Wednesday, August 31, 2016

No More Heroes: Conclusion

Monday we wrapped up our Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Event, No More Heroes.

Last time, the heroes had learned that something untoward was happening at a government research facility. Spore, Pink, and Harmony had gone ahead to check it out.

Pink jumped over the wall and landed, undetected (for the moment). Harmony went up to the front gate, and was stopped by guards. They told her to wait while they made a call (which she listened in on, using her sound manipulation powers), and then activated the place's defenses. Guns fired, but she absorbed the lasers and destroyed the guns.

Spore popped into the booth and gave off a burst, stunning the men. Pink bounded into the fray, but missed her attack. Spore disabled the guns, and Harmony gave off light and blinded the dudes. One of them pointed a gun at Spore and fired, not doing any damage (Spore's largely invulnerable), but inflicting some emotional stress - these guys are just agents like his friend, Carlson, after all. Pink too the opportunity to bop the dude on the head, ending the scene.

Meanwhile, Inferno and Arcanix were flying to the facility from the other directions. Guns on the roof targeted them, but Inferno melted one down to slag and Arcanix made the ammo explode, disabling the weapons. They entered the building (this was the main research building, where they'd detected the Earnhardt device) and made their way downstairs, just as Pink charged the doors of said building and burst in.

Inside, they found a man standing at the controls to the much-modified Earnhardt, guarded by Krampus, Innocence, Grimoire, Decibel, and that weasely dude they'd seen by the Arch (his name is Waves, by the way). The man told them that they were welcome to join him, and be free to use their powers to actually do some good for the world, rather than doing so at the beck and call of the government. The characters, of course, refused, and the man hit a button on his machine, pelting them all with lasers (Harmony absorbed hers).

Innocence opened fire with her guns, inflicting a bunch of physical stress. The battle was joined - Pink leaped up and grabbed a catwalk, spilling Decibel to the ground. Grimoire cast a spell on Pink and robbed her of her superstrength, but then got socked in the head by Spore and cast down into the Netherrealms by Arcanix (the true Sorcerer Supreme!). Inferno threw fire at the villains, and Krampus threw it right back, scorching the heroes (lots of area attacking going on, which is brutal).

And then Rookie arrived...but not Rookie anymore. He had dumped his gear, which wasn't working anyway, but his training and his encounter with Grimoire had awakened mystic potential in the lad. Now he was glowing with red, magical energy, and calling himself Scion!

Largely invulnerable, he joined the battle. He threw magical bolts at Krampus (who dispelled it), and soaked up some of the attacked being thrown around. Decibel, realized he was probably on his last legs, screamed, damaging all of the heroes (or at least trying). Arcanix, however, bounced he attack back on him.

Decibel got taken out, as did Grimoire, but then Innocence shot a bunch of people again...including Inferno. He fell the ground, stressed out and bleeding. Pink grappled Innocence (no mean trick without her strength) and tried to talk her down. Harmony joined her and they managed to free Innocence from her murderous persona.

Spore and Arcanix took down the red-haired mad scientist, and Waves, the telekinetic, covered himself in a force field and surrendered. Krampus, who hadn't taken any serious damage, realized that the day was lost and blew up the apparatus (leading the heroes to suspect that he had been mind controlled, much like the agents). He told the heroes that he agreed with the Baron Anguish's (that'd be the mad scientist) goals, but his methods were sloppy. He blew a hole in the roof and left, Scion waving and saying "see you at Christmas!"

The agents rolled in and arrested the remaining villains. And now, aftermath.

Inferno was laid up in the hospital. Carlson visited him, offering him a place to train, even if he didn't want to join up. Inferno refused. He just wanted to get back to work.

Pink, however, did join up - it was the best way to keep her family safe and her powers under control. Spore, therefore, was no longer the "probie."

Arcanix flew off to the ends of the Earth to train his new pupil, Scion, in the mystic arts.

Harmony, of course, went back to her bar. She's not getting suckered in to working for the government. Not again. (Not this time, anyway.) No more heroics.

