Saturday, November 27, 2010

Still Hammering Away at Traveller , Plus I Just Created An Impromptu Random Table

So, I'm still working on Traveller. I've decided I'm not going to actually start the game until the first week of January, since December tends to be a month in which no gaming gets accomplished.

In the meantime, I will continue fleshing out the worlds of my first sub-sector. I have also convinced myself to just do alien races the way all sci-fi does them. The thing that finally pushed me to abandon all hope of alien complexity is, of all things, Mass Effect 2. I am really enjoying this series, and the aliens are pretty much summed up in terms of mono-cultural cliches. It worked for Trek, it worked for Effect, it can work for me. So, I'm thinking I need at least a few of the following standard sci-i races:

1. The Mean-Muggin' But Honorable/Noble Warrior Race
2. The Squirrely Technician Race
3. The Aloof Scientist Race
4. The Hot Blue Chick Race (Or Green, or whatever)
5. The Eeeeeeevil Machine Race
6. The Race That Hates Humans For No Damn Reason
7. The Archaic, Technology-Hating Race (Option of Noble Savage or Goddamn Hippie)
8. The Surly/Greedy Merchant Race
9. The Mystical/Philosophical and Probably Psionic Race
10. The Evil Empire Race

For each sci-fi race, I might also give them one "Achievement"
1. Seemingly the only race besides humans to have developed on organized fighting style, be it bare-handed or with a melee weapon. They are exceedingly proud of this, despite the fact that humanity invented many hundreds of martial arts.
2. The only race that can't speak all the other races languages, or vice verse.
3. The race invented something everyone uses (Jump Drive, galactic currency)
4. The race lives for a crazy-ass long time
5. The race serves as some kind of erotic wish-fulfillment for nerds, like they all have three wives or live on a planet or free love or are all into BDSM or they have to have sex three times a week or explode or whatever.
6. They are a stand in for a topical political group or form of government. Alternately, they are a stand in for some country we wish we could just blow up.
7. The race possesses a universal character flaw serving only to show how totally fucking awesome humans are by comparison. Alternately, they engage in racism, sexism, or some other -ism that allows humans to engage in a lot of hypocritical moral grandstanding.
8. They are technologically advanced in one particular area (medicine, shields, stealth devices, cybernetics)
9. The race is completely humorless and stoic.
10. Their mode of dress and culture is a human culture from a particular time period with the serial number filed off; most likely Greek/Roman Empire, Ancient Egypt, or Feudal Japan.
11. They are the only race that has to wear a spacesuit all the time, whereas the other three dozen races all conveniently breathe oxygen.
12. This race used to be eeeeevil, but they lost a war or an empire and learned the True Meaning of Christmas, and now they play nice.

Hell, now I can make random alien races by rolling a d10 and a d12. all seriousness, I probably won't generate them in a manner as flippant as this, but I might do a few rolls on these impromptu tables and see what sparks my imagination.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Shadowrun Test Session

So, given that we all had the day off today, some of my Sunday group decided to give SR4 a test run, since it will be what we are playing in a few weeks, after Deadlands concludes.

Unwilling to be bested by a rules system, I had been studying the hacking/Matrix rules in SR4. (Ridiculous... study a goddamn game? Really?) I created my scrawny goth hacker, known on the net as Count Hackula. It took me forever to build the character, with most of the time being sucked up by the purchase of gear, particularly Matrix programs. SR4 still suffers from being gear-porn, though I believe every edition of the game suffers from that flaw.

Our crew consisted of the Count, Shadow (a cat shaman), and the busty orcish Gunslinger Adept taken right out of the example characters. (Though I think the player switched the guns)

SR4 plays differently than SR3, and not just because of the changes in game mechanics. The fact that everyone and just about every damn thing is running on a wireless network makes hackers much more useful/playable, but we still found it was better to leave the hacker in the car, parked several blocks away, to wreak digital havoc on the bad guys. I felt like kind of an ass because I knew the hacking rules better than the poor GM and I feel like I kind of ran in circles around him. He wasn't sure what cyber-defenses to give the antagonists, so I found it easy to royally screw them from the safety of the gun-adept's car. Hackers are all but a necessity in SR4.

