Monday, December 31, 2012

Black Band Brigade Mini-campaign (Part 2)

Some Powers of the Black Band

Occasionally, strange codes wash across the band.
Some recognizable, others, totally unintelligible.

The alien bands grant their bearers, though with some hidden secrets that players will have to figure out through play (and studying the rules):

Black Band Abilities: 120 pt. Multipower Reserve (all use Locus Crystal for END)

1 – Radiant Gaze: 12d6 Blast vs. ED *
2 – Umbra Beam: 12d6 Blast vs. PD *
3 – Obsidian Shield: 4m wide, 1m tall, .5m thick Barrier (18 rPD, 18 rED, 0 BODY)
4 – Halo Defense: Damage Negation vs. Energy (-12 Damage Classes)
5 – Resplendent Wings: 60m Flight
6 – Shadow Traverse: 50m Teleport (No Relative Velocity)
7 – Bright Thoughts: Telekinesis (40 STR) *
8 – Dark Designs: Telekinesis (20 STR, Fine Manipulation, Affects Desolid: +1/2) *

Locus Crystal: Endurance Reserve (120 END, 24 REC, OIF:-1/2)

 optional: may choose to use MOCV vs. DCV upon receiving the Black Band

Notes on Black Band Abilities and the Locus Crystal

The face of the Locus crystal
displays not only the 24 hour
chronometer for Earth, but also
the amount of power that
the crystal still has available.

Without the Locus, you are powerless

In general, all these abilities are meant to draw on the Locus Crystal, which provides the power for all these abilities. Without the Locus Crystal, there's no power source and therefore no abilities. However, since the powers aren't purchased as part of the focus, it doesn't mean that someone who has taken the Locus Crystal gains the powers as well.

The Locus allows you to tap your abilities instinctively

With the option to use either the natural OCV or the MOCV to target opponent DCVs, it reflects the Locus crystal's ability to synchronize itself with its user. There may be other implications to this initial 'choice' in bonding with the Locus crystal.

Strange names add to the mystery

The abilities that the black bands grant come with names, as translated through the strange intuitive/mental link that the bearers have gained.
  • Radiant Gaze -- coherent beams of light lance out of the eyes of the black band bearer;
  • Umbra Bolts --  thick bolts of shadow stuff hurtle from the clenched fists of the bearer;
  • Halo Defense --  a halo of near-blinding light emanates from the bearer's head, absorbing all energy-based attacks;
  • Obsidian Shield -- a huge circular shield of black metal appears from the forearm of the bearer, sometimes growing large enough to encase the bearer;
  • Resplendent Wings -- six multicolored wings of solid light sprout from the bearer's shoulder blades, allowing rapid flight;
  • Shadow Traverse -- veils of shadow wrap themselves around the bearer, transferring the bearer to another location;
  • Bright Thoughts -- a crown of faint, coruscating light appears around the bearer's head that extends to manipulate the world according to its master's wishes;
  • Dark Designs -- delicate tendrils of inky blackness radiate out from the hands of the bearer to manipulate the world.
 Visually, the bearers and abilities still follow the look of Tron, with dark matter highlighted by light patterns. This, tied into the similar light & dark theme of the abilities, should heighten the mystery of the black bands.

Of course there are still other abilities to come...

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Isle Imperium 1.36 -- Meeting with the Ruling Warders

During the night, the First receive messages from warders of the First Tier, summoning one or all of them to: a warder meeting with CINELIS at 4:00 am, a briefing with FIDA at 5:30, and a meeting with AUDEN at 7:30 pm following their first mission.

CATALINA writes letters, in particular one to TERENTIUS, ending their relationship. She makes the acquaintance of the messenger THADDEUS; and she and KHIMERE bond in shared sorrow over reluctant men, following which Kim has a dream about a man, presumably the one who rejected her some time in her past. MANTIUS also has a dream, in which the second secret of finality offers to reveal itself to him, but he declines.