And now, let's finish out the month.

You Can Game Anywhere On Earth, Where Would You Choose? Maui. It's lovely and temperate and the coffee is fantastic.

Describe the Ideal Game Room if Budget Were Unlimited. I'm actually pretty close to that now! Maybe better chairs; I like the 8-hour chairs from Geek Chic. I have a Geek Chic table already, though. If I could cheat and include my kitchen with the game room, then, like, I want a better kitchen so I can cook for my players.

Best Advice You Were Given For Your Game of Choice? Hrm. What's my game of choice, anyway? I play and run a lot of different games.

Look, if you look at advice tailored to a particular game, it's usually about the rules. If you do it by genre, then it's something for capturing that genre within the unique restrictions of the game table. If it's gaming in general, then there's lots of good advice for gaming (I've even written some).

A lot of it cooks down to "remember this is a collaborative thing." That works pretty much across the board. Playing Fate? Compel Aspects, not because you want to force the players' hands, but because by involving Aspects you're making the game about these characters and their foibles. Playing a horror game? Find out where horror lives for your players, but don't traumatize them. Playing at my table? Tell me what you'd like in your coffee, or, failing that, which of the zillions of types of tea in my pantry you'd like.

It's all about collaboration.


Saturday was Nobilis, and I really should have done the write-up that day, but I didn't, because I'm not a smart man.

Anydangway, last time we ended having learned that Norton, our lighthouse keeper lunatic buddy, was seemingly responsible for Indra being attacked and her shard being stolen. We tracked the dude down at the lighthouse, and he denied having anything to do with Indra's attack. Tommy used a miracle of Domain to know the truth (kinda like when someone says something in a movie, and someone else says "I believe him" and then that's it, move along, it's established), and confirmed that Norton was telling the truth. But if he hadn't been the one to do, then maybe it had been someone wearing him? Mimicking him?

The Countess recalls that someone had opened the lobster traps, apparently using her Anchor...which she figured was impossible. On that subject, the group got a visit from Zeke Wackum (+Travis if I'm misspelling that, I blame you), the Power of Fisherman, who was very annoyed at the storm that we'd conjured up. He exchanged words with the Countess and then fucked off, and it wasn't until after he'd left that we realized that he might know what the deal was with the Countess' Anchor. She swam after him and negotiated fishing rights to the island (including which species it was OK to fish), and he told her that he'd seen a mimic octopus opening the traps. Countess' Anchor is, indeed, a mimic octopus.

Zeke said that he'd seen the octopus expel ink, and then the ink had taken the shape of the octopus. The Countess zipped back, and we met by the shore, and found something very curious - a turtle shell with burnt flowers.

Now, as you may know, the language of flowers is a big deal in Nobilis. Woolaroo was able to identify this particular Rite as something to do with magic, freedom, and traps. So perhaps something had freed Indra's shard, and then trapped it? But the turtle shell implied that Erehwon Island (resting as it does on the back of a turtle) was involved directly.

The Nobles pooled some points for a rite and started tracing the creator of this turtle-shell thing back. It took us back through the site where Indra was attacked, and then to some rocks. Isabel and Woolaroo followed the trail on, while Tommy and Countess checked the rocks, and found a black-glass dagger with blood (probably Indra's) on it. This, then, was the weapon used to cut out her shard. Ick.

Woolaroo and Isabel followed the trail to the weaver's hut, where folks were making blankets and suchlike. Woolaroo talked to a young man who'd been there making a carpet (weird), and used her power to see threads connecting him...and indeed, he had multiple faces (some of which looked familiar) connected to him. Tommy and Countess arrived as the others were interrogating the guy, and when called out for his involvement, he reached into his coat.

Whereupon, Isabel head-butted him through the wall.

Mortally wounded, the man managed to gasp out "the testa inversa is going to destroy this place" before expiring. The thing he'd been reaching for was a small turtle shell, with more burnt flowers. "Testa inversa" was an inverted turtle - some kind of dark reflection of the our Imperator?

