Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Last night, I began preparing for my Traveller game, which is to start January 7th. I've gamed with all these people before, in fact, this is getting my old 3.5 band back together. (I may have burned out on the system, but definitely not on these players)

I was having a problem coming up with alien races that I like. I don't care for most of Traveller's races save for the Hivers and K'kree, who I will probably keep, and possibly the human variant species. I did, however, find a solution to my alien creative block:

Seventh Sanctum is a website I discovered back in college. It is a collection of random generators useful for gaming: superheroes, plots, magic, weapons, and aliens, among other things. While I find the alien name generator flippant and useless for my Traveller purposes, I've found some really good seeds for ideas for alien races from their race generation. I find that generating about ten at a time usually yields two or three viable ideas, though I will have to change most of them a bit. (Random generators can produce some pretty wonky results, but also some surprisingly cool stuff.) This has trumped my other plan for coming up with alien races; namely to crib stuff from sci-fi that I like and essentially reskin it.

I mapped a new sub-sector last night and am currently detailing the worlds... 10 down, 37 to go... then I'll start filling in the details and writing up the information so that curious players can start heading out to worlds to find adventure.

This will be the first attempt at a campaign since the end of my AD&D game several months ago. I find myself anxious for the 7th. (Although that will mean that I'm back at work and that my glorious Winter Break will be over...)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Xmas...Now Save Vs. Disintegration!

I have been working on a post about Adventures Dark & Deep, but I just can't seem to sit down and finish the damned thing. It has now been interrupted by this post.

Gaming-related material received for Christmas:

-Hotrods of the Gods, an old module for West End's Ghostbusters RPG, given to me by a friend who knows I like obscure gaming stuff. I don't actually own the Ghostbusters RPG, but this certainly gives me a reason to track down a copy. (Which, I gather, is easier said than done...)

-Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, which I have wanted for quite some time, from my wife. It smells very musty, which is a pleasant alternative to the usual old pot smell that vintage AD&D stuff seems to carry. I will have to Febreeze the old module, but aside from that, it is in great condition.

-The Spire of Iron and Crystal, a sort of poor man's Barrier Peaks for Swords & Wizardry. I've been wanting to get my hands on this ever since I played through Tomb of the Iron God in the all-too-brief Swords & Wizardry/Labyrinth Lord pastiche game I played in back when I started blogging.

It was a fairly gaming lite holiday this year; I'm trying to make more out of what I own rather than just add to my already impractically large collection of gaming stuff. (Impractical in the sense that I will never get around to playing or running most of this stuff...)

Off to enjoy my holiday loot. My goal for tomorrow is to finish the damn AD&D (no, the other AD&D) post from last week.

Have a fun and safe holiday, everyone.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Deadlands Final Session

Well, our GM decided to drastically reduce the length of his Deadlands game, partially I think due to the frequent hiatuses that we had to take and partially due to (I'm guessing) his desire to play in Mick's Shadowrun 4th edition game. At any rate, we're not gaming together until after the New Year (I hate what the holidays do to gaming.)

Fortunately, we did not have the Extra from Hell problem this session. In fact, we actually had something I relish in Savage Worlds: The Ultimate Smackdown. Another idiosyncrasy of Savage Worlds that results for all dice "exploding" (if you roll the max, you add it and roll again) and somebody rolling that sweet max number over and over again. We had a character roll 10's several times in a row, delivering an absurd 38 points of damage with a single attack. (For some perspective, 10 points will kill the average goon instantly.) Even one of Josh's typically badass Wild Card bad guys is insta-gibbed by that level of punishment. This produces The Ultimate Smackdown, wherein a powerful NPC who is intended to be sort of a "boss fight" (to borrow video game parlance) to be taken down in one beautiful shot. It sort of reminds me of the sword-wielding maniac in one of the Indiana Jones movies who brandishes his scimitar in a fearsome flourish, only to have Indy pull out a pistol and drop him.

