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Tuesday, 24 December 2013

GURPS 4e character creation in 10 minutes or less! Possible? See below.

I met again the bugbear of "slow chargen in GURPS" today. So I decided to share my method that results in at least semi-optimised GURPS characters, all in under 10 minutes.
The best part is, I developed it in order to introduce newbies to GURPS 4e and let them make their own characters. It worked.


So:
Pick your ads and disads first. If you have an idea of what you want them to be, it's fast.
Pick all the skills you want, without levels yet.
Group them by attributes. Divide points between them roughly per the number of skills, or decide which kind of skills are more important for the character concept.
Count the skills for each attributes. If your archetype calls for more skills based on Strength, Dex or IQ, or exactly the same number, than the cost of raising it by 1 point, the choice is easier - pick all the skills at 1 point, dump the rest at the attribute. If they're less than that, but over 50% of the points to raise the attribute, take them each at 2 points. (So, if you need 8 skills based on ST, take them each on 2 points, because 1 point is mandatory, and 1 point/skill more gives you a 1-level increase). After that, only increase the attribute.
If the skills are less than that, you can take them at 4 points each, then raise the attribute.
Only if the (total number of skills)*4 is less than the cost of raising an attribute (say, only 4 skills on IQ), raise them and leave the attribute at basic!

Is that realistic? Well, guys, if you spend so much time practising skill sets that depend on a given quality, it's likely this quality is going to improve as well. A strong person is much more likely to learn to do strength-related jobs just by being shown the basics. And yes, this results in characters that are roughly at similar level in their skills, but that's what the XP during the campaign is for.
OTOH, with this method you can start playing almost immediately. Which is what some people are complaining about. So, use it!

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Exalted of the Wulin: my LotW hack for the Exalted

The big, dirty secret is that I've actually written a lot of Exalted conversions. Here is one people actually wanted to see on RPG.net.


Exalted of the Wulin
All Exalted splats are created using a Loresheet. For an example, let me show you Solars.
All techniques and Secret Arts can be used out of combat. If they do, you don't recover spent Chi until next scene. If a combat starts this scene, tough luck for you!
In a combat, the Exalted mobilise all their powers, but out of it, they're not as focused. They were created to be living weapons, the martial artists that can topple the Primordials - and they excelled in this.
It's governance afterwards where they turned out to suck mightily...

Castes are renamed: Dawn is Warrior (duh!). Eclipse is Courtier. Zenith is Priest. Twilight is Predictionist. And of course, Night is Doctor. Yeah, doctor - who else would be better at sneaking and poisoning, not to mention using nerve strikes? There's a reason why Ebon Shadow relies heavily on that.
Anima banners give you away, unless you're a Night that pays 2 Chi at the start of every round. Zeniths can use 1 Chi per a zombie to send their souls to reincarnation. For 1 Chi, Dawns can deal 1 more Ripple to crowds and Lesser Legends. And Eclipses can create a free Major Passion Hypoactivity, based on Predictionism, which states you get -10 on everything until (atonement condition set by the GM) happens, if you break a Vow.
The difficulty to remove it is 150! So, basically, ain't going to happen, barring extraordinarily circumstances.

The Great Curse is gone! What PC needs mechanical incentives to act like an obsessed demigod in a world of cutout figures? (Yeah, I'm joking, but not much).
Well, almost: designate an Orthodox Virtue. Each time you get a Deed in its Selfish counterpart, apply the limit breaks that corresponds most closely!

All PCs starting as Celestials get a free 15 pts of Entanglement, as per the rules, and a 10 points extra that they can only use on this Loresheet. They have to buy it (well, only the Solars, of course).

Solaroid Exaltation (5 pts)
0: You get a free +20 to all Skill rolls related to your Caste, as well as to combat*. This counts as a Loresheet bonus, so it stacks with everything.
5: Status: Lawgivers (with spirits that recognise it, mostly).
-5: Enemy of the Immaculate order, the Bronze Faction and pretty much everyone in the setting.
5 Flaw: You can have the Hunted by the Wyld Hunt disadvantage! It can be free if it's your first or second disadvantage.

2: Lunar ally: you've found your Lunar Mate! What can he or she tell you about yourself?
2: Technique: the Lunar can teach you the Eight-limbed demon god technique, allowing you to use your Unarmed with Paired.
-2: Your Lunar Mate is suspicious of Solars, knowing the stories of what has happened in the First Age. Apply a +5 bonus to their attempts to resist your suggestions.
-3: ...and he or she knows them first-hand. Apply a +10 Bonus to their attempts. And they're at least 1 Rank above you, more likely 2 Ranks. Did you hurt them way back when? That's determined by whoever purchased you this Deed.

3: Gold Faction allies: they will provide you with training!
3 Technique: Palm knows no distance - combine Unarmed and Ranged.
-2: They will also instil into you a respect for them. Get a Paired Passion/Inspiration condition: You get a +5 when following the advice of Viziers, but a -5 when acting against it.

5: Achievement: You have attracted the attention of a Deathlord, who wants you as an ally - maybe even as a non-Abyssal ally.
Alternatively, you could have them chasing you in order to make you an Abyssal, but that would be a Disadvantage.

10: Achievement: You have learned to master your Essence! Add 1 point of Enlightened Chi.

*Non-Solaroid Celestials would get a +15, DBs would get a +10, and Spirit-Blooded and heroic mortals would get a +5 to the same.


...And so on, and so forth. I can write this Loresheet until it becomes longer than some systems, but that's not the point. I'm sure individual Wulin Sages can and will add to it!

Saturday, 23 November 2013

FWTD: Nathan Trenchard's journal

JOURNAL ENTRY 2

About ten days passed since my last journal entry. I left the hospital as soon as I could. My injury was grave, but not life threatening and I am sure that there is someone out there who needs medical attention more than me. I would probably get a scar from this.
After I went to my hotel, I decided to give a public inspirational speech to the citizens of Manhattan. Such events always had a positive outcome back home. I donned my battle armor, to look more confident and impressive and went outside. I found a modest elevated object and started my heartfelt speech. It turned out good in my opinion – but the reaction from the crowd was half-hearted, at the best. Only a few people stopped by to listen and I think they amused themselves at my expense. There was even some poor misguided soul, who gave me a flyer about something called “The Church of Collin”. Very downtrodden… and disgusting. Well, I tried my best. Next time I’ll think of something more productive. But I haven’t given up on the whole idea.
The next day I went to the hospital, bearing flowers and some presents for Michaela. After all, it was my fault that I did not protect her. She beamed at the sight of my material expression of apology.
Oh, thank you, these are really nice, especially the oranges. I like oranges!”, she chirped.
No problem”, I said. “I wanted to apologize for my failure in standing by your side in that Collin encounter. May your soul be whole soon and your inner harmony be restored in its entirety.”
Michaela looked puzzled. It seemed that my verbal apology should have been withheld. Again, I did not understand. What was wrong with my day-to-day speech that it made people balk with blank stares at me?

After going to Michaela, I went back to the hotel. To my surprise, someone was already in my room, though the lock was intact. The stranger was standing by the window, faintly illuminated by the weak light that was coming from the dirty glass. He was tall and wore an expensive black suit.
I was waiting for you”, he said in neutral tone.
You were? I did not know I had an appointment. Excuse me, then, for making You wait”, I replied politely. “Please, have a seat.”
He thanked stiffly and sat at the edge of a rickety chair. I asked him what brings him here.
Our agreement”, he said in the same smooth monotone. “You have agreed, sometime ago in the near past, to find a particular person. I am here to remind you about this.”
My mind raced. Near past? Could it be something with connected to my recent memory loss? I had to know more.
When did I we made this agreement?”
About three weeks ago.”
I was right. It was connected to my mysterious blank spot. But, at the same time, I had made a promise. And a promise cannot be broken. I had first to fulfill my duty.
Ok, I will uphold my end of the agreement. Who is this person that You need found?”
A woman. Goes by the name Natasha. She may have other aliases and has been elusive for quite some time.”
And why do You need her found?”
The suit smiled wryly.
This is out of the discussion”, he replied in dry tone. “Our reasons are our own. What matters is that you fulfill your end of the deal.”
Alright. Until when I have to find this Antoinette?”
Oh, no rush. She will be hard to catch. When is not of prime concern. The important part is to be done.” The suit rose and started to leave.
Wait. How will I contact You to report my progress?”, I asked.
No need. I’ll keep in touch instead.” And with that, he left.
I remained alone with my thoughts. Hm, the plot thickens. But still, one must be in peace with himself in order to be in harmony with the Universe. This Antoinette issue can wait. I said my evening prayers, had some quick meal and then went to my shift.

