lategaming staying up late, playing games

10Nov/080

Fonts, fonts, my kingdom….

I'm having trouble identifying a font I used for the original printing of ZOMBI and this is the replacement I have come up with.

The original was quite clean and had a name like 'corroded' or 'corrupted'.

The potential new one is CM Corruged by Charly Masci (link is down).

I think it's actually an improvement.

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9Nov/080

zombi

I've spent the last week working on the PDF version of zombi. I've been updating bits and pieces as well, adding in references for "Fast Zombies" and other things which have been popular in the years since the book was released. Hard to believe that it's nearly ten years since it was first published.

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25Jun/088

Zombi – out of stock at Key20!

I'm somewhat incredulous that Zombi is now out of stock at Key20 and will be preparing another shipment in the next week or so.

I'm also going to work on providing a PDF version so people can download it from Key20.

Watch this space!

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6May/080

The Stars Are Right….over there….

The Internet STELLAR DATABASE is a lot of fun.

Look at the entry for Barnard's Star especially the submits at the bottom where you can search for stars within a certain radius. How I wish this had been about when I was working on 2300AD scenarios (My favourite being 'Bayern' which exceeded the 7.8 light year limit on inter-stellar travel)

Looking at the entry for Sol we find:

"The "8" in the Detected Planets entry is not an error. Pluto is not a "planet," but a huge, close-orbiting, low-eccentricity Kuiper Belt object. With a big moon. Of course, some die-hards out there still insist that it really is a planet, more for sentimental reasons than anything else. They're welcome to live in their little fantasy world. Neener neener."

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30Apr/080

Solo: The Hero’s Journey (Part 3)

After generating all the names for the main people in Toby's life, I came up with a bunch of background - all of this just came to me as I typed it into an IM to Matt. I think having the location and other basics already decided made all this detail very easy to come up with.

[aidan] I've decided my character grew up in Grand Rapids.
[aidan] So he's a Michigan boy.
[aidan] but the other side of Michigan.
[aidan] And that's where his folks still live.
[aidan] His sister lives in Chicago, and works in advertising.
[aidan] Toby works in the bookstore because he can have flexible enough hours to pick up his daughter after school, although he has to usually do one day in a weekend, which he hates.
[aidan] Toby and Joanna have been married 8 years, and have a relatively affordable mortgage on a 3-bed house in Ann Arbor.
[aidan] Toby drives an old blue Chevy Camaro that is half transport, half restoration project. In the winter, he drives an old Ford truck. He likes old cars. Joanna has a Prius.
[aidan] He is in reasonable shape - not superfit, but not overweight. Plays basketball once a week with the guys from work, and leads a fairly active life with his daugther: park trips, bike rides, etc.
[aidan] He has short dark curly hair with smatterings of grey, and is clean shaven.
[aidan] Joanna's hair is medium brown and straight. She has green eyes, Toby's are grey-blue.
[aidan] Katie looks like her mom :-)
[aidan] He's pretty smart, but his wife is smarter (and Katie's smarter than both of them). He reads a lot, particularly history, politics, philosophy, American literature and the odd thriller.
[aidan] They both like to drink wine.
[aidan] They are both members of the Democrats, and the whole family will help out at political rallies, campaigns, etc.
[mj] Other important people. His boss. Other assistant managers?
[mj] lol, for later

[aidan] Heh, yeah. I'll add more in.

Part of the reason we're blogging all of this is to show how we are generating this character in a narrative way, how the story starts without any real role-playing, and to give everyone a feel for the main characters so that it becomes easy to follow along with the story once it starts.

I know Matt is busy working on story - I can see he has protected some pages on our internal wiki and filled them full of notes - so I expect once I've finished with rounding off this character, we'll be underway.

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30Apr/080

Solo: What’s in a name?

I've seen a bunch of name generators, especially around generating random fantasy names, or names that look Tolkien-esque. However, this random name generator is for normal first and last names, as might be found in the USA. I can set an obscurity factor (from 1 to 100) and select a gender. It uses US census data as the source for the names.

The names

My character is going to be from the Midwest, so I want a reasonably common name - I've set the obscurity factor to 40 (to rule out names like Modesto and Britt). Here's what I got:

  1. Toby Sandvik
  2. Darrin Ruta
  3. Dominick Purdon
  4. Emmett Krane
  5. Toby Rayne
  6. Cary Montpas
  7. Santos Gettle
  8. Winston Citrano
  9. Darnell Laskowitz
  10. Van Arnaud

I've opted for Toby Rayne. It's nice and short and has a good ring to it, and I've been watching a lot of The West Wing lately. I also like the name Winston Citrano, so I'll use that for his best buddy. I figure Toby's middle name will be the same as his dad's first name, so let's find out who Dad is, using the name generator but ignoring the surname. I'll run through Dad, Mom, Wife, Big Sister and Daughter:

  • Dad - Charles (Charlie)
  • Mom - Rebecca
  • Wife - Joanna
  • Sister - Erica
  • Daughter - Catherine (Katie)

Given the names that have come up, I've decided that Mom is part-Jewish, but that the family are loosely Christian (i.e. church at Christmas). I also decided that Dad ran his own auto repair shop.

The updated R-map now looks like this:

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28Apr/080

Solo: The Hero’s Journey (Part 1)

[09:15:14] So, have you thought about where you want to set Solo?
[09:16:11] Nope. ? A lot of that is up to you. Want to be a yank?
[09:18:07] It makes things easier to visualise in some regards, because we're so brainwashed by Hollywood. However, it's also very clich├ęd as a result. I've no desire to roleplay someone from N.I. though.
[09:22:50] I've zero desire to set a game here. For me it would be started either in some city in the US or a major city in the UK
[09:27:03] *nod* Let's go with the US. It's easier for other people to read too.
[09:29:01] which city rings and sings for you?
[09:34:13] One with a bit of character. Pick from Chicago, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle.
[09:36:04] Instinct says to pick Philadelphia but let's go with Ann Arbor
[09:36:27] OK :-)
[09:45:34] I can be from Michigan.