Following the realization that the Bejeweled Nuncio has accomplished itself as an aggregator, commander, summoner, and civilar, VARIAN goes off to the warder meeting wearing the Saint of Shadows, which raises some eyebrows, although JOSIAS of the Fifth is likewise literally ill-suited (having been sobered up by Cat barely in time for someone of his number to attend the meeting). Ian bonds with LEONTES of the Second, and Cinelis announces the new protocols for warders:
  • commitment: a priority list of specific mounts and corresponding warder shards indicates the only mounts allowed to bear same. When acting as warders, mounts may wear only the shards assigned to them; no other mounts may do so.
  • the killing protocol: In the event of a warder’s capture, the corresponding shard will be activated in such a way as to kill the mount, as well as any person who attempts to bear the shard thereafter. The killing protocol may only be deactivated upon return to Peerdin.
  • While all new shards acquired by each number are considered to belong to that number, warder shards must be submitted to the Diamond Shadow Vambrace’s office for testing before inclusion in the number.
  • Warder communication has been reactivated and is once more considered to be safe.
  • The responsibilities of the office of the DSV have been expanded to include all affairs directly concerning warders.
  • Mounting of oracular shards is to be avoided on missions, as this may constitute an information leak.
At the 5:30 meeting, Fida apologizes to the First for their previous mission, before detailing the particulars of Operation: Wildflower, which is to take place at Fort Huldon, an outpost of the Diamond’s allies, the Ivory Legion.
  • primary objectives: (1) assist the Ivory Legate Teltimtor; (2) keep Fort Huldon from falling into enemy hands; (3) gather information useful to the Diamond Legion
  • secondary objective: evacuate the town of Salermo (where ALECTO’S parents live), 4 hours NE of Fort Huldon. The gate provided takes 30 minutes to open and 30 to close; and the activating pendant must not be used by a shard bearer.
SER ORLANDO shares his knowledge that the opponents of the Sapphire Legion (currently fighting at the front near Fort Huldon) are the Lazul Court—known for explosions, grenadiers, and behemoths—while the opponents of the Silver (similarly engaged) are known only to be led by Coldisa Blue Eyes.

Kim gifts Aly with her own Devoted Warder shard, convincing it to modify its requirements accordingly; while OLIVEROS permits each mount of the numbers to select three more shards to add to their pool, after which THESSALY arrives with the documents to be signed by three ruling warders in order for the First to be able to attend Bregan’s hearing. To their dismay, they learn that it is to be held while they are on mission. Nevertheless, the First scrambles to attain the signatures necessary, with:
  • Cat getting the first from Oliveros, despite his chiding her teasingly over requesting his own shard for their pool.
  • Aly getting the second from KENJIRO, and getting to know M. TALTUN a little better.
  • Ian trying with Auden, but being declined mostly on grounds of propriety.
  • Cat and Aly separately trying with Terry, who is cold to Cat (following their public confrontation in the hallway prior) and promises Aly that he will “see the man hang”.
  • Aly trying with Fida, who declines on the grounds that her position is currently too tenuous.
  • Mantius getting the third from Cinelis, who tells him in privacy that she distrusts the speed with which the matter is being pursued.
Ian says goodbye to GWYNETH and MS. TENNIN, while Arc, Cat, and Mantius recruit TOBIAS to stand in for them at the hearing. Mantius writes down his statement while Cat shares her distress with Toby, who comforts her.

Arc goes to sit in the sun, which does not sit well with the Grey Speaker, such that the shard somehow transforms his current shard, Brother Sun, into Brother Night. Orlando becomes aware of this amid a heated conversation with PIEZO of the Eighth (and formerly of the Silver, evidently) and offers to help him despite Arc involuntarily holding his sword to Orlando’s chin. Arc is also offered assistance by LUCIA of the Third, who posits that the Grey Speaker may have some artificer abilities in addition to its apparent taxonomies. Concerned over the Grey Speaker’s threat to kill Ser Orlando if he interferes, Arc decides not to share his predicament with anyone else.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Black Band Brigade Mini-campaign (Part 1)



A Tron - Magneto piece of art by
DMurdoch gleefully repurposed
as a visual peg for this
Champions Complete mini-campaign.
On a dark and stormy night, the PCs are traveling together when their vehicle is struck by a sudden meteor from the heavens. The meteor turns out to be a humanoid alien, charred and dying. With his last moments of clarity, he bequeaths an alien weapon of power: the charred black metal armor fused to its body.

Bits of the armor peel off into inky black strands, attach themselves to the wrists of the PCs, and transform into futuristic looking wristwatches.

These black bands grant great power that the PCs must learn to master if they are to survive the various factions that will hunt them down.

However, not all the black bands went to the brigade. Some of them, in fact, seem to have found hosts or bearers that have gone missing since the incident.

And the black bands are imparting some sense of impending danger, of being chased, of being hunted by unknown powers intent on exerting their control over them once more.


Players are asked to build PCs with Skilled Normals (50 CP, 30 pts in Complications), but will be playing characters worthy enough to play in the Standard Superheroic (400 CP, 75 pts in Complications) range.

This is because the 300 CP in powers and abilities and 45 pts. In Complications will be a mandatory package assigned to all the PCs.

Next Post: The Power of the Black Bands

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Champions Complete: Mini-campaigns

In my earlier Danger International post, I realized my group had done a smaller set of similar mini-campaigns for the supers genre. In honor of that, and the new Champions Complete book out, I'd like to come up with a series of these mini-campaigns and perhaps publish these 2 to 4 pagers for free to help get some people started playing Champions Complete without having to deal with some of the most common problems of newbies: building characters -- heroes and villains.

The primary solution here is to limit the points that the players have to allocate. There are package and power builds already part of the campaign, and perhaps even random selection of these packages and powers to facilitate quickstart games.