When I finally went back to work, commander Leila already was responding to a maximum priority distress signal. There has been a shootout in the city. All Night Shifts were on high alert. The situation had to be contained quickly, or the National Guard would have to interfere. No wonder everyone was jumpy. I personally was resolved as always and said a few prayers before leaving HQ.
We went to the site of the accident. We found one dead person on the rooftop of some building. Asian, by the looks of him, probably Chinese. Beside him lay a heavy antimaterial Barret sniper rifle. The body was brutally beaten and maimed. What was odd is that the dead Asian looked like a hired killer, not a victim. After a brief inquiry, we found out that his intended target was been in a diner across the street, but there were no windows. So, not only a heavy sniper to penetrate the wall, but probably some X-ray imaging also. A high-profile assassination then. Only, the assassin was the one to lay dead afterwards.
One of the clients of the diner was also dead. A woman, quite attractive and comparatively young. She and her sister had been sitting at the table, were the assassin had aimed. After careful questioning the sister explained that there were a man sitting with them, also Chinese. He had been laying his head on the lap of the victim, when the first shot had penetrated the wall. According to the witness report, he then had jumped with lightning speed and stormed out of the restaurant. Presumably, he was our only suspect for the killing of the shooter. Which seemed quite the feat if it had been actually achieved.
We photographed the scene, took data for the forensics team and called HQ that the situation was under control. After that, having still enough time on shift, our unit conducted regular patrolling for the rest of the night.
When we returned to HQ, I used the police database to run a search about Antoinette. Big surprise here – she indeed had multiple aliases, one of which was Natasha. So, Natasha and Antoinette were the one and same person. She was wanted from the FBI, NYPD and private corporations, for several serious crimes and illegal activities, including drug trafficking and black market dealing of biotech. Pretty long record. So, three weeks ago I had agreed on finding one dangerous criminal and had no memory of it. How Natasha was connected to me? And better yet, what have I gotten myself into? Does it have something with my mysterious arrival in Manhattan?
Better to find out.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Tianxia/FATE Core: First session

So, we played our first session (face-to-face, despite the link later talking about PbP). It's more "Chinese Hercules" and less "Hero", but it's definitely fun.
However, since I've posted an Actual Play already, it seems redundant to do it again. So, here's the link to the Big Purple!


http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?708364-FATE-Core-Tianxia-Warring-Schools

And here's a draft of the character I'm playing. WARNING, the rest of the characters aren't from our group, and this isn't about our game! I just posted a character for review (one of his Aspects is different now, though (Got rid of the "searching my sister" aspect and picked a Tai Lung got me once"Aspect).
http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?707815-FATE-Tianxia-Characters-from-my-PbP&p=17344651#post17344651
Seems like I've mistaken a rule interpretation, but it didn't matter. I've only used Forest techniques in the session, and not all of them!

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Wuxia tale, totally UNoriginal: Guess which country is this tale actually from?




I wanted to illustrate that yes, Eastern and Western tales aren't so far apart. To this goal, I wrote my own wuxia tale. Here it is... Can you guess which tale am I re-telling, wuxia-style?
It doesn't count if you already knew the answer!

"There was Li, the son of a farmer, was born in his village. Due to serious illness in his youth, he was unable to walk until the age of 33. He could only lie on a Northern oven, gathering Yang energy, until he was miraculously healed by two pilgrims. Then, secure in his amassed Yang energy which he now could use to fight and not to prolong his life, he went on to challenge the wandering xia known as the Sacred Mountain.
Turned out, the Sacred Mountain was almost a mountain in his own right! Albeit sleeping, he was a master of Golden Bell and remained unhurt from Li's attack, after Li went to hit him with his iron rod. Instead, he grabbed Li and put him in his pocket, so he could finish his sleep.
After awaking, they talked and became friends. But they only wandered so long together: Li and Sacred Mountain found a coffin, and it was a giant stone coffin! Both had a premonition, with celestial spirits and dragons descending from Heavens to imply that it is for Sacred Mountain. But what would a living man need a coffin for?
Li managed to lie down in the coffin first, but it was too large for him. It did, however, fit Sacred Mountain perfectly. When the giant xia closed the lid, it sealed to the coffin. Before it sealed completely, however, he did manage to infuse his breath with part of his powerful Chi, and give it to Li. His breath was the only part of him that could still leave the coffin!
Li went on to serve prince Wan the Fair Sun. Along the way he single-handedly defended a city from nomadic invasion and was offered honours by the local ruler, but Li declined to stay. In the forests, he killed the forest-dwelling monster Nightingale the Robber, who could stun or even murder travellers with his powerful whistle! The monster was a heterodox monk who, in emulating the Chi of birds, had developed partial bird like features! On one hand, he was able to fly, on the other, despite having a human family, he lived in a nest, and received drinks with his hands.
Nightingale the Robber was said to live in a forest and would sit in a tree by the road to Beijing, and stun strangers with his powerful whistle. He was recognised by his scream, "All the grasses and meadows become entangled, the azure flowers lose their petals, all the dark woods bend down to the earth, and all the people there lie dead!"
It was a mighty battle! Nightingale the Robber levelled half the forest - but he was defeated by Li by his thrown daggers, who struck him in the eye and temple, then dragged the defeated villain to Wan. He wished to hear Nightingale the Robber whistle, but the creature claimed he was too wounded to whistle. Nightingale the Robber requested wine to drink so that his wounds would disappear, then he would whistle for the prince. When he whistled all of Wan's palaces were destroyed and many lay dead. After this, Li took Nightingale the Robber into an open field and cut off his head.
In Kiev, Ilya was declared Wulin Senior, Hero of the army, by the Prince. He defended his country from numerous attacks by the steppe people, including the Golden Horde's chief. Generous and simple-minded but also temperamental due to his excessive Yang, Li once went on a rampage and destroyed all the pagodas in Beijing, after Prince Wan failed to invite him to a celebration. He was soon appeased when the prince sent for him, though."


The answer would be given in the comments, if anyone comments.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

How we acquired new players - the growth of the hobby

Many people are saying that they've got a problem finding a replacement player for their group.
Personally, I find that we've got the opposite problem. Two brand-new players were waiting
for me to find free spots in a group.

And we just managed to attract another two players last week-end. No, wait, that's wrong: two newbies found us and asked nicely to be accepted, we did nothing but gather at the regular time... unlike the other two, which we found after organising an Open RPG Day.
Either way, there were no problems, of course. We're planning to start them within 2 weeks from the day they asked. Which is less than the other two had to wait, but sometimes, the waiting period is down to luck.

One of those that found us* is brand new to RPGs in general. She's got quite a bit of experience with boardgames -  she mentioned going to competitions - so I'd expect systems not to be a problem. We'll see about the roleplaying part.

The other guy is looking for a group, but has been unable to find one for a while. He has played before. Still, even not counting him, that still means we've got 3 newbies that haven't played an RPG before.

So, have you got a steady influx of new players, or do you find it hard getting new players? Either way: why?
(My own answer: I'm following the ideas in Ron Edwards' Sorcerer and Sword long before I read his suggestions. That explains more than half of my - let's call it a success).







*How a player found us instead of the other way around: a cautionary tale, or at least a hopefully-funny one
Our latest and newest player found us simply by virtue of the group playing in a boardgame store (where they loan you a table to play the game of your choice with your friends, for as long as you want, for 1 EU per person).
She seemed like a regular, or I think I've seen her already. So, while we were setting up the map of Manhattan 2080, the dice and the rest, she approached us and asked what we're playing.
"RPG. You know what it is, or do you want me to assign Victor and Kalin to explain while we start the game with Teodora?"
Immediately after I said it, I sensed she was ready to react sharply at this point. I remembered from RPG.net many female players are embarrassed that men assume they don't know what the game is. So I...kept going, discarding the advice of the good people on RPG.net.
Mainly, I interrupted her objections - not polite, and definitely something people on RPG.net would advise you against. But I had decided it makes sense.
"Well, people here tend to be into boardgames. Some of them aren't familiar with RPGs, so we're used to offering explanations."
That did the trick - she probably knew people that weren't aware what RPGs are, herself. And if it was necessary to explain, obviously I wasn't trying to single her out, not for her gender nor for any other reason.
(Thank you, RPG.net, for warning me that yes, female players are more likely to feel some asshole is singling them out! In all honesty, I'd offer to explain it to anyone, male or female - but I understand why she might be a bit edgy. And understanding helped smoothing it out).
So she asked who's running it, which was me this week. And she asked to watch. She has said she knows what an RPG is, and I believed her. Still, she has never participated.
So I assigned it to the players that weren't in the starting scene to explain what's going on - which is surprisingly hard if you're unfamiliar with the setting - and stopped paying her attention. Rude? No, it simply means a Referee can only spare so much attention to people that aren't playing!
I was amazed after I realised she has remained close to an hour. IMO, watching roleplayers is like watching a radio novel, meaning some people do that, but it still amazes me!
So I figured she might really be interested - or starting to get interested, hopefully (we're always on the lookout for new players). Still, she has only asked to watch... so I made the next step.
"Would you like to try playing?"
"Yes, I've always wanted to!"
Now, that was a new. I've always assumed that in a boardgame store, if you want to join, you go and ask people whether they'd teach you the rules. Hey, that's what I do - and I've seldom been turned away!
So, we exchanged e-mails and phones (or rather, I gave her my e-mail and phone). She promised to e-mail me, and she did the night after that.
Long story short, she starts the next week. She could have started this week, but she's got a scheduled boardgame tournament.
So her first game is likely to be a FATE Tianxia one-shot. After that, the plan is for her to join our on-going Fates Worse Than Death campaign, which is what she has already seen. Depending on the one-shot success, we might come to alternate weeks between them, though.

I suspect there's at least a bit of a regional difference. Boardgames have never been considered an odd thing around here, including adults playing them. This might have something to do with the popularity of chess, backgammon, card games and games like yahtzee.
Sure, the first roleplayers were geeks, indeed. The current crop is no more geeky than society seems to accept as normal. So we're not a big part of the mainstream, but we're not singled out, either. Hey, there was recently a LARP-boardgames event that had received the support of the Bulgarian Ministry of Education!
Still, I doubt it's that different in most of Europe, and even in the USA. Maybe some people in the Bible Belt still believe RPGs are satanic (thanks to Jack Chick and assorted fundies), but outside of it? I'd bet you can start a new group more or less at will, if you do some legwork.

