.

The current RPG damage systems give you a second chance. Wham! A shotgun blasts you in the chest, but your still alive and can change tactics (or roll better). Why? Because it is a game. Because checkmate in one move is boring for both the players and the audience. Because the Quiddich ball game is pointless if catching the Snitch is all you have to do to win... oh.... umm...

So which is better? Depends on how they are handled, and personal taste.

I dislike D&D style hit points because your character gets healthier with higher levels. In fact, going form 1st to second level doubles your hit points. And don't try to give me some BS about it reflecting your fighting ability because we already have armor class and Dexterity isn't adding in to hit points, Constitution is.

I prefer games where the hero's general health doesn't increase unless he's done something to earn it like changing his diet and exercise (attribute bumps). Even then, the increase should only be minimal.
It's one reason I like Savage Worlds Toughness but I have also seen it done with Hit Points in Cortex Classic (Serenity, Battlestar Galactica, Supernatural RPGs).

I also dislike games that offer no penalties for injuries. In D&D I fight at full potential until I reach 0 Hit Points. Then I guess I suffer a heart attack or something. Gee, I looked so healthy and virile, having a good time... and then I just stopped.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is, why bother modeling a game on reality if you have to use your imagination to play it? Go outside. I hear that Outside is chock full of Reality, in an expansive 3D multi-player world. Just be careful, I hear the player base is full of Trolls and the tech support is crap.


BTW sorry for the late post. E3 is coming up so I'm pulling 11 hour work days. It's cramping my free time.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The New Shaken Rules

I'm still working on those final figure flats for Slipstream, but taking a day off work to go to court, and having to make up those lost hours through the week is eating up my free time.

So, new Shaken Rules, everybody is talking about the new announcement. Some people hail it, some people hate it.

I am indifferent.

Now before you grab a torch and pitchfork, let me explain. I too had complaints from my players about the Shaken Mechanic and "stun lock". I brought the issue to the Pinnacle Boards... I don't know... a year or two ago. Shane (or Clint) posted the idea of having a success free the hero from Shaken immediately, so the idea isn't new. I chose to go with a -4 penalty to all actions while Shaken rather than the inability to act and my players were fine with that. 

So the idea that the rule is now official doesn't phase me. In fact, I've never considered any rule in Savage Worlds "inviolable" because it's a toolkit system. I play the RAW because the RAW works, but if somethings doesn't work to my play style then I change it. When I find a new group of players, the new RAW, Old RAW, or my rule will be on the table for players to choose.

Do I like the new Shaken rule? I don't know since I haven't played with it. Like many other rules in the RAW, it may sound wrong but once you see it in play you realize it just works.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Wow! And a Personal Note.

According to my site traffic, the Slipstream Trifolds are a huge hit. Maybe I should do more designs after I finish Slipstream. Whatdaya think? Any feedback would be helpful.

And on a personal note, my divorce was finalized today. I feel a great weight lifted from my shoulders. You never realize how soul crushing a bad marriage can be until you are free from it.

And May the Fourth Be With You.


Friday, May 1, 2015

The First Round of Slipstream Trifolds

Are Here.



Male and female versions of Akwasians, Antelopos, Aridians, Borealians, Charadonos, Crystaloosians, Drell, Equines, Frigim, Lill, and Magrozites.


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

How Miniaturization Covers My Crappy Inking

I tried my hand at inking with a brush pen when I started doing the Slipstream figure flats. Actually I was doing them as concepts of what the other aliens looked like and it occurred to me that they would be prefect for figure flats. Anyway I decided to do the quick and dirty, Saturday morning cartoon style. After all there is a lot of art to do.

My inking sucks. What's more, the Faber-Castell brush pen wore out its tip quick. Suddenly I couldn't do fine lines. I thought it was just my lack of brush control. Considering I was working on a mini sketchbook (5.5 x 8.5) I thought I was going to really need that finer point. Anyhoo, my inking got steadily worse as the pen wore out and all of my characters were made up of these thick lines.

Well yesterday I started to shrink them and put them into a tri-fold document. Given that the Slipstream flats are 1.25" tall, these things got majorly shrunk. They're so tiny, that I'm glad they have thick lines. finer detail would just get lost. here's an example of an Aridian in both full size and flat size. I hope this shows up right.


So my crappy inking was a blessing. The moral of the story is that thick lines are necessary if your going to shrink the image a lot. I'll keep going with the brushpen but I bought some Micron pens for practicing detail work on other art. My inking is coming along well and my proportions and posing are getting much better. I got five female alien versions done today. Hopefully I'll be able to put together the figure flats sheet before the end of the month.

Cheers.

PS> If you want to see more of my crappy inking, the other figure flats are posted in this thread.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Taking a Little Break

I received a pm over on the Pinnacle forums to draw up a Slipstream Characters for a player's daughter. I did it, but like my other Slipstream pieces, it was awful.

