Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Starpunk- Dumping Psionics

Yup. I'm dumping Psionics.


Because everyone that wants a little "magic" in their sci-fi setting uses "psionics". I really want a setting with a more unique flavor. If I'm just retreading a "typical" sci-fan setting then why even bother getting out of bed? I need to put a different shine on those abilities.

Another problem was that I approached psionics as strictly mind-affecting powers. It's not original but still a nice twist since everyone tends to go the "kitchen-sink" route with powers. However, in a sci-fi setting where there is gobs of technology that is immune to mind alteration, the setting was weakening the "magic".

I'm trying to let loose my logical side and get into that 70's/ 80's groove. I was re-watching the good episodes of Buck Rogers (80's version), and in between ogling Wilma and Ardala I noticed that the people with "powers" in the show typically just had one power. Even in the original Star Wars, there were only a few powers on display. It wasn't until the EU and the prequels that Jedi really became unstoppable badasses. Okay, Luke did do a lot of butt-kicking against Jabba's boys. The point is that these "powered" characters did a lot with just a little.

I think that I want that charm again, where even having one power made someone special. Looking at the SWDEX, the Arcane Background (Super Powers) fits the bill. I'm going to re-skin it to AB (Anomaly). I wanted to use Abberant but White Wolf beat me to the name. It will also be Spirit based in my setting since I want willpower to be driving these powers. AB (Anomaly) will be available to all races, but they are rare. Also, cultures will view Anomalies differently so there's role-play shenanigans to be had. Then there is the mystery of what causes Anomalies. Could be a nice sized adventure arc.

The only powers that will be off limits for this setting will be:

  • Banish 
  • Detect/ Conceal Arcana
  • Drain Power Points
  • Quickness - Too powerful and allows one player to dominate combat.
  • Smite
  • Summon Ally
  • Warrior's Gift
  • Zombie

If your itching to enlighten me to the existence of the Super Powers Companion, I already own it. It's a great supplement but I want a lower power level. Also I want to stay with just one book requirement, namely the SWDEX.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Updated Starships Doc

After some feedback I decided to expand the weapons systems available to starships besides just one cannon type. There are a few other changes as well, including prices for ships and ship cannons.

I opted for a very Slipstream approach to starship weaponry where vehicles have turret "slots" and the heroes can add in the weapons they choose. I'll add more weapon options if I come up with them.

I really envy the Savage Worlds GMs Hangout for actually having a group of people to bounce ideas around with in real time.

New Starships Doc

General Musings - Harry Potter and Star Wars

My new girlfriend has three daughters, two in college and I am helping to raise the third. It's a new experience for me. Fortunately the youngest is a geek like me, but she has never seen Star Wars and has shown no interest in it. For me, someone who saw the movies when they were first released in the theaters back in the 70's, this is unfathomable. But how to convince her?

I took her to her school band concert last night and her band played a medley of Harry Potter music and that's when the idea hit me. After the concert I told  her that someday when she's my age she is going to meet kids that have no idea who Harry Potter was. 

That stopped her in her tracks.

"That will never happen," she said. "Harry potter is awesome!"

"So is Star Wars. When I was a kid everybody was watching it. But hey, time moves on."

She thought about this for a while and finally gave in. "Fine I'll watch it."

"Cool. Did you know they are going to make more Star Wars movies? I wonder if Harry will get anymore sequels?"

<Evil Grin>

And I have met people who had never seen Star Wars. My ex-wife had a twenty year old friend who had never seen it. She also claimed to be a geek. We sat down and watched it with her one day in a marathon. When Obi Wan got cut down by Vader, she screamed.

I clutched my chest and said "Really? I hadn't heard someone scream at that scene in thirty years!"

Getting old is weird.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Designing My Starships

Why? Seriously, with the Sci-Fi Companion out now, why would I put myself through this pain?

Answer: To save myself some headache and heartbreak later. There is a lot that I do not need and do not want from the sci-fi companion for my setting. 

