Tuesday, May 31, 2016

AFMBE Discussion 2

The "how to" discussion regarding AFMBE came up, again. This time, I typed up a different response, but linked to the first one here on the blog.

All of this is YWWV. There is no tl;dr and I may wander all over the place. Another treatise on this is here.

If you can, read One of the Living and steal everything you can from it. If you steal nothing, read it and let it sink in. There are gems in there, even if you (and I) don't see them at first.

If you need a starting point, download the free demo scenario and use/modify it or purchase the Zombie Master screen and use/modify the scenario in there. It's nice to have someplace to start.

Sketch out an outline of where you want the story to go. For me, this means locations. Set milestones (signal flares, goal posts, whatever) of where they need to go.
Rise starts in a bank
Tease with a safe place
Escape to make-shift hideout
Escape town, hideout in the country
Join up with military base
Head for the coast

Don't just focus on the zombies. The real enemy is other people. Have the characters meet plausible NPCs who are either interested in joining the characters, avoiding the characters, or taking things from the characters. Make sure you know why for each of them. Not all bad guys are as big of murder hobos as the characters, but some of them are. Start slowly with the NPCs and build up to more, then wipe out a bunch of them. Rinse, repeat.

Look up spooky and abandoned places on the Internet, use them.

Google Maps is your friend. If you can pull up views of Google Maps during game play, half your work is done. No, the characters may not have access to the Internet, but your players do. The characters would likely know the town they are in, so let the players use Google Maps to know it, too. Let them do the heavy lifting of where they want to go, you just need to have encounters ready.

Know what caused the rise, how to cure it (if it can be cured), how it spreads, and how quickly it will spread. Does it take death and then they come back? Does it take infection and then in "X" hours they turn? Is it a combination? Is it supernatural in origin and only certain people turn? Are certain people immune? If so, what causes the immunity? (The "greeen flu" in Left 4 Dead is not contagious to everyone, including the characters. They only die from trauma.)

Know everything about the zombies you plan to use. How long does it take them to decay? will they decay? Will they develop other abilities over time? If so, start thinking about what those are now, not later. Drop hints at it now. So, if they will develop claws or talons over time, make sure one of the characters gets scratched up real bad during the rise. It may not infect them, but they know those sharp nails exist.

How is the government responding? How do they lose control? The same general idea for the rest of the world. It's something for the back of your mind.

What zombie movies, TV shows, or other media do your players like? Can you work in a single scene in your game that is similar to one single scene from a movie? Similar, not exactly the same. fit it to your world.

Steal from everything you find. Left 4 Dead has specific locations in each adventure. You move from point a to point b. You start at point b and move to point c. It's an easy set up and something that many Zombie Masters don't do. It's structure. Even if they stay in the abondoned train car for a few weeks, eventually they will need to move on.

When the world ends, noises carry. Generator hums can be heard a mile away. Gun shots carry for a long ways. Car engines echo. Bad guys, desperate families, and the dead can follow those sounds (or ground vibrations).

Hurt them. Physically. Mentally. Emotionally.

Emotionally:  If they lose track of their family, make them deal with it. Maybe they cross off their family and it leads to their Batman/Punisher/Murder Hobo ways. Maybe they insist on breaking from the group to find their family. That's fine, let them, and go through it as quickly as is possible. A single roll or two to find them (Per or Int + Notice or Area Knowledge type of skill and if necessary a combat or drive test to get there). Let them fight through the danger on-site and discover they are either alive or dead. Now get them back to the group. Let the other players watch the situation and be just as immersed as the other player. It's gold for buy-in into the setting.

Mentally:  This shit breaks you down. where do we go? What will be there? What will be in the way? When do I get to sleep and who do I think will make a good watch person to make sure I don't die? Make them roll Fear Tests. If they have silly things in their background such as liking to take risks, make them roll Willpower to resist doing something really, really stupid - I mean awesome! Where can they find food? Who else will be there looking for food?