[09:48:44] you can be whatever you want to be
[09:54:52] Aye, but that's a good starting point.
[09:55:26] Somewhere in Middle America works for me. I'm just reading the Wikipedia article.
[09:57:11] I looked at Ann Arbor as a possible living place, during one of my many interviews last year.
[09:59:24] 114K people. So not far from the size of Lisburn.
[10:00:37] Right. But close to Detroit. Population 6m.
[10:01:13] Though it has UMich so....BIG DIFFERENCE
[10:01:32] Yeah.
[10:01:57] Which is tough because I'm a Buckeye fan.

[10:01:51] What's Buckeye?
[10:02:12] Ohio State
[10:04:33] So pick somewhere in Ohio?
[10:05:55] No, Ann Arbor is great.
[10:07:23] I've never been there :-)
[10:07:45] Columbus works
[10:08:57] I love Columbus. It's a beautiful city.
[10:09:16] But I'd rather it be Ann Arbor.
[10:10:11] Okay. As of December 2006, Democrats hold the mayorship and all council seats. It's a hot-bed for left wing politics.
[10:17:28] pot is decriminalised...
[10:29:35] "Ann Arbor is also home to the headquarters of Google's AdWords program" Borders Books *started* in Ann Arbor. Domino's Pizza is HQ'd there too.
[10:30:05] OK, cool.
[10:30:15] I've got stuff to think about now.
[10:48:29] OK, I have a character concept.
[10:48:37] Something near and dear to my heart :-)
[10:49:19] He's one of the assistant managers at the Ann Arbor Border's branch.
[10:49:34] Mid-30s, married, 1 child.
[10:49:59] Child is 5, and his wife works as a lecturer at UMich.

[13:20:21] Wikipedia says: "With tongue-in-cheek reference to the city's liberal political leanings, some occasionally refer to Ann Arbor as The People's Republic of Ann Arbor or 25 square miles surrounded by reality,"
[13:24:36] Yeah, I had in mind someone who was reasonably politically active.
[13:25:07] He's not from Ann Arbor originally, but his wife works at the university, which is why he stayed.

First iteration of Hero's R-map

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27Apr/083

Solo

I've only run Solo-play (one player, one GM) once. It was 23 years ago, I hadn't been gaming long and this was my first attempt at GMing. I'd bought the Games Workshop boxed edition of Middle Earth Role Play (MERP) and then tried to run it without really paying much attention to the rules. What I 'ran' didn't last long and also bore little resemblance to the MERP rulesystem as I recall. It was the first and it was also the last time I ran a solo game.

The problems I have considered with Solo games is that, much like my liking for computer games, the fascination is all about the interactions with others. I like video-game racing or combat with friends and strangers, I like roleplaying with other humans too. This is why the Fighting Fantasy books didn't hold my interest much and though I admired the technical excellence of NeverWinter Nights, I never could be bothered doing it all by myself. Online MUSH games resolved some of this because it was a pure role-playing experience, involved a lot of imagination (it's text-based so, much like a novel, most of the imagery comes from your own imagination.) With Solo play, you've only got one person to deal with, one person to bounce ideas off and as a result the interactivity is limited. Plus, if one person fails to show, your entire game is SOL.

One of the advantages of a Solo game is that you only need to schedule with one person (which is only marginally harder than scheduling only for yourself). Scheduling with four other people can be a real pain (especially now we are adults with wives*, family** and social lives***).

So, endeavouring to start a Solo game with Aidan (who inconsiderately can't stay in one country for any length of time) seems like a good idea for me (and him) to get the gaming fix. The game we're choosing is Wild Talents. And the premise is simple, it's the real world, but now, at game start, there is a single superhero (the player). The Powers are going to be rolled randomly but it's up to Aidan to provide the background and personality for the character. The campaign, fittingly, will be called Solo - respresenting a solo player and a solo superbeing.

*yes, this tells you that we geeks have something that interests a woman (and also that my gaming group are all male)
**this tells you that we geeks, however awkward, have had sex. Yes, hard to believe.
***again, breaking the stereotype, we find it hard to find time to game because we're busy with our social lives.

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27Apr/080

The Philosophy of the Superhero

"There are men, wrote Aristotle, so godlike, so exceptional, that they naturally, by right of their extraordinary gifts, transcend all moral judgment or constitutional control: 'There is no law which embraces men of that caliber: they are themselves law.'"- Superhero, Wikipedia

"A temperamental consciousness of material force brought Hugo Danner into being. The frustration of my own muscles by things, and the alarming superiority of machinery started the notion of a man who would be invincible. I gave him a name and planned random deeds for him. I let him tear down Brooklyn Bridge and lift a locomotive. Then I began to speculate about his future and it seemed to me that a human being thus equipped would be foredoomed to vulgar fame or to a life of fruitless destruction. He would share the isolation of geniuses and with them would learn the inflexibility of man's slow evolution. To that extent Hugo became symbolic and Gladiator a satire. The rest was adventure and perhaps more of the book derives from the unliterary excitement of imagining such a life than from a studious juxtaposition of incidents to a theme" - Philip Wylie

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25Apr/080

Superheroes can be dicks

Forget Iron Man.

PJ pointed me at the new Hancock trailer.
It's true, Hancock has gone from being a "Wild Wild West" kind of camp nonsense movie to a movie I'd really like to see and a game I'd like to run. That said, Iron Man, much more than the Fantastic Four or Spider Man has always been a bit of a dick when he was Tony Stark - and I loved reading his stories for it.

(He also links to Superdickery)

Superheroes are often dicks.

In the first Watchtower game, there were really three 'dick' moments. None of these were bad on the part of the player and they made for some excellent role-playing moments but they represented times when the superhero did things that were unexpected.

