Sunday, July 31, 2016

Testing out blogging from the iPad.

Nothing to see here, except maybe this pic from a slumbering project (Mystaran Lords of Olympus).

I do have some fascination with the Olympian gods from childhood. And merging it with the Mystaran Immortals is fun for many reasons.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Sale on DC Adventures?

I hopped over to the Green Ronin site to check out if there was anything of note, given the release of the Wonder Woman and Justice League trailer.

Lo and behold -- DC Adventures books (PDF and Physical copies) are apparently on sale. These books are, of course:
  • DC Adventures: Heroes Handbook ($19.95)
  • DC Adventures: Heroes & Villains Vol 01 ($24.95)
  • DC Adventures: Heroes & Villains Vol 02 ($24.95)
  • DC Adventures: Universe ($19.95)

All PDFs are priced at $14.95
All physcial copies are priced as above.

Pick up your copy now! If I lived in the U.S., I'd probably be springing for a hard copy.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Target that explosion and fire! -- Star Trek Gaming

With Star Trek Beyond entering the theaters, and Star Trek Discovery entering your TVs (if CBS direct gets it right), it's great timing that we get some more options for Star Trek tabletop gaming!

Thankfully, Modiphius promises a new RPG & miniatures game to satisfy that need.

Of course, there are other older options for both role-play gaming and wargaming fans that you can take a look at. And some non-branded SF gaming options as well.

It may be time to update my old posts from 2010 for the plethora of gaming options in the classic Trek universe. But for now, here are the links:

Saturday, July 23, 2016

D&D 5th Edition: Classic Modules

There's a group of folks doing some conversions of classic modules to 5th Edition. Hence the name: Classic Modules today.

My longtime fascination with Mystara has naturally brought my attention to several modules set in that milieu, which are:

B2: Keep on the Borderlands
B3: Palace of the Silver Princess
X2: Chateau d'Amberville (Castle Amber)

Naturally, you still need the original modules. But you can find those online at DriveThruRPG as well at www.dmsguild.com.

I really wish that all the classic Mystara adventures could be converted -- but for me, that's just compleatist talk.

I'm looking at maybe creating some output as well for the 5th Edition rules, but with an approach that's slightly different from the climb to 20th level. Or perhaps, it's a back-to-classics approach after all. I'll post again when I've got it clear in my head.

Whew, it's dusty!

I've been gone a while. Writing takes time, as many of you know. And I've been writing other things. Mostly stuff for work, or letters for my child's schooling, or reviewers for same child.

And then there's the fiction that I'm trying to get back into.

Will I come back to this? We'll see -- dipping my toes again into it. Some quick things:

  • D&D 5th Edition is the rough basis for the current game I'm playing in. Not sure what elements aside from the game summaries I'll be posting. Maybe an alternating post -- game summaries, plus one or two elements from the game as a useful bit of crunch or fluff in the next day's post?
  • Fading Suns has a lot of possible new systems out there, and I've not even gone through the current system and updated setting yet.
  • And of course, Things I Learned From Champions has a few more posts, and options for expansion into other games...

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Dark Corners of Calidar: Cosmological Musings

I was looking at old posts. One of them was from this post by Bruce Heard a couple of years ago:


It is a snapshot of the planets and other celestial bodies of Soltan Ephemeris. And I immediately flashed back to the following image from my post from some years back as well.


It is a a representation of the magnetic fields of the Earth, protecting it from radiation somewhat. The field is, of course, believed to be "generated by electric currents in the conductive material of its core, created by convection currents due to heat escaping from the core".

I have theorised the following for Enigmundia:

"There are conflicting tales about Enigmundia's Hollow Earth is because the 'center' of the world actually a collection of spheres that roil and revolve and rotate inside Enigmundia's aetheric core. 
What are in the spheres? Some are Ages, preserved spheres of magical reality that act as reservations for races, zoos for creatures, and prisons for gods, titans, demons, and other terrible creatures. Others are pure spheres of magical principle. Others are broken remnants of realities, dimensions, and universes, and perhaps a dead or dormant god or three. Despite their seemingly chaotic dance within the aetheric core, they have settled into a semi-regular pattern for certain intersections with the material plane, resulting in cities and worlds that intersect with Enigmundia on constant, daily, nightly, weekly, monthly, yearly cycles, or the occasional weird every 100 years. 
Their movement and interaction has made possible the current, mostly stable set of magical laws that work on a relatively thin layer of the world's material and aetheric atmosphere that eventually shift and even get chaotic as you go further out. There are, of course, nodes of strange magic that wander here and there, and (very) occasional catastrophic changes in the overall magical field due to some inherent instability in the Dance of Ages, leading to (if lucky) the subtle changing of magical rules to (if unlucky) a rewriting of the rules of reality. 
However, the existence of this field protects us from the outsiders, who -- try as they might -- cannot penetrate this powerful, chimeric, chaotic field of energy borne from the fierce interactions between powerful sources of reality bending Ages, spheres, and realities."