Write down their Qualities and Drawbacks. Make yourself make them role play through the situations where their Q/Ds are appropriate.

Physically:  Unisystem can be quite deadly. Let all of them take Hard to Kill. In fact, if they have any Quality points leftover and they haven't maxed out on HtK already, make them do it. Limit all of the other crazy, survival bonuses to 1 or 2 characters at most. No, you can't all have Fast Reaction Time. No, you can't all have Situational Awareness.

Do not let them have machine guns and the like. No one will leave them sitting around for random characters to pick up and they'll elevate the violance in the game to a level that is not sustainable and filled with survival horror. A 9mm pistol, a baseball bat, a hockey stick, a shotgun? Sure. Hand them an ammo sheet and remind them to mark off a bullet every single time they shoot that gun. Every. Single. Time. They will eventually tell you they are marking it off before you remind them. Until they do, "Lose a bullet from your ammo sheet." You can find those ammo sheets here.

Describe the damage they recieve. It's not just you got shot. It's you take 12 points of damage. How much does your bullet proof vest abosorb? Okay, so that leave 4 points through, which doubles to 8 once it hits flesh. How much are you down to? Then, you can tell them where the bullet entered and *if* if left the body. It's also the baseball bat hits you on the left arm as you try to dodge out of the way. You take 20 points of damage. Make a Difficult Strength test to avoid dropping your weapon. You failed, you hear a crack and feel unbearable pain as the bat breaks your arm and you drop your gun.

Keep in mind that combat kills. By keeping the weapons on the lower end of the damage scale, you can keep it somewhat realistic and the characters might survive. Remember, nobody wants to die. Not the characters, not the NPCs they are fighting. Some people might actually give up or run away. The most intense AFMBE combat I ran had 2 PCs on 2 NPCs. The NPCs had a shotgun and a baseball bat. The PCs had a .38 and a machete. The PCs thought they had the situation under control with the baseball bat NPC, until the shotgun NPC spun out from behind a tree and put the PC with the machete on the ground with one shot. The PC with the .38 got in a lucky shot on the shotgunner, but then the baseball bat NPC attacked the PC with the .38 with punches and kicks (he had been disarmed). There were several botched rolls and eventually the NPC climbed a fence into a neighborhood and got away.

And running a good combat scene is hard. It's just as hard as plausible NPCs. However, mediocre combat is easy, if not as emotionally intense.

You need to decide if your game will involve PC death. If it does, make sure you players understand this. If it does and they are newer to Unisystem and AFMBE, make sure they understand how much damage they can do with a weapon you expect them to see in the game. When I Zombie Master at conventions, one of the things I do before we jump into the game is have everyone roll damage with any weapons on their character sheet. Then I have them compare it to their Life Points and ask how many are below 50% of their starting LPS and how many are nearly dead. This puts it in perspective.

Don't forget about the chaos swirling around them. Car crashes. Fires burning out of control with no fire department to douse them. Crazy drivers trying to get out of town. Police and military trying to contain everything - people, zombies, disasters - and being overwhelmed.

There is one final character, the world. In Westerns, the land is often a character. I tend to do this in games of AFMBE, as well. The land and the animals will take back the cities. They will run amock in the fields. This will bring back predators such as the wolf. It will expand the coyotes' already large hunting areas. Bring in coydogs, coywolves, and wild dogs or mixed packs of all three.

I include weather with the terrain. Torrential rainfall could lead to flooding. It certainly drowns out sounds of movement. Buildings decay and collapse. Radiation zones are dangerous in ways most people cannot fathom. Drought kills crops and that affects meat food sources, too. No water or sunlight, no vegetation. No vegetation, no bunnies or deer. No bunnies or deer, no predators. None of the above? No people.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

AFMBE discussion

The question of where to start with All Flesh Must Be Eaten came up in a FB group. I was asked to provide some input. I thought I would share it here, as well, for anyone who may be interested. 

Let me start with, what works for me, may not work for you.