Seems like I'll be playing narrative games for a while...

I just realised that when reviewing the list of games our group is planning to run...
Nights of the Crusades is the closest we're planning to get to a simulationist game. Most of the others are explicitly story-games. FATE Core/Tianxia and Kausao, Cat, Blood&Honor (maybe, and re-skinned if we do), Sorcerer.
Nothing weird, it just struck me as something I didn't expect.


End of tonight's update.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

FWTD: Night Shifts, domestic violence, and the power of strength (sessions 9 and onwards, or 11 and onwards)

These are the last 4 sessions of my FWTD game.

The Utopia Child
(Nathan Trenchard – A diary by the player)Continued after “The First Patrol”…
Day 3/4
On the next evening, during my shift we received a regular call. Apparently some perpetrators had rigged a building with traps. Me, commander Leila and another officer, whose name currently eludes me, went on to respond to the signal.
On arrival, I was charged with interrogating the local citizens about the identities and whereabouts of the trap riggers. I didn’t learn much, but at least got one sure address. Just as I reported my progress to commander Leila, we received a call for back-up from the nearby abandoned building. We responded immediately.
Inside, there was another police officer, Michaela was her name, another very thin and small-framed woman and a young man, his wrists bound with hand-cuffs and sitting on the ground. Commander Leila asked what is happening here. Officer Michaela responded that this was one of the suspects who placed traps around the area. At this point the man, who was actually a juvenile, made a spiteful and angry retort. I kneeled down to his eye level and asked:
“Why did you do this?”
“Fuck you!”, he responded with cold hate.
“Why do you insult me?”
“Because you can stuff your dick up your ass!”
“And why should I do that?”
“I don’t know. Because you like dicks inside your cavities?”, was the sneer reply.
I felt pity for his clearly troubled condition and said:
“I sense a lot of confusion and darkness in your soul. You must calm yourself.”
“I am calm. You, on the other hand, all of you”, he surveyed the room, “will die.”
“Everybody dies sooner or later”, I replied unfazed.
“Oh, but your will be soon. Very soon”, said he with a menace in his tone.
“And why is that?”
“Didn’t I told you to go fuck yourself?”, the young man said, resorting to his earlier contempt-seething insults.
I stood up.
“You have something that troubles you greatly”, I said to him in a soft voice. “You need to meditate and try and find inner harmony.”
“I don’t need any meditation. You will die and that going to happen soon.”
My face hardened slightly. “We’ll see.”
I turned and faced commander Leila, who was laughing again at some unfamiliar notion. Michaela and the other cop were chuckling, too.
“Commander, do you know who this man is?”
She composed herself and manhandled the suspect, knocking him against the wall, adding what I believe to be a few unnecessary extra punches.
“All that there is to know, is that you have to handle these guys with a side order of maximum police brutality,” Leila replied to me. Then she turned and hissed in the man’s ear: “Now, tell me where are your friends, and I won’t break your head open.”
“You’ll get nothing from me, bitch. You will die!”
“Wrong answer,” she said coldly a hit him with her club. He dropped on the floor, panting.
“Huh, this one will be hard to crack” said Michaela nonchalantly.
“Will someone please explain me who this man is?” I asked, having lost patience. “Is he related to some gang or not? You seem to know his lot.”
Commander Leila looked at my helmet and suddenly a devilish smile flashed on her face:
“I will tell you, if you headbutt him.”
“No. That will be against protocol.”
“Suit yourself. I’ll let you then to wonder.”
I hesitated. It was wrong, the deed she asked me to commit. My eyes glanced quickly to the young man. Something was not right about him. But… to hit him while he is helpless? That was low, no matter his crimes.
“Time’s ticking”, said Leila. “Decide already.”
My short time in this city has showed me how dangerous was to be in the dark, without knowledge or information about even basic things. I weighted my options. What good it was to persist? A dead man cannot atone past sins.
I straightened the apprehended man and said to him:
“Forgive me.”
Then gave him a hard blow with the helmet.
“Good”, said commander Leila. “I shouldn’t pity him, though. He is a Collin.”
“What is ‘a Collin’?”
“He’s still new, isn’t he?”, interjected Michaela casually.
“You have no idea” muttered Leila and elaborated on my question: “Collin is a serial killer from the recent past. But instead of killing his victims, he download his consciousness into their bodies. Thus he copies himself.”
“He what– how he does that?” I asked astonished.
Leila looked at me as if I was some sort of a tribal.
“With mental installers, of course! Aren’t you Utopia Childs supposed to be advanced and familiar with technology?”
“We are, but… a mental installer in not something you have in your closet.”
“In principle, yes, but in this city there are a lot of hidden installers left behind since the Freedom Wars. So, in practice, you can have one in your closet, if you are lucky enough.”
I looked wordlessly at the man on the ground.
“So this… this Collin, he… he uses the bodies of his victims to make… copies of himself?”
“Correct.”
“He… he destroys people’s minds?” I felt anger slowly boiling inside me. “He denies them their life in such vulgar and abhorrent way, possibly leaving them with a torn soul?! Disrupting their natural harmony for his own sick pleasure!?”
“Well”, said Leila a little uncertain, “I wouldn’t think of saying it that way, but yes.”
Now I was outraged. Such pervesion was beyond anything I have encountered in my life. Such brutal way of taking one freedom, one’s path of creating his destiny, was beyond salvation. This Collin has to be destroyed, for the good of all of creation.
I turned gave the Collin a vicious kick in the ribs.
“Bravo!”, exclaimed Leila. “Now I like you more.”
I tried to compose myself. Leila and the others chatted for a while. It appeared that this might be a Collin hideout, or at least that was the theory. The little woman didn’t speak much. Michaela questioned her what was she doing here. Overall, I think it was just another civilian trying to do the right thing. The world needed more people like her. And less like Collin. At some point, an expensively dressed and authorital man appeared. He introduced himself as a Bleeder* elder and the teacher of the little woman, a Bleeder herself. It seemed he had some personal stake in the matter, but I let commander Leila to handle the details.
During the talks I scanned the building for a possible hideout. After some investigation, one of the inner walls of the building, which was an abandoned warehouse, turned out to be fake. I kicked it, but it was sollid concrete, yet it sounded hollow. Strange. Fortunately, the Bleeder elder had a wrecking crew on call and he went to bring them. Leila and the other officer went out front, to radio for back-up, taking the arrestant with them. Me, Michaela and the Bleeder woman stayed to guard the place. I circled around the rooms and went to what I presumed to be the opposite face of the hollow wall. To my surprise, the wall here was not concrete, but simple plywood. I picked a spot, focused my inner energy and kicked. My boot penetrated the thin obstruction and my leg sank to its knee.
Immidiately, I called for back-up. Michaela came instantly. While we were staring at the dark gaping hole, suddenly something swooshed from inside and hit my armored uniform. A knife. Seconds later, a man entered the room. Somehow something was not right with him and I yelled him to remain motionless. He did not comply. Instead, he thrust out his hand at Michaela and sprayed her eyes with small pepper spray. Michaela reeled with a yelp and stumbled. The uknown man then brought out a knife and walked towards me.
“Stop! You are under arrest!”, I yelled, tipping my sword in his direction.
He jumped and attacked me. It was short, but intensive fight. I retained my distance, so I could have combat advantage. That was a mistake. The moment I drew myself backwards, he turned and sliced Michaela’s throat while she was still stunned. I screamed in rage and charged the Collin (for now I knew what was he).
I killed him and then hurried to help Michaela. Noises were coming from the broken drywall and the place was too dangerous for triage. I dragged my fellow officer in the next room, where the Bleeder girl looked for us with frightened expression. I had little time, because new attackers could emerge any second, so I hurriedly took out my medkit and started giving first aid. I quickly bandaged the wound and reduced the bloodloss to the best of my abilities.
“Stay with here and guard her!”, I ordered the Bleeder and took out my radio, raising code alarm for officer down and multiple armed and dangerous suspects.
Soon commander Leila and a whole platoon of police officers arrived at the scene. A medical unit took care of Michaela and transported her to the hospital. The Bleeder elder and his wrecking crew also arrived, but their job was already done. We found the fake wall wide open in a concrete double-door fashion.
We cautiously raided the place, but no one was to be found. What was interesting is that in the hidden basement we found a working mental installer. The Collins had started a automatic memory wipe and it had almost finished. I urged for the process to be stopped and some tech guys went forward and tried to halt the memory wipe. They were not doing well, so I decided to step in personally and having little expertise in computers, I did the best layman’s solution… pulling the plug.
The technical team said I saved about 10% data. Better than nothing.
At the far end of the basement there was a solid metal door with a code panel lock. Presumably that’s where the Collins retreated. Nobody could unlock the door and I think even the wrecking crew of the Bleeder elder would have had a hard time with it.
We left the technical team to salvage the portable components under guard and our patrol unit took to the streets again.
It was near the end of the shift when commander Leila suddenly requested of us to remove out badges. I was bewildered, but she gave an order, so I complied. Then we went north in Skin Borgs’ territory. We arrived at the entrance of some secluded building, which was well guarded. Commander Leila took a different posture and said to us to act as her bodyguards. Hmm. So, this was going to be an undercover action. Alright.
We went inside. There was quite the crowd and some form of a pit in which there was some fight going on. (Fight being a relative term) While it lacked real skill, it seemed very brutal. The combatants were savagely swinging at one another and the mob was shouting. Bets were being made.
“Hey, could just stay like this?”, commander Leila suddenly said.
“Yes–, uh, okay.”
She took out some sort of a decorative brooch looking like a flower and clipped it to her shirt. Then, to my surprise the flower made a series of buzzing and clicking noises. After a few minutes, commander Leila said:
“Done. Let me buy you a drink now, boys. You drink, right?”, she asked me.
“Occasionally.”, I agreed reluctantly.
“Then let’s go.”
We went to the bar and the commander ordered three beers. I sipped mine and Leila said:
“Now, look around for this man.” She desribed him. “He’s our informant.”
I scanned the premises, pretending to be doing it casually. There was no need. The informant emerged from the crowd, evidently recognizing Leila. They had a short conversation and he left. We remained for two, maybe three minutes more and then Leila beckoned for us to leave too.
Trouble was waiting for us at the door. We were just leaving, when the guards blocked our way.
“The boss wants to see you three”, rumbled one of them.
“Your boss can see me some other time”, retorted Leila. “I’m leaving.”
“You will come with us”, said the guard, with a threat in his voice.
Leila glanced at us.
“Leave her alone”, I said coldly. “She is my commande…”
“Your commander. Exactly”, the guard responded with satisfaction. “Come with us. Right now.”
Again, I made a mistake. We went with the guards upstairs. On the way, commander Leila glanced at me angrily and muttered something about whose commander is who.
We were brought to a relative small open room, which was overlooking the hall underneath. In the room’s centre was a lounge with a big, authentic-looking throne. There was a woman sitting on the throne. She had above average attractivness and wore a toga. Beside her, two large bodyguards resided.
The woman rose from her throne and said to Leila:
“You have something that I want.”
“And what is that?”, asked commander Leila.
“This trinket on your shirt. Is it for sale?”
“No.”
“Pity. I would have gladly paid for it. But you will have to part with it anyway.”
“I won’t do that,” said Leila firmly.
“Oh, but I suggest you do”, replied the woman with a hollow smile.
“If the commander says she won’t give something, you cannot force her”, I interjected. “We are police officers, representing the authorities here.”
“Oh, but I know you are from the police”, explained the woman sweetly. “That is why I ordered my guards to bring you here. Now, give me the brooch! I will not ask again.”
“Like hell”, exclaimed commander Leila. With lightning reflexes, she pulled a knife and stabbed the neares guard. A fight broke out.
There were two guard beside the woman and the three who brought us here, making a total of five in the immidiate vicinity. Two jumped at Leila, two more at the third member of our patrol unit and one at me. It was going to be a tough battle.
I quickly dispatched my oponent. Leila was doing okay, even better than me. She had already neutralized one of the guard and was attacking the next one. Unfortunatelly, the other police officer received a heavy blow and was out of the fight. The two remaining guards attacked me, but I managed to parry their strikes. I wounded fatally one of them and deflected the blow from the other. Just as I was going to remove him too, he suddenly thrust out his katana in a suicidal attack. The blade tore deeply in my neck, where the uniform was not protecting it. Blood started spilling. Shouts were coming from downstairs.
“Run!”, yelled Leila and bolted.
Me and the other officer supressed our injuries to the best of our ability and shuffled quickly after her. We stomed out of the building, my vision quickly fading from bloodloss.
And there, our salvation was awaiting. The street was swarming with police officers, strike teams and EMTs. We ran straight to them, while the police forces stormed the building. A couple of paramedics stabilized my bleeding and before I know, I was on an ambulance on a way to the hostipal, just as Michaela.
I spend the rest of the day and the day after on bed. The last operation was a close call.

