Forward progress

Over the past couple days, I’ve been putting some time into outlining my first One-Sheet for mass-consumption.  I like how it’s shaping up, but it’s still in early stages and I think there’s several revisions in my future.

As I alluded to in Writing for other people, I want to start producing content for public use, as I build up my confidence and abilities as a writer to finally get started on a large-scale project that I think the gaming community will love.

Part of this process is documenting what I’m doing.

For the one sheet I’m working on right now, I had an idea.  For this particular adventure, was the location and an era, but the location could be in almost any modern city of the era.  I had an enemy in mind as well.

I let the idea bounce around my head for a while.  After the kids were in bed and wife and I were sitting in front of the TV, I took out some paper and started writing down bullet points.  I started with the City, since the idea began to take on a true location.  I did some brief investigation and wrote down a better time frame.  I wrote down the goal of the mission.

To me, One Sheets generally have three to four ‘scenes’.  I wrote down Scene 1, Scene 2, etc and left space to fill in the gaps.  I began to write details.

Scene 1 was the setup.  How the PCs were engaged on the task at hand, etc.  Basic stuff.

Scene 2 was a little bit of investigation.  I briefly noted the things that would be accomplished in the scene.

Scene 3 was to be a combat encounter, with some investigative elements.

Scene 4 was going to reveal the reality of what was going on, and a combat encounter.

I was happy with the outline.  The opponent I had thought was going to be involved – wasn’t.  No worries, he’s on another planning document for another time.

The next morning, I typed up the outline and added even more details.  Combat encounters weren’t built up more than knowing what creatures would be present, but the overall feel of the One-Sheet was there.

I passed this draft to a few trusted friends for comments.

Once I have those back, I’ll be incorporating any feedback into the outline and I’ll begin to design the combat encounters, which I think is going to be my biggest challenge.

 

Writing for other people

It’s no secret that I’d like to be able to cook up an adventure or two and put them out in the wild, as it were, maybe even on a commercial basis.  However, I find this dream incredibly difficult to achieve, simply because I think my writing stinks.

Obviously, it doesn’t completely stink.  I’ve been running PbF games for years with great success, which really is driven home by people’s eagerness to join anything that I put out there.

And, with my GM style, only really plan scenes, rather than scenes and paths to get there.  Sure, in my scenes I have some ideas of how to go from A to B, but really, its up to the players to sort it it.  I think this sort of adventure construction would be ideal for creating One-Sheet Adventures for the Savage Worlds.  But, for some reason, I think my stuff is unfit for public consumption.

Well, I’m wanting to worry less about what I think about stuff and let the public decide about it.  I’m going to working on some One-Sheets and I’ll make them available online for GMs to use.  Hopefully I can get some feedback on those and move into a more full-fledged campaign as I gain more comfort with what I’m producing.

So, all you Savages reading, keep your eyes out for some One-Sheets from me.

Does the gear make the man?

The same conversation that got yesterday’s post going also started another discussion regarding the importance of gear to a character.  Tim Hannon (@theloremaster) suggested that gear in Savage Worlds was overrated and the real character choices are in the Edges.  Sean argued that many well known characters (King Arthur, Elric, Indiana Jones), their gear are integral parts of the characters.

Here’s the thing: they’re both right.  In Savage Worlds, if you have a piece of gear that is iconic to the character, you’re most likely going to use the “Trademark Weapon” edge and through that selection, define the circumstances of that relationship.  In the case of other gear (such as Indy’s hat, for example) one could handle that through the Quirk hindrance – he’s always got to have his hat.  While I feel this covers most cases, it does have some problems.

Now, I feel that there two situations here: where the gear actually is SIGNIFICANTLY better when being used by a particular character (ie. Excalibur); and gear that has sentimental value to the character (ie. Indy’s Hat).

In the former category, this is going to cover weapons that are magically tied to the user in some way.  For my understanding of the Arthurian legend, Excalibur proved that Arthur was the rightful king of England and could only be wielded by the rightful king.  So, in this case, I’d actually suggest that the weapon would have a stat block as follows:

If rightful king, Excalibur grants the Trademark Weapon Edge, even if prerequisites are not met.  Additionally, Excalibur grants +2 to social based trait-tests when dealing with subjects of the realm.  Str+d8

If not rightful king, Str+d6

Similarly, if you look at a weapon such as the Sword of Truth or Sword of Shannara, I’d say similar treatments would need to be made.  These weapons are magically tied to the user and are more than just a preference of the character.