Since our research led us to believe that Indra's Shard hadn't left the island, perhaps it went through the weird portal, the one that we don't know where it goes?

Only one way to find out. Next time.

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 Spirit. 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.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

GenCon 2016: There Isn't Really a Theme

First thing's first.

What Gamer Most Affected the Way You Play? Ooh, good question. There are a lot of possible answers here. I think I've gotta say Harvey. Harv was a guy I met in Toledo, and I would up playing in his weird-ass World of Darkness homebrew thing. My buddy Mike played a werewolf, I played an elder vampire (I mentioned Nehemiah a couple of posts ago), another guy played a reformed Progenitor clone, there were a couple of mages, a dragon, a Gaki was wild.

But the takeaway here was the value of patience as a GM. Harv was willing to let the world unfold as it would, to let players' plans work (this is huge, guys), and to play his NPCs appropriate, but with an eye toward how the PCs' arcs worked. Also, he shut up and listened while the players were talking in-character.

Right. And now, GenCon.


We left on Tuesday. I don't have any pictures. We drove separately this year; I drove the big honkin' Uhaul truck and +Michelle drove the car with her boys. Driving, nothing much to report. 


Now we're talking! Wednesday was "set up the freaking booth" day. 

But first, Patachou.
Setting up the booth was easer with help, and we had a bunch of IGDN-ers and their respective spouses, partners, and so on to help us unload the truck, get the gridwall up and lashed together, and so forth. 

Here's one "larval-stage booth" shot.
So that took a few hours, and then once that was done, we had to skeddadle over to Loughmiller's for the annual IGDN social. Fun fact: This is the first time I've actually attended. The first year I was hanging out with +Renee Ritchie instead and the second year I was running a Chill game. This year I was there from the get-go...only to have POTS flare up and render me largely unable to talk for a lot of it due to brain fog. Fuuuuuuu

So anyway. 

I just like this picture of She-Hulk.


I spent a lot of time in the booth this con. Ordinarily I work a few booth-hours at GenCon, but I keep my schedule a little freer to restock stuff as it sells and otherwise put out fires. Due to a couple of last-minute drop-outs from booth staff, however, I wound up in the booth more than I planned, which is actually fine. I like working the booth, I know a lot of the games IGDN sells (because I run 'em to review 'em), and it means that folks who want to find me have an easier time of it. 

All to say I have some booth-working-pictures? I do not. Here are some gnomes. 

This game is called Oh Gnome You Didn't. I'm not making that up.
I did get to play in my one-and-only game (as a player) on Thursday, too! My homie +Jonathan Lavallee was running Critical! Go Westerly. I've had a copy of Critical! for a while; I think I even read it, but to really get a sense of a game you need to play it. It's a fantasy game that lampoons a bunch of standard fantasy RPG tropes (we found our quest from an old wizard in a tavern, f'rex). I played a dwarf named Ulrist Axebeard, who's tall for a dwarf (and thus his family armor doesn't quite fit). Our hearty trio (me, a wizard, and a thief) went off in search of ingredients to make the young duke's birthday cake. In the process we set fire to a rich person's mansion and I wrote WANKERS on the lawn in burning peat. Good times. My grade: A

Our hearty, blurry, band of brothers.
Then I had to zip off and run Chill. I ran Black Diamond, which I'll write up for the site one of these days. I had a full table, mostly full of people who'd played older versions of Chill, which was fine, except for one little issue. 

I bring pre-gens for Chill (chargen takes too long to do at the table at a con), and normally I shoot for gender parity; three men, three women (I do have a nonbinary pre-gen character who shows up in SAVE, incidentally, but they weren't a good fit for this scenario). Anyway, I was playing with the lineup for this game and I screwed up the parity and wound up with four women and two men. This by itself isn't a huge problem, I wouldn't think, except that my table of mostly men would make comments about how many "chicks" there were on this mission. I finally had to tap the X-card on the table and say "look, there's a word for female humans, and it's not 'chick.'" I think I probably took a couple of the dudes aback.