I don't like the huge fistfuls of d6's that have to be tossed around during the game. (This was a small thing that always bugged me about World of Darkness and Champions, too)

We didn't have much combat, so I can't really attest to how fast that moves. However, I have found that combat in general is now, to me, the most boring part of gaming.

I have no commentary on the magic system, since I wasn't playing the spellcaster. The player who was says she is confused by the magic system, but she seemed to do well enough with basic spellcasting and even summoned up a minor spirit. (Though it wasn't particularly helpful to us)

In all honest, I'd rather do Shadowrun with a different system, keeping the concepts/world but using a lighter system. I've heard of a Savage Worlds book, Interface Zero, but that contains an entire setting and might be a bit more complication than we need. There are supposedly some free rules on the net for cyberware in SW, and the system call already handle magic and fantasy elements.
Another contender would be the d6 System, perhaps Mini Six. I'm not sure where the cybernetics rules would be found... maybe D6 Space or something like that.

Heck, I'm not sure I can even sell the group on the need to switch systems. I know one player is definitely in favor of the original SR rules, and fair enough... but I know that I would prefer something a bit lighter and faster. I'm sure I'm not alone in my preferences, but only a few of us have tried it out... we'll have to see what the larger group wants to do. We'll likely be playing SR on Sunday again, and we'll return to Deadlands December 5th.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Shadowrun 4: Entirely too much effort.

My Sunday RIFTS group has decided to branch out. Different players will take turns running the game of their choice. Today was supposed to be session 3 of the 4-6 week Deadlands game started by one of the guys in our group, but he was busy. After Deadlands, we are apparently going to be playing Shadowrun 4th edition until the "main" RIFTS game resumes in the spring. Today we had a low head count, so we decided to make Shadowrun characters and just get a feel for the system.

First, I tried to make a hacker while another player (our RIFTS GM) tried to make a Cat Shaman.

Almost two hours later, I gave up in disgust and started trying to dinker with the Gunslinger Adept pre-made character template.

About half an hour after dickering with things and reading through various rules, I just gave up and copied the Street Samurai template pretty much straight out of the book. The other player decided to abandon her custom spell caster and just take the pre-made Street Shaman.

Although I had skimmed through SR4 earlier this year, I've got to say that right now I do not hold it in very high estimation. I hope the game play is more fun than the character creation. Of course, getting my toes broken one by one with a hammer would also be more fun than the character creation, so that isn't saying much.

Let me say this: I want to like Shadowrun 4th edition, I really do... but I also wanted to like D&D 4th edition, so I should be prepared for disappointment.

We're supposed to do a test run of Shadowrun 4th on Friday...but I have been asked to prepare a Mutant Future one shot just in case.

I have a pretty easy week this week (only have students Monday and Tuesday), and I do hate to give up on any game system**, so perhaps I'll give the hacking rules another shot. I do firmly believe that every runner group needs a hacker, and SR4's acknowledgment of wireless internet makes hackers infinitely more useful.
Still, as Christian (of Destination Unknown) said in a recent post, gaming should b easy... and my tastes run toward the simple and familiar as of late, so if I can't pick up the hacking system after another concerted try, I am officially washing my hands of it.

In other news, I recently that Zach (of RPG Blog II) had the brilliant idea of converting RIFTS to Mini Six. Obviously, he will not be able to share his work, as Super Kevin will hurl bolts of divine litigation from atop his throne on Mt. Palladium. However, the idea has been kindled in my brain, and the others who were at game today think I would be ideal to work on the conversion for our group. (My work will also have to remain in a spiral notebook, as to post it online would be to draw the wrath of KS.)

I have started fiddling with the randomly generated planets in my first Traveller sub-sector. Some of them I am making more feasible, some I am making more interesting. Though I finished Mass Effect on the Xbox, I find that it is still informing the way I envision my Traveller universe.

...and now I apparently need to get a MuFu one-shot ready, just in case.

Good thing this is a short week. I also have a lot to work on for Winter Break, which tends to quash actual gaming most of the time.

**except for Rolemaster, because it's fucking inane.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

I Never Do Anything In Moderation

So apparently a number of user comments have been awaiting moderation, some for a long ass time. I wasn't aware that comments needed moderation, especially since it appears only a select few of you get slapped by it. (A certain one "jbeltman" in particular; sorry about that)

I guess I hadn't noticed that the Vaguely Asian Spam on my blog had dropped off dramatically. (Or perhaps I've simply become so boring that even the spam bots have gone elsewhere...)

