Sunday, July 29, 2012

Local Con, Year 4

I have been attending the Local Con since 2009, and I have blogged about it every year. I just got home. I will limit my blogging to just the gaming that I did, and leave out all of the other insanity of convention attendance. I've also decided to sum it all up with one blog entry, rather than blogging "live" this year.

Friday- I played in a game of Mutant Future. It was a momentous session in that there were three people at the table who had never before participated in a table top role-playing game. They all had an amazing time and played incredibly well. Our GM's twist ended up being that we were on a giant colony ship, a la Metamorphosis Alpha. I loved the crap out of my pre-gen character (I dubbed him Hyune the Sage, since he uses his Ability Boost to jack his Int up and seem smarter than he actually is) and it was just a damn fun time. I also found answering one of the newbie's questions to be very refreshing. "You can use the same characters again?!" "There's no end to the game?!" Delightful. Plus, you know, Mutant Future.

Saturday- We started the morning off with Stars Without Number. It was a big table and a big group. We had two out of three of Friday's new guys playing with us. One of them seemed particularly delighted by the fact that the rules of SWN and MuFu are mostly compatible. I had to duck out before the end, but I had a blast. I seldom get to play Stars Without Number. The session has me excited to continue my campaign on Tuesday.

In the afternoon, we played Dungeon Crawl Classics. My actual play experience prior to this had always been demos with 0-level characters. This time we had 1st level characters, so it was interesting to see how character abilities worked. We also had a couple of spell duels, which was super cool. I played a butcher-turned thief, who I named Ivan the Butcher. (For several reasons) He had an offensive faux Eastern European accent. DCC is as much fun to play as it has been to read, and I really want to run this damn game now.
A minor concern: in a one-shot, players sure have a lot of Luck to blow, and this typically high-value resource is much more readily spent when you know you're only playing this character tonight. Then again, it's a convention game, and they tend to be better when played fast-and-loose with a high dose of Awesome and WTF, so I guess it's okay.

In the evening, there was only one other game, and it was World of Darkness. The GM only had five spots and didn't want players under the age of 18, so I stepped in with a pick-up game for the half-dozen players who were all dressed up with nowhere to go. I ran B/X D&D and did a modified version of the "Realm of the Technomancer" module (written for both Labyrinth Lord and Mutant Future) that I bought from the Black Blade Publishing booth when I was at KantCon a couple of weeks ago. Real of the Technomancer was incredibly fun and I find that I want to run it again. (Plus I want to try the Mutant Future side of the module) It was interesting running for a table where half the players were younger than 15. (The other half was my age)

Today I was too tired to game, and I ended up sleeping in. This usually happens on Sundays at a convention. I do have the GM/DM bug bad now, though. I can't wait to run SWN on Tuesday. I also wish I was running B/X, Mutant Future, and DCC. (But alas, even during summer break, that simply isn't feasible.) I also have the bug to run more convention games. There are actually a few late year conventions that I might consider.

A few other thoughts on the convention:

-We had our biggest gaming room ever this year. It was far larger than any previous gaming space this convention has ever had. (We were also in a new hotel this year)

-We had our emptiest gaming room ever this year. For most of the convention, our game table was the only game table with anything else going on. There were one or two games of Pathfinder that ran, plus that World of Darkness game. There was also a board set up for Axis and Allies, but I don't recall ever seeing anyone sitting at it. There were a few other scattered card games and things from time to time, but it seems like a lot of the space went to waste.

-All in all, I'm starting to lean toward cons like KantCon and NukeCon, which are all about gaming. The "general" SF conventions seem to be dominated by costume-related stuff (in which I have zero interest) and panels (in which I have less than zero interest.) Of course, gaming-only conventions don't usually have room parties, and I do love me some room parties...

Well, back to work. I need to get ready for Tuesday's SWN game. May you always save vs. poison!

