Sunday, August 28, 2016

Character Creation: Headspace

Doing chargen for PtbA games is always a little weird, because chargen is designed to happen in a group, but hey.


First thing's first, though:

What is the Game You Are Most Likely to Give to Other? Probably one of the ones that I wrote or publish.

What Makes for a Good Character? A lot of things, but here are some of the most important, IMO:

Sticky. The character needs to have a reason to be involved in the story and, in particular, with the other characters. This is why I encourage group chargen; if you make characters separately, then you're asking the GM to come up with a reason for a bunch of disparate people to hang out (which works OK in some games and really not at all in others).

Conflict. A good character needs to have something to struggle against. I don't (always) ask players to get meta enough to think about a character's arc, but it's worth considering what, at the start of a game, is driving the character and what problems they're having.

Mistakes. This is a personal one, but I think it's useful to consider what kind of mistakes a character makes. Fate highlights this with the "Trouble" Aspect; when this character gets into trouble, what drives that?

What Hobbies Go Well with RPGs? Cooking. You know how to cook, you can make for happy, well-fed gamers.

Most Unusual Circumstances in Which You've Gamed? Um. I think summer camp a loooooong time ago, where we didn't have dice and simulated that by pulling scraps of paper with numbers written on them out of a hat.

Thing You'd Be Most Surprised a Friend Had Not Seen or Read? This is a weird question; what does it have to do with gaming? I'd be surprised if most of my close friends hadn't seen Firefly, but only because that's the kind of crowd I run with.

Right, now then.

The Game: Headspace
The Publisher: Green Hat Designs
Degree of Familiarity: Some. I ran a session a month or so back, and we're playing again once we beat the schedule-weasels into submission.
Books Required: Just the one.

So, Headspace is, apparently, a lot like Sens8, which I haven't watched yet, so I don't know how accurate that is (my players tell me it is). It's cyberpunk by way of Leverage, insofar as the characters are hypercompetent and plugged into each other's brains. It's pretty baller.

To make a character, I'd first choose a setting (there are a few pregenerated ones in the book). I think I'll just go with Vancouver Aftermath since I'm familiar with it; it's the one my group is using.

Now I choose an Operator. There are six to choose from, and if I had a group, any Operators not accounted for would be Ghost Operator (present, but dead, in the Headspace). My natural inclination is, of course, Runner, because Parkour is awesome, but let's do something a little different today. Let's do Infiltrator. Being all martial-artsy and sneaky sounds fun.

First thing I do is name my infiltrator. I can pick a name or make one up. I'll call him Jones. It's not his name, but I like the idea of the Infiltrator being scary in a nondescript, could-be-anybody kind of way. Plus I'm still salty at White Wolf for changing the name of the Jones bloodline in Ancient Mysteries, but never mind.

Next, I define my Skills baggage. Skills in Headspace key off of emotional baggage, because it's not whether you succeed, it's how much your action ups the tension. This includes answering a question about how I used that Skill in past, which normally would involve another PC, but as it's just me, I'll just wing it.

For Martial Arts, the question is "Who was the only one who stood up against you?" I'll say that it was the Whitecoat. He saw the toll that assassination was taking on Jones and advised him to stop trying to shunt all his guilt away; it wasn't working and it was going to kill him or change him irrevocably. "Guilt" isn't one of the choices, but "Grief" is, so I'll put that under Martial Arts.

For Security, it's "Whose family did you forge documents for that allowed their escape?" I'll say it was the Ronin. The trade-off was that the Ronin come work for our team for a predefined period (of course, joke's on me, now I'm in the Ronin's head and can see how pissed she is at me). Sounds like Rage fits.

For Stealth, it's "Who did you witness doing something that still puts you off?" It was the Handler. She's willing to sacrifice us to finish the job. That's not plan A, but it's closer to A than Z, and that makes Jones a little nervous; surely there should be some attention paid to getting the team out safely? Fear fits here.

Now, normally I'd fill in the baggage from the other characters on the right side of my sheet, but since it's just me, I don't have any way to do that. Instead, I progress to the next step, which is Choose a Sub-culture. Jones feels pretty Corporate to me, but maybe that's too easy? Let's say he's a Net-head. He's the ghost in the machine. He's a "guest user."

