Who’s the audience?

I think I realized why all my previous attempts at writing scenarios for public usage have petered out at one point or another.  Simply put, it’s the audience.

Most of what I was writing was not tailored to a wide audience.  It was meant for the characters in my group, who had VERY SPECIFIC needs in terms of character development and plot.  So, because of this, my previous efforts would likely fall very, very flat with people that weren’t in my group.

So, I needed to open my scope a bit.  Hooks needed to be more open.  Assume less about the player characters.

I think my initial one-sheet concept does fairly well at being open to a variety of groups in the setting it’s designed for.  There’s hook for players that have encountered certain kinds of creatures, hook for future adventures, and some new stuff that I think fits nicely with the setting.

I haven’t made much progress on the outline to draft, but, I am nearing completion of the introductory section, which provides the key facts of the adventure.

It’s been fun to try and think about this sort of thing over the last while.

 

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.

WCC #5: Adam Sauer

Adam Sauer has been created using the Savage Worlds Explorer’s Edition and Weird Wars II.

Vitals

Nationality: American
Service: Army
MOS: Paratrooper
Rank: Sargeant
Sex: Male
Age: 25 (in 1940)
Height: 5’7″
Weight: 150 lbs.
Birthdate: February 15, 1915

Attributes

Agility: d6
Smarts: d6
Strength: d6
Spirit: d6
Vigor: d6

Derived Statistics

Charisma: 0
Pace: 6
Parry: 5
Toughness: 7
Sanity: 5

Skills

Fighting: d6
Shooting: d6
Notice: d6
Throwing: d4
Stealth: d6
Knowledge (Battle): d8
Knowledge (Navigation): d6

Hindrances

Code of Honor (Major)
Hard of Hearing (Minor)
All Thumbs (Minor)

Edges

Rank (NCO)
Jump Qualified
US Luck

Notes

Adam is suited for any World War II game.  He has experienced several battles, one of which, he became hard of hearing due to a mortar shell exploding very close to him.  He’s an excellent NCO, he’s loved and hated by his men.  Don’t ask Adam to fix anything, as he’ll just make it worse.

Adam would be outfitted with the full gear listed for an army soldier.  He would likely be outfitted with an M1A1 Thompson, rather than a rifle.

EAVB_KFIVWCLKTM

WCC #4: Pyotr Nikolayevich Alexandrov

Pyotr Nikolayevich Alexandrov has been created using the Savage Worlds Explorer’s Edition and Weird Wars II.

Vitals

Nationality: Russian
Service: Army
MOS: Sniper
Rank: Ryadovoy
Sex: Male
Age: 21 (in 1943)
Height: 5’9″
Weight: 130 lbs.
Birthdate: July 23, 1922

Attributes

Agility: d8
Smarts: d4
Strength: d6
Spirit: d8
Vigor: d4

Derived Statistics

Charisma: 0
Pace: 6
Parry: 5
Toughness: 4
Sanity: 6

Skills

Fighting: d6
Shooting: d10
Notice: d4
Survival: d6
Stealth: d8
Tracking: d4

Hindrances

Arrogant (Major)
Illiterate
Poverty

Edges

Trademark Weapon (Model 1930 G “Tatiana”)
Soviet Fatalism

Notes

Pyotr is suited for any World War II game.  Depending on the game, Pyotr could fight because he has to, or to avenge the loss of a loved one.  The combination of Edges an Hindrances lend themselves to a poor, farm bound young man.  Perhaps the arrogance arose from the thought that the War would give Pyotr the opportunity to grow out of his ‘place’ in the world.

The absolute minimum in gear that Pyotr would carry at any time would be:

  • Steel Helmet
  • Knife
  • Web Gear
  • Model 1930 G “Tatiana”
  • Rifle Scope

Any additional gear would be at the discretion of the Warmaster, and would depend on the situation/location.

WWC #2: Dr. Philip Hildebrant – Mad Scientist

Dr. Philip Hildebrant has been created using the Savage Worlds Explorer’s Edition and Deadlands Reloaded.

Background

Hiledbrant immigrated from Great Britian to the United States with his parents, Ambrose and Gertrude Hildebrant in 1845, at the age of eight.  The Hildebrant’s settled in New York state, building a large estate, thanks to the medical knowledge of Ambrose.  Expected to be a doctor, like his father, Philip was placed in high quality boarding schools and eventually medical school.  While he did not resent the life he was given by his parents, as it was quite comfortable, he did resent his inability to choose what he wanted to do.  To add insult to injury, Philip’s skill as a physician far exceeded his Father’s.