Friday, July 27, 2012

My SWN House Rules

I can't help but tinker. These are the current guidelines and house rules that are in play for my SWN game.  Players, take note. (But I will also distribute these rules via email or other channels)

Character Creation
1.) Players may play Warriors, Experts, or Psychics. (Artificial Intelligence PCs are not allowed at this time)
2.)In addition to humans, the following alien races are available as PCs: hochog, ssath (SWN core book), qotah (Mandate Archives), and three races of my own creation: eldreth, t'zirir, and solii.
3.) 1st level PCs begin with maximum possible hit points.
4.) Experts may treat Dexterity as one of their Prime Abilities if so desired.
5.) Players may use material from the following SWN supplements to create a character: Skyward Steel, Darkness Visible, and the Mandate Archives (Martial Arts, Qotah, Red Sangha Mercenary Corps.) Material from any other source must be cleared by me first.

Character Advancement
1.) Additional hit points are determined by rolling a single Hit Die, modified by Constitution, and adding it to the character's previous total. (In other words, we roll hit points like standard D&D instead of SWN's rules.) Warriors may re-roll a 1 or 2 on a Hit Die. If a second 1 or 2 is rolled, it stands.

2.) Every character may have one skill at which they are a natural, chosen at character creation. The character does not need to train in order to increase this skill. Note that this must be a specific skill: a character who is a natural at Combat/Projectile still needs to train Combat/Energy, etc.

1.) Unarmed damage is only 25% real, with the rest being "subdual" damage that fades at the rate of one point per ten minutes. Characters using a martial art should consult the GM; some martial arts are far more brutal. Characters using kinesis wraps or armored gauntlets inflict ordinary damage. 
At the GM's option, some weapons may be used to subdue instead of kill. This typically imposes a -4 penalty to the attack roll, and some weapons may inflict 50% real damage or just be impossible to subdue with. Ranged attacks cannot typically be subdual attacks.

2.) We will be using group initiative. I may use individual initiative on a case by case basis, such as one or two PCs having an encounter for which their allies are not present. Individual initiative is modified by Dexterity and any pertinent abilities, but group initiative is not.

Experience Points
1.) Combat is worth experience. The party shall be awarded 100 XP/HD defeated. Monsters with special abilities add a bonus of 25 XP/HD for each special ability. Example of abilities would include "+" Hit Dice (2+2, etc), multiple attacks per round, AC better than 1, poison, psionic ability (or immunity), etc.
Example: the attack drones from Hard Light are worth 300 experience: they have 2 HD (base 200) "+2" to Hit Die, and multiple attacks per round. (each worth 25 per hit die, or 50 each, total 100 for special abilities)
Note that opponents who posed no threat or didn't fight back are not worth experience points.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

SWN Abilities, Take 3

After further feedback and some rethinking, here is another crack at the abilities.
Some of these are halfway between suggestions I have received and my own picky sensibilities. I am considering taking KC's advice about Brutality and allowing Warriors to auto-kill opponents with 1 HD. I'm not sure if I"m ready to try that out again.

So, here we are:

Warriors: Pick one special ability at 1st level.

*Veteran's Luck- As written. This is the default Warrior special ability.

*Brutality- Against opponents with 1 Hit Die or less, the Warrior may make a number of attacks equal to his experience level.

*Dead Eye- Once per combat, the Warrior can make one attack that will not miss on the roll of anything other than a natural 1. This ability must be declared before the roll is made.

*Resilience- The character gains +2 hit points at 1st level, and gains an additional +2 bonus hit points every time the character gains a level.

Experts: Pick one special ability at first level.

*Like a Charm- As written. This is the default Expert special ability.

*Learned- The character gains 4 skill points per level.

*Specialty- Pick a specific skill, such as Tech/Postech or Persuasion. Once per day, the Expert can make a skill roll with that skill that cannot fail unless a "natural 2" is rolled. This ability must be declared before the roll is made.

*Skin of Your Teeth- Once per game day, the Expert may automatically pass a saving throw. This ability can be used even after the GM declares the results of a failed saving throw.

Psychics: A Psychic gets a special ability based on her primary discipline.

*Biopsionics- A biopsi may roll hit points twice at each level and take the best result.