First, you have the corebook and that is all you need for gameplay. The other books may help, and we'd love the sales, but you only need the corebook.

Please keep in mind, the game was originally designed for one-shots, not campaigns. Having said that, I've run 2 or 3 campaigns that lasted over a year, each. 

Have you read the Deadworlds section of the AFMBE corebook? If so, which setting are you thinking of using? My suggestion is to go with something modern. If it's easier to sell your players on a different setting, then do that. 

Decide when you want the game to start, in regards to the rise of the zombies. Right before, during, or after the fall of man. If you are trying to ease an apprehensive group into the game, my suggestion is during or after the fall. This eliminates the work of building up to it and working through the reality breaking, "OH my god, there are zombies!" part of the game and moves it into, "Oh sh!t, zombies. Run!!!" aspect of the game. I have started with right before and during the rise, for campaigns. For one shots, I've done all three. 

Decide where you want the game to be set. Is it where you live? The advantages are everybody knows everything about it. The disadvantage is the same. I usually try for a larger or large city. Jacksonville, Atlanta, NOLA, Chicago, etc. It gives you more room to play, but the players can still leave the city for the country, if that's what they prefer. Use real cities whenever possible. Yes, it's fun to make up towns and such, but if you use real cities, you have info at your fingertips. What was this town known for? Are there pictures of this building that sounded really cool in Wikipedia? Goolge maps is your friend.

After the rise starts, the real problem is other people. Let's assume, for now, the player characters will all get along. Well, introduce them to other people. In Dawn of the Dead (2004), we get other people in the mall making terrible decisions. In 28 Days Later, we get a military who does not care what you think or want. In TWD, there's an idiot in charge of Hilltop, there's Negan, the relationship between Amanda and Dale is troublesome, there's Terminus, etc. 

If the players get to a safe place, take it away from them, or encourage them to give it up for something that appears to be better or the right thing to do. If we go back to Dawn of the Dead, they tried to help Andy in the gun shop. That went sideways real quick. Chance exposes risk. 

If the players hold up in their "bunker" and refuse to leave, then bring the party to them. Have they started a fire, giving off the smell of smoke? Have they run a generator, providing a smell and sound? Do they hunt for food? Have they fired a gun or started a car. All of these things draw the attention of others. Other people, other zombies. Just like your player characters may encounter a "wandering monster" in D&D, NPCs looking for supplies may enouncter your player characters as their own wandering monster. Imagine a group like the Wolves or the biker gang from Dawn of the Dead (1978) finding the place. What would stop them from trying to take it from the characters or burning it to the ground if they can't have it? Don't forget the Governor. 

Keep in mind, unless you want it, there's no magic in this game. Yes, there are rules for magic, but you don't have to use them. Just like there are rules for various types of zombies, but you only need to use one type. I rarely use more than one type. The time I did,it was due to the cause of the rise mutating the zombies.

The zombies serve to force the players to:  make decisions, get along or not get along with others, move to a different location. They are the vice that clamps down when the players are doing too well. 

If your group is apprehensive about the game, don't lie and tell them they are playing something else. It tends to irritate players when you suddenly switch games on them. 

What else may help you? If you are looking for books by Eden Studios, I would start with 
 - The Zombie Master Screen (comes with a scenario set in modern time). 
 - After that is One of the Living for material orientated for after the fall of man. It comes with a sample community set up in a jail (there's a TWD tie-in if I ever saw one). Given your background, you can likely improve on the setting. 
 - If your players struggle to make characters of if you eat through them like a character funnel, Book of Archetypes 1 is great for modern games. The second BoA focuses more on genre book archetypes. 
 - Eden Studios Presents volume 2 includes "Dead Ops," a scenario for military characters. 
 - After that, it comes down to genre books. 
 - There's a demo pack for AFMBE that may help you. Link is at the end of this post. It includes a quick synopsis of the rules, archetypes for players, and a scenario. It may give you ideas. 