Some I'm taking a break to teach myself how to draw again, how to ink, and how to work bigger. I'm currently using a tiny sketchbook and the Faber-Castell brush pens seem to wear out quick.

If I find I have something to get off my chest, I might make a post later this week.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

So Savage Rifts is Happening

I'm sure that if you read my blog, then you have heard elsewhere about this chunk of news.

I have to say that this news creates a very surreal experience for me. The first game I had ever bought for myself was Robotech so I did cut my teeth on the Palladium system. My friend ran a combo of the Heroes Unlimited and Mechanoids that was awesome. Before Rifts, we were already taking various Palladium games and combining them. Rifts was a natural, expected result when it came out.

Now despite the fact that I have fond memories of the games I played, I hated the Palladium system. It surprises me that in all of these years the system never received an update. It was a shame since the Rifts books had excellent setting ideas. But I couldn't get over my issues with the game system so I turned my back on Palladium 25 years ago.

Now Rifts is coming out for my favorite game system. My mind is blown. The past has returned to haunt me. It should be good news but I am still suspicious. Rifts had serious design problems, where an unoptimized character build could be killed in a single shot because he didn't have MDC (think Tank armor) as his personal armor. There were pistols that could blow holes into Veritechs. The power creep in that game was insane. I know that the Savage Worlds mantra is "Design for the concept. Don't do a straight port." But I do wonder if fixing the damage scales will violate the concept. 

Well, we'll just have to see. Really the only burning question on my brain is "Can meez haz Savage Robotech nowz?"

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Short Games

So I've been playing D&D 5E Encounters on Wednesday nights. For those who don't know, D&D Encounters are, well.. this is from their website...

D&D Encounters is our weekly Wednesday play program, geared for a casual play audience with short sessions each week. It serves as a great introduction to our main storyline events, and uses material right from published adventure product. Each session only takes 1-2 hours to play, so it’s easy to fit your game in after school or work. And each week there’s a new and exciting challenge. Jump in anytime!

It sounds like a cool idea, but I'm having some problems with it. I don't know if the source is the GM, or if this is how they really intend it to go.

One to two hours is not a very long time to game. It might work fine if heroes are given clear problems with quick resolutions every week, such as "You come across a an empty wagon the has been attacked by dire wolves." You fight the stragglers then learn that the wolves have taken the children back to their den for feeding later. You fight the Dire Wolves in their den and rescue the kids. It's quick, it's clear, and it has a resolution.

But that's not how we are playing. We are playing the game like any normal game, with a long quest involving many battles, rping, etc, but we are doing it in 2 hour snippets. The result is we lose the game's momentum every time we stop, long bouts of role playing often leave us with little progress, and sometimes crucial party members are absent for a game.

I've played for 3 sessions now and I still haven't a good idea of how the game flows.

Lastly, my experience at my FLGS with D&D 5E hasn't been the best (although this is a criticism of the group at this FLGS and not the game itself). When I went to join, I was told that all of the tables were full with regular groups. I was finally shoe-horned into a group whose players didn't show up on a regular basis. In short, I felt like I was being treated as an outsider during an event that was designed to advertise the game to people who weren't already playing it.

The North West Pathfinder Society gets mad props on this one. If you walk in and the tables are full, the organizers will draft a gm to start a new table. They will make room for you. Although there are regular players, there are no regular groups. In my experience, I think NWPFS has the advantage since their games are longer and scenarios get resolved that day. No "To be continued".

So what has all of this to do with Savage Worlds?

Well it's good to get out there and play new games. See what is working for the big boys and steal/adapt it for your own game. My take away from this experience is that if you want to run a long campaign, it might be advisable to break it into manageable chunks so that in each sitting a chunk of the plot can be resolved.

Example: 

The overarching plot is that the characters must hunt down a madman who is gathering the power to destroy and reshape the world. However, each night I run this game I will only have about 4 hours before I have to get back to real life responsibilities.

So one scenario might be "The players must retrieve a stone tablet from an illegal art collector that might hold clues as to what the madman is planning." A little roleplay, a raid, and the resolution is getting the tablet.

Next scenario is "to hunt down and find a lost historian who can decipher the tablet." A bit of travel, a fight against cannibal kobolds, and a resolution where they free the historian and get the translation.

This stuff may sound basic, but I've played too many games where the goal for the night is unclear, the party gets sidelined with role play shopping, and by the end of the night the story hasn't budged an inch. The players go home feeling like nothing was accomplished and the drive to resolve the main campaign conflict starts to wither and die.

So be careful with your short games. Don't try to play them like 8 hour games. If you try to stretch the plot told in short games with too much minutiae or off campaign distractions then your going to lose player interest. Short games need to be tight, focused, and move the plot along, even if it's just an inch.