Friday, November 19, 2010

MERP/Rolemaster: The Example that Broke the Camel's Back

This is a post I had half-written in the back of my head and had been meaning to post, but getting caught up on JB's blog, I noticed a post where he bemoaned the same thing I was going to, which motivated me to sit down and pound this out.

I was recently skimming through game books, trying to find something that rekindled my DM mojo. (As much as I'd love to have my AD&D campaign back, I think everyone else has moved on) I tried to give MERPS a second chance, but about ten minutes into that fiasco, I came across an example of movement during a combat round. Unless I'm mistaken, you have to roll for moving...and you can fail... and if you fail, you fail to move.
Yes, unless I somehow misinterpreted the example, you have to roll to see how far you can move, and failure appears to indicate that you somehow do not move.

Rolemaster can officially go and fuck itself. I think I'll be ebaying this shit right off my shelf.

**even if it turns out that I'm wrong, I find Rolemaster/MERP to be needlessly complex. In the words of some of my less-motivated students, "Maaan, that's doin' too much."

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sub-Sector Creation

I just rolled up my first sub-sector for Traveller. I've determined star systems, gas giants, star ports, and bases... I've randomly detailed about ten planets, though I might throw a few of them away because some of them have very hard to swallow discrepancies (and not in the good, imaginative way... more like the "random tables can produce some wonky shit" way) and some of the planets are very similar due to the same numbers coming up on the dice over and over. I do like some of the worlds, and I think the results of a few planets have given me the idea for an alien race or two. (I'm going to try to keep it human-centric, though)

Of course, a full sector is something like 16 sub-sectors, so I'm going to have to cut myself off at some point and move on to other things. I also think I have made more die rolls tonight to generate some of this stuff than I have made in some entire campaigns in the past.

I find that making up stuff about planets based on the numbers is fun. I think my favorite planet is one that is lush and tropical, with no government... but three competing factions: a warlike tribe, a participatory democracy, and a corporate enclave. I can already see it now: the natives of the planet, some hippy-ass commune of off-worlders, and the corporate douchebags who want to turn the planet into a resort (or get at some kind of valuable natural resource...yes, I like that better)

Oh, or the planet that has recently suffered devastating civil wars, and no longer has the technical manpower or expertise to maintain the life support systems that are necessary to survival in the planet's atmosphere... so a single malfunction or breakdown could kill untold thousands...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Cursor Hovers Over "Place Order," yet I hesitate...

I really like the cover of the latest version of OpenQuest. I'm curious about BRP. Lulu is having a promotion good through today... free shipping.

BUT... I already own B/X D&D, Cyclopedia D&D, AD&D, Hackmaster (the original), OSRIC, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay first and second edition, Ars Magica 3rd editoin, Rolemaster 2nd edition, The Riddle of Steel, Middle Earth Roleplaying System, D&D 3.5 (the wife's books), etc, etc. I need another fantasy game like I need a hole in my skull.


Edit- Promotion be damned... I need to focus on what I've got. Plus, OpenQuest is available free if I'm not mistaken. I should at least preview it.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Alien Race Blues

As I have mentioned, my mind is starting to gravitate towards Mongoose Traveller for my next outing as GM. However, I have never run a science-fiction campaign before. I find that the genre of science-fiction has a few problems for me:

1. I am a nitpicker to the extreme
2. I am far too detail-oriented for my own good, and
3. I hate making alien races. Hate it. I hate it almost as much as I hate making pantheons for D&D games. (Hence my recent embrace of just ripping off Christianity or other monotheistic religions)

Aliens in science fiction are a troubling thing to me. Earth has countless human ethnicities, cultures, languages, and other attributes that make our world such an interesting place. Aliens, as presented in sci-fi, almost always have a monoculture, mono-language, and mono-everything.. In fact, any given alien race is usually defined by one or two exaggerated human traits. Klingons are aggressive and honorable. Puppeteers are manipulative and cowardly. Vulcans are logical. Ferengi are greedy. There are usually token characters who are characterized entirely by the fact that they are the exception to the race's rule. Ah, here's the Good Member of an otherwise Evil Species, or the Brave Member of the Cowardly Race, the Individualist Member of the Hive Mind Race. Aside from personality characteristics, aliens are often relegated to a particular vocation: the warrior race, the merchant race, the scientist race, the psionic race, etc, etc.

