Tuesday, August 23, 2016

No More Heroes, pt. 2

First thing's first.

Share One of Your "Worst Luck" stories: I'm sure I have stories like this, but a lot of the games I've been playing lately don't reckon failure the way more trad games do. Oh, wait, I've got one. I was running a game of Chill in college, and the characters were up against a Bast (a kind of cat-like creature). Like a lot of creatures in Chill, bullets didn't really hurt it, but they're a pretty common first step, for some reason. So one of the characters shoots at the thing, and the player fails. Since the envoys are kind of clustered (bad idea - always check your backdrop!), I have the player roll to see if the character inadvertently hits another envoy...and the player rolls 01 (which is the best possible roll). She shot the other envoy in the head and killed him.

It was an ignominious way to go, but on the other hand, it was pretty appropriate to the story and the tone of the game, so I dunno.

Anyway, superheroes!

Last time, the heroes fought valiantly to prevent several supervillains from stealing the Earnhardt Radar from Lindquist Industries. This time, they all learned (separately) that the Gateway Arch was under attack.

Inferno was closest, and swooped in. He tossed a bunch of fire around at the demons, but didn't manage to hurt them. They leaped down off the arch and slashed at him, tearing up his outfit and cutting him up. Pink was next on the scene, and bounced off demon-heads up to the top of the arch. There she saw a man in a suit and a tie with glittering gold sigils sitting there. He sneered "pajama police" at her, and then fired magic at her. It didn't hurt her, but she slid down the arch, breaking windows (I added to the doom pool).

Arcanix arrived and flew up to the dude, declaring himself to be the Sorcerer Supreme and trying to band the guy (Grimoire) to the arch with the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak (which is apparently a dimensional constant). Grimoire broke the spell, and floated up off the arch, saying "I know you. You're the former Sorcerer Supreme." At that point, Pink slammed into him from the side, kicking him in the kidneys.

Rookie arrived on a swingline, slamming into demons. Inferno called up fire and caged a bunch of the demons, but a dude on the ground, in street clothes lifted up his hands and the fire went out. Spore flowed in behind him and caused a spore burst, infecting him (which allowed Spore to use one of his Distinctions - Brilliant Physicist). Grimoire, annoyed, called down magical meteors, causing a bunch of stress to Arcanix, Rookie, and Inferno (Pink dodged them handily). Rookie threw a meteor back at him, but he dispelled it easily.

Harmony tried to knock Arcanix back on course (his jets were malfunctioning as a result of a Limit), but didn't adjust for his heavier body and failed. At this point, Spore heard his handler calling him away, and he faded back into the earth. The demons attacked, but Inferno burned intensely bright, Rookie spun his staff and knocked a bunch of them away, and Arcanix dispelled them.

With no more demons distracting them, Inferno called up a sphere of fire around Grimoire, and Harmony deafened the other dude. Suddenly said dude vanished, and the fire-sphere was empty - Grimoire had pulled them away.

At the government compound, Spore found that Krampus and Innocence had attacked and freed Decibel. Spore's handler, Carlson, instructed him to get the other heroes here, as the government needed fresh eyes on this.

The other characters arrived, a little annoyed that the vending machines at the compound weren't free. The did a bit of investigation, and realized that Innocence hadn't killed anyone. Harmony, her old nemesis, confirmed that this was weird; Innocence was usually quite willing to put people on ice. The action at the arch had pretty obviously been meant to distract from this operation, but why was Decibel so important? Villains didn't normally stick together so intensely, so it was likely that his powers in particular were important.

Spore looked through his infective memories and found the name of the guy he'd infected - Mitchell Warner. Harmony remembered him; he had tried to be a superhero some years back, but had choked and wound up embarrassing himself. He had telekinetic powers, as she remembered. A little digging later, and they learned he was a brilliant physicist, too.

The found the sniper's perch where Innocence had shot out the inhibitor device preventing Decibel from using his powers. The sniper rifle was government issue - and it had been taken from a larger compound that had a dorm, an armory, and a research wing.

So the villains included a power-armored technomancer, a telekinetic, a sound-manipulator, an invulnerable heiress, and a mystic. They had already hit a major government installation. What were they after? Clearly the Earnhardt device was important. Rookie had built a device to detect it, but needed to boost it. Pink asked what the government knew about them, and the answer was "just about everything" (they were mostly in the dark about Arcanix and Rookie, though). Pink got her family on a plane (on the government's dime) and Carlson contacted the compound...and got a response that made him suspect the place was compromised.