Then, the training wheels can come off as both players and GMs become more comfortable with the system.

My initial mini-campaigns will be a triad:
  • The Black Band Brigade -- inspired by the Green Lantern / Lensman concept, super-powerful weapons are bonded or placed into the hands of normal people. Then they must deal with their newfound power as first generation heroes hunted by various factions, including the enemies of the wielders of the Black Bands. Think Green Lantern Corps meets Heroes.
  • The Elect -- there are men and women who are occasionally gifted with the ability to see and fight the monsters that walk among us. Fragments of ancient spirits aggregate in their souls and grant them powers and abilities beyond those of mere mortals, enabling them to battle vampires and rakshasas, werewolves and witches, ghosts and goblins. Think Buffy meets Mutant X.
  • Ultra-Masks of the Emerald Legion -- the royal family of the Emerald Legion is unable to perform their duties as defenders of the united galarchy against the giant beast-fighters of the Boan Empire! They have sent their masks to seek out champions of great martial ability to transform them into gargantuan warriors capable of meting out cosmic justice to the forces of intergalactic tyranny. Think Ultraman meets Silverhawks.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Nostalgia: The Fuzion Years

There was a time that I was a Fuzion fanatic. Did I have issues with the system? Like many people, yes. But I liked it because: (a) it was the child of two favorite systems -- HERO and Interlock; (b) it had some okay settings for it like Champions: The New Millenium and great anime properties like Armored Trooper: Votoms, Bubblegum Crisis, and Dragon Ball Z; (c) it taught me a bit about how the systems I was into at the time (HERO, Interlock, D20) were actually very closely related, resolution mechanic-wise.

I snapped up almost every Fuzion book I could get my hands on in Asia.

Also, there was the online community that came up with their own Fuzion powered material, like the Atomik Fuzion series of PDFs, and the fan-made Record of Lodoss Wars RPG, and of course the Lightspeed RPG that I've posted about as a kitchen sink setting in prior posts.

I'd hoped that Fuzion would catch on, and that the bits that annoyed me about the system (like the weird costing problems when dealing with Mekton-style gear creation vs. Hero-style suit creation) would be overshadowed by other strengths (collapsible stats and skills, a smaller statblock foot print for NPCs, an open-ended power scale, etc.) but it was not to be.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Nostalgia: Skyrealms of Jorune

My earliest encounters of Skyrealms of Jorune were ads in Dragon Magazine. The art was interesting -- it had a depth and a weight and was rendered in what I could only refer to as a classical manner.

The alien and human races were interesting to me, primarily because they seemed to somehow interact well enough with one another in the same world, but felt different enough visually to be different species.

I finally picked up a copy (3rd edition, as shown to the right) at a convention. Dundracon, if I recall correctly.

I really liked the art, the world, and the various races and the cultures presented. There was a sense of flailing for me, however, as though I were trying to figure out what common adventures might be like in that world.

These days, I'd put together a campaign that would mix storyline with random encounters (and random plotlines) to mess with the party of PCs seeking citizenship.

I don't remember much about the system, except that I did like the roll of the location of the opening for your attack -- but I did remember sort of flipping frantically through the book to find weapon stats, then the combat progression, and how the muadras worked.

Maybe it's time to read through it again.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Isle Imperium 1.35 -- Matters of Time

In the “prison point” where they are trapped, MANTIUS faces the decision of whether or not to free NESIMAL, the keeper of the final secret—who further pressures him by calling a number of attackers to hasten his decision-making. These are sensed and held off by the embodiments of every shard Mantius has purchased from, including the Feylight Pathmage ILYRICO and the White Mage, who states that he will have oracular abilities once essential.

Unable to think of another means of egress, Mantius elects to free Nesimal, thereby being granted the three secrets of finality:
  1. The sacrifice of three fully expressed legions (numbers as well as “stones”) will cause the retreat of the courts of chaos.
  2. The second secret is buried in Mantius’s mind, to be revealed when his spirit is capable of dealing with it.
  3. The third secret is similarly buried in Mantius’s heart.
Nesimal departs, and Mantius is approached by LARISSA, princess of the Cobalt Court (which is opposed to the Bone Legion), who has evidently also been trapped and was thus privy to the revelation. They agree that what they now know in common is a dangerous secret, and Larissa further realizes that “If you die knowing the secret, I will die as well.”

BREGAN arrives and knocks Larissa down in order to whisk Mantius away; they reappear on a battlefield where TERENTIUS challenges LADY BLIGHT to a duel and is struck down by her soul blight attack. Mantius attempts to reason with the courtier, but she directs her ire at him and is stopped only by KENJIRO, who is then defeated in turn. Fortunately, the physically drained Bregan is able to literally draw strength from Mantius to use a combination of his own abilities, Mantius’s Mace of the Four Kings, and what is possibly Lady Blight’s true name in order to push the latter into sending them away from her.