  • Gavin's first character, Atomic III, was a non-powered descendant of a dynasty of superheroes. He worked hard, he built himself some superpower-providing devices and he started doing what superheroes do - prowling around trying to find people to pummel. In the end this played out very well as he went a little power mad, fueled by his 'power inadequacy' where, even though he was the most powerful of the heroes due to his devices, it wasn't enough. He ended up becoming a villain and threw a train at the player characters (one of whom were superstrong or supertough). Then he killed their healer. Ouch. Gavin has an amazing sense of comedy for these kinds of things.
  • Gavin's second character, Wraith, was a cross between Batman and Hawkeye (but ten times cooler than Hawkeye). His actual power was the ability to be invisible and undetectable. He could sneak into places, collect evidence that was inadmissible in court and then when the criminal was acquitted, despite being guilty, Wraith would follow him home and thrash him into unconsciousness. On one absolute gem of a game, Wraith sneaked into a woman's house (he suspected she was the supervillainess Malice) and then when nothing untoward happened (she got home, put away her groceries and sat down to watch TV), rather than sneaking out, he just turned off his power in the middle of her living room. He appeared, she freaked out and he admitted he was her creepy stalker. Turns out she was actually Malice. Go figure.
  • John Dean's character, Ebony, discovered that his teleport skill also worked for time travel. Note to other GMs: I was a lot younger and lot stupider and had never really given unlimited time travel to players before. The 'dick' moments came when the player characters, after traveling into the past and modifying the future just....couldn't....stop.....going....back to tweak things to their preference. Jade Dragon lost his restaurant, then got it back. Wraith discovered he was dating and co-habiting with Malice but had no memory of their many-month relationship. I think they all deserved to be 'dicks' but the biggest dick of the lot was the GM. Oops.

In the more recent WatchTower game, they all had their fair share of dickery though Paul's character, Balance (the priest with uncanny matter shaping abilities) probably had more moments which, though caused for the most part by the possession and emotion control powers of the villain, were roleplayed brilliantly. Like when he completely blasted the whole team and caused their flesh to slough off. That was beautiful. Or when he sealed mind-controlled proto vampires in an underground tunnel (rather than seeing if they could be cured). He was decisive, let's be honest.

I like flawed characters, especially in superhero games because they can be flawed in much more effective ways. If you're a dick in a Zombi game, then no-one cares because you could just be left outside at some point and that would really ruin your picnic. If you're a dick in The 23rd Letter, again, there's a damage limitation as even psychics don't get an easy break. It ain't all fun being an Esper.

But in a Superhero game, you're often the possessor of a unique ability (at least within your team) and that means you've pretty special. When you're pissed off and do something about it, people notice.

We (Aidan and I) going to try playing a Superhero game online in the next couple of weeks. One player, one GM (for a while at any rate). I've asked Aidan to think of a character and some of the things he wants to do, or components of the world we will be playing in. I'd have asked him to do it in Wild Talents colour codes but, frankly, I'm not very keen on them and also he doesn't have the book so it would be impenetrable to him. (It does make me want to create a 'world builder' for superhero games. I have it in my head how to do it (and it could be done in software too - a simple web form, oh yeah!))

I wonder about the playability of a world where there is one superbeing. And he's the player character. Who are you foes? Do we spend more time looking at interpersonals? Do we add 'reality' while accepting that there is one guy in the world who can chew through steel? How does he live? How does he pay his way? Handouts?

I don't know what Aidan will bring to the table but I'm excited about the opportunity to play a bit more.

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10Apr/080

What’s that in the background?

Today I had lunch with Mike and Jim in Kainan Cafe.

We then went round to Forbidden Planet where I refrained from buying a lot of stuff.

This is self-control, I tellya.

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7Apr/082

“I don’t have any choice, somebody has to save the world”

I've been reading a lot of old comics this week.

There's been a recent thread on RPG.net about creating a setting where Superheroes conquered the world.

This, along with other memes, was part of what I was working on with the Watchtower game.

When I first started writing my own superhero settings for the Marvel Super Heroes game, I started with Zenith. This was the name of a team of superheroes based in the UK (and years before Zenith the superhero started in 2000AD). The original lineup was Metalon (strongman), a Minddancer (telepath) and Shatter (telekinetic). As time went on, the lineup changed. Metalon and Shatter stayed, but they added Aura (telepath), Scorch (pyrokinetic), Sentinel (energy manipulator) and Synapse (speedster). It was around this time that I started writing my own fiction around these characters which turned into my first and only attempt at a novel. As I was about fourteen, it needed some work, needless to say.

Zenith stayed with me for around 3 years until they lost their government funding. Synapse died, Metalon and Sentinel left and a new group called Apocalypse Inc. started, funded by the rich but probably insane Hemlock (snaffled from Jack of Hearts, Marvel Premiere #44). Additions to the team were Stasis (Healer) and Nucleon (radiation controller). There were also villains from the time: Tantrum and Hysteria, Skybreaker, The Red Menace, Lillith. This was all using the Marvel System.

I started writing my combined UK background for superheroes, including the WW1 supersoldier, Yeoman, his modern day clone, Lionheart, Lancaster, Vitesse, Prodigy, La Feu, Striker, Plasma, Blaze "Death!", Frost, Nano, DeathMaster, Deacon, Schreck.

Not long after I started playing in Jeremy's game and this introduced the Zombie Squad to my cosmology. The lineup, as I recall, was Sergeant Strike (scrapper with a force field), Demon Motorbike guy (it had a graser too), UnderGraduate Von Doom (you know, ruler of small country, but before he got his doctorate), Stick (a martial artist) and Baron Samedi (voodoo loa). They fought giant robots, travelled to Ravenloft (where we recruited Strahd) and other places and annoyed an ancient evil a million years ago in a place a million light years away which immediately started pursuing them at light speed. And should have arrived...just...about...then. I don't remember fighting it. I think we may have changed game. Or left the group. I don't remember. We used Jeremy's homebrew system for this game.

The next superhero game involved the Protectors. These individuals: Glitter, Warhead, Download, Quill, Inferno - faced off a weather manipulator in Colorado and that was the only game we played. We used the ill-fated Heroes and Heroines for this.