Unfortunately, the climactic final battle was interrupted by the GM's father needing a jumpstart. We were declared the victors in the midst of a tough battle and we didn't really get any sort of denouement. Obviously this was not the GM's fault, but I hope we can get him to email us an "epilogue" or something.

The crossover was pretty cool; the bad guys were a rogue lodge of Rippers (another Savage Worlds setting about steampunk-ish Victorian monster hunters) who had come to the Americas in search of some Ghost Rock to incorporate into their Rippertech. (An excellent idea, by the by) Unfortunately, this group of Rippers seemed to have gone rogue and we had to put them down in the end.

I'm enamored by this group's willingness to rotate GMs. Everybody is willing to run something and everyone had different games they want to run. Our stable of things we're playing to play now includes Deadlands Reloaded, RIFTS, the Midnight d20 setting using Savage Worlds as the rules system, Mutant Future, AD&D 1st edition/OSRIC, and a homebrew system the RIFTS GM has been working on that is heavily based on Traveller with a dash of just about everything else thrown in.

Although we don't have an "official" meeting of our group until 2011, some of us may be playing some Talisman next weekend. In addition, my wife's best friend,a member of our old gaming group, is in town for break, so I might throw together some kind of one-shot just for old times' sake. (If two years ago really counts as "old times" now...)

And yes, I need to get my ass in gear for Traveller, since I have set the start date for January 7th. Of course, I have the next two weeks off, and will have the house to myself most of that time... now I just need to keep it productive and not let it turn into a marathon of Mass Effect 2, which I will try to pass off as "getting inspired."

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Shadowrun 4th, Session 1

Well, we did SR4 with three players...the Cat Shaman, Count Hackula, and Tonka, a big-ass amnesiac troll.

The short version: Neither the shaman's player (who is our RIFTS GM) nor I really enjoyed it that much. The scenario was fine and I liked the NPCs, so, in other words, it was nothing to do with the GM.

I have been through the hacker/Matrix rules for SR4 three goddamn times now. The chapter is 30 pages or so if memory serves. The rules, oddly, are simultaneously vague and complicated. We get the feeling that we are somehow doing it wrong. The options available to the hacker are vast and potent, and I felt like I was constantly putting the GM on the spot with my requests and queries. (Are there security cameras I can hack? Can I hack a passing taxi? Are the doors electronic? What's the difficulty to hack the local power grid? Etc, etc.)

I found that playing a guy who can basically do anything from the safety of the car, parked in an alley half a kilometer away was useful but not necessarily satisfying, much the way we were warned against wanting to play sages or alchemists back in old D&D.

Now, in SR3, it seemed more feasible to get by without a decker. In SR4, with Augmented Reality and the ubiquitous nature of wireless devices (not to mention that nearly anything you buy, according to the book, has a wireless computer of some kind in it), it becomes almost mandatory to have a hacker in your crew. (It seem like they are just too damn useful not to have around)

I like my character, and the other players seem to like him, so it was suggested that Count Hackula be relegated to NPC, with me providing bits of personality for him when needed. (In addition to running my new character) I'm not sure if this is the route I want to go; I don't like the idea of being outfoxed by a game. If I do make a new character, it will likely be a skill specialist, something like an infiltrator or a "face." (We already have a spellcaster, I don't want to be a combat jock, and the other tech types- riggers and technomancers- are essentially hackers with different specializations)

The player who graciously offered to run SR4 has 16 sessions planned, which, for us, is roughly four months. He's standing by to run AD&D 1st edition if this doesn't pan out. The cat shaman and I are willing to give it a shot, because he put forth the effort and time to put this together. (Also, some of us dropped cash on used copies of the book)

I'll be honest: I'd rather play AD&D 1st edition, and this is no secret, but I'm not going to be "that guy." I might try to play the Count one more time (and this means another read through of the hacking rules) and then if that doesn't work, I'll make an infiltrator or a face.