Now I do my look. My eyes are focused, my hair is bald with retro net-ports (lots of folks have them, and it makes my tech look older than it is), my body is average, my clothes are second-hand, and my avatar, quite apart from the usual highly customized look that Net-heads go for, is a simple, generic, default guest avatar that a lot of systems use.

Next step: choosing my Disciplines. I get +2, +1, 0, -1, and -2. I'm meant to put higher scores in emotions I can deal with more easily. OK, then. I think Jones has a good grip on Fear and Rage, so I'll put my +2 and +1 there, respectively. I'll stick my 0 in Ego; it's kind of a wash for Jones (he's good and he knows it, but he's learned humility and he doesn't like to take credit). I'll put -1 into Grief, since he still grapples with guilt. That leaves the -2 for Need, which is perfect; Jones doesn't like to admit that he needs anyone or anything, but now there are people in his head.

Next would be defining Ghost Operators, but that's another "I need a group" thing, so I'll skip it.

That brings me to "Define Your Regret." What did Jones do for a Corporation that he now regrets? Well, I think that Jones is the kind of person you call if you need someone disappeared, not just dead. He can kill you and wipe out your 'net presence, up to a point. So I think that he was called in to take out a young idealist. She was interested in actually following AO's mandate of bringing information to the people, even if said information was scary or unpredictable, and she had ideas that were actually fresh and new. AO's suits couldn't handle that, so Jones was called in not just to kill her, but make her work look...ordinary. He can live with killing, but snuffing out real innovation still eats at him. Her name was Sinnead.

That leads into the next step, which is Drive. I can have a Vengeance or Redemption Drive, but Redemption sounds better. Jones' Drive is "get Sinnead's unedited work into the 'net."

Edges! I pick two from a list. Let's see. I'll take Registered as a Lethal Weapon (extra Harm in unarmed combat, though really tracking Harm doesn't seem to matter much) and Identity Thief. I have lots of backup IDs and related files ready to go. It's stored digitally, in the servers of some little company that has more computing power than brains.

And I get an upgrade. Oh, it's the "Potato Head Disguise Kit;" I can remove my features and mix-and-match them. I'm not thrilled about that (there are optional rules that let me pick a different one, but I'm not going to bother). I just think it's silly.

And that's it!


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

No More Heroes, pt. 2

First thing's first.


Share One of Your "Worst Luck" stories: I'm sure I have stories like this, but a lot of the games I've been playing lately don't reckon failure the way more trad games do. Oh, wait, I've got one. I was running a game of Chill in college, and the characters were up against a Bast (a kind of cat-like creature). Like a lot of creatures in Chill, bullets didn't really hurt it, but they're a pretty common first step, for some reason. So one of the characters shoots at the thing, and the player fails. Since the envoys are kind of clustered (bad idea - always check your backdrop!), I have the player roll to see if the character inadvertently hits another envoy...and the player rolls 01 (which is the best possible roll). She shot the other envoy in the head and killed him.

It was an ignominious way to go, but on the other hand, it was pretty appropriate to the story and the tone of the game, so I dunno.

Anyway, superheroes!

Last time, the heroes fought valiantly to prevent several supervillains from stealing the Earnhardt Radar from Lindquist Industries. This time, they all learned (separately) that the Gateway Arch was under attack.

Inferno was closest, and swooped in. He tossed a bunch of fire around at the demons, but didn't manage to hurt them. They leaped down off the arch and slashed at him, tearing up his outfit and cutting him up. Pink was next on the scene, and bounced off demon-heads up to the top of the arch. There she saw a man in a suit and a tie with glittering gold sigils sitting there. He sneered "pajama police" at her, and then fired magic at her. It didn't hurt her, but she slid down the arch, breaking windows (I added to the doom pool).

Arcanix arrived and flew up to the dude, declaring himself to be the Sorcerer Supreme and trying to band the guy (Grimoire) to the arch with the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak (which is apparently a dimensional constant). Grimoire broke the spell, and floated up off the arch, saying "I know you. You're the former Sorcerer Supreme." At that point, Pink slammed into him from the side, kicking him in the kidneys.

Rookie arrived on a swingline, slamming into demons. Inferno called up fire and caged a bunch of the demons, but a dude on the ground, in street clothes lifted up his hands and the fire went out. Spore flowed in behind him and caused a spore burst, infecting him (which allowed Spore to use one of his Distinctions - Brilliant Physicist). Grimoire, annoyed, called down magical meteors, causing a bunch of stress to Arcanix, Rookie, and Inferno (Pink dodged them handily). Rookie threw a meteor back at him, but he dispelled it easily.