The heroes split up. Inferno, Arcanix, and Rookie went to the heroes' base (established way back during Greenspace) and started working on boosting the detector. Pink, Harmony, and Spore headed for the compound to investigate that...stealthily.

With Arcanix' help in making the device able to pierce mystical cloaking, Rookie found the Earnhardt - it was at the compound where the others were going, emitting a low-level signal, far more steady than anything it was designed for.

Next time: The exciting conclusion!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Heroic Game Prep

Meant to do this yesterday and would up peeling roasted green chiles for most of the afternoon, then having POTS issues and crashing on the couch most of the evening. Fuck POTS, man.

Most Challenging But Rewarding System You have Learned: Fate. Hands down. It's challenging because it's a lot more involved, system-wise, than most people think (this was especially true when it was just Spirit of the Century). But it's so damned versatile and so easy to tweak. Plus, my players know it well enough that when it's time to play new game for a few sessions, it's easy to pick a Fate-based game because I know we've conquered the biggest learning curves.

Funniest Misinterpretation of a Rule in Your Group: Don't think this one really applies. We're pretty into "what do the rules actually mean" around here (side effect of playing with game designers, I guess), so if we misinterpret a rule, it tends to be less funny and more "wait, this is dumb, what'd we miss?" Nothing specific comes to mind, though.

Supposedly Random Game Events that Kept Occurring: Well, the one that springs to mind is what +Matthew Karafa refers to as "Mal disease." That's in reference to Malcolm Reynolds of Firefly, and the fact that when he plans and tries to set up his advantages, things go to hell, but he does better when he just shoots from the hip. In context, Karafa has a habit of failing or lowballing rolls that he has a shitload of dice on (in dice-pool games like Chronicles of Darkness), but succeeding when he really shouldn't.

Right. Now prep.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Character Creation: Sundered Skies (also RPGaDay)

Bloody day job, making me not able to blog everyday.

What Fictional Character Would Fit Best in Your Group? As tempting as it would be to say Harry Dresden (he's a gamer, after all) I get the sense that he's more a hack-and-slash kind of guy. I think, instead, I would rather game with Kaylee from Firefly. Kaylee's enthusiastic, she's clever, and she enjoys good food. I think she'd fit it.

What Innovation Could RPG Groups Most Benefit From? Oh, lordy. We've got Storium and Roll20 now, and lots of cheap, easily manageable video-chat kinds of things, which help with groups that aren't physically together. I think the other big problem in the hobby is the general level of toxicity you get from certain members, but frankly I think that's a bigger problem online than in meatspace (though I've heard enough stories from gamers about meatspace issues to know that it's not just online). So, like, feminism? I don't think that's an innovation, but it's about all I can think of.

Best Way to Learn a New Game? Play it, obviously. Preferably with someone who knows it well and likes it acting as GM.

OK, speaking of gaming!

The Game: Sundered Skies
The Publisher: Pinnacle Entertainment
Degree of Familiarity: I haven't played this particular game, but it's a Savage Worlds game, and I've played plenty of that.
Books Required: I think just the one and the Savage Worlds book, but I'm not sure. Doesn't matter, I have the SW if needed.

Sundered Skies, like 50 Fathoms, is a plot point setting for Savage Worlds. Interestingly, it has some similarity with Swashbucklers of the Seven Skies, for which I made a character recently. Following a cataclysm, the world is a bunch of fractured islands in an immense void, you can go mad if you stare into the glow of the void too long. More fantasy than swashbuckling, it looks like. I'm good with that.

Holy cats. You can play a race called "drakin," who are little dragon-ish beings who worship and aspire to become dragons. Fucking sold.

Ahem. That's my race, then. I get Arcane Senses, Dragonkin (I get extra Power Points if I wish to use magic, which I almost certainly will) as Edges and Small as a Hindrance.

Now, Traits. Well, I should think about what I want my little drakin to be like. One of the example concepts they give you is "chosen," which is basically a drakin priest working to become a dragon. I'm down with that. Thinking maybe I should have high Spirit, then? No, wait, Smarts, it's magic, not faith.

I'll put two points into Smarts, one into Vigor, one into Agility, and one into Spiri. That leaves me at a d4 in Strength, but I'm small.

Now, Skills, and again, they didn't print the skill names on the character sheet. Blah. I'll put a d4 each into Boating, Climbing, and Fighting (look, I'm a character on a boat in a fantasy game, those are minimums), a d8 into Knowledge (Arcana), a d6 each into Knowledge (Dragons), Investigation, Notice, and Stealth.