I suppose something similar can be applied to Calidar and its planets. Something to muse on further, as I begin to populate the Dark Corners of Calidar.


Saturday, February 27, 2016

Fantasy, Super-heroics, and Science Fiction

Dark Corners of Calidar

I do enjoy the potential of Calidar, and I think I shall try to begin converting many of my old Mystara posts to Calidar.

There will be some adjustments to those old posts (and I'll probably link back to them), but the full backstory of Calidar can certainly be tweaked to fit better.

The swashbuckling feel of Calidar's fiction, for me, needs to be roughened up a bit. Perhaps darkened and expanded more than a little bit. I do enjoy the promise of the second Kickstarter, and hope to see it when it comes out.

In the meantime, I'll begin perusing the old posts for consolidation and rewriting.

West Coast Champions

As the Kickstarter for Aaron Allston's Strike Force draws to a close at the time of this writing, I suppose I must embrace the gravity of my nostalgia and my mental synergy with many of the principles of the Hero System, and my love for the super-heroic genre.

Just not sure what posts I'll be posting here. Right now, I'm leaning towards a setting -- West Coast Champions -- that builds upon a trio of cities I was quite fond of: San Angelo (from Gold Rush Games), Bay City (under the Fuzion imprint), and Night City (yes, it's from Cyberpunk 2020, but it's such a fit for the Dark Champions genre).

Right now, I think that it's a matter of figuring out what it will be, because I'm currently focused on the series Things I Learned From Champions.

It's an exploration of the system, really. And a realization that it's a deep well, some of which is very geeky and tightly focused in terms of fandom, and not as general as I've been posted in the past.

Confederation Chronicles

A return to the twice-interrupted attempt at a complete-ish SF setting temporarily labeled Confederation Chronicles. It was originally meant to be implemented in the Stars Without Number system, and I am now equally tempted by the D6 system and by the OSR-based White Star in concert with the original Stars Without Number system.

Star Wars and Star Trek and Andromeda and a bit of Battlestar Galactica -- and all of the treasured source materials I've collected for the genre over the years.


A Welcome Diversion

But I'll be honest, it's all meant to de-stress and distract from the stress of many things going on in life right now.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Podcast Reactions: Play On Target -- Trust

Once again, a set of reactions to the Play On Target podcast. This time, the discussion centred around the issue of trust in RPGs. I highly recommend listening in on this one, as the issue is responsible for many a dissolved campaign (and even gaming groups).

Interpersonal Trust

To my mind, many of these 'violations of trust' seem to center around a case of a difference in expectations -- between the GM and the Players, or between the Players themselves.

They can be as mild as a difference in expectations for a horror game -- perhaps where the GM meant psychological horror, while the Players understood it to be supernatural horror.

On the other hand, it could be an outright violation of general etiquette, which we need not tackle as the differences of social maturity in groups (especially in the stereotypical demographic of gamers) are not really my area of interest right now.

What does intrigue me for this topic are cultural differences that we end up blindsided by, because gaming is a very different pastime from sports, joining a book club, or getting drunk at the local watering hole. While we may pretend to be different people at these events, or show only a particular side of ourselves at these gatherings, you're still generally being judged as 'yourself'. In RPG sessions, there's a "player character" that you can hide behind, or be confused by, especially if -- as mentioned prior -- the stereotypical demographic isn't that well-versed in social skills or introspection.

Admittedly, gamer culture is young, and varies from play group to play group, sp there's no commonly referred to body of knowledge for newbies to refer to. Solutions to many problems appear to be common sense, but rely on anticipating (through experience or a certain level of human empathy and cultural sensitivity) that specific problems are likely to surface. 

And to complicate matters --

Game System & Trust

That's right, sometimes the game purposely works to make the PCs betray each other, and thus (potentially) have the players feel betrayed as well. In real life.

If I recall correctly, Phoenix Command really messed with trust in the GM and the game itself. If I recall correctly, the players's book sets up a particular kind of game (rah-rah we're the best nation in the world), and the GMs book tells a different (post-apocalyptic rebuilding) game campaign.

Paranoia was a game that gave every character a secret society and a mutant power (both grounds for treason), and the secret societies often gave conflicting sub-missions to the current mission that the Troubleshooters were assigned to.