I do not recommend purchasing non-zombie books from Eden Studios (says the guy helping publish books), until you are comfortable with AFMBE. Buying non-zombie books will only give you more ideas that may not necessarily help you. Now, if you really want magic in your games, go buy Dungeons & Zombies or download WitchCraft. Start there. Several of the other game lines are not designed to contain zombies, but the rules are all very similar, so the books work with each other. 

Character sheets and ammo trackers
AFMBE demo pack

Random charts:
AFMBE page
Texas Zombie and Evan
Right here on Harvester

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Large Farm: a location for survival horror roleplaying games

Large Farm

This farmhouse was old before the apocalypse. The American Prairie Foursquare style suggests early twentieth century, but the add-ons suggest well used through the century. A covered porch lines the outside of the house. The front and a side door both stand open, welcoming all visitors – even the raccoons and squirrels who have claimed squatters’ rights. One or two windows are broken or missing, but the outside of the house is in good, overall condition.

A gravel drive leads from the country road to the front door and then on to the work yard where several out buildings await. Small trees dot the front lawn and large conifers line the drive, whereas maples line the country road. Two tractors sit next to a large barn. A baler is connected to one tractor and a cultivator is connected to the other. Inside the barn is equipment to work on the tractors and other equipment around the farm. There is also a broadcast seeder, row planter, harvester, a parts tractor similar to the two outside the barn, and a blue, 1973, Plymouth Fury.

A smaller barn sits off to the side of the larger barn. Dead bodies fill this smaller barn. The bodies contain sharp farming implements in their chests and skulls. The bodies were placed here a very long time ago. This barn was used as storage for hand-held equipment.

A curtain barn for pigs and a livestock barn for beeves are further back on the property. There are skeletons of animals here, but nothing living.

The fields for this farm once ranged over several hectares. Most of that land is gone to seed or taken over by trees and brush.

The Good:  the inside of the farmhouse is in good condition. Animals have come and gone, but nothing currently resides inside the building. At some point, a recent resident installed equipment to create a heated pool of water in the backyard, which feeds into the house to the shower. 

The basement contains food stores. Most of it is cans of soup no one likes. There are canned beans, mushrooms, carrots, peas, and pears lining one wall of the basement. There are many tables and chairs in the basement.

The upstairs of this farmhouse contains one full size bathroom, one master bedroom, and four smaller bedrooms. There is a set of stairs in the master bedroom leading to a finished attic. The finished attic contains boxes of memorabilia of several generations. This includes pictures, school jackets, wedding gowns, jewelry, and books. The bedrooms are all outfitted with clothing and bedding ruined by time and moths. It will take some work, but the bedrooms can be cleaned up and used properly. The bathroom on this level is not connected to the heated water source. However, it does contain several large mirrors and fine quality grooming tools.

The ground floor of the farmhouse contains a large kitchen, good sized dining room, smaller bathroom (which is connected to the heated water source), and a living room which extends across the front of the home. The kitchen is filled with pots, pans, plates, cups, silverware, spatulas, and even knives. The dining room has a table that will seat eight comfortably. The living room is large enough to entertain relatives for the afternoon. Poking around the closets on the ground floor, an old, small caliber, bolt-action rifle is found. It needs oil, cleaning, and bullets.

The Bad:  a pack of coyotes claims the property as their own and is sleeping throughout the house. They will fight player characters who attack with hand-to-hand weapons. They will flee from gunshots.

There is no canned food in the basement. There is no source for hot water. The utensils in the kitchen are mostly broken and the flatware is rusted. All of the knives are gone.

The bodies in the small barn are not all dead and begin moving about after the player characters walk away. Old, dried blood covers the farming equipment.

The Ugly:  the house is as described, but as the player characters move throughout the house, they get the sense someone else is living here. Water drips from a faucet. Fresh clothes lay out on well-kept beds. The kitchen floor is smeared with something wet. Maybe it is mud, maybe it is something else.

Once the player characters are fully convinced they need to leave, the residents of the property arrive.