Harmony tried to knock Arcanix back on course (his jets were malfunctioning as a result of a Limit), but didn't adjust for his heavier body and failed. At this point, Spore heard his handler calling him away, and he faded back into the earth. The demons attacked, but Inferno burned intensely bright, Rookie spun his staff and knocked a bunch of them away, and Arcanix dispelled them.

With no more demons distracting them, Inferno called up a sphere of fire around Grimoire, and Harmony deafened the other dude. Suddenly said dude vanished, and the fire-sphere was empty - Grimoire had pulled them away.

At the government compound, Spore found that Krampus and Innocence had attacked and freed Decibel. Spore's handler, Carlson, instructed him to get the other heroes here, as the government needed fresh eyes on this.

The other characters arrived, a little annoyed that the vending machines at the compound weren't free. The did a bit of investigation, and realized that Innocence hadn't killed anyone. Harmony, her old nemesis, confirmed that this was weird; Innocence was usually quite willing to put people on ice. The action at the arch had pretty obviously been meant to distract from this operation, but why was Decibel so important? Villains didn't normally stick together so intensely, so it was likely that his powers in particular were important.

Spore looked through his infective memories and found the name of the guy he'd infected - Mitchell Warner. Harmony remembered him; he had tried to be a superhero some years back, but had choked and wound up embarrassing himself. He had telekinetic powers, as she remembered. A little digging later, and they learned he was a brilliant physicist, too.

The found the sniper's perch where Innocence had shot out the inhibitor device preventing Decibel from using his powers. The sniper rifle was government issue - and it had been taken from a larger compound that had a dorm, an armory, and a research wing.

So the villains included a power-armored technomancer, a telekinetic, a sound-manipulator, an invulnerable heiress, and a mystic. They had already hit a major government installation. What were they after? Clearly the Earnhardt device was important. Rookie had built a device to detect it, but needed to boost it. Pink asked what the government knew about them, and the answer was "just about everything" (they were mostly in the dark about Arcanix and Rookie, though). Pink got her family on a plane (on the government's dime) and Carlson contacted the compound...and got a response that made him suspect the place was compromised.

The heroes split up. Inferno, Arcanix, and Rookie went to the heroes' base (established way back during Greenspace) and started working on boosting the detector. Pink, Harmony, and Spore headed for the compound to investigate that...stealthily.

With Arcanix' help in making the device able to pierce mystical cloaking, Rookie found the Earnhardt - it was at the compound where the others were going, emitting a low-level signal, far more steady than anything it was designed for.

Next time: The exciting conclusion!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Heroic Game Prep

Meant to do this yesterday and would up peeling roasted green chiles for most of the afternoon, then having POTS issues and crashing on the couch most of the evening. Fuck POTS, man.


Most Challenging But Rewarding System You have Learned: Fate. Hands down. It's challenging because it's a lot more involved, system-wise, than most people think (this was especially true when it was just Spirit of the Century). But it's so damned versatile and so easy to tweak. Plus, my players know it well enough that when it's time to play new game for a few sessions, it's easy to pick a Fate-based game because I know we've conquered the biggest learning curves.

Funniest Misinterpretation of a Rule in Your Group: Don't think this one really applies. We're pretty into "what do the rules actually mean" around here (side effect of playing with game designers, I guess), so if we misinterpret a rule, it tends to be less funny and more "wait, this is dumb, what'd we miss?" Nothing specific comes to mind, though.

Supposedly Random Game Events that Kept Occurring: Well, the one that springs to mind is what +Matthew Karafa refers to as "Mal disease." That's in reference to Malcolm Reynolds of Firefly, and the fact that when he plans and tries to set up his advantages, things go to hell, but he does better when he just shoots from the hip. In context, Karafa has a habit of failing or lowballing rolls that he has a shitload of dice on (in dice-pool games like Chronicles of Darkness), but succeeding when he really shouldn't.

Right. Now prep.


Friday, August 19, 2016

Character Creation: Sundered Skies (also RPGaDay)

Bloody day job, making me not able to blog everyday.


What Fictional Character Would Fit Best in Your Group? As tempting as it would be to say Harry Dresden (he's a gamer, after all) I get the sense that he's more a hack-and-slash kind of guy. I think, instead, I would rather game with Kaylee from Firefly. Kaylee's enthusiastic, she's clever, and she enjoys good food. I think she'd fit it.