Cold City had a mechanic (much like to an optional rule in Night's Black Agents) that encouraged PCs to build up trust between the characters, so that when betrayal took place it would give a bonus to a particular action.

In these cases, these are by design -- with varying degrees of success per gaming group I'm sure. (After all, not everyone takes to the resultant lying and backstabbing in boardgames like Diplomacy).

However, +Lowell Francis points out that some games themselves violate trust, suggesting certain kinds of things about the gameplay and setting, but aren't supported by the rules.

I know how he feels, and it's part of the reason I totally support bell curve systems like the Hero System vs. any linear systems (unless they're coupled with something like the point-spend mechanic in Gumshoe). They make your PCs feel competent, instead of lucky amateurs.

Fading Suns' Victory Points had that problem, if you looked at the ratings of stat and skill levels. So did the classic WOD system (5 pips makes you one of the best in the world? Sure didn't feel like it), and one of my favourite systems for other reasons -- Interlock.

Summaries and Future Reactions

In short, the topic touches on many surprising aspects of the gaming experience. Once again, the Play On Target crew have unearthed a key topic that can be mined in more detail in future posts.

Which I hope to do some day soon.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Weekend Roundup: Deities of Erol Otus and other Makers


It started when +Chris Kutalik, Lord of the Hill Cantons, posted about some apparent deities and demons that the esteemed Erol of the Otuses had created in a little AD&D tome you might know called Deities & Demigods.


And he proceeded to name them. Not content with this act of co-creation, he then set his sights on another image from the same tome, the cover page illustration, and named them as well.


Spurred into action, +trey causey set about naming this latter pantheon himself, and came up with the following:


It has spurred me to not only follow anyone else who has begun their own pantheons based on this artwork, but also to look at the pantheons of Calidar that +Bruce Heard is currently working on as part of his recently funded Kickstarter for an expansion of the Calidar canon.


Thoughts about gods are in the air, it seems.

UPDATE:

It seems that +Mark Craddock is working on a related project. His ongoing work on the Clerics of the Otus Pantheon can be found at his blog.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Things I Learned from Champions: The Multiverse Is My (Potential) Sandbox (part 01)

Champions and the Hero System have been on my mind of late for several reasons: the Aaron Allston Strike Force Kickstarter, the DC RPG Hero Points Podcast under the Fire & Water podcast network. So when a recent talk of sandboxes and railroads slammed into the space for RPG thought, my immediate thought was: in a Supers RPG, The Multiverse Is My (Potential) Sandbox.

All my worlds, torn asunder!

What do you mean by sandbox?

You may know what a sandbox is, but my understanding may be different from yours -- so I'll expound on my particular interpretation. As I mentioned in a very old post, my understanding of a sandbox is

"...a style of play where players are dumped into a campaign setting that can be as small as a dungeon or as large as a  world map and are free to pursue whatever agendas they wish..."

Furthermore, my understanding is that sandboxes are often positioned as a diametric opposite to the railroad, wherein a gaming session / adventure must follow a rigid sequence of events, with little tolerance for deviation.

One key point about sandboxes is the implication of edges. In theory, you can do whatever you want within the borders of that sandbox, but beyond the borders -- there's nothing prepared.

But in the Superhero genre, there's a precedent for borderless adventures. Sure, Daredevil may be dealing with crime in Hell's Kitchen -- but from time to time Japanese Ninjas come 'round and kidnap him or his loved ones forcing a trip to the Land of the Rising Sun (and Sailor Moon). And occasionally, there's a team adventure in the Savage Land or some other strange corner of the universe. It's worse for characters who can travel to the other side of the world in the blink of an eye, or can sift through millions of minds in a split second, or can slide-shift into other dimensions.

In fact, that was one of the earliest things I got into when building my character -- years of frustration at not being able to move far enough or often enough in other RPGs led to a high DEX, high SPEED, high movement character build. Someone who could move across the battle mat in a single move (nothing compared to the more experienced characters who could, actually, race across the city in a single segment.

So, at power levels like this, there's no borders to where they can go during adventures, right?

No borders, no sandbox -- right?

The Invisible Borders of a Supers Sandbox

There actually are some borders in a Supers Sandbox. Some of these I've used, and others are those I've learned from my betters in Metahuman settings:

Beware: Here Be Boredom

For all the criticism of super-heroes being reactive, only waiting for crime to take place before doing anything about it, super-hero campaign players are rarely anything but reactive. Give them a mystery and they'll do anything -- even ill-considered, or downright stupid things -- to get to the bottom of it. Hit them with an attack that almost kills them, and they'll buy up a defense for it -- even if it doesn't fit their character concept.