With Mantius now in physical distress, the pair journey through time in the attempt to return to Peerdin, passing through, among others, the underworld and the court of the WICKER KING, not to mention several periods in which Bregan apparently had various families. After a number of close calls and mishaps, they are finally able to return and spend several days in a sort of waking fugue state before they return to full alertness and give their comrades a truncated explanation of their shared ordeal.

Meanwhile, ALECTO and Kenjiro’s relationship continues along its merry way of mindless physical gratification (including a thankfully halted run of shardless sex), while CATALINA is dismayed by Terry’s apparent reluctance to engage in same. Along with the girls, ARCTURUS is somewhat troubled by TOBIAS’S renewed closeness with his former number, the Fifth, but this is soon resolved when Toby explains that one of his friends is leaving soon and (in private, just between the two of them) that he was upset by Cat’s kissing Donovan. Cat explains that she was bribed, and all is well, at least among the Second.

As to the First, VARIAN learns from AUDEN that VINDAR has requested for a transfer. Having been constrained to pretend ignorance by his father, Ian nevertheless attempts to convey Vindar’s importance to himself and his number, particularly when THESSALY returns with the heartening news that she and Patricus have gotten the legion fully recognized and, as a consequence, Thess has been offered a promotion as Patricus’s junior.

A general gathering of all numbers is called, in which the party learns to their surprise that many new mounts have been recruited into the legion, and to their distress that the numbers have been reorganized, with Toby in particular returned to the Fifth; Vindar reassigned to a separate legion; and Bregan, Maxilius, Brigit, and Teregan arrested for their involvement in various crimes involving the Tenth of the Diamond Red. The former First and Second are reintegrated as the First, with SER ORLANDO of the Silver Legion’s First Number and KHIMERE of Platin’s First introduced to round out the number.

After the meeting, members of the new First scatter to deal with the startling new developments. Cat learns from Terry that the arrests were ordered by Patricus; Mantius assures Bregan of his support; Ian makes a last-ditch effort (which ends badly) to convince Vindar to stay; Arc bids Vindar goodbye; and Aly learns from her sister MEGAERA (now of the Third) that their hometown has been infested by the blue.

An informal-formal lunch is held, for all numbers to get to know each other and the new “reWarder”, TALTUN of the Ivory Legion. Arc and Mantius in particular play host to the new members of their number; Cat renews ties with the newly returned ALOYSIUS; Aly petitions FIDA for a mission to find the former’s parents; and Ian renews ties with the new Second, in particular LADY ADRIA and their new-not-so-new warder LEONTES the Younger, learning in the process of the Interlegionary Competitions, upcoming in about a month.

After the ground-breaking ceremony for the new bank, Cat and Arc get notes with roses from Toby; Aly bonds with Meg; Ian goes off with GWYNETH; Thess tells Mantius that they will need to secure endorsement from three ruling warders in order to attend Bregan’s hearing; and Arc makes friends with the rest of the Fifth.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Isle Imperium 1.34 -- Frequently Asked Questions

Loyal followers of the Isle Imperium episodes know that the protagonists lucked into their shards and somehow got accepted into the Legion as a high ranking number. This episode reveals much about the Legion and shards that the other members of Diamond Legion are assumed to know already.

Although BREGAN and a strangely reticent MANTIUS are returned to Peerdin, Kenjiro and Terentius remain on mission while the First and Second undergo retraining under AUDEN, along with the new Tenth, which possesses the shards:

Dispassionate Warder
Master of Shrouds
Knight of Tides
Blind Incantatrix
Horde Breaker
Cloud Anchorite
Cipher Adept
Dweomer Keeper
Dragon Song Lyrist


In the course of a day and a half of training, the mounts learn the following:

The Benefits of Rank
Prestige: The higher a number the mount belongs to, the higher the class of Chaos creatures that mount can not bother to engage with. This applies to the numbers from Ninth to Second; the First need only engage with the most powerful Chaos beings, though all numbers may elect to engage with lower if they wish.

Percentage: Starting from the Ninth, a percentage of bright light is added on to the number’s rewards for missions. The Ninth gets an additional 10%, the Eighth gets 20%, and so on up to 90% for the First.

Paragon: With the right combination of shards, mounts, and at least one warder, the First, Second, and Third are able to materialize a being that expresses the unified aspects of the number and has all the abilities of the shards currently worn. The warder(s) must have minder, empath, and avatar actions slotted.