*I presume Bleeders are yet another city gang and from what I gathered, big enough to be recognised on the radar.
(Summary provided by the player)

Dimitri, Orphan
Having killed a Hunter - as you remember, Orphans tend to hate those, because they don't hesitate to kill children, if that's their profile - Dimitri went back. Seeing better opportunities to get influent, he put his special skills on work among Orphans.
Which is to say, he started cooking them free meals, and making them tasty (more with good dice on the Cha+Skill rolls, than with actual skill, but whatever). Keep in mind, the biggest Orphans are maybe in their early 20ies...
Yes. It was a success. He almost got groupies... almost. His generally low charisma impeded him in fully enjoying his popularity, but he didn't mind.
And then he went on to Sexologist turf. Hey, these are the guys we agree with on so many levels...
Yup, he managed to pick up a Sexologist (that was actually roleplayed out, with me and the other players present all assuming the roles of one Sexologist - at the end, it was my chick that fell for him).
The next day, however, he went for a walk of the Orphans' turf despite the highly polluted time. And he met a guy (a Jack) who wanted money - big surprise...
He actually offered him something. "You an Orphan? I happen to know someone in this building is beating his kid a lot!"
Dimitri didn't trust him enough to give him money (and was right), but then he decided to investigate nonetheless. But while he was circling the building, he got himself ambushed by 3 Addict Muggers.
Continued drug use isn't good for your health, and it means your overall combat ability also suffers. Unless you compensate with experience, you'd risk ending up like them. That is, beaten 3 to 1 by a single guy. He ran them away, making them promise they wouldn't make troubles in Orphan turf any more, and an window opened.
"Hey, boy, good job. Want a tea?"
It was a senior shut-in, who had good opinion on Orphans. And she told him a lot about the inhabitants. Turned out, the man at the top floor actually was beating his boy...
That was due to random rolls, not what the Jack said. It was a red herring for all the Jack knew.
Dimitri went up to pick the guy when a young kid of about 12 yo went down to bring beer for the father. He got the father on the WC, and sent the kid out.
"Go out for a walk, I want to talk with him in private", he explained loading his crossbow.
Yeah.
And then when the father, ex-Night Shift, tried to be less-than-polite (verbally), Dimitri shot him. Short fuse.
And then, because we're not in Magic Death Wand land, the father scrambled to get a taser, which was his home protection. Dimitri jumped away. But then the man tried to call ambulance, while Dimitri was re-loading. And the Orphans charged, trying to shoot again.
He never did. The Taser got him well, and he lost conscience. If he had woken up, he would have discovered plastic restraints.
At least, the guy survived, so it's going to "only" be attempted murder instead of a full-blown trial.
But his lawyer is a moron. Good thing he managed to persuade him to send word to the Orphanage.
The Orphans sent him a better one after a vote. But they warned him, he owes them the wages of this guy, gang brother or not. And he gets paid by the hour, because he's that good!
Ouch!
Well, you need the best if you're caught on the scene of an attempted murder. Right?

The Boarder
He joined us recently...and this might be the last we see of him. Whatever.
The boarder is a guy who's incredibly fast and agile, despite his relatively small stature. Well, so much could be expected.
He also happens to dislike conflicts, and doesn't know the city all that well, which makes him a very rare one. But at least, he's got a well-decked out slipboard! (This happens when you're an Indie. Sure, all Boarders get a free slipboard, but the money he actually paid for to add more extras, out of his starting funds?
Our Black Med, and all Street People PCs, start out with less money in total. Virtually indestructible? Check. Jump pack? Check. Alarm system? Check.)
...It all began with a text message. "See you where we met last. There could be good stunting there".
Now, he sees part of the fighting on 145th street every time he goes out - because he lives on 145th street!
Yeah, I guess a slipboard was just a necessary feature in order to avoid the wargangs going in and out...
Anyway. He passed the battlefield like most people pass through drivethru stores, except even faster. At 51 km/h, it's a bit hard for most people to react - especially when they're busy fighting other people. And they were.
For that matter, some of them had been toppled by a Night Shift cop riding a reactive motorcycle. Yes, reactive. Even the Boarder thought this guy is driving dangerous, and that's saying something.
Either way, the PC went on his way, deep into Skin Borg territory. They had to purchase gas masks on the way there, because pollution was high this day. The cost was triple, and one of them remained behind to try and get another bargain.
They're yet to see him, but he has probably decided against the purchase, one of them suggested. It was a rip-off for the new guys, who didn't own gasmasks already.
The rest of them used a building with quite an elaborate stairs in front of it to make better stunts - continuing into the alley of a small park, where they could get maximum speed.
Except there were Skin Borgs on the place, and they were buzzed - more than usual, that is. Actually, the three of them moved to intercept the guys. The PC dodged it, as well as most of the other Boarders.
When they stopped after the chase, they found out they're one down. The 6 of them were amazed, but one explained he had seen him dropping after one of the Skin Borgs has managed to strike him on the head. He then raced after them in order to gather them, but actually slipped and fell, becoming the slowest one (yeah, he rolled a 1 on the driving roll). Well, he did roll with it, and had knee-elbow pads, but still!
So they went and noticed the guy in front of the house. It was then that the three Skin Borgs rushed from a nearby door, swinging lead pipes and skullcrushers. That was a trap, it seemed - and those guys were seriously buzzed.
It was then that the PC lead the...retreat, shall we say. Of course they outran them, but the guy was still there, lying with bleeding foot and face. Only one remained.
(He found them later, and reported he's got a telescopic in the ribs, but had managed to slam his slipboard against a Skin Borg, while jumping. Given the acceleration, that means broken ribs, as everyone knew - even through the high-tech armour Skin Borgs favour).
So, they went back. The guy had lead the Skin Borgs on a chase after that, so they were probably still searching for him. Trouble was, they didn't know how to move the unconscious one without making his condition harder.
So they sent a couple to look for a Black Med, and the rest dragged him into an abandoned house. The med, a latino-looking guy, tried to follow them with his own roller-skates, but tripped and fell, sustaining nasty injuries. After that, he refused to do more than walking.
Be as it may, he managed to help the guy... well, mostly.
"I can fix the open break in his foot, setting the bones together. I can give him something for the pain. I can tell you he doesn't seem to have sustained brain damage. But for the cuts near his eye? Go find a better-equipped doctor, you seem like the kind that has insurance that covers that. It's safer to tamper with his eye when you've got machines."
So they did. And it actually made better impression among indies than trying and failing.
At least one of the Boarders, though, was pissed off. And he asked our guy to help him stage a meeting. It began with the guy addressing them in the following manner:
"Guys and gals, chicas and chicos, none of you's a lady nor a gentleman, and I don't hate you enough to call you brothers and sisters..."
At the end, he talked around 15 of them to jump the Skin Borgs and give them a lesson. (It was especially easy with some of them... a half-Russian chick lugging a broadsword around actually exclaimed "I don't want to do that, but these skin borgs gotta learn that in Mother Russia, the board rides you!" And as far as anyone knows, she's never been in Russia, nor outside of the city for that matter).
Anyway. Our Boarder went for it, too, not willing to show needless restraint. For the fight, they decided to ambush the Skin Borgs near the Lumens, because there are always some of them hanging to maybe catch a cultist. The PC jumped on a balcony, then landed on a Skin Borg, knocking him down - and activated his Jump Drive.
Yeah, this one wasn't getting up any time soon anyway.
The only drawback? The PC got his leg broken by a skullcrusher's swing. Well, the Russian chick brought the other guy down with her swing, but it still hurt.
So the Black med actually got some more business tonight, when they carried him to the same place. The Boarder paid lots more than he was expected to, but so it goes when you don't haggle.