But the game itself went pretty well; this particular scenario lends itself to a little intra-party tension and infighting, and they picked up on that. In the end, no one died, they escaped with their lives, and everyone said they had fun, so I'll call it a win. 

Chill Third Edition: On sale now!
And then I went and hung out with Michelle and Nicole, and immediately started to feel sick because I'd been sitting for eight hours and POTS can go fuck itself. Fortunately, that would be the last time during the con that it hit me. 


Friday morning I was supposed to go play in a game of TimeWatch, but I was still feeling off from the night before and I had a bunch of booth-things to take care of, so I skipped it. If you're the GM, sorry about that, I really did want to play. 

That left me with a little free time, though, so I could do booth-stuff at leisure, buy a pack of wet-erase markers (since I forgot mine), and get ready for my afternoon game of curse the darkness. Before that, however, I saw a woman cosplaying not just as Leela from Futurama, but as two-eyed Leela from "The Cyber House Rules." 

By the end of today, one of us is gonna have one eye.

Anyway, I don't run curse the darkness often anymore; pretty much just once a year at GenCon. But a couple of the folks playing were fans, which made me very happy. The setup this year was interesting; the characters were in Alaska and were trying to find out what happened to the community there; they'd all up and disappeared. More of a horror setup than I usually run, but it fell together nicely. 

I also gave away the last of the t-shirts. 
And then we headed back to the hotel to catch a shuttle over to a tapas restaurant. While waiting we saw some fun Peter Pan cosplay:

Please clap.
But then tapas, conversation, ranting about shit with Danielle and various other awesome folks. And then back to the hotel for sleep. 


Now, this was weird. Saturday I was free. Like, I had a panel in the morning but otherwise no commitments, so Saturday was shopping day. I got up early and went to the Bee for coffee...

Which, like most business in Indy, knows exactly what side the bread is buttered on.
The panel was "What is Dark Eras?," referring, of course, to the massive book just released from Onyx Path. I was the project coordinator, so I basically herded the cats on the book. The panel was fun; we got to talk about research and the new anthology of fiction based on the book and +Rose Bailey announced the Dark Eras 2 project, coming sometime this year in Kickstarter! I didn't get a picture, however. 

So then Michelle and I went shopping, and I caught a couple of superheroes...

Great power, etc.
And Space Ghost!

We bought a bunch of stuff that you can see in pictures below. Past that, it was time for the IGDN dinner, which is a bunch of us eating and talking about games and books and whatever the hell else. And after that, Michelle went back to the room, but I went on to the JW for the annual "let's gather together and drink until we're not allowed to anymore" hootnanny for OPP folks. 

I saw this unicorn on the way.
That was a lot of fun. I did not stay until the bar closed down (I am far too old for that kind of nonsense, and I didn't want to risk POTS kicking in while I was out without Michelle), but I got to hang out with friends that I don't see often, got to meet some awesome new people, and got to kiss Neall, so that's fun. 

And a very fetching hat!


I was in the booth from the time it opened to tear-down, so that was pretty much my frickin' day on Sunday. 

It ends as it began: A sweaty mess. 
We don't try to drive back on Sunday because that way lies madness, so instead we got dinner at Mikado and then went back to the room and watched soccer, awash in the fading memories and surrounded by books. 


We got breakfast at Patachou (it's worth doing twice) and then headed home. Indy was desolate and empty, a mere shell of the madness from the day before. 

Ghost town.
But: Swag pic!



Wednesday, August 10, 2016

RPGaDay Catchup

Been lax on this, but now I have a little time.

Most Impressive Thing Another's Character Did: Wow. Lots to choose from. OK, not that I want to give +Matthew Karafa a swelled head or anything (since one of this moments showed up on +Michelle's list, too), but the finale of Edge of Midnight was fucking superb. That was a long and really awesome game, ending in a totally noir way with Karafa's character shooting another dude in the head and letting his body fall into the swamp.