*Metapsionics: Once per day, the metapsi can force an opponent to fail a saving throw vs. one of the metapsi's psionic powers. Alternatively, the metapsi can instead automatically save against a hostile psionic attack directed at him. This ability can be invoked after the original saving throw is rolled.

*Precognition: +2 to individual initiative. When using group initiative, the precog and another party member both roll for initiative, and the group may take the better result.

*Telepathy: Once per day,the telepath can determine if someone has just deceived him. He doesn't necessarily learn the truth, but he knows that something is a lie. This ability may not work against AIs or aliens with very different thought patterns, at the GM's discretion. The target may resist with a Mental Effect save, though he doesn't realize he has been telepathically probed.

*Telekinesis: -1 Armor Class.

*Teleportation: Once per day, the jumper can "slip" an attack or an area of effect hazard (typically something that would require an Evasion save, like a grenade blast or an avalanche.) The attack is considered a miss (or the save is considered successful), but the jumper is stunned for 1d4 rounds afterward. The jumper can declare this ability even after the GM announces the damage taken or results of a failed save.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

We Play SWN, Game #3

Tonight, we had one no-show and one who couldn't make it due to a work meeting. This left us with a healthy six people at the table, which I found much more manageable.

...interestingly enough, the party was composed of three Experts and three major fighters at all.  Luckily for them, there was only one combat.

The party cleaned out the Cold Tombs. They are beginning to suspect that they have stumbled across the remains of two different civilizations/species. They are making contacts and meeting NPCs aboard the station. They have also discovered coordinated leading to four more Sky Tombs, only two of which I have maps for.... (better get around to that)

We spent most of the time exploring, and the tail end of the game was interaction with NPCs and scheming.

I really enjoyed the session. I like playing at the comic store.

I'm going to be revising my SWN class ability variants. After some feedback, I realize I need to kick them up a notch. I'll post those later this week.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Stars Without Number: Variant Psychics

While I devised variant abilities for Warriors and Experts, I was a little wary about giving Psychics any other abilities. They are, after all, the only ones in the game who have psi and can use psi-tech. Still, it didn't feel right to provide new options for the other two classes. I've had one or two players grumble about the power level of starting Psychics in the past, so maybe a little nudge isn't too preposterous.

Here's the deal: in SWN, all Psychics must choose a primary discipline at first level. This discipline levels up automatically when they gain a level, but really there is no benefit to having any given discipline as one's primary discipline. I thought that perhaps a Psychic's primary discipline would grant a small, ongoing bonus as the result of having specialized in that particular discipline. Here's what I've got written up so far:

Biopsionics: The character receives +1 bonus hit point every level. The biopsi's body is making constant subtle improvements to his physiology: improved bone density, circulation, etc.

Metapsionics: +1 bonus psi point per level. Focusing on the underlying nature of Metadimensional Energy allows the metapsi to channel it more efficiently.

Precognition: +1 permanent bonus to initiative. The precog is always slightly aware of what is about to happen, even on an instinctual level.

Telekinesis: -1 permanent bonus to Armor Class. The telekinetic's body is surrounded by a minor TK field that can sometimes stop or deflect incoming dangers.

Telepathy: +2 bonus to all Mental Saves. A telepath's mind is a tower of iron will, able to shut out negative emotions, psionic attacks, and other assaults upon the mind.

Teleportation: +2 bonus to Evasion Saves. The jumper emits a low grade spatial distortion field. In times of imminent crisis, the jumper can use this field to "slip" hazards such as falling rocks, grenade blasts, etc.

I understand that Metapsionics probably has a "better" bonus that the other disciplines, but I did this deliberately. I think that Metapsionics is a little bit underpowered, in that some of the abilities require the character to have other Psychics on the team. Until I ran this very large group, I've never seen anyone take any points in Metapsionics. I thought maybe giving it a slightly better bonus would make it a somewhat more attractive candidate for one's primary discipline.