Incidentally, I borrowed Shadowrun 2nd edition from the cat shaman's player. Man, I freaking love that cover, plus I really dig on the artwork that's inside. I also like all the character archetypes a lot better. It's also kind of amusing to look at the way the late 80's/early 90's envisioned the future of the internet and computer tech... no wireless anywhere in sight, and you have to love those old-school spiral phone cords that connect the decker's datajack to his big, clunky-ass cyberdeck. I might order my own copy of SR2 for laughs, especially since it can be found dirt cheap on the internet.

We'll see what happens next Sunday.

In the meantime, I've got four days left until Winter Break, at which time I hope to amp my posting up from this dismal once-a-week-crap.

And finally, my apologies to Akrasia, whose recent comment I left waiting in moderation hell. I really need to switch off this auto-moderation crap, since I never seem to remember to check my damn comments...

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Gamer Xenophobia

Let's talk about xenophobia, because that's a fun topic. I'm talking about gamer xenophobia in general.

As J-to the Mizzal once said, "there are some really crazy people in this hobby." Frankly, I think he was being quite diplomatic in his assessment.

I have met my share of unhygienic gamers. I have met crazy muthafuckas who sit down at the convention table and immediately want to start talking about how much they love knives, or how their next Deadlands character will be a guy "like, but not exactly like, The Guyver." One of them showed me a video of him mutilating stuffed animals with a firearm. One of them offered to translate what my cat was saying, and changed subjects in conversation approximately every two and a half seconds. You get the idea. It seems that the past few years, for every interesting or intelligent gamer I meet, I have to wade through five knife-tards and a guy with wet palms who stalks my wife by email.

I get kind of xenophobic about new gamers.

I consider my current Sunday group an enormous Karmic payback. As you may recall, the group actually didn't start out very well for me; I was ready to bail on our doucheboat of a GM until we had La Revolucion and booted his ass. Since then, the group has attracted some very fun gamers to play with. I look forward to playing with this crowd every Sunday. Shit, even the guy who makes generally problematic characters is just plain awesome to share table space with.

Then, out of the blue, a new guy contacts our host by email and requests to join the group.

My immediate response is to run silent, run deep. Seal the borders. Raise the drawbridge. No hablo ingles.

Ah, but what about the other guys? They were all new at one point or another... and so was I.
Yes, but it was our second GM, the one who spearheaded La Revolucion, that gave them a chance.

...but now, we rotate who the GM is. The decision-making in this group is a lot more democratic now.

If US political discourse has taught me anything in the last ten years, it means I need to demonize anyone who agrees with me and prey upon the latent fears of my Sunday group. (At least four of whom are likely to read this blog entry- zing!)

I do realize that this entry probably makes me come off as a raging asshole, and perhaps I am. At the very least, this is a private group and inclusion is entirely at our discretion, as opposed to being stuck next to knife-tard at a convention game. (Or having him show up at the table for the convention game you're running!)

Gentle readers, what say you about the subject? Is gamer xenophobia at all justified? Am I just being a snob?

**word for word quote... guy ambushed me at the place I was working back then, so there was no escape...

Monday, December 6, 2010

Deadlands Session 3! Carping on Shadowrun! OpenQuest in the mail! Traveller!

We finally resumed Deadlands yesterday, after a two week hiatus in which we messed around with Shadowrun 4.

I very much enjoyed the session, though I find that I am still bored by combat. I am not bored with this GM's combat in particular; I am bored with combat in games in general. I thought that making a character who can hold his own in combat would change that, but it does not. I still find that exploration and NPC interaction are far more enjoyable. In the end, we had a little Deadlands/Rippers crossover action, which I should have seen coming since the Deadlands GM asked to borrow my copy of Rippers a few weeks ago.