Other Learnings of the Morning 1

  1. There are 66 numbers; the Diamond Grey is 85% established; warders are now allowed to slot in contradiction of mission parameters.
  2. The Classes of Shards
    0 to 500
    500 to 2,000

    500 to 5,000
    5,000 to 20,000

    20,000 to 60,000
    60,000 to 120,000
    noble blood may be required
    120,000 to 250,000
    250,000 to 500,000
    noble blood required
    500,000 to 1,000,000
    1,000,000 and above
    noble blood required

Other Learnings of the Afternoon 1
  1. Aduro’s secret history involves four shards;
  2. Lord of Autumn is an expressed legendary;
  3. the first three numbers can circumvent some shard prerequisites
The Legions of the Army of Shards
  • Diamond: special operations (unique taxonomies: Avatar and Hazard)
  • Emerald: (smallest legion; engages with courtier class) heroic front line (unique: Eggs)
  • Ivory: resource management and procurement
  • Sapphire: (most numerous, at 200 mounts per number, supported by standing armies of unsharded) warrior elite front line
  • Ruby: (all mounts possess flight ability) aerial corps (unique: Dragoon)
  • Bone: (underworld; virtually nothing is known about them) black operations
  • Amber: (close ties with Copper) front line artillery
  • Copper (close ties with Amber) engineer corps
  • Silver: (known for chivalry, mounted combat, scholarship) front line (unique: Knight)
  • Platin: (formerly Steel) founded as front line, expressed as elemental corps (unique: Wizard)
Other Learnings of the Morning 2
  1. The Diamond’s opposition (the specific chaos court name) is the Blight Speakers, an invasive force that captures and holds territory;
  2. Bregan was formerly with Bone and Platin!
Aside from all this, VARIAN scams his dad for help setting up a temple to Proserpine; and ALECTO (“excellent aura… strength… sister sorrow”), ARCTURUS (“You will leave”), and CATALINA (“He will stomp upon your heart with elephantine feet”) receive foretellings both heartening and otherwise from the aura-reading MAISI.

The afternoon session of the second day is called off when Auden seems to receive some urgent communication. TOBIAS pisses Cat off; Cat goes and has a heart-to-heart with MS. TENNIN, in which the latter suggests putting on a performance to boost morale; Aly does her Le Parcour thing to vent anxiety; Arc proves to Toby that he really is a blacksmith; and Ian gets a clue from Ms. Tennin that Hadrian may currently be assigned to the 47th Number.

The performance is cobbled together—Cat singing, Aly dancing, and Ms. Tennin and Ian playing—to great success, raising spirits, garnering OLIVEROS’S approbation, and turning into an impromptu party. Toby apologizes to Cat and she forgives him. Aly cajoles VINDAR into dancing, which results in his unexpectedly kissing her and running off. 

Aly chases after Vindar, and tells him that she’s otherwise involved. Vindar runs off again; and Cat and Toby catch up with Aly, only Cat is soon pulled away by DONOVAN, who asks her to dance and bribes her with bright light to kiss him. She does, just in time for TERENTIUS to arrive.

Terry and Cat go off for a heart-to-heart, in which he tells her of his wife of three months, who died four years ago and whose death he was made to re-experience during this most recent mission. Despite or because of this—as well as Cat’s revelation about her mother’s profession—he asks her not only to give them a chance but to marry him, which Cat provisionally accepts.

Ian, meanwhile, is asked to dance by GWYN, who turns out to be Veda’s cousin. They hit it off famously. He is then asked to dance by KAIZA of the Tenth, from whom he is later “rescued” by Gwyn (because Ian is scared of potentially clingy girls now).

Aly decides to sit in an empty courtyard, to allow Vindar to come to her. Instead, it’s KENJIRO who appears, making Aly’s world ten thousand percent better with the news that he, Terentius, and Megaera are all safely returned to Peerdin. Amid much fooling around, the couple agrees that they’re exclusive and heads off to eat. Kenjiro tries to find out who Aly was waiting for, and she laughingly refuses to tell, just as Vindar makes his reappearance.

Arc catches sight of what seems to be a signal light just outside the dome, and goes out to find a bloodied silver dragon awaiting him. “The kin of the aerie need the Prince of Dragons,” it tells him; and Arc says that he must tell someone, but will return. He finds Varian and they argue until Ian realizes that, contrary to Maisi’s prediction, Arc is not just going to run off. They go back to see the dragon together, but it has already gone.

Finally, BREGAN says to MANTIUS: “Don’t you think we should tell them now?” and Mantius casually agrees.

Monday, December 10, 2012

NaGaDeMon Day A -- From the Ashes

Well, I failed on Day 3 for a variety of reasons. So, rather than continue the numbering, I've begun the letters to indicate all work done after November 2012.

But the Axion system has still been percolating in my head, alongside other RPG needs.

With the latest Fate and Gumshoe entrants into the RPG arena, I'm quite happy to leave the 'story engine' RPGs to them. I'm still firmly looking at the 'physics engine' emulation arena, though comic book physics does sometimes give in to rubbery science.

Hero / Fuzion and DC Heroes are the ones that really seem to have given this action movie / comic book physics engine some thought, with the exponential progression of values. However, DC Heroes tied these to all attributes, some of which didn't necessarily apply strongly to real world measures and raised questions like: "Is Braniac 5 as smart as Superman is Strong?" and so on.