The Black Med
Fixed some people up, and got more than a bit of money from some Indies that needed emergency help. See the Boarder entry.
And one of them asked for a knockout drug. Why? Well, his friend tended to beat her. "He's not that bad...he just needs a little calming down when I say something that makes him angry!" He didn't say anything - other than a price and exact dosage. He also explained what would happen if it happened to become an overdose. Just in case.
(And if you think that "I say something that makes him angry" is a red flag, you're right. But at least once, the "date rape drug" was going to be used to prevent a date rape. And the icing on top, which the PCs might uncover or not? It's not a boyfriend...it's her brother. Yes, I said it's messed up).
 Our doctor also talked with some kid gang. They needed some wounds and rashes taken care of, and he did so - for a kitchenknife spear. And they made a deal.
"See, man - there's these Wells, ya know? We've slept in their building's entry a couple times, and happen ta know them wife is always beating on Mr Softie Husband when there's a power outage. She tends to throw plates. So he usually needs stitches."
"So, I should wait for a power outage?"
"Nah, men - that's why we get 50% of what he pays you. There's going to be a power outage tonight. My nose can predict it."
And there was. The man had something like 12$, but the Street Doctor just said "then you'll owe me... 20$ it is, total. I'll come to collect the other 10$ tomorrow, you can just sleep there on the stairs and not risk the night city".
The guy agreed (and actually saved his life, as my random tables showed).
There's lots of demand for medical services in the city. But it's also not always at convenient places. So sometimes, you gotta create some demand...


The Freak
There is lots and lots of stuff going on with the Freak. So much, in fact, that I'd only notice the important events.
-She hooked up with Yellow. They share a common trait: a sex drive well over the top (and through the roof). Well, if you ask them, they're just bed buddies.
-She managed to find the Black Trader named Natasha (presumably a wrong shortening of the word Anastasya), which should appear in the Utopia Child write-up. That was accomplished by the simplest possible method: Remember she's dressing up Goth style. Find the nearest Goth party. Work the network to get everyone to notice you. Get the bartender to tell her you're looking for her.
Then plant a psychic bug on her guard (who turned out to be gay by the random table, and he didn't approve her hugging him while at work - but then a Freak behaving oddly isn't all that weird).
Then she managed to gather a contingent of several gangs to capture her.
This lead to our Freak learning that yes, the Black Trader has been paid to provide secondary nanotech armour to the Skin Borgs. In fact, it seems they got a -30%, which is a whole lot of money.
-She managed to invite Yellow to the hunt. That's partly why the guards of Natasha were so edgy and expected trouble. (As it goes: she managed to call him while he was fucking a Skin Borg. Well, he came to help them, but also pocketed the prize for the warning).


The Bleeder
Not so many things here...
-She keeps being sent to crime scenes by her master. That's how she managed to obtain blood from Colin: the Night Shift gave it to her. They wanted an insight into his mind.
She managed to sell it at a good price to other Bleeders.
-She kinda screwed up with the whole "get the lover of my daughter off her, because he's beating her" order. She did get him off the chick - the guy was a Day Shift, but that wasn't the issue... the issue was, he was slick and made the girl feel she's guilty for being struck.
Sick, I know, but what would you expect from a corrupt cop with sadistic leanings?
So, she used a spy pigeon, and filmed him getting off with a Sex Worker (whom she paid in advance). Did I mention he's sadistic?
When they uploaded the video, it became an instant hit - because hey, amateur porn sites liked it! And news sites liked it, too.
The trouble was, the Master's daughter not only broke up with him, she also ordered her to kill the guy off. (Her father has no idea, actually - she's just abusing her privileges).
So she enlisted a fellow Bleeder, known as the Bloody Bear (for muscles, not temperament) and they waited for him outside a bar. He paid BB with Collin blood, of course. Well, the Master's daughter owes her a favour.
-The only issue was, they didn't notice a CCTV. A Day Shift visited her soon after to ask for a bribe. She's desperately looking for ways to gain money right now.


That's about it for now. That's more than a couple sessions worth, but not all characters were in all sessions - that's how our group works, and it's not a problem given the sandbox-y style. So, I plan to stop counting sessions from now.
Either way, it's a problem to decide whether the first two - the ones we played as a one-shot - should count. There's definitely continuity, whether they know that or not!

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Dear RPG diary...

Dear RPG diary,
What happens when an afroamerican expert thief, a Mexican medium, a field biologist, and the dean of the city university - all of them interested in the occult - decide to shoot a porn movie with the help of female students? Well, of said students disappears, and they have to save the city from a demon that's trying to escape from an amulet it has been imprisoned in, that's what.
So far, perfectly normal. But what happens then if they destroy the demon-possessed man who was out for revenge, by using the murderous spirits of dead people, and go back to shooting the movie?
Well, for one thing, then you definitely know you're playing Unknown Armies!
Even if the system is FAE.

In other news: our new GM is great. Some of the players didn't even know it's her first attempt at GMing until the end.
Now we've only got to persuade her she's good enough.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Finished Sorcerer... Next: the Sorcerer supplements

That's just a quick note about what I'm reading. I mean, what are blogs for?
So, just finished Sorcerer by +Ron Edwards (delays did, well, delay me from reading it - and the annotated edition requires critical analysis).
I've only got three notes.
1) At least, now I know what to recommend to new GMs, if I want to get them to run games I like. I call this "The Unfettered GMing style" or "Lazy GMing".
2) I'm continuing with the Sorcerer supplements without delay. And that's an achievement for the author, whether he knows it or not.
3) It's curious how similar the themes and even some mechanics are between Sorcerer, Unknown Armies, and Better Angels - and yet, they differ in subtle but important ways.

And no, don't tell me "how would you run Exalted with this". Because I'm thinking more and more about it...

Anyway.
Off to reading!

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Cool toys for OSR fighters


The current thread on the Big Purple is giving me ideas. It's about whether OSR fighters should have "cool manoeuvres" or not. (And frankly, I think they should, or the wizards and clerics should be brought down a couple notches as well. Fighters are inherently cooler than other classes, but it should be made clear even to fighter-haters, too!)





AFAICT, the two main objections to the fighters having such manoeuvres is a) we don't want to describe each swing, and b) we want more down-to-earth fights. I agree with the latter, FWIW. But let me address how it could be done.
So, I admit I don't get it why people would equate "more powerful/interesting fighters" with "more detail how a swing happens"? 4e proves it ain't so IME. At least, I often can't imagine the specific actions from the movements on the grid.
And it's even arguable whether a 4e fighter is more powerful than a OD&D Fighting (wo)man. I mean, just how often does a 4e Fighter kill 4 kobolds in one attack, minions or not? The 0e Fighting man can do that. So it's about having more interesting options baked in the system (that is, on top of everything else you could and should be doing!)
But fine, let's get down-to-earth. You know what rule would make OSR/TSR-era D&D more down-to-earth while also reducing complexity?
"When the fighter attacks a non-fighter of the same or lower level, he rolls for damage". Possibly add "....rolls the d20, but applies it as damage".
There, you have it. A 1st level Fighting (Wo)Man is a Veteran. IME, when a veteran fights some young buck and sees an opportunity, meaning "his/her turn in initiative came", the other guy is in for a world of hurt. Seen that happening, it wasn't pretty. And no, when a fencing expert feints, you'd better start praying for your soul.
Yes, that makes them the masters of the battlefield. Just like Clerics are masters of the religious matters and healing, and just like Wizards are the only ones that can cast spells... no contradiction here. Keep in mind, they can still fight back, they just need to pass his AC. There's no option for the fighter to cast a spell, not even with a roll, so it's still not equal, just less unequal. And of course, everyone rolls against a higher-level enemy, so it doesn't mean anyone overshadowing the rest in "boss battles" (assuming you've got boss battles).
-A Fighter always rolls for damage one die type higher. He or she can kill you with a knife as fast as a normal human can hurt you with a shord sword. That also means the warrior is never unarmed (rangers and paladins don't get that increase, but get the benefit of not being unarmed). The warrior can choose whether to deal subdual or normal damage, too.
(To anyone that objects, think of a warrior that can shatter bones with punches and break joints as a simple move. No, Monks aren't the only ones that get to be good unarmed fighters - just look how many wrestling matches Hercules had, how many of them ended in death, and what happened to the local though who tried to fight with Odysseus. Or, to put it in another way: beginning of the 20th century, one Japanese Judo sensei sees an European Fechtbuch. His reaction: "Wait, Europeans practiced ju-justsu in 17th century?"
Knowing that, I have a special message for anyone who tells me only Monks should have unarmed options. Said message translates from Bulgarian as "fuck off").