Now, on the flipside, let’s look at Indy’s whip and hat.  I’d say that neither piece of gear grants any real benefit to Indy (other than he’s used having them around), so for Indy’s stats, I’d say that the Whip is a Trademark Weapon and the Hat is a Quirk, as above.  They define the character, but they are (in my view) a preference of the character, rather than a mystical object.

Obviously, there’s major game implications for the magical weapon angle.  It really hangs a hat on one particular character as the ‘main character’.  With that said, look at the fiction that my examples draw upon – there is an incredible cast of supporting (and equally important characters) that don’t have or need a piece of gear that is tied to the fate of their character.  So maybe, in game terms, it isn’t so bad.

This sort of discussion has been mostly focused on Savage Worlds, but I think does have some general application to other games.

Anyway, that’s some thoughts on gear and characters.  I’d love to hear what you think.

Simplifying Gear Selection in RPGs

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of having a brief conversation about equipment in the Savage Worlds supplement, Agents of Oblivion with Sean Preston, the President of Reality Blurs.

Sean had made a comment on twitter about how the formatting of gear tables can be a tedious job after quite a while, which I would have to agree.  Table formatting was perhaps the most uninspiring work I had to do when working on my CMA papers.

Anyway, this got me thinking about Agents of Oblivion’s gear tables, and in particular, how firearms were handled.  Being set in modern times, there’s literally thousands of different kinds of fireams, all with their own quirks/effectiveness/etc.  For a game like AoO to try to recreate a listing of all the options would result in a very, very, large list and likely, a large number of extraneous entries (for example, in terms of Savage Worlds, is an MP5 really any different from a UMP? I don’t think so).

On top of there not being substantial differences between weapons, picking gear becomes a more difficult task as you need to weigh small differences (this one weighs slightly less, but this one does slightly more damage, etc) instead of getting gear picked and moving on to playing the game.

What did Sean do in AoO?  He broke it down.  Firearms can be classified by two defining features.  First, the weapon class (Pistol, Submachinegun, Shotgun, Sniper Rifle, etc) and then the ammo caliber (small, medium, and large).  Each weapon class has a variant with a different caliber of ammo.  Each class/caliber combination has a set of statistics that define any weapon that matches that class/caliber combination.  This leads to a much smaller list of selections that are generalized.

Someone wants to use an AK-47?  That’s an Assault Rifle with Medium Caliber ammo.  An M16?  Same thing.  Now you just have to select a weapon based on the job you need to do then decide the “trappings” (ie, Brand name).  Yes, it’s a simplification, but one doesn’t play Savage Worlds for a simulation of real life.

Now, as I was thinking about how Sean handled this, I realized that he had used the ideas that are presented with respect to powers in Savage Worlds.  Most powers in Savage Worlds (at least in the core product) are vanilla.  There’s no trappings, just ‘the power does this’.  So, Blast is an area affect power that creates a medium burst template centered where you desire and deals 2d6 damage.  You decide if the bolt is lightning, a fireball, swarm of bees, etc.

I like this approach.  It cuts down on the number of entries for the same power with a different flavor text.  It gives control to the players to make their powers their own.  Others don’t like this approach (and that’s ok), as maybe the setting flavor is lost by not having the trappings (see: D&D).  That doesn’t enter my thought processes, so its not something that bugs me.

Back to the firearms.  I’m not going to say this is perfect for every setting.  Take World War II.  I would want to see exactly what is presented in the Weird War II setting book.  A table for each major country in the war, with their own signature weapons and appropriate stats.  Each nationality is going to be starting their gear with something from their country list, so it doesn’t get overwhelming in terms of choice there.  For this setting, that flavor is important to me, but again, each PC only has a short list to choose from, which is the most important part.

Ultimately, a generic ‘skin as you go’ model doesn’t work for everyone in all situations.  But, I think it fits with Savage Worlds and Fast, Furious, Fun and is a very welcome addition in my games.