The book would have me do derived traits next, it's WRONG. Next we do Edges. I don't get a free Edge like I would if I were human, so I need to take some Hindrances so I can pick up Arcane Background. I'll take Glowblind (I take a penalty to range because the glow makes me squint) and Cautious as my Minor ones, and I'll take Lame as my Major one.

My character was born with a club foot; he walks with a shuffling limp and it slows him down. But, oh, if he could be a dragon, and slip the surly bonds of earth, as it were...

That gives me four points to spend. I'll spend two on Arcane Background (Magic), and I'll buy the Glowmad Resistant Edge with the other. If I were actually going to play this guy, I'd be very tempted by the Chosen Edge (which I would want to pick up), but I don't meet the prerequisites right now and I don't feel like rejiggering my traits to make it work (Spirit needs to be one die type higher).

I get three powers. I'll take Blinding Flash (just what it sounds like), Burst (a cone-weapon; heavy damage but there's a roll to avoid it) and Deflection (like armor, but makes me less likely to be hit).

Now derived traits. My Parry is 4, my Toughness is 4 (would be 5 but I'm Small), my Pace is 4 and I only roll a d4 to run, and my Charisma is 0.

OK, then! My character's name is Tellin. Tellin was born in the Foreign Quarter of the Dragon's Spine, but born right as some pretty unpleasant racial violence was going on. Sheltered by his mother due to his malformed foot, Tellin didn't grow up hating other races, but did grow up taking care to avoid violence. He discovered a knack for magic and a yen to learn about the great dragons of the skies, and his mother encouraged him, noting that to a dragon, everyone on the ground is slow. Tellin shipped out with a skycraft out of Dragon's Spine, seeking his fortune and, of course, seeking to evolve into one of the Chosen.

There, that's good. Pretty basic character concept for the setting, I think, but it'd be fun to play Tellin and evolve into a badass dragon-dude.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Feng Shui, if Briefly

But first.

Historical Person You'd Like in Your Group? What Game? What does "historical" mean in this context, I wonder? Dead person? Real actual person? Celebrity? Person of historical significance? You know, they say to never meet your heroes because they're never what you think they will be, so I don't know, really.

I think I'll go with Alicia Witt (actress, she was in Urban Legends and probably some better movies, too). She's about my age, she's smart as hell, and I seemed to recall her being, if not outright geeky, then at least quirky. It'd be interesting to play something like A Tragedy in Five Acts or otherwise collaborative with her.

Anyway, Feng Shui. Recall that last time the characters killed Leon, beat up a bunch of cowboys, and removed the evil Mayor Ronnie Meyer from power. This time, they headed back to the work camp to talk to Hei.

As they walked into camp, the workers were giving Wildfire the stinkeye (because he's a cannibalistic monster or because he wears blue spurs? Hard to say). Hei talked to Bai and asked if he was OK riding with Wildfire; Bai said Wildfire had protected him battle and he was trustworthy. Hei told the Dragons that one of the important facets of being a Dragon was knowing when to show mercy...whereupon the workers attacked.

The Dragons, taking the hint, fought well but carefully. Wildfire didn't change shape, and Tang employed his patented "hit a dude with another dude" fighting style, but no one killed or caused serious injury. Mostly it was workers doing wire-fu over tents and then getting knocked into tents by Johnny's awkward flailing or Celeste's roundhouse kicking.

When it was over and the workers were picking themselves up out of the dust, Hei revealed their course of action. He told them how time passed in the junctures (that is, a day passes in one, it passes in all of them), and told them that they needed to start with the future juncture and Tang's partner, Si Borg. Si was dead, of course, but he'd kept a notebook about the Chi War, and that would hold the answers they sought.

The Dragons headed back up the mountain to find the gateway back into the Netherworld, and from there to the Future. And we'll pick this up in a month or so, after Michelle gets back from her travels.

Monday, August 15, 2016

RPGaDay Continues, also some game notes

Running Feng Shui in a while and need to take a couple of notes, but first:

Your Best Source of Inspiration for RPGs: My favorite source of inspiration is the players. I love collaborative games where we get to design elements of the setting together, for a couple of reasons. One is that I'm getting older, I don't have time and spoons like I used to, and that lets me offload some of the work on the players.

But the other reason is that if we design a setting, and you come up with a particular faction or tavern or magic form or whatever, I know damn well you're gonna remember it if I use it in play. It's one thing to ask the players what they want, it's another thing to let them design the shit they want and then hand it to you.