What Story Does Your Group Tell About Your Character? Oy. I don't have a character; I play occasionally but mostly I run games, I have several different groups, and I don't think anyone tells a particular story about my character. I'm sure Dylan, my kinetomancer professor in Michelle's Dresden game, could develop a story or two, given time, but at the moment I'm gonna have to take a pass on this one.

Most Amazing Thing a Game Group Did For Their Community: You know, it's a few years old at this point, but the Haiti bundle on DriveThru RPG that raised six figures for Doctors Without Borders was pretty awesome.

What Aspect of RPGs has had the Biggest Effect on You? Well, they've been my career since 1997, with varying degree of emphasis. I was full-time from 2001-ish to 2006-ish. I'd go back to writing/developing full-time in a hot minute if I thought I could pay all my bills that way.

Hardcover, Softcover, Digital, what's your preference? I'm not particular about hard vs. softcover; hardcovers are nice and sturdy, but they're heavy. I prefer to have a digital copy available for actual play; much easier to search.

Beyond the game, what is involved in an ideal session? Focus. My ideal session involves everyone putting their goddamn phones away and paying attention. (I was saying the same thing before smartphones were a thing, though, just with books.)

Largest in-game surprise you have experienced? I think "surprise during a game session" has to go to +Jessica, but I don't think that's what this means. Let's see. A loooong time ago, I ran a Chill game which involved a story arc with a character and his wife-turned-vampire. When I finally ran the game that ended that arc, all of the players showed up dressed in character. That was pretty cool.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Feng Shui! Biff! Pow!

But first.

Best Game Session Since August 2015: Holy shit. Gotta check the archives. I think I gotta choose this one, the finale of our Monsterhearts game. I'm cheating a little, since the game was the closer to a really great series, but it was a pretty emotionally impact-ful game on its own, too.

Character Moment You Are Proudest Of: Oh, geez. Um. I played an elder True Brujah a looong time ago (you have met Nehemiah, if you ever read Sins of the Blood). He once developed a relationship with a Euthantos mage in a truly screwed up mishmosh WoD game that my friend Harv ran, and chose, at one point, to pursue an enemy instead of protecting her, figuring she could handle herself. He regretted that; she wound up losing a bunch of Willpower dots and becoming a kind of shell of her former self (but Nehemiah did kill his enemy).

Right. Now, Feng Shui.

We pick up at Ronnie Meyer's ranch. Johnny is hung upside down, by his feet, and some dudes in robes (including Leon and Ronnie) are standing around him. Doc Norris, Harrison, Lasso Daniels, and Russell are there, too.

The characters, having been alerted by Wildfire, sneak in from the south. Tang moves among the herd of cattle, invisible, but Celeste, walking with the other two, accidentally discharges her gun and alerts them. The battle is joined.

Several of them shoot at Wildfire (in his wendigo form), and Harrison goes pretty much berserk when he sees the monster that killed his friend. Leon flies up into the air and tries to use a Dominate spell on Wildfire, but fails. Tang, seizing his opportunity, flings a cow at Leon and smashes him into the house.

Bai jumps in and kicks a knife out of a cultist's hands; Johnny swings on his rope and catches it to free himself. Celeste dispatches mooks with her whip. Lasso grabs the rope on Johnny's feet and yanks him to the ground, and Ronnie tries to stab at him. Apparently figuring Ronnie has this under control (which he doesn't), Lasso tosses a lariat around Wildfire's neck. Wildfire takes a bunch of damage, and very near has to endure a Mark of Death, but manages to catch a mook and literally eat his head, replenishing health (yay Blood Drain).

Leon returns, throwing fire and domination. Celeste tosses up some powder that counters his dominate spell, and Tang teleports up into the air and smacks him with his parking meter. They land, and Bai appears, using his flame-style to set Leon on fire.

Doc Norris, somewhere in here, sees all the magical craziness and leaves. Lasso, likewise, whistles for a horse and runs; Celeste tries to stop him, but only ends up losing her whip in the process. Russell, having taken out two mooks himself by throwing knives badly (seriously, I kept rolling terribly for him), leaves, too, and none of the characters begrudge him that.