The house is the base of operations for a group of cannibals referred to as, “The Animals.” They are named for the fact they all wear different animal masks. They do not use vehicles, preferring to hunt their prey on foot. They do not like to use firearms or blades when hunting or fighting, as they prefer their meat tenderized by blunt instruments. Additionally, if they capture their prey far from home, they would rather force the prey to walk home than carry it home.

The leader of the group is Pig Woman. She wears an old, rubber pig mask, and a pink wedding gown. Her preferred weapon is a rolling pin, but she also carries a machete and a medium caliber pistol. Pig Woman has seen too much to go about the world without a gun. Pig Woman is often seen with Rabbit Girl, Horse Head, and Unicorn Man. While there are others in the group, these are Pig Woman’s right hoofed partners.

Rabbit Girl is adept at using escrima sticks to stop her prey. She typically wears blue jeans, low-top shoes, and a faux fur jacket. It is impossible to tell Horse Head’s sex, but the body is built like a horse and the person not only likes to use a wooden axe handle, they are also very good at setting leg traps. They wear work boots, sweatshirts, and well-worn blue jeans. Unicorn Man was a martial artist before the fall and continues to hone his skills. When those skills fail him, he will resort to using an Intratec Tec 9. Unicorn Man wears loose fitting clothing that allows him fleet movement. The clothing is using of dark color, but he really does not care. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Action Points - Alternate Drama Point rules for Unisystem games

Action Points (Alternate Drama Points)

Cast Members have three points per session. This amount cannot be changed with Experience Points. If they are not spent during the game session, they do not add to the pool in the next game session.

The inspiration for these comes from wanting something more movie magic than TV magic. A few feel over-powered and I may need to drop them. I plan to try these out in a 2- or 3-shot game I am running soon.

Roll With the Punches:  Spend point to ignore all damage taken in one hit
Barely Touched Me:  Spend point to heal half of all damage at the end of a scene and before the next scene
A Good Night’s Rest:  Spend point to heal half of all damage after s standard sleep cycle

Die Rolls
I’m Better than That:  Spend point after the roll to raise the success level by one; for example raise a botch to failure or a failure to a success, etc.; cannot be used with damage rolls
Shiny and Chrome:  Spend point before roll for a +10 to the result; cannot be used with damage rolls
·     Fuck It:  Spend point and break a piece of essential equipment for a re-roll (equipment breaks after the roll, as the cast member uses it during the roll); further points may be spent to raise the success level or for a +10 to the roll

·    Other  
      Where Did That Come From?:  Spend point and have a piece of equipment to use that the character could reasonably had the opportunity to pack (or steal) and have on them at this point in time of the game

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Bodyguard of Lies

I'm working on a Conspiracy X supplement for Eden Studios Presents. My hope is to have it ready prior to, or during, the return of the X-Files tv series. As of this moment, I have two scenarios in development, an alternate alien invasion setting in development, and a few bobs & bits. I'm tentatively titling it ESP:  Bodyguard of Lies 4.

For the unawares, the Bodyguard of Lies series consists of three books, published for the first edition of the Conspiracy X game line. (there was also a GURPS edition) Each book contained different things.

  • BoL 1 has the widest variety of things:  new skills, credentials, traits, resources, an article on alternate weapon ranges, including alien technology with resource points, informational sources, fear and insanity rules, pool and loci manifestations, hazardous materials rules, and finally a mission titled Psi-Wars. The book is 124 pages total and the mission is 77 pages long.
  • BoL 2 starts with a short story and then moves on to new player characters, alchemy rules, skill defaults, skill categories, new traits, new trainings, revised skills for weapons skills, and a mission into the bayou named Mokole'. The book is 136 pages total and the mission is 71 pages long.
  • BoL 3 contains only two works:  an article on toxins and rules and a ready to run adventure titled Synergy. The book is 160 pages total and the adventure is 96 pages long.

All three are priced at $5.60 a piece on DriveThruRPG.com for Acrobat files of the books. You may be able to find print copies at Noble Knight Games or other retailers of used roleplaying game products.