  • I don't need star-fighters, or a hundred different scales of ship
  • I don't need armor and AP (especially since one typically cancels out the other in the SFC)
  • I don't need mega-weapons that kill with a single hit, or a ton of weapon varieties. 
  • I don't need complicated rules for building a ship from the ground up since my players won't be focusing on that in-game.

This left me with a lot of streamlining.

  • I have only one style of cannon for starships and it deals 3d6 damage (with no AP). This let me balance the Toughness of all of the starships that were roughly the same size. I might add different starship weapons later but they would have very different gameplay effects. 
  • I built a basic chart of starship statistics, then adjusted them by applying a template (passenger liner, courier, military, etc).
  • Capital ships exist, but they don't have stats. They are like the Death Star, huge and bristling with weapons. A typical starship has no hope of taking on one of these behemoths so I use my own version of the Obstacle Rules for when heroes flee these things.
  • By homogenizing the starship scale, I can allow heroes to modify their ships capabilities.
  • I don't need rules for how many escape pods or crew quarters a ship has. It is assumed that the ship is designed adequately for its roll.
  • Ships have a Toughness and Shields act as armor. I decided to keep things simple at first. I may add more shield maintenance rules if it seems that starship combat needs more things to do.

So here are my Staship Rules and designs. Sorry no art for this yet but It's still a work in progress.

Monday, March 16, 2015

General Musings - Why So Many Dice?

As I stated in one of my Travelling Light posts, no gamer actually needs a bucket of dice. Why then do we end up with them? 

Disclaimer: I'm not a psychologist or expert on the "gamer mind". I'm just some schmuck with a blog and an opinion. 

I think there are several reasons:


We spent good money on the dice, they practically last forever, so why be wasteful and throw them away?


I like to hangout at my local game store. It's a toy store for my sensibilities. Who goes into a toy store without buying something? However the store either doesn't carry my chosen game system or there isn't anything new published for it, and rarely are there any big item purchases that I want or don't already have. So that leaves me with small item purchases, which for our hobby is either miniatures or dice.

Primary Tools

Dice are the primary tool of our hobby. They are essential (unless you are playing Amber). Both GMs and Players use them constantly throughout the game. In fact imho, you aren't a real gamer until you pick and buy your first set of dice. There's a lot of gamer psyche involved with dice: are they lucky, do they look cool, what do they say about my personality? Are these dice going to get me through the next dungeon alive? Dice are to gamers what shoes are to some women

New Shiny

There are always new styles of dice right around the corner. New colors, new shapes, new materials. Tastes change, and so we pick up the cool new looks and use them until we get bored with them. Then we hear the siren's call of the New Shiny.

Of course I'm basing this off of my own experiences and I am currently hearing the call of New Shiny right now. I love rolling Jumbo dice, I just wish I could get them in the cool color schemes of normal-sized dice. Right now I've got my eye on a set of yellow and orange swirled dice, mainly because they make me think of popsicles. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Starpunk and Cybernetics

I've been reviewing my ideas about using cybernetics in my sci-fi setting. It's odd considering I am also listening to the "Savage Daddy" who is building an actual Cyberpunk setting with the Savage Worlds Rules.

I've decided to drop "cybernetics" from my setting for a few reasons.

  • This is future-tech, where cellular regeneration is common-place. They can regrow your arm if you lose it. We are actually closer to this technology now than we are to mind-controlled power suits.
  • Cybernetics represent an ability to purchase a better character with credits. Like super powers, it's great when that is the status-quo. However, it goes against the feel that I am looking for. 
  • I don't want to dive into the transhumanist angle.

So in my setting the merger of mind and machine never happens. You can get prosthetics that act like normal limbs and are controlled through muscle twitches, but they don't offer greater strength or super agility. They are just cheaper than having a limb-regrown.

I've created Prosthetic (Minor) hindrances that halve the penalties of the One Arm, One Eye, and One Leg hindrances.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Waxing Nostalgic Again - Dice

I still have the original dice that came with the original Blue Box D&D. Here they are, in all of their opaque-brown glory next to a standard sized d20 from Gamescience that glows in the dark. Yes, my first dice were soooo tiny. You kids today don't know how good you got it.