And now, my Feng Shui players should stop reading, but everybody else can come along.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Night's Black Agents: Discussion, then Explosion

EDIT: Forgot I was behind on my #RPGaDay2016 posts. Let's just slot that in!

What Game is Your Group Most Likely to Play Next? Why? Ooh, I like these questions. Well, I have several groups, but the one that's likely to be switching up is my Monday group. Presently we're alternating between Feng Shui and Marvel Heroic, but Michelle is going away for a few weeks soon, so I don't want to play without her. So I think the plan is: Play Feng Shui tomorrow and end our current story arc, play Marvel Heroic for the next two weeks and finish that Event up, and then play...something else for three weeks while she's gone.

But what? I had been thinking Chariot because I need to review it, but I dunno. I need to read it and see if that's something my group would enjoy. Iron Edda is another possibility because it's Fate (which my players know) and it's a lot of fun; I played it at Origins and it worked really well as a one-shot, so we could totally make it a three-session game with no trouble.

What Makes a Successful Campaign? Collaboration. Games, campaign or otherwise, don't work unless everyone's invested. That means everyone shows up, pays attention, contributes, gives feedback, and keeps up with the events of the game, not just defaults to "my character, my character, my character."

Your Dream Team of People You Used to Game With: Oh, wow. It really depends what we're playing. I've had some fantastic players who couldn't figure out mechanics and didn't try, but were amazing roleplayers. But I think I need to pick a game before I can pick a dream team. Let's go with Misspent Youth, just because it's something my players from back in the day would have found fun. Picking five people from people I'm not currently gaming with, I'd want +Jacob Green+Tom Trent (that's a bit of fudge, since he's local and plays occasionally, but he's not in any of my ongoing games), +Chris Horvath+Kimmaree Horvath, and +Carrie Harris. That'd be a fun game, I think.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

GenCon 2016: There Isn't Really a Theme

First thing's first.

What Gamer Most Affected the Way You Play? Ooh, good question. There are a lot of possible answers here. I think I've gotta say Harvey. Harv was a guy I met in Toledo, and I would up playing in his weird-ass World of Darkness homebrew thing. My buddy Mike played a werewolf, I played an elder vampire (I mentioned Nehemiah a couple of posts ago), another guy played a reformed Progenitor clone, there were a couple of mages, a dragon, a Gaki vampire...it was wild.

But the takeaway here was the value of patience as a GM. Harv was willing to let the world unfold as it would, to let players' plans work (this is huge, guys), and to play his NPCs appropriate, but with an eye toward how the PCs' arcs worked. Also, he shut up and listened while the players were talking in-character.

Right. And now, GenCon.


We left on Tuesday. I don't have any pictures. We drove separately this year; I drove the big honkin' Uhaul truck and +Michelle drove the car with her boys. Driving, nothing much to report. 


Now we're talking! Wednesday was "set up the freaking booth" day. 

But first, Patachou.
Setting up the booth was easer with help, and we had a bunch of IGDN-ers and their respective spouses, partners, and so on to help us unload the truck, get the gridwall up and lashed together, and so forth. 

Here's one "larval-stage booth" shot.
So that took a few hours, and then once that was done, we had to skeddadle over to Loughmiller's for the annual IGDN social. Fun fact: This is the first time I've actually attended. The first year I was hanging out with +Renee Ritchie instead and the second year I was running a Chill game. This year I was there from the get-go...only to have POTS flare up and render me largely unable to talk for a lot of it due to brain fog. Fuuuuuuu

So anyway. 

I just like this picture of She-Hulk.


I spent a lot of time in the booth this con. Ordinarily I work a few booth-hours at GenCon, but I keep my schedule a little freer to restock stuff as it sells and otherwise put out fires. Due to a couple of last-minute drop-outs from booth staff, however, I wound up in the booth more than I planned, which is actually fine. I like working the booth, I know a lot of the games IGDN sells (because I run 'em to review 'em), and it means that folks who want to find me have an easier time of it. 

All to say I have some booth-working-pictures? I do not. Here are some gnomes. 

This game is called Oh Gnome You Didn't. I'm not making that up.
I did get to play in my one-and-only game (as a player) on Thursday, too! My homie +Jonathan Lavallee was running Critical! Go Westerly. I've had a copy of Critical! for a while; I think I even read it, but to really get a sense of a game you need to play it. It's a fantasy game that lampoons a bunch of standard fantasy RPG tropes (we found our quest from an old wizard in a tavern, f'rex). I played a dwarf named Ulrist Axebeard, who's tall for a dwarf (and thus his family armor doesn't quite fit). Our hearty trio (me, a wizard, and a thief) went off in search of ingredients to make the young duke's birthday cake. In the process we set fire to a rich person's mansion and I wrote WANKERS on the lawn in burning peat. Good times. My grade: A

Our hearty, blurry, band of brothers.
Then I had to zip off and run Chill. I ran Black Diamond, which I'll write up for the site one of these days. I had a full table, mostly full of people who'd played older versions of Chill, which was fine, except for one little issue. 

