Wednesday, April 1, 2020

KantCon Optimism

KantCon, my beloved convention and the only thing remotely resembling a vacation in my life, is scheduled for July. Will we be out of quarantines and lockdowns and such by July? Honestly, I don't think we will.. but I submitted my games anyway. At this point, I need something to look forward to. If nothing else, I'll run them as one shots.

What I signed up for:

Starships & Spacemen, 2nd edition. Every year since I think 2013*, I've run a game of S&S using the same crew and ship. (Very often many of the same players, too.) This year's session is called "Imposter Syndrome" and involves rooting out a sinister element on a space station.... are they dopplegangers? Are they infested with alien mind control parasites? Are they robots? Space-Communists? Videni spies? Is it all just paranoia?

Zweihander- I used to run a weird/grimdark fantasy game every Friday, but as of last year I changed my game of choice to Zweihander from another game that I no longer play or support. In this year's game, an infamous pirate is supposedly lost at sea. When his ship is rumored to have run aground, treasure hunters scramble for the ultimate payoff... but the countryside is presently plagued by undead and the almost-as-dangerous inquisitors tasked with rooting out the source of the scourge.

Cartoon Action Hour- It went over so well last year, I'm going to try it again. I'm running three mini-sessions of Eagle Force (discount GI Joe), Converters (discount Transformers), and Genetically Altered Xiaolin Toads (if you can't figure this one out, hang your head in shame.) I plan on serving surgery cereal at the table again.

Savage Worlds Adventure Edition- I still want to kick the tires on my SWADE book, and this is the chance. I'm reheating a one-shot of my twice-defunct Royal Society Files game, which is basically steampunk ghostbusters.

On Sunday, I will host board games like I usually do. This year I'm doing Strange Synergy and Hero Quest.

I know very well there might not be a tournament. I just need to think about something right now that isn't plague-related.

*Except 2017, which is perhaps the most garbage year of my entire life, and missing KantCon that year was just one of many reasons.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Shuffling Along with Troika

My Troika! game passed session 3 this last week. We play only every other week, though I'm tempted to remedy this. Originally we alternated weeks because I was running an in-person game as well, but that game is toast due to the whole global pandemic thing.

Troika is a breeze to run. I'm still looking for a good tool to do the initiative system online. Originally, I used a random name picker "virtual wheel" that I've used in my oral comm classes to determine which kid or group of kids has to present next. While the wheel's clicky sounds and air horn sound effect are fun in class, they are not fun when I'm trying to keep a combat moving along at a decent pace. I want a tool that is quick and simple, but still allows me to easily add or remove combatants as people die, monsters get summoned, folks run, etc.

Troika is running a little bit more silly/comedic than I had originally intended. I wanted it to be just a quirkier Spelljammer, but instead the game has a good deal more absurdity than I intended. I'm not sure how I feel about that yet. (If you've read my blog, you know I'm a notorious, sour-faced fun-hater.)

My current campaign model is an open world (worlds, more accurately) liberally sprinkled with random table weirdness and dungeons from the 2019 One Page Dungeon Competition PDF. Converting monsters (or statting them up wholesale, given that a lot of the OPDC's dungeons provide no stats) is pretty simple, since foes in Troika (and it's progenitor, Advanced Fighting Fantasy) have but two stats.

I hope all my blog pals are staying well and sane.

Monday, March 16, 2020

In Which I Run Troika! a Second Time

We continued our Troika! game this last week.

I was tempted to chronicle the events of the game session, but:

1.) Nobody cares, and

2.) Having attempted to do so with several IRL friends, I have determined that there is no way to describe the game session to those who have not played without it sounding like an acid trip. (I made this same observation about Gamma World a few years ago.)

Instead, I shall offer insights based on the experience of running the game from a GM's perspective.

Observation 1: Making monsters on the fly is trivially easy, in that they need only ratings in Skill and Stamina. Anything else you want to hang on the monster is basically just window dressing.

Observation 2: The "token picking" initiative system creates a very random, chaotic feel to combat. This is a very refreshing change from games where a stat allows some characters or enemies to consistently dominate initiative, or the "I go, you go, I go" trap that even older editions of D&D can fall into.

Observation 3: The option of eating Provisions to restore Stamina keeps the party from over-camping/resting after every single encounter. While this is not (yet) a campaign centered around the crawling of dungeons, it seems like it would lend itself to keeping up the pace if the PCs decide to engage in such endeavors.

Observation 4: While at first I and the players balked at rolling Skill for... well, everything... I find that it keeps the game moving forward. Players don't try to use spurious logic to attach skill bonuses to everything. Nobody hems and haws over whether this is a roll of Diplomacy or Etiquette or Savoir-Fair or Fast-Talk. More seriously, it really helps me decide on what exactly needs to be a roll at all. (Turns out, not actually very much sometimes.)

Observation 5: More a personal observation than anything else, this game is turning me back on to the idea of classless games. (Troika's Backgrounds are sort of like classes, but not entirely.)