After that, we had quite a few one-offs until I got a few friends together, wrote a backstory for the US involvement in the world and started my first Watchtower game. This was really the first superhero game that I placed in the USA. The Watchtower was an organisation that spanned the US with approximately 40 offices across the nation. They had quasi-legal status with the US government though few actual legal powers but a good relationship with the Federal government made crime-fighting a lot easier. The San Francisco team had recently been killed by a bloodthirsty voillain known as Bloodrage and they were recruiting new members. They were Jade Dragon (Alan), Atomic III (Gavin), Bullet (Iain), Ebony (John) and Ivory (Aidan). Gavin's second character, Wraith, debuted when he let Atomic III go mad. Aidan's second character, Quickening, replaced Ivory pretty soon as well. Most notably they eliminated (yes, that is a euphemism for killed) Bloodrage and defeated ARES. the US Supersoldier. They also witnessed first hand the issues with FORTRESS and why time-travel is bad.

This involved creating a whole background for the US as well. This was "The American Dream" and had luminaries such as Atomic I, Lifeline, Moon Boy and others I don't remember. World War 2 superheroes and their unfinished legacies.

A few years later, we continued with the New York Watchtower. Again it started with a recruitment drive where Balance (Paul), Yellowfist (Gavin), Indigo (Aidan) and Skyhook (Rob) joined up with other existing members (Red Shift, Psiren, Jack White) to bolster out the membership. There was a conspiracy afoot to extend the reach of the Watchtower globally though 'conspiracy' often has negative connotations. This was the beginnings of an "Authority" level campaign which is why I permitted the monstrously powerful characters that the players had. e.g.

  • Yellowfist, a modern-day Native American shaman gained his powers by channeling spirits. In theory he could do anything but he only had Falcon and Bear at the start.
  • Skyhook could move huge amounts of stuff around with the power of his mind. This includes a TK gun platform as well as being able to lift huge amounts.
  • Balance has absolute control over matter - being able to shape almost any amount at will and being able to transmute other amounts.
  • Indigo, a high tech hero, had teleportation abilities which could place objects on the outskirts of the solar system.

The "plan" was that they would have the opportunity to step into these roles. Yellowfist as the infantry, with Skyhook as artillery, Balance as the engineers and Indigo as recon and supply. Sadly they only got round to cleaning up the oceans before, due to real life, we had to split the group.

I'd still like to continue that game, in theory, with the same or different characters.

This finishes some of the cosmology for my superhero games.

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4Apr/080

New Downloads

Some people were looking for them so I've put some downloads on the books page:

Wildtalents fanzine 1 60K PDF
Wildtalents 3 fanzine 1.5MB PDF
Wildtalents 5 fanzine 373K PDF
23rd letter character sheet 22K PDF
zombi character sheet 86K PDF

If there's anything else in particular that people are looking for, please mention it and I'll see what I can dig up. Please note that this wildtalents fanzine was something I was doing nearly a decade before Wild Talents (the superhero RPG) was released.

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1Apr/080

OREs Magica

I spent some time at work today thinking about things that could be done with the ORE system. I admit that I've not yet had the chance to really test it in anger

Part of this is to kick a bit of life into the forums at Project Nemesis as well as the ones at Arc-Dream especially seeing as July brings us Wild Talents second edition.

OREs Magica is a terrible pun on Ars Magica, one of the best RPGs of all time. In Ars Magica, the players can be Grogs (the peasants and footsoldiers), Companions (nobles, 'adventurers' and 'special' characters') and Mages. The background is 'Mythic Europe' which, to be honest, can be as 'fantastic' or as 'mundane' as you like. I quite like the "turnips and boils" of low fantasy contrasted with the Magic of Ars Magica.

OREs Magica takes the background of Ars Magica and plonks it onto a ORE-based system. I don't have Reign yet but I'm guessing that the Reign system works much the same (though they have the concept of Expert Dice which are a little like Hard Dice.)

Anyway - the thought I had was that you could easily replicate the Techniques and Forms of Ars Magica onto the ORE system.

The Techniques (or Verbs) of Magic are:

  • Creo,
  • Rego,
  • Perdo,
  • Intellego,
  • Muto

The Forms are:

  • Animal,
  • Auram,
  • Aquam,
  • Corpus,
  • Herbam,
  • Ignem,
  • Imagonem,
  • Mentem,
  • Terram,
  • Vim.

e.g. Curdus the Fire Mage has 3d in Creo and 2d in Ignem. To create Fire, she rolls 5D. One match is needed minimum and the height of the roll dictates the intensity of the flame. The Width of the roll can indicate speed or skill. She also has 1d in Perdo but no dice in Aquam, therefore she cannot "destroy water" without additional, outside assistance. The most common assistance is Vis.

Vis is the purified essence of magic as extracted from magical things. To convert, for instance, a Magical Bull's Heart into Vis requires two rolls; the first being Muto Animal and the second being Creo Vim. A failure in the first roll may be attempted again. Failure in the second roll means the Vis disappears in a dramatically appropriate way. Success in both rolls means a number of points equal to the width of the Creo Vis roll are extracted from the heart.

But why do we need Vis? Every Mage wants more Vis. Why? Because Vis has some very special properties. Each point of Vis that is expended in a Magic roll can have one of the following effects:

  • Each point adds a single dice to the Magic Roll adding to Techniques and Forms. This means that you can perform pretty much ANY magic if you have Vis to help.
  • Each point adds a year and a day of permanence (in the Ars Magica book, adding Vis makes something permanent but I never liked that.) After the year and a day, the magic wears off. This has some serious repercussions for Longevity Potions and magical constructs. It won't affect a house built with magic if the structure itself is sound.

The maximum amount of Vis that may be used in any activity is equal to your Vim score.

To do any more on this I guess I'll have to buy Reign :) Okay, I'm convinced!

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31Mar/081

Feeling Planetary Love

OMG, I'm feeling the love for Planetary all over again.

I'm itching to run a Planetary-like game using Wild Talents. Soooo much....

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30Mar/080

Converting some WatchTower characters to Wild Talents.

