Sunday, April 5, 2020

Roll20, Star Hero, and the Return of the Confederation's Finest

I mentioned in a prior post that we had returned to a decades old campaign through the magic of Roll20, teleconferencing, and a hunger for some old school science fiction gaming.

The Setup: In the world of the Shattered Empire, a squad of Confederation Starfleet marines, along with a handful of warriors from other Starfleet military branches, are called to investigate an anomalous object threatening an unaligned planet along the Confederation-Alliance border. It seems a once-innocuous object in this lightly explored area of the galaxy has suddenly begun moving outside normal parameters -- changing course and moving at relativistic speeds towards the unaligned, inhabited planet. The object is a cylinder roughly 20 miles in length and 5 miles wide. Lifesigns have been detected on it.

The Mission: send a team in to take control of the cylinder's engines, and save the lives of the inhabitants of the imperiled planet -- and the lives of those on the cylinder itself!

Current Situation: Much as already happened, but more is still to be revealed. Above is a screenshot from the last encounter of the last session. At the bottom of the map, we see the three members of the Starfleet team who were invited to meet with the leaders of one of the towns inside the cylinder -- hoping to find out more clues about who has been controlling the engines. However, the three members, separated from the main group at the top of the map, are suddenly ambushed by the security droids that had been dogging their every attempt to take control of the cylinder (they were waiting on the roofs and jumped down when the trio reached the intersection). Close combat brawlers, they've already KOd one of us, and stunned (but didn't KO) my character. Only one character, the Clan Sentinel, was able to wipe the floor with all of them (whew).

Reference Post: About the Fading Suns Kickstarter

So, as a Fading Suns fan, I wanted to create a bunch of references for people trying to keep updated on it. Aside from the Kickstarter page, you can check out some other resources about this latest edition:

Videos on YouTube

The Fading Suns Q&A

Robert Adducci interviews Bill Bridges about Fading Suns, and the Kickstarter in particular. There's a good rundown of the setting, system, and Kickstarter.

Heretical Musings

Heretical Musings 1
(After the opening animation from Emperor of the Fading Suns,
and some minor technical issues, Bill Bridges & Andrew Greenberg --
creators of the Fading Suns RPG, chat about the game, the setting, and the Kickstarter!

Heretical Musings 2
(Another great session, wherein Bill Bridges & Andrewgreenberg dive into
the Known Worlds of the Fading Suns!

Follow all the newest Fading Suns Blog Entries

The Ulisses Spiel website for the U.S. has all the latest blog entries for Bill Bridges here. Check out some designer posts, and how they're doing with the Kickstarter!

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Rising from the Ashes: A Fading Suns Kickstarter!

There's a Kickstarter for Fading Suns!

Yes, Fading Suns fans! At long last, we have a chance at seeing a new version of one of our favorite Science Fantasy settings and games.

Updates from Ulisses Spiele

Here's what you can get if you back at the Digital Apprentice level (50 Euros or about 55 USD):

  • The Universe Book (112 pages) presents the setting for Fading Suns: its history, society, and astro-geography. Herein you will encounter nobles, priests, guilders, aliens, psychics, cyborgs, and more.
  • The Character Book (272 pages) presents the game system and player characters for Fading Suns. This book includes character creation rules for all the major factions, as well as technological equipment, starships, psychic powers, and theurgic rites.
  • The Gamemaster Book (96 pages) presents people, places, and plots for Fading Suns. Herein are guidelines for creating dramas for the player troupe and how to populate them with all manner of non-player-character allies, rivals, and foils. An example drama is included, as well as a roll-by-roll description of play.
  • plus, any applicable stretch goals.
How do you feel about this Kickstarter? Will you be backing it?

Sunday, March 22, 2020

A return to Star Hero, at long last

So, the last time I actually played with my old Hero Systems gaming group was in the late 1990's.

Very early this Sunday morning, fifteen gamers finally played together again after a long time via a combination of technologies (Zoom, and Roll20).

The game: Star Hero, in a home brew setting.
The setup: On a slow boat to somewhere, a team of Marines and a handful of Confederation Starfleet military types from various races and branches are called into sudden active operations, as they're the only ones near enough to respond. A huge cylindrical object, suspected to be an O'Neill colony, once in stable orbit is suddenly kicked into relativistic speeds towards an unaligned planet along the Confederation / Alliance border. Life signs have been detected on board, so it's up to the hastily assembled crew to save the lives of  those on the cylinder and the planet!