What Innovation Could RPG Groups Most Benefit From? Oh, lordy. We've got Storium and Roll20 now, and lots of cheap, easily manageable video-chat kinds of things, which help with groups that aren't physically together. I think the other big problem in the hobby is the general level of toxicity you get from certain members, but frankly I think that's a bigger problem online than in meatspace (though I've heard enough stories from gamers about meatspace issues to know that it's not just online). So, like, feminism? I don't think that's an innovation, but it's about all I can think of.

Best Way to Learn a New Game? Play it, obviously. Preferably with someone who knows it well and likes it acting as GM.

OK, speaking of gaming!

The Game: Sundered Skies
The Publisher: Pinnacle Entertainment
Degree of Familiarity: I haven't played this particular game, but it's a Savage Worlds game, and I've played plenty of that.
Books Required: I think just the one and the Savage Worlds book, but I'm not sure. Doesn't matter, I have the SW if needed.

Sundered Skies, like 50 Fathoms, is a plot point setting for Savage Worlds. Interestingly, it has some similarity with Swashbucklers of the Seven Skies, for which I made a character recently. Following a cataclysm, the world is a bunch of fractured islands in an immense void, you can go mad if you stare into the glow of the void too long. More fantasy than swashbuckling, it looks like. I'm good with that.

Holy cats. You can play a race called "drakin," who are little dragon-ish beings who worship and aspire to become dragons. Fucking sold.

Ahem. That's my race, then. I get Arcane Senses, Dragonkin (I get extra Power Points if I wish to use magic, which I almost certainly will) as Edges and Small as a Hindrance.

Now, Traits. Well, I should think about what I want my little drakin to be like. One of the example concepts they give you is "chosen," which is basically a drakin priest working to become a dragon. I'm down with that. Thinking maybe I should have high Spirit, then? No, wait, Smarts, it's magic, not faith.

I'll put two points into Smarts, one into Vigor, one into Agility, and one into Spiri. That leaves me at a d4 in Strength, but I'm small.

Now, Skills, and again, they didn't print the skill names on the character sheet. Blah. I'll put a d4 each into Boating, Climbing, and Fighting (look, I'm a character on a boat in a fantasy game, those are minimums), a d8 into Knowledge (Arcana), a d6 each into Knowledge (Dragons), Investigation, Notice, and Stealth.

The book would have me do derived traits next, it's WRONG. Next we do Edges. I don't get a free Edge like I would if I were human, so I need to take some Hindrances so I can pick up Arcane Background. I'll take Glowblind (I take a penalty to range because the glow makes me squint) and Cautious as my Minor ones, and I'll take Lame as my Major one.

My character was born with a club foot; he walks with a shuffling limp and it slows him down. But, oh, if he could be a dragon, and slip the surly bonds of earth, as it were...

That gives me four points to spend. I'll spend two on Arcane Background (Magic), and I'll buy the Glowmad Resistant Edge with the other. If I were actually going to play this guy, I'd be very tempted by the Chosen Edge (which I would want to pick up), but I don't meet the prerequisites right now and I don't feel like rejiggering my traits to make it work (Spirit needs to be one die type higher).

I get three powers. I'll take Blinding Flash (just what it sounds like), Burst (a cone-weapon; heavy damage but there's a roll to avoid it) and Deflection (like armor, but makes me less likely to be hit).

Now derived traits. My Parry is 4, my Toughness is 4 (would be 5 but I'm Small), my Pace is 4 and I only roll a d4 to run, and my Charisma is 0.

OK, then! My character's name is Tellin. Tellin was born in the Foreign Quarter of the Dragon's Spine, but born right as some pretty unpleasant racial violence was going on. Sheltered by his mother due to his malformed foot, Tellin didn't grow up hating other races, but did grow up taking care to avoid violence. He discovered a knack for magic and a yen to learn about the great dragons of the skies, and his mother encouraged him, noting that to a dragon, everyone on the ground is slow. Tellin shipped out with a skycraft out of Dragon's Spine, seeking his fortune and, of course, seeking to evolve into one of the Chosen.

There, that's good. Pretty basic character concept for the setting, I think, but it'd be fun to play Tellin and evolve into a badass dragon-dude.


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Feng Shui, if Briefly

But first.