Johnny, never quite getting his feet untied, manages to knock Ronnie out. Tang stabs Leon through the chest with his parking meter, killing him, and that just leaves Harrison.

Harrison stabs Wildfire repeatedly, unwilling to die. Celeste, however, comes up and shoots him, dropping him unceremoniously dead.

Ronnie wakes up hung up by his feet. The characters bring in Ms. Carlisle, the woman who runs the boarding house, and she makes it clear that he's stepping down as mayor; he agrees. The characters attune his feng shui site, and then head back to the worker's camp to talk to Hei, which we'll handle next time!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Feng Shui Prep/RPGaDay#1

Hey, it's August! What does August mean?

Well, I was born in August. So that's exciting. I'm turning 42 this year, so I get to be the meaning of life for a year.

Also we go back to school in August. Booooo. (I mean, I know the parents reading this are rejoicing, but screw you guys, I only get 10 weeks off and now I have to work again! Pity me! Ow! Stop throwing things!)

But also, RPGaDay.

You know, there's a lot of toxicity in this hobby. I don't know if that's the nature of a hobby that encourages tribalism and human contact, or if it's somehow unique to this community. I do, however, see people throwing up their hands in despair or disgust and leaving it. And I don't fault those people; I have no idea how I'd react if I got half the shit that a lot of folks (mostly women, let's be honest) get. But I'm staying in, because even if I suddenly got so frustrated with the people who are loud on the Internet that I couldn't interact with them, I love gaming too much to let it go.

With that in mind, #RPGaDay post numbah one: Real dice, dice app, diceless, how do you prefer to "roll"?

I've never used a dice app, and barring an accessibility issue for a player, I wouldn't let players use one at my table. I like the dice hitting the table; it keeps everyone honest, and frankly I don't want my players staring at their fucking devices more than they already do. Diceless systems are fine, of course; I'm playing one right now and I wrote one.

Right, Feng Shui players read no further.

Board Game: Trivial Pursuit Pop Culture


The Game: Trivial Pursuit Pop Culture 2
The Publisher: Parker Brothers/Hasbro
Time: An hour+
Players: Me, Michelle, Sarah

I enjoy games I can play on the couch. 
Game play: Trivial Pursuit is kind of a mainstay; you've got a little wheel (in this edition the wheels are replaced by cute little figurines; I had a record, Michelle had a gnome, Sarah had a boot) and you roll a die to see how far you move. Land on a colored space, answer a question of the corresponding type (the categories here being TV, Movies, Sports & Games, Buzz, Fads, and Music). If you get it right, you go again. Land on one of the six spoke-ends, though, and you hit the button for the DVD, which asks you a question with a visual clue (and gives the other players an opportunity to steal the answer). Get it right, get a plastic "pie slice." Once you've got all six, you have to land in the middle by exact count, the DVD asks you one final question, if you get it, you win!

The quest begins.
Opinions: So, you either like trivia games or you don't. I do like them, but I like the more current ones just because I'm more likely to know the answers. I've played earlier editions where the questions don't reference anything more current than the 70s, and not only are those questions really out of my wheelhouse, the answers on the cards are more likely to be wrong. As it was, we found a mistake on one of the cards; the question was looking for the first American woman to win a Best Director Oscar, and the answer on the card was Sofia Coppolla. This, of course, is false; Kathryn Bigelow won for The Hurt Locker, and I knew that. Makes you wonder what else they screwed up.

The DVD element is gimmicky, but it's fun and it breaks up the game a bit. I've played in Trivial Pursuit games that just drag on and on forever because no one at the table knows enough random shit to get the pie slices, and then I've played in other games that are basically "wait for Michelle's turn" (or whoever the "knower of random shit" at the table is; sometime it's me but the sports category trips me up).

In any case, Michelle won this game; I came in distant third. I would point out, however, that both Sarah and Michelle got games questions on the "Sports & Games" pie, whereas I kept getting "who played 8th base for the Wibberville Flooberbats in 1986 before he fucked off to become a millionaire frog-stomper?"

Keep? Sure.