We once again ran up against a particular idiosyncrasy of Savage Worlds, which I fondly call the extra that just will not fucking die. It seems that This happens at least once per session in any given Savage Worlds game, and it often leaves the combat feeling strangely anti-climactic. I have also noticed that our GM's extras have a tendency to fight to the death, regardless of how outnumbered they are. Of course, that last extra often does turn out to be im-fucking-possible to kill, so maybe that's why...

Earlier this year, I posted about watering down player-vs-player conflict. In our RIFTS game, some of the other characters acted in such a way that my character would have refused to associate with them afterward, but I had to sort of gloss over it for the sake of keeping the group together and keeping the campaign running smoothly. I had also been glossing over the strangeness of Deadlands and how my character just seemed to take the monsters and magic in stride. Last night, I remedied that by having my character pull a gun on another character who botched a healing spell on him. I think it surprised everyone a bit, and the GM even asked if I wanted to go to initiative. The thing is, I never had any intention of engaging the PvP combat, but I wanted to actually play my character how he would react. The gun draw was a total bluff, as I later informed the player by email. I think the GM would have actually let it go to combat if either of us had escalated it any further. It also opened up a good opportunity for my character to see how useful a magic wielder can be when attacked by a big badass monster with a ridiculous resistance to conventional firepower.
I don't like PvP and I have no intention of screwing over any other character in any way, but I think I'm done with the "boys will be boys" style of play where I do things like allow a good-aligned character to just sort of grumble when another party member shoots fleeing, unarmed civilians in the back (an example from RIFTS)

Next week we will be taking another break from Deadlands. Apparently we'll be giving Shadowrun 4 another "test session." I have to admit that I don't have high hopes for SR4, and I find it kind of funny that the player who seems most enthusiastic about it hasn't been able to attend any of the test sessions. (Of course, we only have them because he's had other things going on and has had to cancel a few sessions of Deadlands) The GM for SR4 is willing to run AD&D 1st edition or something else if SR4 ultimately doesn't work out, and I'd be lying if I said that I wouldn't rather just play AD&D. I will give it the ol' college try again.

While we're on the subject of Shadowrun 4, I must confess that I'm not sure that hackers are a viable character type, even with the changes made to the Matrix in SR4. Even though a hacker can run through Augmented Reality and hack in regular game time using regular actions, the proclivity of wireless internet means that my character (whose computer is installed inside his head) can literally sit in a car parked half a mile away, piggy back through nodes to the destination, and essentially accompany the party without actually accompanying the party. (I can send a hacked drone to be my replacement, or piggy back on someone's gun-cam, look through someone's cyber-eyes, etc) It seems almost like playing a hacker/rigger makes it so that my character doesn't even have to leave his house. I have a feeling I'm going to end up driving my GM crazy and will have to make a new character.
At the same time, the hacker presents something interesting: this is a character who can do battle with the adventure environment itself... I can shut off lights, take over security devices, open and lock doors, etc, etc. Hell, I can have an unmanned car or copter waiting for the party to escape in.

I think Shadowrun, in general, is just plain fucked and always has been. On the other hand, I'll always have the delightfully random SNES Shadowrun game...

In consumer news, I caved and ordered a copy of OpenQuest from Lulu. I've had virtually no experience with the RuneQuest/Basic/d100 family of systems, aside from a session of Call of Cthulhu I played in something like ten years ago and remember virtually nothing of the experience. Plus, that cover...there's something about it I couldn't say no they had a Cyber-Monday coupon... damnation.
Okay, you regular readers have to admit, I buy a lot less random gaming crap now than I used to. I'm actually going to be clearing some shelf-space here shortly, filled with strike-outs like Geist, Role-Master, and Mutants & Masterminds. (I guess I just plain don't like d20-based games anymore)

I have also set the start date of Traveller for January 7th. Just like with the months of planning I did before my AD&D game of 2009, I need to give myself a deadline or I'm just going to lolly-gag about like a ne'er-do-well and never actually start the damn thing.