A further idea arises: should I follow the "every 5 points doubles the game value" of Hero, or the "every 1 point doubles the game value" of DC Heroes? I know that Mutants and Masterminds made some clever re-use of the DC Heroes AP tricks.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Earth-641: More than Green Lanterns

DC's Blackest Night event expanded the 'emotional spectrum' tied to the rings of the Green Lanterns. We ended up with Red Lanterns, Orange Lanterns, Yellow Lanterns, Indigo Lanterns, Blue Lanterns, etc. Some of these were interesting -- others not so much. And as to color theory, it wasn't really incorporated into the storyline.

Anyway, I've always wanted to expand on the concept of these galactic policemen. I figured that the universe is vast, and that the Corps didn't necessarily have the ability to tackle everything. Perhaps Marvel's Nova Corps could be added to the mix, as well as a more intelligence-gathering / espionage spin on the Lensmen.

And of course, I'd want to stick in the Ultra Corps! I refer to the organizational body (whose exact name escapes me at this moment) that holds such luminaries as Ultraman, Ultra-7, Ultraman Zoffy, Ultraman King, and so on. While not as big as Green Lantern Mogo (the sentient planet), this entire group of galactic heroes are giants, taking on Godzilla-sized creatures on Earth.

But before I can properly define all these peacekeeping forces, I should probably give some thought to their opposition!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

State of the Mongoose 2012: Choice Bits

It's always interesting to read up on the State of the Mongoose. There's a perception of the game industry that's open, yet insider-y, and from a pretty big player as well. Here's what caught my eye:

Writers -- Full-time to Freelancers

A second, but no less major issue, at least for RPGs, is that we have changed the way we work with writers. We no longer have half a dozen-odd full-time writers but instead a hand-picked set of freelancers (none of whom we would have been able to tempt away from their Real Life work anyway!) who are absolutely, 100%, completely dedicated to the games they work on – people like Colin Dunn, who is Mr 2300AD, and Don McKinney and Rob Eaglestone who work alongside Mr Miller on Traveller. This means the quality of work we receive for these games is second to none, done by people who want to write this material because they have a real passion for it.

The flip side is that freelancers will never work as fast as full-time writers, as Real Life all too often intrudes. This, in turn, results in slower release schedule; but, we think, better books overall, the effect of which you will already have seen with titles such as Solomani Rim, Deneb Sector, and French Arm Adventures. In those terms, we are satisfied that the books being produced today are every bit as good as those from our Gareth Hanrahan/Lawrence Whitaker days (for my money – and it was – the two best writers in the RPG industry today). There will just be a few less of them.
In essence assuring us that the quality will be at least as good as during their best days, but not necessarily on schedule.

RPGs -- The Digital Shift

The current RPG market is miserable. There really is no other word for it. I was talking to the owner of a certain well known RPG company just a little while ago, and he mentioned that he had sold a few hundred of his latest release. We agreed it was a good total in this day and age for the average RPG product (not saying his book was average but… oh, you get the point!). Then he dropped the bombshell; he had reliable information that his book had outsold the latest supplement of a very well known, not to mention market-leading, game.

If the top tier games are selling at these levels, then something is seriously wonky in the market.

That is not to say that good sales are impossible. Publishers can still get into decent four figure ranges on new releases (our own 2300AD is a good example). But it is not the norm. Most RPG books these days are being bought by just a few hundred people, no more. Think on that for a moment…

On the other hand, RPG sales among PDFs, spearheaded by, are fairly booming. Which, of course, brings us to the inevitable question; is digital taking over?

For our part, we now look at each and every book as it goes through layout, and do a lot of soul-searching as to whether it should be given a full print run. More and more often, the answer is starting to be ‘no.’

Now, before anyone panics, you will always be able to get Mongoose books in a printed edition. Not going for a full print run still means we will do a limited run to supply our mail order customers, and you will be able to get our entire range printed (even books that are officially OOP) via Drivethru – more on that later too. Just to be clear, I’ll repeat: You will always be able to get hold of Mongoose books in a printed format!

However, the tipping point between digital and print has been reached among RPGs. The days where we automatically printed x thousand copies of all titles are long, long gone.

What is really peculiar is that while a large number of roleplayers have embraced PDF books, wargamers have not – and the difference is staggering, especially when you consider the relative sizes of the two markets. And yet… to my addled mind at least, it makes more sense for miniatures games to be presented in PDF format. Instant updates, errata fully integrated into the core rules, every time; yet it seems miniatures gamers are just not keen on this new-fangled technology! Perhaps Games Workshop’s efforts in this area will have an effect. We’ll be watching closely, in any case.
Interestingly insight on the RPGers vs. wargamers, and juicy news from the chat with 'other industry bigshots'. I know I'm primarily PDF these days. I just don't have the space for more books, and the only option for the collector in me is electronic.