The downside is, for those players who haven't learned yet that part of the super-hero genre involves their characters getting into progressively worse situations before getting out of them, they can start to turtle.

Ain't nothing wrong with being a turtle. As long as you're
teenaged, mutated, and ninja'd!
Rather than strike hard and fade away into the night (only old fans of TMNT know that one), they very unheroically pull into their shells and hide. They avoid encounters with the enemy, avoid following up leads on villains, avoid interactions with their NPCs or innocents in need.

This is why the view that Call of Cthulhu PCs are unheroic is flawed: there's a lack of appreciation about what true heroism is. Being powerful can mean having the fury of a millions suns coursing through your veins, but being heroic lies in using (or not using) that power even if it means that you might die.

So, the reward for repeated cowardice in my games -- beyond shame or ridicule -- is just boredom. Nothing happens to you. No one bothers you. The digits of your wall clock cycle through the seconds and minutes slowly. You overhear people talking about their work, their love lives, their cats, their trip to Japan where they watched a Go tournament. All while their teammates have the time of their lives, risking their lives and sacred fortunes to fight for what is right and true and just in the world.

No, they're not being forced to go back to the "storyline of the GM". They're just discovering that, just like in the 'real world', there are places where nothing interesting is happening right this second / minute / year / century. They have exercised their player agency to place their characters in a state of stasis.

In D&D terms, this is the equivalent of the PCs that refuse to go into any dungeon, or pursue any adventure hook or rumour that the DM dangles before them. They just get to sit in the tavern and ignore the growing table of increasingly drunk mysterious strangers in cloaks grumbling loudly about adventurers these days.

The Gravity of the Situation

Star Trek reference. My job is done here.
Khaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaannnnnnn!
On the other hand, before we pull the trigger on that solution, Supers GMs often employ another technique to pull their players' PCs back into the thick of things. Perhaps they have a beloved NPC get kidnapped by the villain (a classic), or a helpless innocent is endangered, or a person / place / thing / ideal very dear to the player or the PC is threatened.

Or, out of sheer coincidence, that dame/dude picks the player's life to walk into, out of all the gin-joints in Gotham City.

These events, very much in the pulp-rooted traditions of two-fisted action and wall-to-wall suspense, will often bring the heroes -- who might be traipsing around in the backwaters of Earth-C -- back to where the action is.

The benefit of this kind of approach is that PCs are exercising a very traditional player agency ability -- the ability to get yourself into the trouble you choose! Yeah, you may not want to go into space to fight the Zekrit Warz, but you're sure down with knocking sense into fools who're trying to grab that bespectacled kid with the lisp and the adorable little chihuahua!

If you're enjoying these movie references, check out the
Film and Water podcast. It's a hoot!
One might say that these are just adventure hooks (as they would be called in the classic D&D milieus), but in a Supers campaign they do act as a sort of border -- much in the way that an event horizon acts as the edge of a black hole. No matter how far the players try to flee, these often pull them back in.

Well, most of the time. The real trick is having some kind of variety to your approaches. Sometimes it's a carrot (you'll get some information on a villain, some useful connection, some artefact of power that will help you in this adventure or in the campaign at large, a new NPC, etc.) and sometimes it's a stick (death, injury, social or financial consequences, ridicule or anger from the general populace, or other heroes hunting you down -- for a crime you didn't commit).

The Weirdness Magnet

This boardgame appeared in the pages of the comic. Fun!
I first encountered this in the Blue Devil comics, where it's posited that when the titular character -- a stuntman by trade -- gets fused into his costume by a blast of eldritch energy, he's been turned into a weirdness magnet. That is, unlike when he was a normal stuntman, he now 'coincidentally' runs into super-villain schemes, supernatural plots to destroy/transform the world, meets new and super-powered humans and aliens, and generally lives a life of constant excitement and bewilderment.

Yes, you no longer need to find trouble; trouble finds you! Constantly.

In fact, if you have to live a life of peace, you'll have to earn it -- by figuring out what the common thread of all these ninja attacks have (why do all their clan names have an appendage in them?), or by figuring out who's behind all these attacks on their loved ones (why do crooks always rob the store my mom's at?), or by determining why they're only ever safe from being bothered by homicidal maniacs and swarms of locusts when they're near holy ground or a holy symbol (I think someone done cursed you, Johnny. Now get outta my house, I gotta turtle.)!

Audience participation

What are some of the borders that you implemented (or experienced) in your super-heroic campaign? 

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