Codename: Warhead AKA David Bruce Brandon
Appearance: Warhead is an 8 ft tall humanoid suit of armour. Brandon is a slighty overweight man with unkempt brown hair and bushy eyebrows.
Background: Dr David Brandon is a robotics engineer. He discovered his electrical generation powers as a teen and quickly started to use it to power small devices. The Warhead armour was the culmination of a series of inventions which, while they seemed revolutionary, could only be used by him. Along with the armour, he has a motorcyle and an electric car; neither of which have batteries. David loves the thrill of adventure when in the suit.
Known Talent Abilities: David can generate electrical energy. It's of a sufficiently low level that it cannot be used to create dangerous attacks but it has been use to power the warhead armour removing the need for bulky power supplies.

  • Harm (AU) - Shock only

The Warhead Armour provides the following advantages

  • Armour (Heavy Armour)
  • Strength (HyperBody)
  • Protection from cold, heat, pressure, oxygen (Immunity)

Sparkle AKA Helen Louise Ross
Appearance: Sparkle is a blonde caucasian woman in her mid-thirties. She's attractive but her demeanour is very downtrodden. She is surrounded by sparkling motes in the air around her.
Background: Helen was a normal working mum with 2 kids, a busy husband and a dog. She was driving her children home from school when a car ran a red light and was about to hit her car when it was enveloped in sparkling light. The car was hefted over her car and into oncoming traffic causing a 7-car pile-up. Thankfully no-one died. She drove home, shaken more by the Sparkles which still surrounded her, than the accident. Her husband was not understanding, however, and within a matter of weeks she was homeless, presented with a restraining order preventing her from contacting her children and facing charges for criminal damages to 7 cars and 13 personal injury claims. These days, bankrupt and with a 2 year probationary sentence, she work on a construction site as a Lifter and has fallen in with a Talent support group.
Known Talent Abilities:
Sparkle can generate a visible telekinetic field within a short range of her body. The area effect of her ability is indicated by the movement of sparkling motes in the air which affect her ability to remain concealed. She calls this her "Sparkle Effect".

  • Telekinesis (ADU) - Obvious
  • Flight (U) attached to Telekinesis - Booster, Multiple Targets

Inferno AKA Brad Nelson
Appearance: A well-built caucasian man in his twenties with blond hair
and grey eyes. When using his power, his hair and eyes are usually 'leaking' flames.
Background: Brad Nelson was always spoiled. He was tall, good looking, excellent at sports and graduated valedictorian of his class. He had it all and he was a Talent. But, like all spoiled brats, he was greedy. Brad debuted as a supervillain known as Phlogiston in New York. On his first outing, a bank robbery, he was utterly defeated and catapulted into the Hudson. It was desperately humbling. His resolution: become a hero. He took acting lessons, spent more time in the gym and at the dojo, moved across the continent and got himself a PR Agent. He's not rich, not yet...
Known Talent Abilities:
Inferno can release flame from any part of his body. The shape and intensity of the flame can vary in intensity and he is immune to it's effects. He cannot lessen ambient flame nor can he shape it into anything other than a burst, though he can reduce the effects.

  • Harm (ARU) - Burn, Killing Only, Engulf, Spray, Obvious
  • Immunity to Flame/Heat - Endless

Hemlock AKA Robert Gage
Appearance: Hemlock is a powerfully built human male who usually wears a close fitting impermeable black garment underneath his normal clothes. His gloves and mask are removable.
Background: Robert Gage developed his toxin producing abilities during gestation and as a result his mother died during an emergency procedure. As he was being delivered, his poisons killed two nurses and incapacitated his doctor. His father fled and refused to have anything to do with him and he was given to an orphanage. He spent his entire youth in isolation, limbs wrapped in plastic, terrified that his touch would kill. Always studious, he was awarded several scholarships, none of which he could accept. After his 16th birthday, he left the orphanage and attempted to make his own way in the world - not an easy task considering his isolationbut he muddled through gaining many useful contacts. Three years later, he was contacted by a lawyer as the sole inheritor of his father's estate. No longer with any need to work or interact with others for money, he is free to do as his heart desires.
Known Talent Abilities:
Hemlock's body exudes a powerful toxin which renders a target into an intoxicated delirium and, in very high doses, will kill. He has no control over this effect and therefore gauges the dose as best he can. (Using his poison skill to try to reduce damage).

  • Skill: Poison (to gobble Harm dice)
  • Harm (A, R) - Always On, Touch Only
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26Mar/084

Portion control

One of the hardest things to manage when GMing a game is portion control.

Traditionally we game in the evenings starting at around 7 pm and finishing up around 10 pm or 11 pm. It's long enough to get something done and relax and make it a social affair. When I gamed in school it was gaming during the 40 minute lunchtimes and for 80 minutes on a Friday evening after school. On the weekend when we were young we might meet up around noon, start a game at 2, finish much later and at times, stay over so we could game more the next day. We had few responsibilties so it worked out well. These days, a 3 hour session is lucky to have because we have these responsibilities to family, spouse, work, other hobbies and being social. We have to therefore tailor our games to these times. Finding the right amount of material for a 3 hour session is not as simple as it sounds. Preparing too much material (or if your players are being a little dense or distracted) is not a major issue as you can pick up next time. Preparing too little is a pain because when the session ends and there's still a good hour to go, you can feel somewhat disappointed. The time we have for gaming is precious and we want to use it in the right fashion as much as possible.

Enough of a challenge or are they swamped?

When playing an investigative game, it's important to force feed a lot of players with clues and leads. Why? Because just because the players have characters who are investigative reporters, private detectives, research scientists and other smart professions, it doesn't follow that the player is any good at looking at the evidence and deducing what happens before the Great Old Ones rise and the world ends. At the same time, don't make it a railroad where the clues may lead somewhere but it doesn't matter what they do because they'll be drawn into the final struggle anyway.