Boardgaming

Back in 2008, I met some people who brought me back into the world of gaming, which I believe I’ve talked a lot about since then.  It started with a return to pen and paper RPGs (which, in all honesty, hadn’t really left, I just only played online), and was quickly followed by boardgaming.

I was pretty satisfied with playing my handful of RPG titles and Arkham Horror, until one day, my friend pointed me at the Fantasy Flight Games website, specifically to look at the game, Android.  Android looked like a really cool game, so I started to look at more games.  I quickly found that I had been stuck in a very narrow world of ‘mainstream’ boardgames.

Fast forward to now.  My closet is pretty much full of games now.  I made some trades with various individuals to get things I wanted in exchange for things they wanted.  With all that said and done, I have more unplayed (by me) games than I do played, I think.  The collection can be viewed here: Boardgame Geek

Thankfully, I was able to play two games for the first time last weekend.

First up was Small World.

The object of Small World is to generate more victory tokens than your opponents in the number of turns available (which varies based on the number of players).  The mechanics of the game are pretty simple, to conquer a territory, you need to attack with 2 more attackers than there are defenders.  Your territory must always have one of your units on it in order to collect victory points for it.

There are a few things that I like about this game.  First, it comes with 4 different maps, each designed for a different number of players, which forces interactions between the players.  The second is the way the races and abilities match together.  There are a number of races, with special abilities, plus additional special abilities that grant additional bonuses.  Finally, the in decline mechanic is neat, which adds a layer of strategy to the game – when should you pull the plug on your current race?  Very neat.

The second game that we played was Pandemic with the expansion, On The Brink.

Pandemic is a co-operative game where the players race against the game to cure 4 (or 5) viruses that are plaguing the world.  Again, a very simple game with simple mechanics, but we found it to be a good challenge.  Each player has a different role, which grants them special abilities.  These roles are assigned randomly at the start of each game.  Through our play, there are clearly a few roles that make the game much easier (Medic, Dispatcher).  The game does a good job of raising tensions, as drawing the wrong card can really make things difficult.  The expansion adds new ways to play, which also ramp up the difficulty.  In three plays, we only won once (which, in hindsight, was luck on our part), which gives the game replay value, as we still have to work on the strategy on how to beat the game.

I really enjoyed both games and I look forward to playing them again in the future.

My other writing

I haven’t had much going on that I’ve felt the need to post here about since my last update, but I’ve been fairly busy doing posts elsewhere or running games for people.

As I mentioned a few posts ago, I’ve started a new blog Reviews from a Dead Planet, where I will be posting my game reviews from now on.  I’ve most recently reviewed Don’t Rest Your Head and prior to that was a review of the near final copy of Hot War.  I think both games are very cool.  If you want to know more, give the reviews a read.

Secondly, I’ve decided to run a series of interviews with a variety of independent gaming publishers over at Canadian Geek.  The first in that series was posted today, which was an interview with Tom McLaughlin of Mind Storm Labs.  I’ve got several in the hopper, so keep your eyes peeled there for more in the future.

Secrets of the Galaxy has had its third session and is going very well.  The wiki is slowly being updated to reflect the ongoing actions of the campaign.  I’m very excited about how well things are going so far and I look forward to seeing how things turn out.

Last night I ran my first session of Rippers, which was just character creation.  It will be run as a drop-in game, so whomever shows, shows.  It should be alot of fun, especially with the wide variety of characters we have so far.

So, that is pretty much all I’ve got right now.

Going to Vegas in 41 days or so.

Philosophy is Over and an Exciting Weekend!

I’ve got a very exciting weekend coming up.

Before the weekend starts however, I have the final ‘midterm’ for my Philosophy class.  I know I was complaining earlier about how philosophy hurts my brain (which it does), but I’m really glad I had the opportunity to take the class.  I was able to learn a few new things and I was also able to find ways to help understand why I hold certian beliefs and defend things that I believe.  I’m sort of disapointed that the course is over, as there are several subjects that we didn’t have the opportunity to cover that I feel would have been really interesting to cover (for example, we only had a single class on Metaphysics).

The course itself was presented in an interesting manner, utilizing popular movies to illustrate philosophical concepts, which I think really helped solidify my understanding.  The movies that we watched were “Waking Life”, “The Matrix”, “Bruce Almighty”, and “Being John Malkovich”.  I really enjoyed the format and I am disapointed that we were not able to cover “The Matrix Reloaded” and the metaphysical concepts that are presented there, as I think that potentially could be extremely interesting.