The dice we received in those early boxed sets didn't have professionally painted numbers. Instead we got crayon that came with the box set and instructions on how to color those numbers in. You rubbed the crayon wax into the grooves and then wiped away the excess. That would last you about to game sessions and then you'd have to do it all over again.

And you didn't always get a crayon in the box.

Some day I'll have to roll those old dice again. Maybe someday at a con. I'll bust them out and see if anyone recognizes them, or if the young-whippersnappers give me grief over my ratty old rolling bones. 

Building a Universe

I have been frying my brain over the details of my sci-fi setting. Sisyphus had made me his bitch. keep in mind that this setting is a huge universe of planets where the heroes could go anywhere. My mind was abuzz with the history of this galaxy, and what made it unique and what are its people...

Then I took a walk to clear my head.

That's when a credo I used to live by, but had been long-forgotten, bubbled up in my brain-pan.

Question: How much of the game world do I have to prep?
Answer: Only what the character's see.

I shouldn't be busting my butt designing things that are outside the heroes' experiences. Who runs the Stellar Authority? Who cares, the heroes will never meet them. And if they do, it will be revealed in the adventure so I should worry about it then. The players will experience the setting through the adventures I create so there is no point designing the worlds they will never visit. It is enough for them to know that they are out there.

That said, what do I need to build using the Savage Worlds core book to make this setting work?

An Elevator Pitch - The heroes are average-joe scumbags and privateers out to make a quick starbuck and stay out of jail while working for a secret society outside the government that is trying to end corruption and protect civilization from collapsing to darker forces.

Races - I've built templates but the rules for creating alien races is already in the core book.

New Edges and Hindrances - Only if I need something to help capture the feel of Eighties sci-fi. So far all that comes to mind is the ability to mod a starship.

Weapons - Use the same stats for modern weapons, but ignore AP. Assume Blasters can penetrate any armor. Just give the guns spiffy sounding names. For instance the shotgun is now a Disintegrator Gun.

Gear - The current fad is combining, (my phone is a computer, camera, radio, tv, news, and weather device). So roll up all of the ubiquitous tools into a single device.

Starships - Okay this will take some work. This is the heroes primary base of operations and transportation. The rules for this may play a big deal in the setting. Also their are a lot of things in the sci-fi companion that I either don't need or doesn't fit the feel I am looking for. This is where I will be spending most of my work time.

I'll post what roughs I have when they are presentable. Right now my notes are scattered all over the place.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Starships as Characters

After my post about The Flexibility of Arcane Backgrounds, a few people suggested making starships as characters. I've looked into it and I'm afraid that imho it just doesn't work (for Savage Worlds). 

I used to be a fan of the Cortex System (Serenity and Battlestar Galactica rpgs). In that system they used die types for attributes and built their starships like characters. It worked because players rolled Attribute and Skill dice then added them together. When piloting a ship, the player merely had to roll the vehicle's Attribute die and the pilot's Skill die to make the system work. But in Savage Worlds there is no die-add.

The die ratings I have seen in some SW homebrews are mostly just representational and only seem to have a bearing on the game when you buy ship skills or calculate ship Toughness. I'm not a fan of ship skills as it potential negates the special qualities of the PCs. The consistency between calculating ship and character Toughness is nice, but if there is nothing else that truly shares the same methodology then there is little reason to do it.

Ideas that I have considered:

  • Starship Trait die used for Cooperative rolls - The idea is that every time the pilot makes a roll he can use the relevant ship attribute die for a Cooperative roll. Unfortunately it slows down the game more than just using flat bonuses from Handling.
  • Starship's Trait die as the Wild die - That mechanic of variable wild die isn't present at character level so I am adding a new mechanic. If I can't make starship characters and combat closely resemble player characters and combat, then the gimmick looses its worth.  
So neither idea seems worth it. Still, maybe someone has a better idea? 

Edit: I should have noted that this is from the play-style point of characters piloting starships, not starships as actual, individual characters.