In my opinion, if you are looking for ready to run scenario that you can use as is or modify for your group, these are good choices. However, Conspiracy X 2.0 roleplayers will need to convert the rules to 2.0 rules. This can easily be done with your own creativity or you can peruse Eden Studios Presents:  Volume One and see how Jason Little did it with his adventure, Tiger Eye. You may have received this book back in 2014 around Halloween when we gave it away for free. If you did not and do not yet own it, it's priced at $7.50 for the Acrobat file on DriveThruRPG.

So, back to BoL 4. If there's anything you'd like to contribute, let me know. I'm looking at an October 31st deadline for writers.

If you are thinking of writing a scenario, here is the general outline you can use. If you need our style guide, let me know and I can email it to you.

·         Chapter One:  Introduction
o   Intro blurb
o   Chapter Summary
o   How to Use
o   Synopsis:  Outlines the background of entire mission in one place for ease of understanding. While Directors should read the entire module before running it, this section provides a basic overview of the goal of the mission and what has gone before.
·         Chapter Two:  Catalyst describes the events that draw the agents into the adventure. Opening scenes and continuing afflictions are detailed. The agents soon realize that ignoring the warning signs gets more dangerous as more time passes.
·         Chapter Three:  Investigation presents all the information characters may uncover through pulling strings, sources, research, and legwork. The information is organized in a series of bulletins about each aspect of the mission, rather than a set pattern of encounters. The Director is expected to determine what particular information is uncovered depending on the particular path and success of the agents’ investigation. Summaries of the groups involved are located in this chapter; providing the Director with background information on their actions and motives should the agents interact with them.
·         Chapter Four:  Conflicts & Obstacles lists a series of possible events and encounters the Director can use at any time or certain prescribed times to impede or aid the agents. These events and encounters do not always relate to the adventure. Others are only loosely tied to the plot. This is the Director’s change to throw in red herrings should the characters be advancing too quickly.
·         Chapter Five:  Climax & Resolution is a combined section since the climax of the adventure generally leads to the resolution. This climactic event is designed to spark the agents toward dramatic resolution of the situation. While the events may differ slightly from group to group, it will typically involve the same basic elements. Resolution also describes the probable results dependent on the agents’ actions and successes.
           Chapter Six:  Supplemental Investigations reveals a series of further adventures that could transform this adventure into a full-fledged campaign. Allowing characters to explore related topics and events, and interweaving plot threads suggested in other books greatly extends the adventure. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

#RPGaDay2015 days 21-31

#RPGaDay2015 days 21-31

Real life conspired against me being able to finish this properly. However, I wanted to see it through, so here are the rest of the days and my choices. 

Day 21 – Favorite RPG Setting:  I really dislike published settings. They all too often disappoint me. I like Conspiracy X, as it blends my flavors of alien invasion into a cohesive whole. I like the old World of Darkness and know how to run it without it becoming monster super heroes (but that is also fun). Night’s Black Agents doesn’t count, nor does AFMBE. Those games don’t have a metaplot.

Day 22 – Perfect Gaming Environment:  My house, when the dogs behave. There are currently no children here to cause distraction.

Day 23 – Perfect Game for You:  Something sandboxy with rules my players like. AFMBE fits this, as does BRP for the most part. I prefer to use my own settings, when possible. For a short term game, Night’s Black Agents is badass. It works as written, but also for Impossible Mission Force games.

Day 24 – Favorite House Rule:  Changing how Fast Reaction Time works in Unisystem. In my house games, it no longer lets a player go first. Instead, it adds 5 to their initiative roll.

Day 25 – Favorite Revolutionary Game Mechanic:  Random Charts or Soak. Probably Soak, even if it is outdated and I don't play in games that use it.

Day 26 – Favorite inspiration for your game:  Kult, but my muse is my wife.

Day 27 – Favorite idea for merging two games into one:  Slayer’s Gauntlet.