Fortunately, Mongoose is looking to upping the quality of PDFs available.

PDFs -- A New Standard
We have been on DrivethruRPG/RPGNow for many years and, throughout that time, many employees of Mongoose have been responsible for uploading PDF files – resulting in many different ways of doing them. This year, we decided to standardise them all, adding bookmarks, making sure the pagination was correct, that art was at the right resolution, and so on and so forth. We are just coming to the end of this now, and will be uploading the results before Christmas. Expect a ton of updates if you have purchased any of our PDFs, and feel assured of consistent quality if you are looking to pick up any more.
It's nice to see that -- and if that helps when people search for things on RPGNow / DriveThruRPG, great!

For more news on individual RPGs, check out this link to the State of the Mongoose 2012. As an armchair gamer, the Solo Traveller initiative sounds great!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Isle Imperium: Episode 1.33 -- Close Encounters

Falling from Gossamer’s tower, VARIAN experiences a series of flashbacks, from which he learns that:

  • He was born one of a pair of twins, both of whom were blessed (?) at birth by AUDEN’S comrades in what appeared to be his number, including PATRICUS and NIKOMEDES.
  • Varian, his mother ANA, and his sister were evicted from their city home by some jewel-wearing woman, probably as a result of Auden’s extended absence. 
  • Traveling out of the city, the caravan the family traveled with was attacked. Ana managed to hold on to Varian, but the little girl was taken away in the tumult by a bearded man.
  • Lost and in dire straits, the mother and son were rescued by a man, who took them to live with his mother or mother-in-law, who took Ana on as a servant.
  • Over the course of years, Varian became friends with their rescuer’s son, HADRIAN, while Ana and the rescuer evidently developed a relationship. The old lady apparently died and left Ana the house.
  • When Varian was twelve or thirteen, Auden reappeared, but was rejected by Ana. Mistakenly, Auden then took away Hadrian, whom he assumed to be his son.
  • During the funeral of his adoptive father (the athlete whom Varian remembers as his father), Varian saw Hadrian again, mounted by a shard. Also at the funeral were the young Brandeus and his sister Thessaly, who is the very Thessaly now in the First.

Varian in a future form.
Managing to arrest his descent barely in time by mimicking Gossamer’s abilities, Ian soon learns that the identical Gossamer has experienced the same memories and is, in fact, his long lost sister ANA. Realizing at the same time that two of her colleagues are facing two of Varian’s, she offers him a choice: she will surrender her current post to him or assist one of his comrades. Ian accepts the latter offer on behalf of Aly, a decision which seems to please Ana, as she says, “At least you have someone.”

With the assistance of the Saint of Warrens (and, unbeknownst to her, Ana), ALECTO manages to defeat COVETOUS, stealing his necklace and possibly freeing certain essences and abilities held captive by the courtier. In the process, she learns from the Saint of Warrens that the latter has decided to essentialize as All Saints. She and Varian are reunited and go to find Kenjiro.

Having sensed the defeat of Covetous and the relinquishment of Gossamer, KENJIRO frees himself from the bondage he apparently permitted to occur, taking on Pinion, the Lambent Angel, now made vulnerable by the loss of her supports. Aly and Ian arrive to a scene of feathery dismemberment; and Kenjiro sends Ian to “secure the perimeter” while Aly and the Black Dragon proceed to have crazyhotbattlefieldsex. Ian sees Ana once more, but she elects to leave him be, despite their earlier agreement that their next encounter would be as enemies.

Meanwhile, in the place of exile, CATALINA brokers a deal with MAXILIUS, promising to speak for his group to the Diamond Grey if they will help her rescue her teammates. Max agrees and selects himself, BRIGIT, and JOVAL to bear the three shards Cat received from Dumas. Joval, however, is rejected by the Ember Mind and TEREGAN takes his place. Cat uses the Diamond Azure Cloak to transport them; and GENARIUS prompts the remaining mounts of their number to leap through the portal as well, resulting in the disintegration of Joval and the betrayal of ARIUS, both of whom Genarius was evidently using as guinea pigs to ensure the safety of himself and ISOLDE.

In the blue, ARCTURUS faces CARESS of the Pallid, who fortunately is unable to see him as Grey Speaker. Matters are complicated by the very vocal arrival of VINDAR, but Arc is able to defeat Caress and he and Vindar together manage to also put down her secondary form that emerges from the remains of her body.

In transit, Cat realizes that she can only carry two passengers, and has to make the decision to leave Teregan en route. The remaining three arrive at Arc and Vindar’s location and the group integrates, not without some tension. Cat and Max go to find Toby, quickly discovering that the latter has been killed and partially devoured by either a minion of Ariadne’s or Ariadne herself. The duo return to the main group; and when Brigit states that the Soul Collector may be able to revive Toby, Max volunteers to recover the body on his own, claiming that the Forlorn Avenger works best solo.