The same extends to 'combat-oriented' games. Deduce the appropriate level of challenge and don't have the half dozen player characters swamped with hundreds of enemies who can't pose any real threat (due to armour or magic on the part of the PCs) but they do just carry you away from the goal. Once it's novel, twice it's amusing, three times and you're an ass.

Be especially careful of the challenge level you present if there's real possibility of player character death. Players don't generally like it when their characters die. Sometimes it's thematically appropriate and yet, at other times you have the annoyance and boredom of going through the numbers and generating another character.

Ma' Johnston's Dinner Recipe

My mum has always cooked extra. It comes from me and my siblings having big appetites and there usually being an extra head at the table to feed because one or more of us brought a friend. As we've gotten older, the portions got larger and now I know she actually cooks two dinners when she knows we're calling over for dinner. This is why you can end up with a plate of spagetti, bolognaise sauce, a pork chop and some broccoli bake on the same plate. It's because she loves feeding people and making sure everyone gets enough.

Apply the same thought to gaming. Overprepare on the materials but don't get frustrated if the PCs seem to be getting through it slowly. I'd also recommend having a side order of something left of field just in case they get distracted or they do manage to resolve the issues very quickly.

Also...it is okay to just close the book and say "That's all for tonight" and not game for the last hour or so. Most players these days have also worked as GMs and there's a spread of ability. Some people work from published adventures, some from their copious notes and other still from their fevered imagination. Good players will understand.

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26Mar/080

Wild Talents / ORE

I've finally finished reading the system bits of Wild Talents and I do wish I'd read it earlier as it is a pretty solid action system with a lot of crunch and grit.

It's honestly the first time since reading Marvel Super Heroes by TSR that I felt like I could reliably model any power. MSH will always have a special place in my heart because it modelled things so well (in truth, it did no modelling, it was all narrative).

Essentially Wild Talents uses a system where you buy dice in 'stats', 'powers' and 'skills'.

Powers are, ironically. the cheapest thing to buy (which I suppose is fair enough in a superhero game.). The base cost of every power is 1 point for 1 dice. It's when you add qualities to it that the cost increases.

e.g. We want to create a power called "Fire Generation" which will model the power in the MSH Ultimate Powers Book. To keep the Math simple we're going to guy one normal dice in it which is the logical equivalent of getting the power at Feeble (2) rank.

1 point spent in Fire Generation allows you to generate a plume of flame. It's a showy effect but not useful for much else.

Each quality added increases the dice cost by 1 per die.

  • Adding the Attacks quality adds a single point cost but it means that the fire can be directed into an attack. Of course, with 1 dice in it, it's actually useless but bear with me here.
  • Adding the Defends quality means that the fire can be used to defend against attacks by, burning attackers, destroying missiles and the like. Again, with one die it's useless but you get the drift.
  • Normally, if you get hurt or otherwise distracted, the power cuts out, and in this case, the flame plume would just stop. The Robust quality means that it keeps working even if you are hurt or distracted but it still stops if you're knocked out.
  • Fire Generation is a 'fighting' power but the ability to generate fire has other uses outside of roasting bank robbers. To be able to cook with it without turning the food to cinders, or light a cigarette without roasting someone alive or even just use it to light a room in the absence of a torch means you have to take the quality "Useful Outside of Combat".

This means there's an incredible range of Fire Generating Powers available.

It's possible to buy Fire Generation with only the Useful Outside of Combat quality. Your character could have a career being a human barbeque, being able to perfectly create a Souffle or warm a room with his presence.

It's also possible only to buy it with the Attacks quality so that it can only be used to blow things up.

This means a somewhat useless Fire Generation power costs 1 point per die, but a Fire Generation that allows you to attack, will defend you from attacks, will continue to defend you even if you get hurt and can be used to toast marshmallows and keep your coffee warm will cost 5 points per die (because we've added all four qualities). That's quite expensive in points so how do we reduce it? By adding Flaws which reduce the cost per point. More on that later.

Very flexible.

In the next WT post, I'll talk about the dice conventions, the names of which were a major reason for me to have ignored Godlike and Wild Talents for so long.

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18Mar/080

Project NEMESIS

I recently registered on Project NEMESIS, a web site dedicated to ORE (One Roll Engine) and BRP. BRP (Chaosium's Basic RolePlaying).

Seeing as my gaming group plays nothing but BRP so far (Delta Green, Gaslight, RuneQuest) and we're potentially starting an ORE game, it seems quite timely.

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16Mar/080

More on Godlike

I've finished reading the book itself and found it quite enjoyable. I do have some issues with the quick proliferation of Talents and would be seeking to limit them myself. I don't mind them being very powerful (though there seem to be a lot of indestructable 'mad' talents out there.

The money is still on the table on whether it'll be North Africa or Pacific. Africa would be my preference.

Jim's background goes into heaps of detail and allowed me to build the Talent power he wanted (I think) using a combination of two powers. It turns him from a simple one-sided Talent into something a little more exciting.

Michael provided two options - the mundane and the spectacular. I much prefer the "mundane" but have a lot of questions about what happens and how.

I've not got much detail from Graham yet but that's probably more to do with my lack of information provision which I'll remedy this week.

I'm also not sure whether Paul or Aidan will be able to participate. Paul has an awkward schedule and Aidan is in the wrong country (so we're considering RP via Skype Video).

My next post will be going through the character generation process to make a couple of Talents for the game.

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12Mar/080

Godlike

During our last game we had some breaks and it was mooted that I might be up for GMing Godlike. (The other option was Cthulhutech but considering that we've been playing nothing but Delta Green and Gaslight for the last two years, I could safely give the Mythos a miss for a while.)

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10Mar/081

Godlike propaganda

Funtasticus has a long list of WW2 propaganda posters.