Onto this weekend!

Saturday is Free RPG Day.  What is it?  Much like Free Comic Book Day, members of the industry prepare special items to give away to help introduce the hobby to a new generation.  This is the second year of the event and I hope that it becomes as successful as its comic counterpart.  I’ve been organizing events at Happy Harbor Comics volume 2 and 3 to assist with the flow of the day.  If you’ve ever had the inclination to give an RPG a try, please come out.  We have short (1-2 hour) games running throughout the day using various different settings, which barely scratches the surface of what is being given away (or what is available).

On Sunday, Emily and I are going to Cirque du Soleil’s Saltimbanco, which is very exciting.  We have fantastic seats, which I’m really hoping work well.  This will be my third Cirque show, the others being La Nouba and Varekai.  I’ve really enjoyed the other shows I’ve seen, so this should be no different.  Also, later this summer, Emily and I will be seeing O during our trip to Las Vegas.

Anyway, I’m going to have a busy weekend, but it should be some fun.

The Secrets of the Galaxy

Last weekend I had the opportunity to begin The Secrets of the Galaxy, which is my first face-to-face RPG campaign. I’ve been really excited about it, ever since I was approached with the possibility of running such a game at the beginning of the year (wow, that was nearly 6 months ago!). As I’m comfortable with the rules for Jedi in the Star Wars Saga Edition, it was the perfect opportunity to run an adventure set in the Old Republic.

I’ve set up an wiki where I can keep track of everything in the game and to provide my players with some sort of ‘guidebook’ that will help them remember key information about what has happened and the like. It needs to be populated with some more data, I just haven’t had the time to do it properly.

Anyway, the first session went very well and I’m really excited to see how everything plays out.

Pick-up and Campaign

After many months of listening to the podcast Fear the Boot, I finally caved and had Jay over at Happy Harbor Comics order me a copy of the Savage Worlds Explorer’s Edition (There’s a free Test Drive of the rules on the website). I don’t want to get into too much detail right now, but wow. I’m really excited to give this system a runthrough. I fully expect it to live up to the tagline “Fast, Furious and Fun”. The rules can be applied to pretty much any setting you’d like (and the community has already converted many popular settings), the Explorer’s Edition is a great value at $10.99. If you want to start playing in one of the really cool settings put out by Pinnacle, you’ll end up paying a pretty penny, but they all sound spectacular.

Onto some more pressing news!  I’m going to be running Cold City again on May 3rd for a different group of individuals.  I’m really excited about it, since I really enjoyed my last session.  The players will be generating their own characters, which should make for some better play.  I’m also looking forward to having the opportunity to run a full session without worrying about time.  The difficulty I’m having is preparing (or starting to prepare, to be more accurate) an adventure.  I don’t want to end up designing an encounter that the players are ill-equiped for, but at the same time, I don’t want to just make things up on the fly too much.  I also want to make sure that the adventure really gets into the details of the trust mechanics.  I’m likely going to use the Dossier again for some inspiration (have I mentioned how awesome that supplement is?).  While I only intend this game to be a one-shot, I will definately want to keep the characters ‘on-file’ for a follow up at some point.  I love this game, but I’ve already committed myself to another campaign.

What campaign is that?  It’s an all Jedi Star Wars Saga campaign.  As I think I’ve already stated, I think the SW:Saga rules for Jedi are non-retarded and easy to administer, so I’m willing to run a game featuring those kinds of characters.  Set in the Old Republic, the characters will be Jedi Padawans beginning their Trials of Knighthood.  I’ve taken a few liberties with the setting, mostly because I find most of the Expanded Universe stuff much too uninteresting for my purposes (and I don’t want to have 4-5 Jedi Masters running around with my players).  The first adventure is already scripted in my head, so I just need to focus and put some of that down on paper.  I also need to do some character design for the NPCs in the universe.  I’ll have a better idea of what sort of auxillary challenges to throw at my players once we hold a character generation session, hopefully sometime next month.

Its my intention to continue posting recaps of playsessions here, so keep checking back if you’re interested in hearing what has gone on!