It's really amazing how in-sync everyone still is after all these years. Despite the size of the group, folks took efforts to avoid talking over each other, procedures for communicating over the channels were proposed, refined, and implemented. And we had a blast.

Looking forward to the next one.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Mid-March and Enhanced Quarantine Protocols (FATE Accelerated, Champions, and Gumshoe)

With covid-19 doing its number on the world, and on my country in particular, it looks like I'll be staying at home for a while. That means less time in traffic, and more time for some lapsed hobbies -- including gaming!

So here's my March 2020 gaming update.

Gaming with my boy

It's Pay-What-You-Want.
Go get it now!
We've returned to gaming, and are now setting time aside each night to play. Since he's shifted fandom camps away from the Power Puff Girls and has landed on Sonic the Hedgehog, we've now begun playing a dimension-hopping game with Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and his character -- Lector the Ultimate Green Fighting Cyborg (based on MegaMan). It all starts with an emerald pyramid in the middle of a forest on Planet Moebius -- one that's bigger on the inside, filled with shifting platforms, ladders, and doorways.

Our system is currently Fate Accelerated because (1) I could't find any Hero System stats for these characters; (2) I'm out of practice building in Hero; and (3) benchmarking the abilities of these characters is way more than I'm willing to do at this point.

So far, he's enjoying it immensely.

I am using it also to try to force him to imagine things more, and to understand things from a single character perspective. He gets to order the other three character around, but they won't necessarily always do what he says. Especially if there are ways to activate their Trouble Aspects.

A Return To Hero

My fave cover.
George Perez rules!
That being said, I plan on taking some time to go on a character building binge. Not super-heroes, just Heroic characters for now. All Hero 5th Edition with some house rules -- because this is what my old gaming group, based in the U.S., uses for their Science Fiction gaming.

I need to get back into it anyway, and I've not gamed for any substantial amount of time with the Champions 6th Edition rules, so 4th through 5th rules are top of mind when I start rummaging through my remembered rules.

It's important, as I hope to begin writing for DriveThruRPG's community program for the system. I had some initial spadework done, but it was swallowed up by a ton of work and travel time. Need to revisit my initial ideas on these, and check up on what's already out there in the online realm.

Go, Go, Gumshoe Gaming!

Long Kiss Goodnight meets
Dracula: Dead & Loving It? We'll see.
Lastly, I hope to try out some one-on-one gaming with my wife as well. This time, I'm looking at Gumshoe and Night's Black Agents: Solo Ops in particular. Particularly appropriate, given the inspiration for this Superspy meets Vampire Conspiracy RPG (Jason Bourne vs. Dracula), that a solo super agent tangles with the blood-sucking freaks hiding in the shadows of history.

I've been wanting to taking the system out for a spin for a while, but with the One-on-One Gumshoe take, I'm even more intrigued!

Moreso, for now, than the apparent community content being developed for other flavors of Gumshoe. But I shall look into those as well. I've been wanting to do a Tintin / Secret Seven / Fabulous Five / Johnny Crossbones / Detective Pikachu type of campaign using the Bubblegumshoe system -- but I'm not comfortable with playing the system at all.

Let's see how the rest of March treats us.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

At the End of January 2020

January sure went by quick. And 2020 was certainly eventful for the Philippines (Taal Volcano eruption, fear of the coronavirus from Wuhan spreading).

In my gaming world, I've tried to put together something for my son that helps with his reading (hopefully) by bringing him into the world of gamebooks. Thanks to Project Aon, if he catches the Lone Wolf bug, he can play all of them on line.

He's definitely got the collector bug from me (he collects a lot of Geronimo Stilton books), and he has a tendency to go really in-depth in terms of knowledge for things he's fascinated with as a fan. Perhaps this can be a start. I remember these gamebooks as being a bit more forgiving than the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks.

At the same time, I'm wondering if his interest in science might make an SF-oriented game be more appropriate. Perhaps the RPG for The Expanse? Or one of the Powered-by-the-Apocalypse ones for a more narrative approach?

Friday, October 11, 2019

Things I Learned from Champions: A Consolidated Listing

I decided to consolidate all of the posts that I've done under the subtitle: Things I Learned from Champions:
I've been adding to the list, piecemeal, over the years, because I do love the system (and the games I've played in it), and am trying to put it into words -- to express why.