Day 28 – Favorite game you no longer play:  Star Wars WEG. I loved the Force out of that game. It had a good run and I don’t know that I could ever re-light that fire to do it justice.

Day 29 – Favorite RPG website / blog:  Outside of my own? Probably Age of Ravens, my Google + “Gamers” feed, or the AFMBE FB group.

Day 30 – Favorite RPG playing celebrity:  My wife. She’s one of the most popular gamers in our area.

Day 31 – Favorite non-RPG thing to come out of RPGing:  The many friends I’ve made over the years and the opportunity it gives me to channel my creative abilities outside of music.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

#RPGaDay2015 Days 10-19 catching up and working ahead

The day job is busy and we have much going on with the family, right now. So, I hope you will pardon me as I catch up and work ahead in one post. 

Day 10:  Favorite Publisher
Currently, this is most likely Pelgrane Press. I like the look and feel of their books. They do column layout and design better than most of their competition. I like many of their game lines and can use nearly anything rpg related as source material. They are also more than happy to talk to their fans and are quick to sign books for their fans at conventions. Simon and Cat are good people.

Day 11:  Favorite RPG Writer
This is a hard one for me. If I buy a book, because a specific person wrote the book, it’s because they are a friend of mine. Shane Hensley, Jason L Blair, Jason Vey, Tim Brannon, and Dave Chapman come to mind very quickly. I like their products, but I am also friends with them outside of the rpg space.

If I buy a book, because I like the game line, it’s very rare that a book I purchase is by one single person. Ken Hite and Gareth Hanrahan are a great team up.

Maybe this is a take-away for me:  look into rpg authors and discover them.

Day 12:  Favorite RPG Illustration
Favorite? Not likely. Art, in this form, serves as inspiration. To narrow it down to one image is impossible.

I will side step and give you my favorite artist:  Timothy Bradstreet. I first viewed his work in Vampire:  The Masquerade. His images became icons for the game line. His work in Armageddon is awesome. However, his Punisher MAX image covers are just as iconic as his VtM work. I think the only genre I have yet to use his artwork as inspiration for, is fantasy. I should rectify that someday.

Day 13:  Favorite RPG Podcast
I have fallen out of listening to podcasts. I grew disillusioned with what they were offering. Some gave too much non-rpg content, others added personalities or changed the line, another began covering topics I just don’t care about, and the worst wander down completely unrelated, unnecessary rabbit holes. However, if you are looking for recommendations, you could do worse than start with Podcast at Ground Zero, PLay On Target, or Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff. The latter two have been nominated for awards in the rpg industry.

Day 14:  Favorite RPG Accessory
The Internet.

Nowhere else can I potentially play with friends across the globe, work directly with contributors, bounce ideas off friends to make sure I’m not going down a rabbit hole myself, or address concerns of fans. I can research my next game session, find images that outline the layout and history of a castle to include in my game, run name generators, and find new players for my games.

Dice rollers included, no dice tower needed. Cool battle maps can be found or built. Free scenarios for that new rpg you just purchased are there for downloading and using.

For me, it’s just as much an accessory as the next “tool.”

Day 15:  Longest Campaign Played
This is likely Lowell Francis’ Freakish Band of Adventurers or a Vampire:  The Masquerade game that I ran. Both went 3+ years, playing every other week.

Lowell’s was a game of continent travel, righting rights, releasing gods back into the world, and a game where one (?) character was a full blooded human (mine). There was a rakasta, elves, half-demon, aperkitus, and a wizard who was not all there, even if he did look human – in addition to my character.

The vampire game spanned years in game time. There were three players and an occasional fourth (who didn’t fit in the mix) who fought Nephandi, Sabbat, Inconnu, Angels, Highlanders, and everything else that the Internet could source in the mid- to late 1990s. The game ended with the end of the world and the characters joining different sides to support.

Day 16:  Longest Session Played
It has been decades since I played one that would qualify. There were long nights playing Vampire:  The Masquerade from dusk until dawn and overnights of D&D. None stand out for me this many years later.