With much flirting and fighting going on, Toby is retrieved and restored, notwithstanding Cat having to revive Brigit from the attack of the giant spider that follows Max, Arc having to chase after Toby’s butterfly-shaped soul, and Max having to battle the spider again to buy time. With the support of Vindar and TOBIAS as Savant of the Senses, Cat is able to transport the group out, only to stop before exiting Peerdin, having spotted Aly, Kenjiro, and Varian.

Updates exchanged, Kenjiro summarily dispatches the present members of the First and Second back to Peerdin. There, Cat takes Aly back into the blue to successfully recover Teregan, and Kenjiro soon returns with TERENTIUS, the two evidently having formed a truce in order to confront the waiting FIDA. The two male warders tell the party they will depart again soon to find Mantius and Bregan. Cat volunteers to accompany them, but is refused, to her annoyance.

Cat pleads Max and company’s case to OLIVEROS, and the trio is reinstated in the legion, albeit not in the Circle of Ten. Terry then invites Cat to accompany him and Kenjiro. Kenjiro says that he is bringing “some girl”, which causes Terry to retract his offer. The pair departs.

Ian tells Aly about his suddenly recovered memories and, as Daughter of Memory, Aly helps him recall further that when he was eighteen, Auden tampered with his mind to prepare him for recruitment against his wishes, saying, “You will become centurion… as I cannot and Hadrian could not.” The fuming Cat arrives and they share the information with her, with the three of them coming to an agreement to let the matter lie for the time being.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Strange Popularity -- The Week's Top Post Block

For a long time, the "popular posts" block -- normally set to a week's span -- has been stable. There are steady risers and steady droppers, with one or more predictable meteoric rises (the reviews), plus the posts of mainstream interest.

But recently, I've been seeing strange behavior. Old posts resurrected, dethroning the long-time champions of the blog posts. The Isle Imperium posts rising, falling, then rising again.

What's going on? Is this the effect of GooglePlus?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

3 Book Campaign: Champions Complete + San Angelo + Champions Villains

Inspired by the classic triumvirate of PHB, DMG, and MM, I decided to see if I could put together RPG campaigns using only three books at a time (for reasons I'll elaborate on later, maybe).

So here's my first batch of three:

  • Champions Complete
  • Champions Villains: Volume Three -- Solo Villains
  • San Angelo

Champions Complete

Rationale -- it's a complete RPG in about 400 pages. Concisely written, cleanly presented, and logically organized, this brings Champions back to the days when the Big Blue Book (4th Edition) held sway. It is the 6th Edition ruleset, and is therefore compatible with the last batch of 6th Edition products, but is a heck of a lot easier to carry around if you've got the printed version. If not, it's a sight less pages to search through electronically on your digital reader.

It also takes care of all the necessary rules right away in one book, leaving the other two slots open for setting and opposition respectively. There are also ready-to-play PCs as part of the book, which is great if you want to get started playing right away.

Champions Villains: Volume Three -- Solo Villains

Rationale -- well, you need supervillains to oppose the PCs right? I would have gone for Volume Two, which has the supervillain teams, if it weren't for the idea of the campaign: relatively new superheroes -- probably two to three at most -- learning the ropes in their chosen city. They're not going for the costumes and the spandex right away, but it should head in that direction eventually -- albeit with more of a pulp feel (their costumes should make practical sense, in addition to psychological advantages). I'm also going for the feel of a villain of the week that's interwoven with the PC's trying to juggle their daily lives with fighting crime. If necessary, I'll beef up the villain and his non-metahuman support group to make them a bit more of a challenge for the superteam.

San Angelo: City of Heroes

Now, the copy I have is for an older edition of Champions / HERO. The one available from RPGNow is actually for M&M and Action!System. As far as I'm concerned, however, it doesn't really matter because the setting is what I'm after. As superhero city supplements go, this one feels so fleshed out that you find yourself drawing linkages between the NPCs in the city and realizing how interconnected their lives (and hopefully the lives of your PCs) really are. There is character and community feel aplenty in this sourcebook by Patrick Sweeney and Mark Arsenault, and I've always wanted to return to it campaign-wise to set PCs into a fictitious American city (it's not the one in Texas) in the grand tradition of comics.

Campaign Concept

For me, this would be a return to the pulp era of adventurer-crimefighters, but at the power level of low-end superheroes. This would be beginning Daredevil and Batman and Iron Fist and Manhunter taking on crime in the city. They would spend 1/3 to 1/2 of their time in their non-masked identities, and they would need to know their city well in order to successfully battle their criminals.

I'd require at least two NPCs selected from the San Angelo sourcebook, and allow one or more NPCs to be created by the Players -- but these would also have to be tied somehow to an institution or NPC in the book. I want players to feel that the city itself is as dominant a character as any of their opponents or supporting cast, much in the way Metropolis and Gotham feel in the comics.