The game has been an enjoyable experience so far. I've been reading up more on Advanced Fighting Fantasy, Troika's illustrious ancestor, as well...but more on that at a later time.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

The Dungeon Bank

I find that I am increasingly tilting toward being a "zero-prep" DM, or at least one who prepares very minimally for games. To this end, I picked up the 2019 One Page Dungeon Contest compilation from DriveThru for a paltry sum of three dollars. Reskin (or not), shuffle around, sprinkle liberally into my version of the millions spheres for Troika!, or use them as a pick up game of White Box Fantastic Medieval Adventure Game* at a moment's notice. 

I am presently plodding through the dungeons over my meager lunch break, for my own edification and certainly not because I have a Troika! game in six hours that I have done zero preparation for. 

Some of the dungeons are novel. Some are mini-games into themselves, with mechanics and everything. Some are pretty traditional. Some are fucking hipster bullshit. Some are actually unplayable. They aren't all fantasy, which works out really well with my Troika! game and how I envision the setting. Some of the sci-fi dungeons will do nicely without really needing that much alteration. 

What I'm doing is building a dungeon bank. I'm really terrible at mapping. My brain just isn't good at laying things out spatially like that. Having a dungeon bank allows me to have strange and deadly places ready to go. I used to do this with Wizardawn  back in the days of my dearly departed and fondly remembered Stars Without Number campaign. The players were always ending up in bunkers, space stations, alien ruins, etc. and I found that I needed a repository of maps, lest the players end up exploring the exact same building, reskinned into infinity. (Looking at you, Mass Effect 1.) 

At present, I plan to simply create a folder on my Guugle Drive and upload the PDFs I buy, perhaps with some typed up notes for reskinning purposes. I might also print a selection of them and stick them in an honest-to-gods physical folder. 

Well, I should get back to my dungeon evaluation. Time's a-wastin'. 

*Haha I wish. My home group won't touch anything that resembles old D&D because they are lame. 

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Troika! Initial Impressions from the Game Table

Troika! is fun to run.
Troika! is easy to run, even if the initiative system is a little weird.

While it turned out a little zanier, and probably close to the original vision, then I had intended, it was nonetheless a good time. I used the module included in the back of the book, which is delightful and bizarre. We sussed out some hooks for further adventure. The game now stands open as a sandbox.  I'm looking forward to next session.

PS: For those of you who are stuck playing online, I recommend this tool for initiative, just type in a character or NPC's name as many times as they have initiative tokens, plus and "END OF ROUND" entry. It worked beautifully, though it takes a second or three to set up.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

A Totally New and Previously Unexpressed Opinion

I fucking hate gaming online.
I. Fucking. Hate. It.

That's all. Resume your evening.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

My Recipe for Troika!

My game of Troika! (Numinous Edition) begins tomorrow. I must confess I've only got the slightest notion what I'm actually going to do with it.

As mentioned in prior posts, I am definitely not British enough to understand the Troika! vibe on a core level. I have instead replaced it with my own aesthetic. My recipe is as follows:

*Spelljammer- Basically I'm taking the premise of "space D&D with magic ships" and using it as the chassis for this game. I'm stealing some actual elements of the setting and reflavoring liberally.

*Saga (graphic novel) - While a love story, Saga is also batshit weird space fantasy. It has kind of a kitchen sink approach to aliens, magic, and other weirdness. Imagine RIFTS if the author were much, much hornier.

*SaGa Frontier (Playstation game) - Unrelated to Saga. SF has a setting composed of "Regions," which are kind of like planets or dimensions. Some have magic, some have technology, some have both. SaGa also has some cool stuff in it that I'm just going to straight-up steal.

The campaign has no story premise; I'm going open world/sandbox up in this. We'll see how that works out with this crew. Right now I'm just making up spheres and reskinning adventures and locations for players to visit and kick around in.

In terms of actual "under the hood" stuff:

-Stellar Adventures, a sci-fi rpg written using the Advanced Fighting Fantasy rules and published by the company that presently publishes AFF 2nd edition. I grabbed this for planetary generators and for starship/vehicle combat rules, should they come up. It will need some reskinning to turn the ships into Troika!'s golden barges and ships reminiscent of those from Spelljammer.

-The Floating Dungeon of Varrak Aslur, an adventure published for AFF. The dungeon setting is pretty novel but it's definitely bog-standard fantasy stuff. I'm reskinning it, but I needed to see what a dungeon using this rule system is "supposed" to look like. I'm mildly troubled about how to pronounce the wizard's last name: "A slur?" "ASS lure?"  Actually I think I'm going to go with ass lure.

-Keep of the First Scion, which... yeah, I'm kind of sorry I paid $1.80 for this. It's a one page dungeon that's mostly the author's hand-written scribbles and a half-formed idea or three. I could've gotten a fountain soda with that money. Still, I wanted to see what people were doing when writing for Troika! and not AFF.

I have also been working on some custom backgrounds that might fit the setting (as I envision it and plan to run it) a little better, but I haven't had time to come up with 36 of them yet to make a complete table. I have completed the Star Goblin (spacefaring tinkers and thieves) and the Silver Alchemist (they turn silver into other stuff, and sometimes it's even the stuff they intended.)

I guess we'll see what takes shape tomorrow!