I bring pre-gens for Chill (chargen takes too long to do at the table at a con), and normally I shoot for gender parity; three men, three women (I do have a nonbinary pre-gen character who shows up in SAVE, incidentally, but they weren't a good fit for this scenario). Anyway, I was playing with the lineup for this game and I screwed up the parity and wound up with four women and two men. This by itself isn't a huge problem, I wouldn't think, except that my table of mostly men would make comments about how many "chicks" there were on this mission. I finally had to tap the X-card on the table and say "look, there's a word for female humans, and it's not 'chick.'" I think I probably took a couple of the dudes aback.

But the game itself went pretty well; this particular scenario lends itself to a little intra-party tension and infighting, and they picked up on that. In the end, no one died, they escaped with their lives, and everyone said they had fun, so I'll call it a win. 

Chill Third Edition: On sale now!
And then I went and hung out with Michelle and Nicole, and immediately started to feel sick because I'd been sitting for eight hours and POTS can go fuck itself. Fortunately, that would be the last time during the con that it hit me. 


Friday morning I was supposed to go play in a game of TimeWatch, but I was still feeling off from the night before and I had a bunch of booth-things to take care of, so I skipped it. If you're the GM, sorry about that, I really did want to play. 

That left me with a little free time, though, so I could do booth-stuff at leisure, buy a pack of wet-erase markers (since I forgot mine), and get ready for my afternoon game of curse the darkness. Before that, however, I saw a woman cosplaying not just as Leela from Futurama, but as two-eyed Leela from "The Cyber House Rules." 

By the end of today, one of us is gonna have one eye.

Anyway, I don't run curse the darkness often anymore; pretty much just once a year at GenCon. But a couple of the folks playing were fans, which made me very happy. The setup this year was interesting; the characters were in Alaska and were trying to find out what happened to the community there; they'd all up and disappeared. More of a horror setup than I usually run, but it fell together nicely. 

I also gave away the last of the t-shirts. 
And then we headed back to the hotel to catch a shuttle over to a tapas restaurant. While waiting we saw some fun Peter Pan cosplay:

Please clap.
But then tapas, conversation, ranting about shit with Danielle and various other awesome folks. And then back to the hotel for sleep. 


Now, this was weird. Saturday I was free. Like, I had a panel in the morning but otherwise no commitments, so Saturday was shopping day. I got up early and went to the Bee for coffee...

Which, like most business in Indy, knows exactly what side the bread is buttered on.
The panel was "What is Dark Eras?," referring, of course, to the massive book just released from Onyx Path. I was the project coordinator, so I basically herded the cats on the book. The panel was fun; we got to talk about research and the new anthology of fiction based on the book and +Rose Bailey announced the Dark Eras 2 project, coming sometime this year in Kickstarter! I didn't get a picture, however. 

So then Michelle and I went shopping, and I caught a couple of superheroes...

Great power, etc.
And Space Ghost!

We bought a bunch of stuff that you can see in pictures below. Past that, it was time for the IGDN dinner, which is a bunch of us eating and talking about games and books and whatever the hell else. And after that, Michelle went back to the room, but I went on to the JW for the annual "let's gather together and drink until we're not allowed to anymore" hootnanny for OPP folks. 

I saw this unicorn on the way.
That was a lot of fun. I did not stay until the bar closed down (I am far too old for that kind of nonsense, and I didn't want to risk POTS kicking in while I was out without Michelle), but I got to hang out with friends that I don't see often, got to meet some awesome new people, and got to kiss Neall, so that's fun. 

And a very fetching hat!


I was in the booth from the time it opened to tear-down, so that was pretty much my frickin' day on Sunday. 

It ends as it began: A sweaty mess. 
We don't try to drive back on Sunday because that way lies madness, so instead we got dinner at Mikado and then went back to the room and watched soccer, awash in the fading memories and surrounded by books. 


We got breakfast at Patachou (it's worth doing twice) and then headed home. Indy was desolate and empty, a mere shell of the madness from the day before. 

Ghost town.
But: Swag pic!