Thursday, May 28, 2020

Hero System as a Gaming Engine

Been playing a lot of Star Hero, and with some other new Hero System campaigns potentially spinning out of that regular play -- it's time to capture some thoughts about the system.

We're fond of playing in a mixture of roleplaying scenes and some hardcore, dangerous combat situations -- currently under the flavor of a principled, militarily influential, star nation in another galaxy.

The Hero System is really something akin to a computer game's physics engine. Not only does it handle a lot of environmental effects with internal consistency, it also allows you to model almost any effect you want (given its roots in a system that attempted to simulate the bonkers physics of a super-heroic universe). And like any toolkit, there's usually more than one way to build something.

We've used it to create a reality where more militaristic, but no less powerful "jedi" run through the battlefield wielding beam sabers (Old Imperial tech). Their weapons do massive damage, and make for interesting combat against hordes of crazed HTH aliens AND impossibly powerful powered armor suits with area effect weaponry.

Multi-armed aliens with infantry training wield squad support weapons and HTH weapons when fighting off crazed hive-mind drones. Crystal-shaped telepaths (with telekinetically controlled 'hands') wield standard issue military rifles.

Drones zip ahead of the squads, and the team's combat armor allows for active sensor arrays to gather intelligence on their opponents -- who may just have the right combat tech to counter ours.

So, I suppose I'll be generating a series of posts that highlight some combat tactics that we like to follow (based on our training packages and our equipment) to showcase the capabilities of the Hero System -- to reward combat tactics with more than just simple bonuses to hit or cover. It really has a depth that rewards teamwork, planning, using the environment to your advantage, and so on, without abstracting to a simple advantage or disadvantage to a roll.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

A Month of Online RPGaming

Due to a cinematic inciting incident (a pandemic) that has become a grim reality, I have surprisingly found myself logging more RPG playtime than I have in a while. Gametime has been split between two systems and settings:

Star Hero: Tales of the Confederation Starfleet (Hero System 5E)

The last time I played in this campaign was decades ago, one with lensmen, clan sentinels (think slightly more militant, and more combat savvy jedi), and a host of different military branches of the principled Confederation, carrying out missions in an intrigue-ridden galaxy populated by the the profit-motivated Alliance, the expansionist Second Empire, the militant religious Unity, and other stellar nations.

Our recent adventures have taken us on a variety of missions, including:
  • stopping a reactivated 20 mile long, 5 mile wide colony ship from impacting on a inhabited world;
  • enforcing a quarantine on the aforementioned world, where a bio-engineered plague that irreversibly converts victims into powerful, fast, and deadly units of a hive mind;
  • traveling to an ice planet within New Imperial territory where a number of Alliance companies have apparently carried out similar biological experiments with the plague;
  • using a surprising cache of Old Imperial technology, gating to a planet deep within Alliance territory to escape the tactical nuclear detonation in booby-trapped underwater research base;
  • surviving on an Alliance hunting preserve with some of the galaxy's deadliest creatures long enough for a secretly chartered vessel to rescue them;
  • surviving a short-lived battle against an Imperial Admiral in powered armor, in order to negotiate an information-sharing agreement regarding the bioplague;
  • investigating a low-tech, feral planet for the source of the bioplague's key components to help in combating its use in future warfare.
Seems like we were making up for lost time!

Challengers of the Lost Mine (D&D 5E on Roll20)

Because some old classmates wanted to try out D&D gaming (some with their kids), I volunteered to DM for them the intro module to D&D: Lost Mine of Phandelver.

Only two sessions so far, with most of them playing D&D for the first time (all of them playing 5E for the first time). As for me, it's been my first time running a game on Roll 20 (and Zoom for the audio), so I've been learning quite a lot about the features of Roll 20, and the special customizations for D&D 5E. And trying to get my player acclimated to playing with both D&D and Roll20.

However, it's been a lot of fun as I try to impart the fun of TTRPG play and maximize the digital toolsets to tell the story and impact the tactical challenges of the adventure. Added challenge: some of the players are limited by devices and bandwidth when playing.

So, it 's been great being able to reconnect with very old friends, and meeting the kids of my former classmates. Here's to maintaining this brave new world of gaming behavior as we emerge from the pandemic and adjust to our new lives under its influence.