Historical Person You'd Like in Your Group? What Game? What does "historical" mean in this context, I wonder? Dead person? Real actual person? Celebrity? Person of historical significance? You know, they say to never meet your heroes because they're never what you think they will be, so I don't know, really.

I think I'll go with Alicia Witt (actress, she was in Urban Legends and probably some better movies, too). She's about my age, she's smart as hell, and I seemed to recall her being, if not outright geeky, then at least quirky. It'd be interesting to play something like A Tragedy in Five Acts or otherwise collaborative with her.

Anyway, Feng Shui. Recall that last time the characters killed Leon, beat up a bunch of cowboys, and removed the evil Mayor Ronnie Meyer from power. This time, they headed back to the work camp to talk to Hei.

As they walked into camp, the workers were giving Wildfire the stinkeye (because he's a cannibalistic monster or because he wears blue spurs? Hard to say). Hei talked to Bai and asked if he was OK riding with Wildfire; Bai said Wildfire had protected him battle and he was trustworthy. Hei told the Dragons that one of the important facets of being a Dragon was knowing when to show mercy...whereupon the workers attacked.

The Dragons, taking the hint, fought well but carefully. Wildfire didn't change shape, and Tang employed his patented "hit a dude with another dude" fighting style, but no one killed or caused serious injury. Mostly it was workers doing wire-fu over tents and then getting knocked into tents by Johnny's awkward flailing or Celeste's roundhouse kicking.

When it was over and the workers were picking themselves up out of the dust, Hei revealed their course of action. He told them how time passed in the junctures (that is, a day passes in one, it passes in all of them), and told them that they needed to start with the future juncture and Tang's partner, Si Borg. Si was dead, of course, but he'd kept a notebook about the Chi War, and that would hold the answers they sought.

The Dragons headed back up the mountain to find the gateway back into the Netherworld, and from there to the Future. And we'll pick this up in a month or so, after Michelle gets back from her travels.

Monday, August 15, 2016

RPGaDay Continues, also some game notes

Running Feng Shui in a while and need to take a couple of notes, but first:


Your Best Source of Inspiration for RPGs: My favorite source of inspiration is the players. I love collaborative games where we get to design elements of the setting together, for a couple of reasons. One is that I'm getting older, I don't have time and spoons like I used to, and that lets me offload some of the work on the players.

But the other reason is that if we design a setting, and you come up with a particular faction or tavern or magic form or whatever, I know damn well you're gonna remember it if I use it in play. It's one thing to ask the players what they want, it's another thing to let them design the shit they want and then hand it to you.

And now, my Feng Shui players should stop reading, but everybody else can come along.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Night's Black Agents: Discussion, then Explosion

EDIT: Forgot I was behind on my #RPGaDay2016 posts. Let's just slot that in!


What Game is Your Group Most Likely to Play Next? Why? Ooh, I like these questions. Well, I have several groups, but the one that's likely to be switching up is my Monday group. Presently we're alternating between Feng Shui and Marvel Heroic, but Michelle is going away for a few weeks soon, so I don't want to play without her. So I think the plan is: Play Feng Shui tomorrow and end our current story arc, play Marvel Heroic for the next two weeks and finish that Event up, and then play...something else for three weeks while she's gone.

But what? I had been thinking Chariot because I need to review it, but I dunno. I need to read it and see if that's something my group would enjoy. Iron Edda is another possibility because it's Fate (which my players know) and it's a lot of fun; I played it at Origins and it worked really well as a one-shot, so we could totally make it a three-session game with no trouble.

What Makes a Successful Campaign? Collaboration. Games, campaign or otherwise, don't work unless everyone's invested. That means everyone shows up, pays attention, contributes, gives feedback, and keeps up with the events of the game, not just defaults to "my character, my character, my character."

Your Dream Team of People You Used to Game With: Oh, wow. It really depends what we're playing. I've had some fantastic players who couldn't figure out mechanics and didn't try, but were amazing roleplayers. But I think I need to pick a game before I can pick a dream team. Let's go with Misspent Youth, just because it's something my players from back in the day would have found fun. Picking five people from people I'm not currently gaming with, I'd want +Jacob Green+Tom Trent (that's a bit of fudge, since he's local and plays occasionally, but he's not in any of my ongoing games), +Chris Horvath+Kimmaree Horvath, and +Carrie Harris. That'd be a fun game, I think.