I will continue to post new articles -- especially now that I'm running games for my son -- as I want to see how I can help re-create that experience for him as we play.

At the same time, there's just something about the players of this game that, despite variances in preferences and play styles, seem to demonstrate that the style of play supported by this system is one that is enjoyed.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Jumpstart for Cyberpunk RED

Everything old is new again. The marketing machine for the upcoming Cyberpunk 2077 video game is revving up, which is good news for us TTRPGers -- because it means a new Cyberpunk game from R. Talsorian.

I picked up the first Cyberpunk RPG when it first came up (this one was the boxed set with the 3 books, including Friday Night Firefight), and I continued collecting well into the Cyberpunk 2020 setting as well.

My preference was always for straight Cyberpunk with occasional forays into dark fantasy elements somehow interwoven into the techno-freakish future of Night City. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed playing Shadowrun a lot. However, the cyberpunk feel was always strongest for me in the world of Arasaka, Militech, and Trauma Team.

Also, I'm also tickled to see what's happened to some of the characters featured in the various iterations of the setting (Johnny Silverhand, Alt, Rache Bartmoss, etc.) as they've aged into this future.

Still reading through the Jumpstart Kit, but it's definitely bringing back that initial excitement of the first set of Cyberpunk.

UPDATE: Unboxing Video

Want to see what comes in the Jumpstart Kit? Check out the video below, from R. Talsorian:

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Campaign Frame: Future Earth-641 (part 01)

My past posts regarding Earth-641 were various pieces of an aggregate world that tried to pull together two major comic book universes (DC & Marvel) along with bits of others into a single kitchen sink setting.

However, the recent news concerning the Legion of Super-Heroes and the future of DC Comics has begun my creative wheels spinning for the setting in a new direction.

Future Earth-641

Directly inspired by the reports and press releases regarding the (as of this post date) upcoming Legion of Super-Heroes: Millenium, I've turned my thoughts toward the idea of creating a similar future of Earth-641 for the kind of galaxy-spanning super-heroic adventure that I like.
At the center of the campaign would be an organization not unlike the LSH, or perhaps a future incarnation of the Justice League, that would grant opportunities for super-heroic gaming like:
  • a high-tech home base
  • interstellar legitimacy as a legal entity
  • organization-wide gear and vehicles
  • coordination with interstellar peacekeeping organizations
  • reasons to have characters with a variety of powers and backgrounds
  • reasons to break into teams and follow different plots and plot threads
  • options to play multiple characters as those threads unfold
  • lots of myriad corners of the galaxy to explore -- with different challenges and antagonists to encounter and overcome
Furthermore, the planned storyline seems to allow for the various futures of DC to be unified, meaning it could be mined to allow for the ff. to all exist in the same 'verse:
  • OMAC
  • Batman Beyond
  • Kamandi
  • Tommy Tomorrow
To which I would gleefully add in my version:
So, those are the broad strokes. Let's see if I can figure out more ways into the setting and the overall campaign frame to flesh it out.

Monday, August 12, 2019

In Search Of... My Ideal Super-hero RPG (Part 01)

Despite my clear preference for various editions of Champions / Hero System for super-heroic gaming, I've never really stopped looking for several ideal systems. It's a big topic, and I've not mind-mapped this all out, so if this seems a bit scatterbrained, bear with me.

Why I like Champions

1. I like granularity of the system.

While DC Heroes / MEGS is a fine system, especially with the logarithmic progression of the APs and the use of benchmarks to help streamline play, I always felt that it needed a smidge more granularity to address issues like Batman's strength on the lower end, and the huge ranges that begin appearing beyond the double-digit values.

I also enjoy having a wide variety of skills, especially Professional Skills and Knowledge Skills, that can cover very specific skill-sets. Penalty Skill Levels that allow you to ignore very specific (character history-based) penalties.

I also love being able to create one-shot powers (important to character concept) that may be extremely cheap, and almost never used -- but do add the overall concept just by their presence.

2. I like the flexibility of the system.

I've written about how you can build "exactly the character you want" in the past, and it's one of the things that are regularly commented on about the system.