In 1862, Philip joined his father’s medical practice.  At this time, Ambrose was beginning to show signs of his age.  In 1865, Ambrose was confined to bedrest.  Philip did everything in his power to help his father.  In 1868, Ambrose passed away, shortly after the great Earthquake.  Philip believed that his resentment of his profession prevented him from saving his father.  Like many, he went West to uncover the secrets of the mysterious Ghost Rock.

Infernal devices were being developed by others.  Philip saw these devices as an opportunity.  An opportunity to save others from the fate his father had to endure.  Philip believed that Ghost Rock could be harnessed to allow someone to live for eternity.  Thus began his obsession with immortality.

Vitals

Sex: Male
Age: 42 (in 1879)
Height: 5’5″
Weight: 105 lbs.
Birthdate: November 7,  1837

Attributes

Agility: d4
Smarts: d10
Strength: d4
Spirit: d6
Vigor: d6

Derived Statistics

Charisma: 0
Pace: 6
Parry: 2
Toughness: 5
Grit: 2

Skills

Healing (Sma): d10
Weird Science (Sma): d8
Guts (Spi): d4
Gambling (Sma): d4
Riding (Agi): d4
Shooting (Agi): d4
Knowledge – Anatomy (Sma): d6
Knowledge – Pharmaceuticals (Sma): d6

Hindrances

Ailin’ (Minor – Cancer, Undiagnosed)
Habit (Minor – Cigarettes)

Edges

Arcane Background (Weird Science)
Knack (Breech Birth)

Powers

Bolt – Trapping: Ray Gun

Notes

Philip Hildebrant is a tragic figure.  Forced into a life he didn’t want with unsurpassed healing skill, but unable to save his Father.  Philip can be used in a variety of ways. As a PC, he could continue on his quest to find immortality or struggle with his madness and try to regain his humanity after several failed attempts.   As an NPC, he could be a fixture in a small town – the local madman/doctor/drunk.  He also could be used as a villian, with a little tweaking.  Perhaps he fully embraces the madness and turns an entire town into Walkin’ Dead.

Philip might have a six-shooter and some cigarettes in addition to his Ray Gun.  His other posessions are likely junked attempts at an immortality device.

WCC #1: Melker Göransson – Särskilda Skyddsgruppen Operative

Melker Göransson has been created using the Savage Worlds Explorer’s Edition.

Background

Melker Göransson grew up in Västerbotten province of Sweden, near the city of Umeå.  Melker’s mother worked for TV4, his father for the Norrland University Hospital. Melker played Hockey from a young age.  He was recruited by several Universities to play for the collegiate hockey teams.  Melker had a bright hockey future, especially considering the quality of programs that were courting him.  However, Melker wanted to serve his country in a different way.  Melker decied to attend Military Academey Karlberg, which effectively stalled any potential for his Hockey career, a choice Melker has yet to regret.

The strong, athletic Melker’s conditioning was tested throughout his Officer training.  Driven to succeed, Melker graduated near the top of his class, ready to lead.  Melker moved into a position with the Amphibious Corps and showed great skill as a leader and as a solider.  These skills were quickly recognized by the Särskilda Skyddsgruppen, who recruited the young man into their ranks.

Fresh out of SpecOps training, Melker is ready to lead his new unit against what ever threats may arise.

Vitals

Rank:  Löjtnant
Sex: Male
Age: 29 (in 2009)
Height: 6’0″
Weight: 200 lbs.
Birthdate: March 23,  1980

Attributes

Agility: d8
Smarts: d6
Strength: d6
Spirit: d4
Vigor: d6

Derived Statistics

Charisma: 0
Pace: 6
Parry: 6
Toughness: 5

Skills

Fighting (Agi): d8
Shooting (Agi): d8
Repair (Sma): d4
Survival (Sma): d6
Stealth (Agi): d6
Intimidation (Spi): d4
Driving (Agi): d4
Notice (Sma): d6
Knowledge – Tactics (Sma): d4

Hindrances

Loyal (Minor) – Loyalty to Sweden
Code of Honor (Major)

Edges

First Strike
Command

Notes

Melker is suited for any modern game, but may require some modifications, depending on the actual details of the setting (eg, if the setting was set during the Weird Wars, one might want to add some points to Guts).  Melker can be outfitted with a wide range of weaponry, personal armor and other Spec-Ops gadgetry. A recommended outfitting for a general assault mission would be include:

  • Kevlar Vest
  • Leg/Arm Armor
  • Spec-Ops Helmet
  • Assault Rifle or MP5
  • Colt .45
  • Entry Charges (x2)
  • Frag Grenades (x2)

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.