Don't get me wrong... there are lots of alien races in sci-fi that I think are cool, even the simplistic ones, but.... I have trouble creating any that I am satisfied with. I feel like I'm just re-skinning other sci-fi aliens, who themselves may in fact be re-skins of earlier sci-fi races. (By the way, I know that technically I should be using the word species rather than race, but old habits die hard, and I've been misusing the word race in gaming since I cracked the AD&D 1st edition DMG in 5th grade. Sue me.)

I suppose there isn't anything wrong with re-skinning (a fancy word for stealing in this case) stuff I like for a campaign... it just feels lazy.

In the end, my races will probably just be amalgamations from my favorite sci-fi franchises (Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Mass Effect, etc)

Odd that I didn't have this kind of block when I came up with my Mutant Future stuff.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Deadlands, Session 1

So, while our RIFTS GM plots the second campaign and generally cools her heels, one of our group is now running Deadlands Reloaded. Incidentally, this is the same guy who ran Deadlands for part of my AD&D group back in May. We have a very large gaming group for DL, as we picked up some extra players. Even with two people gone, we had a party of six. Combat slowed up a little, though I imagine if we'd been playing something besides Savage Worlds, it would have absolutely crawled. RIFTS? Yeah, we'd probably still be playing the second combat right now...
I'm sure things will get a little faster as the players who are new to Savage Worlds get things figured out.

It's good to be playing Deadlands again. I need to work on my Southern gentleman's accent a little bit, but I don't think it was too offensive.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Gamer Mid-Life

A recent post from the always insightful Christian of Destination Unknown (linky in the side bar)caused me to wake up and smell the reality:
My gaming time is a finite resource.

I don't know why this never occurred to me. I'm 29, so statistically I'm supposed to live for another 40 or 50 years. (Family health seems to support this number) However, there are a few things to consider...

Many of my friends are marrying and having children. I'm married myself, but to a gamer who understands the importance of my hobby to me, and we're committed to a child-free existence. I do expect that the number of available gamers in my immediate association is going to begin falling off in the next few years. Many of my friends are finished with college and have real career-type jobs that often place heavy demands on their free time. (I know my job has done a number on my free time, and always will for the months of August-May.) Many of my gamer friends have "lapsed," or rather their interests have taken them elsewhere. Will I be able to continue gaming my whole life? I don't know... there may come some dark age where everyone else I know has moved on to other things. Grim.

My shelf is filled with games. I know I have between 50-60 different roleplaying games, depending on how you slice it. (Do you consider pre- and post-WotC D&D to be different games like I do? Are old D&D and AD&D different games? Do all the different World of Darkness games count as different games, etc.)

The thing is, I think it might be time to stop collecting and start running. If I ran every game I own for six months with no breaks in between campaigns (ha!), I'm looking at 25-30 years of gaming. Add in the usual six months or so between campaigns and that leaves me with no time to really run everything I own.

I think I have actually decided on Traveller next. I still want to do Mutant Future, but I want to diversify... I've never really run Traveller except for a very brief MegaTraveller game in middle school that I'm pretty sure I was doing wrong. I've also never run a sci-fi campaign before.

For the time being, Mutant Future might do nicely for a "backup game", should Deadlands be canceled on a random Sunday.

Time to get in the boat and start rowin'.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Samurai Hipster

At my LGS (I steadfastly refuse to include the F, because it ain't) yesterday, I discovered a used copy of Legend of the Five Rings, 4th edition, in the "used games" section. edition in the dustbin already, thought I. Moseying over to the new games section, I discovered a pristine copy of L5R 3rd edition, never purchased, still reeking of new book despite being, apparently, the out of date version. The edition nobody ever bothered with, thought I. Later that night, I discovered the two core books of the 2nd edition of L5R at the used bookstore, where I also get a discount due to my vocation. I picked them up for a song.
Their first album was probably better, thought I, but the second EP is usually good, too.