Note: Based upon ideas given to me by KC himself on my Expert variant abilities, I am considering giving the telepaths and jumpers a bit of a boost by saying that once per game (or game day or whatever, haven't decided yet) they can simply decide to make a successful saving throw, rather than taking the +2 bonus all the time. This brings it more in line with abilities like Veterans's Luck. I think it would also make the abilities somewhat more attractive. Again, these are just things I'm considering for the moment.) 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Stars Without Number: Variant Experts

Here are a few ideas for variant special abilities for the Expert class. You pick one at first level and that is your ability for the life of the character. The default ability from the rules is Like a Charm.

*Specialty- Pick one specific  non-combat skill. (Tech/Astronautics, Persuasion, etc.) The character always receives a +1 bonus on skill rolls using this skill.
Note: I'm thinking about bumping this up to +2, but that is a bit ridiculous for SWN since the skill rolls are made on 2d6 with a default target number of 7. 

*Learned- The character receives four skill points every level.

*Skin of Your Teeth- The character receives a permanent +2 bonus to one saving throw or a +1 bonus to two saving throws. The saves must be either Evasion, Tech, or Luck.

*Like a Charm- As written.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Stars Without Number: Variant Warriors

 I've been working on the idea of variant special abilities for Stars Without Number. In the RAW, the three classes each have a unique ability: Warriors can negate one attack against them per combat, Experts can re-roll one non-combat skill per game hour, and psychics....are psychic. (The other classes have no access to psi disciplines, nor can they use psi-tech.) I was mulling over the idea of giving players a choice between several special abilities. You would pick one at creation, with the default special ability being just one of several choices.

My question to you, SWN fans (if any of you happen across this blog) is this: are any of these just plain overpowered? Are there any that are totally useless?

*Dead Eye- Once per combat, the character can re-roll any attack roll. He can choose to use this ability after the GM informs him if the attack hit or not. He must abide by the second attack roll.

*Brutality- Once per combat, the character can re-roll any one damage roll. He can use this ability after the GM has informed him of the results of the damage. (If the opponent drops, etc.) He must abide by the results of the second roll.

*Weapon Specialist- The warrior can select a specific weapon (mag rifle, monoblade, etc.) The character enjoys a +1 bonus to all attack rolls and a +2 to all damage rolls when using this weapon.

*Durability- The character rolls d10s for Hit Dice instead of d8s.

*Veteran's Luck- As written.

I will post the Expert and Psychic abilities over the course of the weekend.

...oh, and if you're reading this and you are in my Tuesday night SWN campaign: these are not available yet. I have to give them some more thought before I unleash them into the game world. I'll probably get around to it soon, though, because we have a large group and it would be a good chance to try several of them out. (Or to see if one is just too good because everybody of a given class takes it) 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

More BTS, etc.

We had another fine session of Beyond the Supernatural tonight. I managed to make 3rd level. We have a great group and a great GM. I particularly like the fact that those "useless" skills actually come up in his game. My dice were also on fire tonight; I made every single skill roll. Like I said, we investigate the crap out of mysteries.

In other news, my SWN game lost a player and might lose another two. While I would ordinarily be in despair about this, I'm actually okay with it...losing 3 players will still leave me with 6-7 players.

I'm working on some variant stuff for SWN. I'll post it as the whim strikes me.

Local Con is next week...can't wait!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Bit of Navel Gazing About Characters

I played a lot of different characters at KantCon. I didn't create any of them, they were all pregens. I tried to play each one differently, give them a life and personality of their own. I am now absolutely sure of one thing, though: I prefer to be given a character and then make that character my own. I think this is why I like randomized character generation so much. I like to take something outside my control and put my own spin on it. 

This definitely explains my hatred for purely point-buy systems. I'm still okay with "bucket" point buys like Savage Worlds and old BESM. (You get X points for your attributes, X points for skills, etc.) 

It's odd that I can make an NPC for any occasion, but it is so very difficult for me to create a character that I want to play as my own. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

We Play Stars Without Number- Part 2

I ran a game for eight players tonight. That is roughly double the size I originally envisioned. It took me awhile to get everything sorted out. I think I'll do better next time in terms of orderliness.

Usually when I start a campaign, I over-invite because of attrition and scheduling problems. This time, attrition did not happen...