But fine, that's more powerful, but not really all that interesting. Let me see what else I can think of.
-Adapting the system of Stunts from Dragon Age and effects from the Bo9S and 4e.
Hey, pay attention to THIS sword!
Inflict a penalty of (your level) to the attacks of anyone in hand-to-hand range with you, who tries to attack anyone else.
A sword is hanging above our heads.
Double your damage dice before rolling (2 effects).
Fortuna rules it all.
Make your damage rolls explode, Savage Worlds-style. Self-explanatory.
Trip, and you fall.
 The enemy rolls an opposed attack roll against your roll, or is down.
Your blade, it's mine, your soul, like ice...
The enemy rolls an opposed check against your attack roll or is disarmed.
Get lost, fucker!
 Push/Shove. The enemy rolls Fortitude or Reflex/Save vs Death or Wands. Failing it, he/she is pushed back.
"Aren't you Isabel's husband? Just don't hit me with the horns!"

That's simply a taunt (yes, you can try taunting without an effect, but it's your action for the round with most GMs I know...). The enemy rolls a Will-based save with a penalty of your level. A failure means the enemy gets a penalty of (half your level, roudn up) to attacking anyone else. A second successful Taunt on the same enemy gives them half that (round up again) to AC, as they're sacrificing their defence. A third Taunt leads to them having your Charisma as penalty to their to-hit rolls, because anger blinds them and makes them predictable. Further using Taunt has no effect.
Note: The Charisma penalty is always negative to the enemy, even if you have a -1 on Charisma. Equally, even if you have a +0, the penalty is still -1.
On top of that, taunts aren't penalised for being used on the same enemy (see below). You are, however, penalised for using them on more than one enemy in a single fight.
Warning: Doesn't work on non-sapient creatures. Opponent gets a +3 to their roll if you don't share a language, or +5 if you don't share the same culture. If you're different to the point where your cultures have different meanings for common gestures, and you don't share the language, this is impossible to do. The GM might warn you if (s)he thinks it reasonable for you to have spotted that.
Cleave in 'twain!
Deal maximum damage on one of your dice, and roll another. That means that if you attack with a 2d6 two-handed sword, you deal 2d6+6 damage. If you hit with a two-handed axe, deal 1d12+12 damage (or if you're playing OD&D, deal 1d6+6 damage). This effect costs as much as 3 normal effects,
Traps hidden inside traps...
Feint: until his next action, the enemy has Your Intelligence modifier as penalty to either his AC or his to-hit roll. You must choose which one now.
Can you fight what you can't see?
Blind: until his next action, the enemy has a -4 to attack you. On his action, he can make a Fort/Save Vs. Death save to end the effect, or close their eyes and attack blindly. Doesn't work on constructs and other creatures lacking eyes. Opens an enemy to backstabbing/sneak attacks. You need two Manoeuvres to activate this!
Bind: this requires the enemy is armed with a weapon. Until his next action, they've got your Strength modifier as penalty to hit (see Taunt), and your Strength modifier as penalty against attacks from other characters. If they have another weapon that can be used up close, like a knife or rock, they can avoid the penalty to hit, but not the AC one.
The drawback is, the same AC penalty applies to you as well. he one that binded can choose to releast the Bind. Otherwise, the only way out is for the enemy to win a Str/Dex opposed check with you (each of you picks which one to use).
Stun: if you're using a bashing weapon, it's automatic. Otherwise, the enemy can choose to roll an opposed to-hit roll against your roll. If the stun succeeds, until enemy succeeds a Fort Save/Save vs Death, their attacks and defences suffer a -4 penalty. This costs two effects.
And here it's coming again...: roll to hit again, against the same enemy or another you can reach in this round (even with a missile weapon if you have one ready). This costs 2 effects, or 3 if you want to change weapons on the fly.
It's all in the feet.
You can move one hex on the battlemap. If you activate this at the cost of 3 effects, you pass behind the enemy's back and can backstab. On his turn, he needs to win an opposed Dex check in order to turn around without giving you an opening for attacking immediately.
...and so on. I'm pretty sure I can make up others.

How do you get effects? Roll a d6 along with the d20, on a 5, pick one effect. On a 6, pick two. You can elect to "save" an effect and deal it later when you roll another effect.
On 7th, 13th and 20th level, you add one more die to roll. Yes, teoretically, you could roll 8 effects. In practice, that only happens 1:1296 times.
Whenever you repeat a manoeuvre, however, that enemy gets a +1 damage against you, and you have a -1 on your saves against their spells until the end of the current combat. It pays to be unpredictable.
Keep in mind, you can deal effects even if you failed to hit. You can't add damage to an attack that didn't deal damage, but that doesn't prevent you from taking down an enemy.
-As above, but you pay for stunts with Elan points instead. You get 1 point for dropping an enemy, i.e. dealing the decisive strike, or after an attack if you take voluntarily a -5 penalty on your roll to hit and a -3 on your AC and damage until the end of the round. The two are cumulative, so you can take the penalty, drop an enemy nevertheless, and get 2 Elan points instead of 1 at the end of the round.
To add 1 effect on an attack, pay 1 point. To add 2 effects, pay 3 points. To add 3 effects, pay 10 points. Your points are lost whenever you have a rest. However, you need to hit successfully.
-Adapting the On Mighty Thews system - get effects depending on your roll to hit. For each 2 points you beat the necessary number, you get 1 effect to invoke.

As you can see, nothing here looks like magic powers, which is one of the objections to the 4e powers (including one of mine - I know all of that is possible, but some powers seem too dependent on the enemy to be able to invoke rgwm with any reliability in a fight. Hence, they seem magical - to me. That's however NOT due to the system, but to me having a different idea from the designers what fights look like, including epic fights).

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Reading Sorcerer RPG: does it work as a manual for simulationist GMs?

I purchased recently Sorcerer RPG by +Ron Edwards from Adept press. It was in a Bundle of Holding, or I might not have bothered.
Then I started reading and went "wow" (not as in the notorious MMORPG - it was more of "wow, that's what I'm trying to tell my friends - the ones I'm teaching GMing"). Because, well, that's what I call Simulationist play. As in, "pretend to be the character to the point that you only bother with what the character is thinking - no story arcs, no pre-planned plots, no nothing".
And that's almost word-for-word what +Ron Edwards is advising you to do as part of his "Narrativist" game. Even more, that's THE game for narrativist players - AFAICT, storygames started with it!
Still, so far, I only disagree with one sentence in his advice. "Don't play the setting". Well, no, you can't do that if you need to play the NPCs...because the setting is an NPC, too (just like any other organisation)! But that's ONE sentence.
I usually disagree with half the GMing chapter in "traditional" games. Seriously, guys... ONE sentence? That might as well be written by me (no, I'm NOT claiming credit-I discovered my current GMing style long after Sorcerer has been written. I just haven't read it, for various reasons that are kinda besides the point).
And then I remembered that the OSR advice has similar points, where I'm nodding my head in agreement.
The only other games where I agree with the GMing chapter to such an extent? Atomic Highway, Fates Worse Than Death, Crimson Exodus/Fantasy Dice RPG, Legends of the Wulin, Apocalypse World/Monsterhearts. Runequest 6 also comes close. But that's not even 10% of the games I own...
Still, all of these games are from wildly differing "schools". Seems like good GMing is good GMing, no matter who's doing it. (Well, if it's "open-ended" GMing, at least. I've run games that were going against this, and the players were still happy. So it might be called "good" GMing - although I'd consider my current style to be far superior both in terms of simulation and in terms of story - but it would be wildly different).
Just food for thought.

And in the meantime, I purchased the Sorcerer supplements, and I'm looking into other games by the same author, too. He's got a KS campaign for his "S/Lay w/ Me" game (which I discovered the day after buying the PDF). Of course, I'm now a backer.
The only other KS I'm currently backing is the one by +Levi Kornelsen for his zombie apocalypse game. But that's another story and should be told in another blog post.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Yet another Open RPG Day...