In particular, the highlights include:

  • being able to load up on a variety of Professional Skills and Knowledge Skill Levels (so you're familiar with theoretical and practical aspects of something you purport to be an expert on); 
  • playing with special effects and power advantages like (variable special effect, variable limitation, and variable advantage) to milk the utility of a certain kind of defined power;
  • covering science fiction, fantasy, and super-heroic tropes with a single, unified powers and skills system

3. I like the open-endedness of the system

While you can gauge power levels based on the active points, real points, and total points in powers, characteristics, and abilities, there's no real limit on them (except for arbitrary, and usually negotiable ones, based on the campaign).

I don't really like the idea of having a fixed range of power ranks (which is where clever systems like Mutants & Masterminds and even the classic TSR MSH RPG get docked some points in my mental tallies), and like being able to have someone (hero or villain) occasionally become more powerful/more skillful than the most powerful/skillful hero or villain in the course of the story.

4. I like having more than one way to achieve a specific end goal

More than a statement on how a given special effect can be build using the powers system in a variety of ways -- this refers to the various options for tactics, maneuvers, and teamwork can help a super-heroic group take down (or at the very least, thwart) a super-villain team. Power levels aren't the only thing to keep in mind when approaching challenges: creativity and working together cleverly can often defeat the most powerful villain, or stop their current plans for world domination / destruction.

The new breed of games

That being said, there are a variety of game systems out there that are certainly advancing the 'tech' of super-heroic RPGing, and it's time to take a look at them to see how they're addressing not just the simulation of the physics engine of the setting, but also the story-telling tropes that are prevalent in the genre.

That being said, I'll also look at ways to tweak these -- as was done in Fuzion, with dials and switches, to fine-tune the flavor of super-heroic genre being emulated.

Next: I'll start off with two of the games that I've been reading off-and-on over the past decade: Mutants & Masterminds, and Icons!

Friday, June 28, 2019

Brick & Mortar: Stratagemma (Florence, Italy)

Last month I had the pleasure of visiting Italy with my family and some friends. As is my habit, when visiting any new country, I try to find a local gaming store and check out the scene.

For Italy, it was Stratagemma (located in Florence, walking distance from the hotel we were staying at -- and very close to the Duomo, apparently). The visit really drove home several things to me:

  1. the web and its tools make finding such places, and managing your expectations, so much easier than in the past. I was able to find the location via Google Search, got directions to it via Google Maps, and was even able to enjoy online virtual tours of the locale.
  2. getting new blood into the hobby / hobbies is important for any store (and any hobby). They were having some kind of Pokemon card game introductory tournament when we dropped by, and boy was my son excited! He started chattering animatedly at the boys (roughly his age) who were playing. They politely listened, but perhaps understood as little about what he was saying as my son did about what they were saying. But the enthusiasm was reciprocated until I stepped in to let them continue with their tournament.
  3. different locales have different preferences. I had no real understanding about what was popular in Italy, much less in this particular corner of it, but I was surprised by some things nevertheless: a Cyberpunk 2020 RPG (reprint) prominently displayed in the window, and apparently a call for players on the bulletin board; the absence of Pathfinder and the dominance of D&D 5th Edition; some local RPGs in Italian, but also some international RPGs in English on the shelves.
I would've loved to stay to discover more about the sub-culture, but museums, sights, and food were calling us to other parts of Italy.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

RPGs: an aggregator of my fandom interests

At some point, gaming became a focal point of all my fandom. There were two main reasons for this:

  1. my fellow gamers were part of that fandom -- we didn't share the same exact interests in Science Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery, Crime, Horror, Humor, Comics, TV, Movies and the strange intersection that snags the interest of fandom, but the constant exposure helped broaden my own fandom beyond what I would have learned of on my own. And their enthusiasm was infectious.
  2. games allowed me to express and reference my fandom -- character homages, plotline riffs, setting elements cobbled together from many sources, madcap canon theories discussed and dissected in the middle of games (and sometimes long after them) all helped to refine and catalyze my general fandom is a rich broth of imagination and experimentation.
It is with this in mind that I return to RPGs in the middle of this year, with some goals:

  • to continue my son's RPG experiences either through our current Champions series (PowerPuff Girls: the Shadow of Krypton);
  • to finish reading a number of RPG books that I've purchased and would definitely see regular play had I but the time and the game group;
  • to understand the shape that this hobby (and -- dare I say it -- art form) has assumed in the modern era.