I ditched my plan for the evening had had Director Dutta conscript the PCs into surveying for ice asteroids. The ice asteroid they found ended up being the Cold Tombs.

If you're not familiar with the Hard Light module, I'll break it down: the PCs ended up exploring a frozen, flooded tomb full of traps, malfunctioning equipment, and hostile drones left over from a hostile alien race.

We had one combat and the PCs handled it very well, though one of them was badly wounded and nearly had a catastrophic suit breach.

This group is going to take some getting used to. It bothers me that I don't know all the PCs names yet.

Next week we are unable to play, as I have to travel again. The week after that we shall resume.

...damn, how do you big group running people deal with this?

Monday, July 9, 2012

KantCon Debriefing, Back to Work

I did not make it to the Traveller game today. I slept in and when I woke up, the missus and I decided it was high time to head back home.

Final thoughts on KantCon: It was a fairly small convention, but it was fun. It was also entirely focused on gaming, which is really what I go to cons for to begin with. I met some nice people and played in some very fun and lively games. I gamed everything from straight up old school dungeon crawls to damn hippy storytime games and had fun the entire time. I bought two OSR products that will bring me much delight when I get around to running some groups through them. I was also glad to be someone's first foray into old school D&D, and shocked to have someone survive Death Frost Doom.

Now that I'm back, I've got to spend tomorrow preparing for the second session of my new Stars Without Number campaign. I currently have four newly interested parties, bringing the group size to potentially seven and a half players. (One of them is in the care of another and can only play once per month.) That group size is much bigger, and could possibly go bigger still, but I am now counting on some attrition to even the numbers out. If this space station is a'rockin', don't come a knockin'. Or do, I guess.

Thursday we will resume Beyond the Supernatural after taking the week of Independence Day off. I am looking forward to that quite a lot.

I will not be able to rejoin the Sunday group, as I will be out of town again next weekend.

Local con is less than three weeks away. Sweet.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

KantCon: Day II

I am tired.

I was too late to the convention this morning and missed a chunk of the Greyhawk game, so instead I spent much of the morning reading and enjoying Anomalous Subsurface Environment. I also had a chat with a guy who writes for Geek Life and Roleplayers' Chronicle. He was a heck of a nice guy and we chatted for some time about games we liked.

In the afternoon session, I ended up playtesting a module for Silver Gryphon games for their fantasy game, Ingenium. Apparently we were the first group to play the module, which takes place in their official game setting for the system. (The rulebook is out now, but the setting and module are not) Ingenium was an interesting, rules-light fantasy game. The magic system seemed interesting, but I didn't get to see a lot of it, since I was not playing a spellcaster. It was a fun game, and the PDF is only five bucks, but I need another fantasy game like I need a vestigial tentacle. The GM was the guy who wrote the system, and he ran a great game. Lots of fun.

In the evening, I played AD&D 1st edition. It was a large group, but we had a good time. We just managed to find the MacGuffin in the dungeon right as the gaming room was closing up for the night.

It was a good day. The Ingenium scenario was the highlight of it, just as Lady Blackbird stole the show yesterday.

Tomorrow I am signed up for a game of classic Traveller, but to be honest I am very tired. I've gamed for something like 20 hours this weekend, and it might be time to just pack up and go home.

I'm glad I came to KantCon. I will more than likely return next summer.

KantCon: Day 1


I'm at KantCon in Overland Park, Kansas.

Quick "Day 0" Recap- The missus and I arrived in town a day early. The local game store in OP, Tabletop Hobby and Games, was fairly awesome. There was a flyer for a weekly RIFTS game. Their gaming room is also bigger than my LGS in its entirety. I tried to buy some wacky dice for DCC, but they had just sold out of them. Foiled again.

Day 1- My morning game was cancelled. I started rolling up some Basic/Red Book characters to run through Death Frost Doom. A lady wandered over and asked me what I was doing. She was only familiar with 4th edition and D&D Next Playtest. She was curious, so she ended up taking on DFD solo. (I let her have one NPC companion.)

...she became the only person to have played DFD under me and survived. Granted, she did terrible things and the campaign world is now much worse off for it, but she survived.