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10Mar/080

The usual fare

I don't remember where I got this but it always made me think about the perfect stag do. It's originally from the first edition Dungeon Master's Guide and really proves that, to a degree, roleplayers of the day were ugly virgins.

random_harlot_table.jpg

I listened to an early episode of feartheboot on the way into work this morning (Episode 7 if anyone is interested) and they criticised the use of tables in some circumstances (roll for mental derangements, roll for plot points in a new town, roll for orgasm) while defending them in others (roll for Battlemech enemies, roll for random treasure/loot). I find that dichotomy to be really odd and illustrates a real liking for Monty Haul style campaigns. It doesn't matter who the baddies are, they're just random encounters and after we kill them we'll take their #35 on the random treasure table. I know I'm taking that a little out of context and it was an early episode from about 2 years ago but I'm working through them and sometimes I really want to say "Hey, no, I don't think that's right" but, jeez, it's two years ago so who would care.

Look at the assumptions in the table (getting back to the point). Didn't this table tell you some things? Firstly, the players were likely to be all male, as were their characters. Secondly, all harlots were female (arguably a pimp or panderer can be either). That's kind of shocking in of itself with modern sensibilities though unsurprising considering my gaming group consists of 4 blokes and this game was aimed at teenage dorks who weren't great at sports.

If only I hadn't watched Fear of Girls on Google Video (and the Wikipedia link) recently.

Makes me cringe.

That said, we may have been adolescents at one point and perhaps some of us fantasised about characters such as "Bathsheba Fullbubs" or "Calime Halfelven" but then that's why this kind of material was in the books in the first place. We weren't sexists when we were 12 years old, we were just confused and horny. RPG books catered to what we wanted to see and we didn't see anything different between tough looking girls in chainmail thongs and the feeble representation of wet-blanket men in Barbie commercials.

I'm glad we can laugh about this.

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5Mar/080

‘Culture Games’

Back last year we wrote a 'popular' post about the top 10 roleplaying games of all time. In the post, I did explain my preference for culture games but also lacked to really talk about the concept. In thinking about it on the way to work this morning (driving is relative downtime), I figured it would be good to examine it due to some things that were said last night over iChat. Some of this discussion may end up contradicting myself even within the relative safety of this post.

By a 'culture game', I mean a game where there's a component of learning about the culture as well as the opportunity to play non-combatant characters. It's a game where people might talk about the richness of the setting or the feelings it evokes when they play. Part of this will be the game materials itself, part of it will be the player imaginations and part of it will be the style of the GM.

Just to muddy the waters, I'm going to discuss this in terms of the amount of culture I perceive the game to have. It doesn't matter if the game is mainstream or indie, that's not invquestion here and indeed, many indie games which are popular I would not describe as culture games specifically.

It's also important not to fall into the trap of thinking that Low-Culture = Bad and High-Culture = Good. That's not the case at all. Most of the difference is that I can probably get a Low-Culture game running very easily and find players for it without much issue. In comparison, finding players for a High-Culture game can often be impossible.

Low-Culture
The first gut reaction here is any game where Combat is the main thing. I'd hazard Cyberpunk, SLA Industries, Marvel Super Heroes (in any incarnation), Mutants and Masterminds and pretty much any incarnation of games from White Wolf or any of the D&D settings (yes, there are exceptions but they're outliers to the rule). Most of the d20 line in fact has 'genericised' the settings so much that it's hard not to feel like a fighter or magic user that's rolled off a production line. Some of the games have such strong archetypes that it's somewhat fruitless to soften them up because you end up playing an archetype or something that feels deliberately unlike an archetype (which is a cliche). I include Marvel Super Heroes here because, unless you've been reading comics for the last 50 years or so, you're not going to get a real feel for Marvel (and to a degree this counts for most settings based on licensed material).

My worst experience with this was with D&D. To a degree this feeling of being a 'generic adventurer' is the fault of the GM who introduced us to the campaign world by giving us a blank character sheet and the Players Handbook. No real notes on the world, the culture, the towns and cities, how society feels about wandering mobs of ruffians armed with weapons and magic (the player characters). In short, the stuff we should know from living in a world for a score years or more.

I consider Call of Cthulhu to be low culture but find that the players who play it tend to refer high culture. I am lucky to be in a gaming group with Cthulhu experts - they spend a lot time on Yog-Sothoth forums, they have played pretty much every module and read pretty much every scenario and background. They order the monograms. In this way the players and GMs bring culture to the game and you'll find there are games which may be, on the face of it, low culture but which have broken free of that definition due to a particular setting, a particularly good GM or a set of players who want a certain type of play. The conclusion there is that it's possible for players and GM to bring culture to a game.

High Culture
I'd be rightfully accused as a Culture-Snob in truth. These are games where the game is designed with a copious amount of information and great depth within. There's a difference, of course, in these games. Some, like Tekumel and Glorantha, have vast amounts of content provided for them. Some, like Skyrealms of Jorune, have relatively little. But the feel of the game is to embody a rich and diverse background where just wandering down the street provides inspiration and adventure. Where you can have as much fun roleplaying buying your new uniform as you can hunting down a rogue Ahoggya.

In fact, in these games it's my experience that it's hard to have a 'bad game' because the opportunities for the players to direct the story are so much greater. This isn't an 'indie' thing where we have to outline our confrontations and desired outcomes and bend the story, through shared participation of multiple GM-like figures to a crescendo of story and personality. No. This is just that the background is so interesting that there's absolutely no need to think of a plot because the players tell you what they want to do. Ars Magica is perhaps one of the best examples of this as it gets to a point where running a game is just fielding questions and playing roles rather than providing plot. The players run with the plot themselves. The Magi want Vis so they get their grogs and companions to find it. They drive the plot forwards. Likewise in Tekumel, there's so much to do and see (including trying not to get impaled), that you want to experience it all. I find this with Glorantha (though the source materials are harder to get) that there's a hundred rich cultures and very few of them are Western European Mediaeval (which Ars Magica covers very well, thanks).

So if I prefer High-Culture, why have I been playing Delta Green, Cthulhu by Gaslight and why am I intend to run Godlike for them?

Firstly because there's a large component of 'fun' made up of having the right players and the right GM. If everyone wants to play the game then it's fun, right? It doesn't matter if it's a D&D dungeon crawl with inexplicably large monsters behind small doors, if you're having fun then it's all good. And that's why we're doing this.