The last goal would seem to entail both a review of the current topics of discussion on blogs and RPG news sites across the field. The second goal would seem to involve a strict schedule of reading (and character building, my preferred way of learning both RPG systems and settings). The first goal would entail some more discussions with my son, now that we've had a number of sessions under our belt.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Gaming with the Kid: Fighting Crime Trying To Save The World (part 1)

I truly enjoy the SuperTeam Family blog.
The Powerpuff Girls, it turns out, aren't a pure rip-off of the Kryptonian power set. Each of the girls have their own unique powers -- and that's just from the original series. I won't go into the two other series that have aired since then.

In order to build the girls in the Hero System, I'd follow the following process:
  1. create a base PPG template of powers
  2. add in the individual powers and abilities of each girl
  3. tweak the stats and complications for a completed character sheet.

1. the Base PPG template

Fortunately, has DC Heroes character sheets for each of the girls:
These will not only help to build my base template, but will also help in the next step on how to add in the individual powers of each girl. However, not everything necessarily will be reflected in these stats, so I'd have to go to a Wikia page for an 'in fiction' explanation of those abilities.

2. Individual Powers and Abilities

It turns out that Bubbles has the ability to talk to animals, and that Buttercup is the fastest of the trio, and that Blossom has both fire breath and freeze breath. Thank goodness for fandom wikis which keep track of this sort of thing.

3. Finishing off the character sheet

I'll be honest in that I'll be trying to not only be faithful to the builds based on the two sets of source material above, but I'll also be balancing them against each other, point-wise. This is partially due to my longtime Hero System habits of wanting to know the point totals, but also to show my son how allocation of the same amount of resources can result in very different results... and different options for play.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Kult: New Apocalyptic Power?

When you read the copy of Kult, it's not unreasonable to jump to the conclusion that it somehow involves the Book of Revelation.

KULT: Divinity Lost is a reboot of the highly acclaimed and infamous contemporary horror role-playing game “Kult”, originally released in 1991. This, the 4th edition of Kult, features a completely new rule-set, and the setting is updated to present day. Escape your nightmares, strike bargains with demons, and try to stay alive in a world full of pain, torture, and death.

In KULT: Divinity Lost, the world around us is a lie. Mankind is trapped in an Illusion. We do not see the great citadels of Metropolis towering over our highest skyscrapers. We do not hear the screams from the forgotten cellar where hidden stairs take us to Inferno. We do not smell the blood and burnt flesh from those sacrificed to long forgotten Gods. But some of us see glimpses from beyond the veil. We have this strange feeling that something is not right—the ramblings of a madman in the subway seems to carry a hidden message, and, when thinking about it, our reclusive neighbor doesn’t appear to be completely human when we pass in the hallway. By slowly discovering the truth about our prison, our captors, and our hidden pasts, we can finally awaken from our induced sleep and take control of our destiny.

A real feel of the End Times, yes? And as a fan of the game from the first edition , I was more than a little bit surprised to see that it had hit the 4th edition with its latest release. Flipping through sections, pre-reading before a full read, I see something about gamemaster “moves”.

Now, moves are something associated with Powered By The Apocalypse games — and probably a system more approriate for the type of stories that seem to be suggested by the progressions and in-game fiction listed in the original copy that I owned. But my experience with PBTA is limited, so I am unsure how much of a fit this variant of the ruleset would be for gameplay.

But it does amuse me that the subject matter is aligned with the name of the system.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Gaming with the Kid

I wanted to get my kid into gaming. Not only is it one of my favorite forms of recreation -- I believe it taught me a great many things due to the nature of at-the-table game play, and all the reading and preparation between games.

And I had a plan.

Pokemon Investigators in Spaaaaaaaaaaaace!

He had demonstrated an interest in Pokemon... well, okay. He's a recovering Pokemon fanatic with near-encyclopedic knowledge of Pokemon up until he stopped following them. And he's still thrilled when we play Pokemon Go on occasion.

Plus, he really likes the Space Mice series from the Geronimo Stilton mega-franchise of books. To keep things simple, I decided we should play...

Ashen Stars meets Mutant City Blues, except instead of superhuman police, we have Pokemon Trainers-turned-Investigators sent out on Lazer-like missions, with a twist towards the Bubblegumshoe creation of a Solar System "neighborhood"!

But then I realized the work involved, and came to my senses.

Then he started asking me about how the Cartoon Network heroes might be able to take down Superman or any of the other DC animated heroes and I began to look at Hero 6th Edition. And that's where I am now. Figuring out how the decoupled HERO System, which I've never played, might be the gateway for my son's gaming interests.

Hello, old friend.

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