She enjoyed Basic D&D. She said it was "very different" from what she knows of newer D&D. She seemed amused by the saving throw categories. She also turned out to be in from Canada. Weird.

In the afternoon, I played a game of AD&D 2nd edition that turned out be a fantasy version of Toy Story. I thought it was going to be lame, but it actually turned out to be a lot of fun. I got to play the young prince's stuffed red dragon.

In the evening, I played a game called Lady Blackbird. It was a strange combination of FATE and The Shadow of Yesterday. The system was decidedly indie. It was the most fun I've had gaming in recent history. It was a riot. The group was witty and they took to their characters very well. I got to play the Captain. Playing in this game was worth the trip alone. I might also download the system, since apparently it is available for free. (No link yet. I just woke up and I have yet to look for it myself anyway) Playing in this game was worth the trip alone.

I should also mention that there was a vendor with a huge OSRIC banner. (I want one, dammit) I perused his fine wares and walked away with a copy of Anomalous Subsurface Environment and Realm of the Technomancer. (A module for Labyrinth Lord or Mutant Future, depending on what end of the book you run it from...that kind of thing is right up my alley) 

This morning I am supposed to be running through a huge meat-grinder Greyhawk dungeon crawl, but I needed some extra sleep. I'll drop in late and see if I can play some expendable hireling or something. My schedule today is more nebulous, so I might try running a pickup game of Stars Without Number (I have something ready to go from last year's Local Con), B/X (I can do DFD again), Savage Worlds (I have a "Steampunk Ghostbusters" case ready that I never got to run) or I might check out a copy of Hero Quest (the Milton Bradley version) from the game library and see if anybody wants to take on the hordes of Zargon. I need to get showered and coffee'd before I had back.

Oh, I should also mention that Shane Hensley (creator of Deadlands and Savage Worlds) is here. He has been running packed Deadlands games. Maybe I could get him to sign my SaWo Deluxe. (Although that would make me feel a little bit lame, I do confess.)

I'm having a great time. I need to stop lollygagging with this blog and get back to it.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

We Play: Stars Without Number

Tonight I started my  new Tuesday game at the local comics n' coffee shop. Of my possible six players, only three were able to make it. (Tomorrow being a holiday and's late...I guess today is the holiday now.) We rolled up characters and spent the session getting the party together. I'm starting the game in Brightside Station, the "Keep on the Borderlands in Space" from the Hard Light module.

The game is going to be a sandbox, and we'll stay on Brightside until the PCs decide they want to leave. New PCs who join can conveniently be at Brightside, waiting on the next transport out. From there, the Pcs can head back to my "main" sector of space.

Our, our Player Characters. Yes.

Taruki Nakamura,Warrior- A samurai warrior from Nippon Prime, a polity that has culture of feudal Japan. The third son of Lord Nakamura, he was sent as an "advisor" (read: hostage) to one of the noble houses of the Arcanian League, another major polity in my setting. He was tricked by Tsallia Heresti, daughter of a powerful Arcanian noble family, into accompanying her to Hard Light to study the newly discovered alien tombs.

Kenneth Sopan, Psychic- Originally born on one of the worlds ruled by the Technocratic Unions of Runaria, Kenneth ran away to wander the galaxy seeking his fortune. He does this by running con games, particularly those where he convinces primitive lostworlders that he is a sorcerer or god. He came to Hard Light because a contact told him that he can make quick cash from alien artifacts found in the asteroid tombs.
Oh, and don't call him Kenny.

Leif Winden, Expert. Born on one of the migrant spaceships of the Hydrin Clans, Leif is a skilled pilot and handy with technology. His beat-up, third hand free trader, the Zest, is his ticket to a steady income...if he can just keep the damn thing running. He ended up being the pilot that took the rest of the PCs to Hard Light. Now he's stuck there because the excessive radiation from the system's star has cooked half of his ship's systems.

I'm going to post up my house rules, alien races, etc. if only to keep an electronic backup of them. (They're all scribbled in my notebook)

Fingers crossed. I'm really looking forward to this.