We had another Open RPG Day. This one...didn't go so well. Or rather, not well at all.
To begin with, half the GMs that promised to run games, didn't come or pulled a last-minute cancellation.
Then one of the GMs that actually came and ran a game is actually considering to swear off GMing. It's because the players made it living chaos, and she didn't manage to rein them in.
I also asked her to run me through the same adventure she had prepared for them. Yes, I asked her to run the game one-on-one for me, without adjusting any difficulty. FWIW, it's urban fantasy.
They had used 4 hours and announced they can't solve it, the mystery is too hard. I solved it in 69 minutes by the clock, half of which I spent eating dinner and talking off-topic. With a character fashioned after Shang Tsung from the MK movie, because why not?


Frankly, I'm not too sure whether I'm going to run an Open RPG Day October edition. Maybe, but we shall see.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

An OSR-inspired storygame

I was bored, and hence another RPG was born. This one is for GM-less/rotating GM/Simultaneous GMing in Play-by-post games.

First, pick a genre and setting. Any genre and setting work, as long as your group has a shared understanding of what works and what not.
Next, write a 100-150 description of the characters. Underline (or note in bold) any quality, like "fast with blades", that's helpful. Underscore (like this) anything that might hinder you. If a quality could be both, use both of them. These are called your descriptors/traits. The beneficial ones I call advantages, the negative ones are flaws. Simple as that - character creation is over!

Ah, but I must first start with the GMless part.
In each scene you will have one or more of 7 things. An antagonist-1, a reward-2, something unusual-3, a plot twist-4, an unexpected challenge-5, something bad/harmful-6, or nothing (red herring)-7. If you roll an 8, pick one thing and roll another die. (That part was inspired by the OSR wiki).
Now go and narrate what's going on, not including anything but what you rolled. The one that rolls chooses how many dice to pick after the first roll.
You roll 3d8 to start the first scene, then we go from there. At the end of every post, you offer me rolls I could make, or stakes. I do the same in my post.



And since we got to the rolls themselves...
For these, the players roll 2d6(exploding at 6, but a maximum of 3 dice)+1 point/advantage-1 point per flaw that applies, looking to get a 6 (and both advantages and flaws might be a result of the fiction, if we both agree). If you squeeze by 1 or hit it barely, you only get whatever is at stake, but at a cost. If you get an 8, it's a clean success. For every 2 over 8, so at 10, 12, 14 and so on, you get a bonus perk, as offered by the GM. Maybe an enemy is impressed with your knife skills and now would consider hiring you. Maybe you kill the guy outright. Maybe someone thinks they own you a debt for killing the guy.
However, if you don't get even a 6, it's a clean failure. At 4, 2, 0 and so on, the GM gets to add a complication that makes the PC's life miserable.
The good part is, whenever you fail a roll due to the flaws on your character sheet (so, it would have been 6+, except for the minuses), you get to add a new trait, or cross off a flaw. What did you learn from your mistakes? Roleplay it!
And yeah, you might remove flaws, but the smart move would be to overcome them towards the end of the game. Just like in 1234567890 Hollywood flicks...


I was thinking to allow re-rolls for failure or the like. But re-rolls being the bane of PbP, I chose against it.
So, that's it. Simple, isn't it?

Oh, and if you want to play it, feel free to. But please, send me an e-mail or even better, post somewhere how the rules work in play, and send me the link! I'm curious myself.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Naked went the gamer

Nothing so new and original today.
I bought the newest Bundle of Holding.
From there, I noticed I now own Sorcerer. Which was good, since Sorcerer and Burning Wheel are two games I keep getting recommendations for...and since Luke Crane refuses to put BWG on a PDF sale site, I'm not likely to try it any time soon.
But then I decided to check Sorcerer. And from there I wnet to Ron Edwards' site to download some char sheet.
And there I read Naked Went The Gamer.
I think everyone of us should read it - hopefully, again. There are many things I disagree with Ron Edwards about.
This article isn't one of them. In fact, much of what he describes about "old school" mirrors my own experience with other games. Make of this what you wish - just think about it.


In a way, I already got more than I bargained for from the Bundle of Holding. I went to buy books, and I got a reason to think about society. If that's old news to you and you're working against the things RE is writing about, congratulations. I had...slipped.
So, I think I should add a link to the Bundle of Holding website.

That's all the post I'm going to write for tonight. I've got more things to think about, since I notice with great displeasure that I had been going with the current for a while.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

My first Traveller PC: Lazarus De Bell

I just wanted to share that. Here is Lazarus, complete with life story. He got lucky enough to live through 11 terms in the same career.
Yes, he ended up Admiral. A blade-wielding admiral who holds the noble title of Duke.
Here is his story...

I was born the third son of a war baron, but I wasn't really prepared to rule. My first-born sister, however, got herself killed in a Marine mission, as is the family tradition. I fear for my future children, but they still have my bigger brother to shield them from becoming inheritors to the title.
Had him, that is, until he got himself killed in a war. Damn inconsiderate of him, if you're asking me! What, I have now to leave my social sciences and go enlist?
I suspect Dimitri has let them shoot him to avoid the boredom. I might as well, but that would be treason to my family name.
Damn.
Well, if it has to be the military, I can at least pick something nicer. They say chicks dig navy men, so... navy it is!

***
What the hell? They didn't want me? I'm too slow for them?
My physical development is fully within norms. Let them go impale themselves on the nearest dick, and I'm going to the Draft.
Any similarities are strictly coincidental.

***
The Draft got me into the Navy. I suspect my father has pulled a few strings. That, or a few bureaucrats need to be replaced - either the ones that stopped me earlier, or the ones that let me in now.
I'd rather string the former than the latter.

***
The army teaches you to do lots of thing, but Basic training teaches you to do them quick, dirty and with no finesse.
Please God, if you exist, don't let me fall in the hands of Navy doctors! They learned it in Basic, too, I hear.
I'd rather have a proper butcher.
Oh yes, I got commissioned, but not promoted.

***
Success! Got promoted, learned basic blade combat in order not to look like a fool in duels.
Still, the guys that already have the same rank didn't like it, claimed more time in the Navy should matter more than titles, and tried to arrange me a lawsuit for sexual harassment. As if I need to harass an unwilling partner.
Damn the bitch, too, I barely noticed her. But I guess they paid her handsomely. Ah well, it's better if I don't mention it in front of witnesses. Duels wouldn't help my case.
Let's see how much they'd withhold from me for the analgethics...anagathics...whatever. I'm on life-extending medication now!
I'll still see my father dead, and claim my own title. Although he says he wants to see grand-children before that. Maybe he's got them, but I haven't returned back in the ports I have visited.
Hmm, that maybe gives me an idea...

***
Got another promotion. Administrative duty is killer.
It might yet become my killer as well.

***
Bladework is great way to pass time. Which is kinda necessary when you can't make friends with most people under your command - because they're not your equals, nor with those equal to your rank - because they're not of your rank out of service.
Really, I had no idea a spaceship can be such a lonely place.

***
I was promoted a marquis. I guess my father has died from envy, since I didn't see him there.
Or he had just died. Whatever.
We were never all that close.

***
This diplomatic mission seems like it can become fun. I just have to negotiate a ceasefire.
Time to dust off some of my father's lessons. He was known for his mettle.
Although maybe I should better try and remember how Mum persuaded him that the best course of action is whatever she thought it was. She remained unknown, precisely because of her mettle.

***
Got another mission for the same place. And now they say the negotiators are at risk. Damn fanatics, and if it's what I suspect, damn the ones that are pulling the strings as well.
Sure, I can dispatch any two of their would-be assassins with a paper knife. If I notice them at time, that is. And if it's not a bomb.
Guess it's time to practice spotting the unusual things. The practice of smelling the violets' roots doesn't appeal to my sense of aesthetics.

***
Promotions, promotions...it's what happens when you're doing your duty.
Got a book finished. People are dying to learn how we almost died in that damn diplomatic mission, and why their neighbours are still at war despite it.
The publisher thinks I should add more duels and svelte chicks instead. I'm not folding, he's a moron - that was a classic diplomatic clustefuck that many scholars would want to know about.

***
Got another book published. The cadets should learn how to dispatch an enemy with a penknife, damnit! That's necessary in order for this planet to be prosperous.
And I should become rich.

***
It seems I've befriended a possible enemy. Although she said she's got a possible business proposal... plus, you know. Close contacts.
But her planet could still go to war with us. And if I haven't mustered out, I'll be leading our fleet. And she'd be leading theirs.
On top of which, my crownprince is hating me for busting his little conspiracy. Sure, it's impolite to add slow poison to your father's anagethics - a killer combo, I can assure you.
I couldn't be promoted further from an admiral, though.

***
That's it! I'm taking the money, and going to FERA, or whatever the organisation was called.
Also, I'm not going to draw the ire of the crown prince to the Navy. It's not why I've been working nearly 45 years for the planet's glory!
There's a whole wide space out there. I'm going to see it, and visit my sons and daughters while they think they're out of parental control in foreign universities!

Lazarus' a Life Story
I was born the third son of a war baron, but I wasn't really prepared to rule. My first-born sister, however, got herself killed in a Marine mission, as is the family tradition. I fear for my future children, but they still have my bigger brother to shield them from becoming inheritors to the title.
Had him, that is, until he got himself killed in a war. Damn inconsiderate of him, if you're asking me! What, I have now to leave my social sciences and go enlist?
I suspect Dimitri has let them shoot him to avoid the boredom. I might as well, but that would be treason to my family name.
Damn.
Well, if it has to be the military, I can at least pick something nicer. They say chicks dig navy men, so... navy it is!