Secondly, many culture games are not particularly accessible. They've not done well in the market and therefore tend to go out of print. It's no wrong things that the vast majority of gamers want to play something with a little less depth. Being handed a large folder of source material for your culture alone and seeing another player getting a similar folder for a different culture can be daunting.

Lastly, it can be very hard to match the expectations of players. Some Low-Culture games have copious amounts of source material (Witness the amount I'm massing for running this Godlike game) and some of the players you have might have read a lot around the subject. Ask them about the pitch of the game. Do they want it to be authentic or 'four colour'. Ask them if they have recommendations on source materials. Being loaned books from your players to help you get a feel for the type of game they are interested in is a big help.

For example, with this Godlike game. Do they want to play a "Saving Private Ryan" game? A "Band of Brothers" game? "A Bridge Too Far"? "Where Eagles Dare"? Using these 'popular culture' references we can meet their expectations and provide a lot of background and setting material to what would otherwise be possibly a very dry game.

My group are also fond of copious handouts. That's a new challenge.

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4Mar/080

Prepping for a game

I'm a little intimidated by running a new game. I'd like to run (and by all accounts the guys would like me to run) Godlike. Something about giving it to the Boche really motivates them and it's be nice to play a game where we have an easily defined baddie.

Among other things this will mean not running a game in my 'Watchtower' universe which Gavin and Aidan have played in the past. Watchtower is the amalgam of superhero gaming from a long time ago. In this world, the Horror has been defeated under the sea in the Eagles base three times, the Holy Grail has been quested for twice, a giant robot has been stopped from trashing downtown Miami by the Zombie Squad who also led a nameless horror from a million light years away, a million years ago to Earth, a UK government team called Zenith was massacred by an assassin about two years before the strip in 2000AD started, a team based in Colorado nearly lost half their team fighting a weather-controlling teenager and in San Francisco and New York, members of the Watchtower fought valiantly against their own hubris and some vampires as well as the formation of the first superhuman incarceration directive.

So, this goes before all of that.

We're planning to play Godlike.

I don't know much about World War 2 so this week I've been tracking down movies and books which will hopefully fill me in before the guys I game with (all arts grads with a lot more time to read books during their formative years and a lot more interest in non-fiction) lambast me for being relatively ignorant. I do feel a little intimidated because especially in recent years I have become progressively less well-read as I just don't have the time. That must change.

I'm going to survive on a diet of WW2 films for a while to whet my appetite and then grab some Osprey books on the period and place for the setting. It will, of course, horrify me how much I don't know in comparison to my peers.

But we have to start somewhere.

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29Oct/070

5 ways Science can bring us Zombie Plague!

Of course, it has to be from Cracked.com. Go look. Now.

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14Oct/072

Run out of plot ideas?

LifeOptimiser covers some of "the best books of human civilization."

It beggars my belief that someone may not have a plot to mind much like I find it hard to believe that an artist doesn't know what to paint or a programmer what to write. I suppose that because I neither paint nor code, I'm filled with inspirations on what to paint or code.

Funny that.

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28May/070

One Sentence True Stories.

A few months ago I posted on Six Word Stories here and here and on One-Sentence Settings here.

Similar to PostSecret comes One Sentence

Some of them are just....fantastic.

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1May/072

Episode Seven: 28th October 2000

"This is Kitty Thoreau for LCI News Dakota in a prefab cabin built by the newly inaugurated WatchTower New York. What are they doing in Dakota? Good question and something we'll answer after the break."

RASA Fashion, the leading bespoke tailors are now touring the Dakotas. Call 1-80-555-5555 to find your nearest store.

melissastark.png

"We're back with more news on the WatchTower. We're not in Dakota which is one reason - we're suspended a mile above the Atlantic coast while WatchTower New York takes steps to clean the terrible environmental disaster caused by an unidentified superpowered terrorist. To pull this herculean effot together, they've pulled in technical staff from Torus Research, a leading edge technology corporation and using technology licensed from the UK-based Prodigy Corporation.

The amazing thing is that this building was created from the air by Balance, the leader of WatchTower New York. We're currently being held aloft by Yellow Fist, the superhumanly strong scrapper who provides WatchTower with much-needed muscle. I've been talking with Indigo, the wearer of the Torus Research prototype "Rescue Suit" designed to help locate and rescue people in danger and two senior technicians from Torus; Mikey and Pete. I'm told we also owe some thanks to SkyCrane who is acting as a forward observer ten miles up."

[She pauses and walks around the prefab, pointing at the individuals and the equipment]

"This device, dubbed the VacScoop, is removing all of the pollutants collected on our nations beaches and removing them, dumping them into deep space. The process of cleaning all the world's oceans of 90% of pollutants is apparently going to take less than 12 hours. The question this journalist has is: Why hasn't anyone done this before?

[she pauses and the sound goes out]

"I've just been told we're going to teleport to the Indian Ocean, on the other side of the planet, to continue this work. I can really see this being a viable alternative to aircraft flights with instantaneous travel, no risk of deep-vein thrombosis. Yes, it can send you to the Bahamas but you have to purchase your ticket 30 days in advance."

[she grins an award winning smile]

"Just joking folks, this advanced tech is still in testing which does make me a little nervous but it seems to be working fine.

Just so we're clear: we're saving the world here....on live TV...."

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10Apr/072

Episode Six – 28th October 2000

The team was immediately dispatched to intercept the intruder who seemed to be a humanoid waterspout, heading towards the land. Debate ended fruitlessly with the humanoid who called itself "Ocean" and a short battle ensued - Yellowfist, Balance and SkyCrane providing the muscle, Psiren and INDIGO the recon. Eventually a psychic targetting from Psiren enabled Yellowfist to strike at the source of the ocean manipulation, knocking him out.

The episode ends with the team holding onto Ocean and wondering what to do with him. If they turn him over they know for sure he'll disappear into the depths of Fortress, never to be seen again. And what's to be done about the several thousand miles of pollutants along the shores of North America?

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