***
What the hell? They didn't want me? I'm too slow for them?
My physical development is fully within norms. Let them go impale themselves on the nearest dick, and I'm going to the Draft.
Any similarities are strictly coincidental.

***
The Draft got me into the Navy. I suspect my father has pulled a few strings. That, or a few bureaucrats need to be replaced - either the ones that stopped me earlier, or the ones that let me in now.
I'd rather string the former than the latter.

***
The army teaches you to do lots of thing, but Basic training teaches you to do them quick, dirty and with no finesse.
Please God, if you exist, don't let me fall in the hands of Navy doctors! They learned it in Basic, too, I hear.
I'd rather have a proper butcher.
Oh yes, I got commissioned, but not promoted.

***
Success! Got promoted, learned basic blade combat in order not to look like a fool in duels.
Still, the guys that already have the same rank didn't like it, claimed more time in the Navy should matter more than titles, and tried to arrange me a lawsuit for sexual harassment. As if I need to harass an unwilling partner.
Damn the bitch, too, I barely noticed her. But I guess they paid her handsomely. Ah well, it's better if I don't mention it in front of witnesses. Duels wouldn't help my case.
Let's see how much they'd withhold from me for the analgethics...anagathics...whatever. I'm on life-extending medication now!
I'll still see my father dead, and claim my own title. Although he says he wants to see grand-children before that. Maybe he's got them, but I haven't returned back in the ports I have visited.
Hmm, that maybe gives me an idea...

***
Got another promotion. Administrative duty is killer.
It might yet become my killer as well.

***
Bladework is great way to pass time. Which is kinda necessary when you can't make friends with most people under your command - because they're not your equals, nor with those equal to your rank - because they're not of your rank out of service.
Really, I had no idea a spaceship can be such a lonely place.

***
I was promoted a marquis. I guess my father has died from envy, since I didn't see him there.
Or he had just died. Whatever.
We were never all that close.

***
This diplomatic mission seems like it can become fun. I just have to negotiate a ceasefire.
Time to dust off some of my father's lessons. He was known for his mettle.
Although maybe I should better try and remember how Mum persuaded him that the best course of action is whatever she thought it was. She remained unknown, precisely because of her mettle.

***
Got another mission for the same place. And now they say the negotiators are at risk. Damn fanatics, and if it's what I suspect, damn the ones that are pulling the strings as well.
Sure, I can dispatch any two of their would-be assassins with a paper knife. If I notice them at time, that is. And if it's not a bomb.
Guess it's time to practice spotting the unusual things. The practice of smelling the violets' roots doesn't appeal to my sense of aesthetics.

***
Promotions, promotions...it's what happens when you're doing your duty.
Got a book finished. People are dying to learn how we almost died in that damn diplomatic mission, and why their neighbours are still at war despite it.
The publisher thinks I should add more duels and svelte chicks instead. I'm not folding, he's a moron - that was a classic diplomatic clustefuck that many scholars would want to know about.

***
Got another book published. The cadets should learn how to dispatch an enemy with a penknife, damnit! That's necessary in order for this planet to be prosperous.
And I should become rich.

***
It seems I've befriended a possible enemy. Although she said she's got a possible business proposal... plus, you know. Close contacts.
But her planet could still go to war with us. And if I haven't mustered out, I'll be leading our fleet. And she'd be leading theirs.
On top of which, my crownprince is hating me for busting his little conspiracy. Sure, it's impolite to add slow poison to your father's anagethics - a killer combo, I can assure you.
I couldn't be promoted further from an admiral, though.

***
That's it! I'm taking the money, and going to FERA, or whatever the organisation was called.
Also, I'm not going to draw the ire of the crown prince to the Navy. It's not why I've been working nearly 45 years for the planet's glory!
There's a whole wide space out there. I'm going to see it, and visit my sons and daughters while they think they're out of parental control in foreign universities!

Strength 11
Agility 8
Constitution 8
Intelligence12
Education 11
Social 15 (Admiral Duke Lazarus is at your services...or you're at his services, more likely).


High Population: Streetwise 0
Industrialised: Trade 0
Formal education: Social Science 0
Pilot (Capital Ship) 1
Vacc Suit 1
Zero-G 1
Gunner (Ortillery) 1
Mechanic 1
Gun Combat (slug throwers) 1
Melee (blade) 4 (Yes, he can kill me with a pen knife while picking his teeth with the right hand).
Admin 1
Pilot (shuttles) 1
Leadership 2
Recon 1
Diplomacy 1
Tactics (naval) 1
Romantic relationship: Wife (and presumably, kids).
Contact: Diplomat from a "possible enemy" planet. She's from FERA, too.
Enemy: High-ranking noble (quite likely, the crown prince, because a Duke couldn't be threatened by anyone less).
Looks: 22 years old (taking life-prolonging drugs for 40 years now).

And that's the glorious Lazarus Le Bell! He entered the Navy through the Draft, got Commissioned, got promoted a lot, got accused of a crime and cleaned his name up, got married, became one of the best blade fighters out there, made friends with a potential future enemy, made enemy of the crown prince, and mustered out at the top of his glory.
(Well, I was going to roll a 12th term. But since I was rolling him with Invisible castle, when I inadvertently closed the tab before deciphering the last roll, I actually decided to muster out instead. And it made sense for the character as well.)

At the end, I like the guy, and he is really giving me a swashbuckling vibe!

Thursday, 15 August 2013

RPG.net just gave me the image of a party of adventurers asking the dragon to give them a fetch quest. He doesn't have anything for them.
Let me share it with you.
"I am Lue the Dragon, and I'm bored of all you, adventurers that offer to bring me whatever I want. Bring me a tankard of ale, while you're at it...no, I'm not going to give you anything for it. But we could talk.
Thing is, do you think I need you clumsy, earth-bound humans to fetch things for me? I think I've got a bone somewhere nearby, but the only thing you'd get for fetching it to me is another bone... like my dog did.
So, what do I really want?
Worship me! Be my high priests - meaning, if you fail me, I'd get you high in the sky before dropping you. Ever heard about great power and responsibilities?
Yes, I want you to worship me, become my priest, and intimidate - or persuade, or seduce them, I could care less only with negative numbers, which most of you don't know - so, [B][I]make[/I][/B] those guys over the hill worship me as well! I don't care if you use an army or an anthill, three pieces of flint, a piece of polished glass, and some feathers.
What? No, that's not a cunning plan I'm suggesting. I was just talking about junk you could offer them for trade. That is, if they were stupid enough to trade worship for that. Their forefathers were, a couple centuries ago. Not any more. I'm missing my tribe!
Once you accomplish the conversion, though, you could leave with even a nice diamond from my treasure. I'm going to promote other people among them to be my chief priests. And you? You'll be the patron saints that the Lue the God of Fire can invoke. Win-win, don't you think?
If that doesn't work for you, I could take something else. See, there's this trading caravan. If someone was to hire themselves as their guides and then lead them near my lair at night, they could easily become rich from the spoils I can't carry, or have no use for. But bring them at night! Normally, they're passing nearby during the day, because then their nasty crossbows give me pause. But in the darkness? Yeah, screw them.
You don't want to bring them to their deaths? Ah, I see, fellow humans. Well, then, can you go to the other dragon lair over there and plant this small thing to the wing of the male dragon? The only catch is, he shouldn't notice. Once you do that, light a fire on the hill in front of it, and get back here. Your payment will wait.
Sorry, but your lot seems conditioned that we dragons want people to fetch things for us. I had a dog for this, and it had fiendish intelligence, so it was good company. Until it died last millennium.
so yeah, much to your surprise, you'll find that I want much the same things you do: power, riches, influence, sex - with my own species, I take princesses only in the usually vain hope they would be good company.
If you wonder those hills long enough, you'll find that the same is true more or less with every sentient and sapient being here.
Oh, and I want my own prejudices confirmed. Though I don't mind new information that could teach me what they are. Unlike the rest, however, not everyone in those hills would appreciate such knowledge."

Monday, 12 August 2013

Female fighters and Waif-Fu: Yes or not?

Well, as is almost traditional by now, I'm taking the topic from RPG.net. Because people debate what matters to them on this forum. And right now they're debating whether it's "right" (good, politically correct, fair, realistic - everyone has their idea of what should be prioritised) that most female fighters are drawn with about as many muscles as the average ivy.
As is also the tradition, I'm not going to comment on that. Instead, I'd tell you about my games. Because if you're here, I can only assume you care.

Most of you don't know that I'm running Exalted... well, I am, and my group has got many sessions already. It's invitation-only, so I'm not talking about these games.
So, last week, I used an Exalted Dragon-blooded Martial Artist. As a PC soon uncovered (as my players are notorious of sticking their noses everywhere), she was ashamed of her body for looking too athletic, which came naturally to her. Because of a sheltered upbringing in a monastery, she has been brought to believe only thin and/or "soft" girls are attractive. She also believed that women who can and love to fight, are a turn-off for men, or at least socially unacceptable. So she was really worried what her future husband would think of her.
(Of course, that was part of what her relatives had made her believe. The goal was to control her easier, while she was raised in a far-off satrapy of the Empire. Well, abusive relationships aren't exactly uncommon among my DBs).
The player that discovered that promptly disabused her of said notion (with comments on the tastes of her relatives that would make a veteran pimp proud). Then she promptly got married her off to a Lunar ally, which probably promotes her to an almost PC status - or at least to recurring characters status.