Day 17:  Favorite Fantasy RPG
Of a company I work for? Either Dungeons & Zombies or Spellcraft & Swordplay. They have the same author, but it depends on whether I want a ton of zombie options or just zombies.

Of a company I don’t work for? 13th Age. I don’t run it as is. I drop out the relationships ideas. I find them tedious and intrusive to my game style. What I do like is the mechanics. They use the same skill types as Spellcraft & Sorcery. The combat feels very gamey to me and completely in style of as characters build experience, their abilities increase with more than just feats or another cool thing. Damage increases, options increase, and if you’re looking for a game where you can min-max your heart out, you can likely do it with this one.

Day 18:  Favorite Scifi RPG
Sorry, Dave, it’s not Conspiracy X. Although, Con X is my favorite modern game with a sci-fi bent to it.

My favorite sci-fi game is WEG Star Wars. Of sci-fi game, I ran this one the longest. If you look around the Internet hard enough, you can find a .pdf of material either from the game, or rehashed, to make a new product.

Eclipse Phase is a close 2nd. I think I need to run a campaign or two to see how the fun level compares. 

Traveller, Fading Suns, and Dark Heresy are also worth checking out.

Day 19:  Favorite Supers RPG
The World of Darkness. No, seriously. It is or at least, that’s how most folks I know play it. Which is fine if you are looking to run a game where the setting is more supernatural than superhero.

I think the best rules out there are for Mutants & Masterminds. I haven’t played many supers rpgs:  old DC Comics, old Marvel, Hero, and M&M. M&M is the best for my money. The math works out the best for me and in a game wherein you can potentially play the upper limit of power, you need that. Maybe, one day Beyond Human will fill this roll. For now, it remains vaporware. Don’t worry, I’ll keep bugging George to publish it. J

The superhero game I want is Gotham Central:  players as human cops taking on super villains. Maybe one day I’ll do it and do it right. Mutant City Blues may be the way to go with this one. The game includes a chart of how different powers are related. That builds in another clue structure to the game. It also uses GUMSHOE which is clue driven.

Day 20:  Favorite Horror RPG

I’ll stop right there. This one is going to be special.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Slayer's Gauntlet

I took a break from #RPGaDay2015 to type out my latest campaign idea. This idea was inspired by the first 50 seconds of the following advertisement for Gauntlet:  Slayer Edition.

Don't worry, Dave. I re-scripted my video. I will re-shoot it this weekend. 

Slayer’s Gauntlet

High Concept:  Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Gauntlet/Diablo

The Pitch:  The characters discover a deceased friend accidentally opened a portal to a demon realm. Now, they must suit up and fight their way through dungeons and armies to stop a demon prince before he brings Hell to 21st century Earth.

Overview:  The characters are all college students or have good reason to all have lives that revolve around the same college or university. They are friends, through classes, majors, sports, clubs, or high school friends. All of them are well aware of the supernatural world and have a clue how to handle themselves, even if it means knowing when to run away. One night, they stumble onto a dead friend and it leads them to Hell and back. Can they stop a demon prince’s plans to invade Earth or will they fall victim and rise as one of the dead to serve in the demon prince’s army?

First Arc:  The characters stumble into the situation and must decide what to do and how to do it. During their investigation into the situation, they could discover the deceased student’s Instagram feed showing what the student was doing. They then move on to investigate the Book of the Dead and what the missing page is for. As the characters move through the motions, more demons enter the Earth plane. If the characters falter in their decision to fight the demons, students come to them for aid and assistance.

Second Arc:  Their research leaves no doubt as to what will happen if the portal is not closed. They must go after the page from the Book of the Dead. They can do some research into this demon prince. The research reveals potential realms within his demense. However, there is no indication as to which one the demon prince calls home. The research also reveals a wife, Astarte, and her minions are among the dead. The characters go through a montage wherein they gather arms and armor, spell books and written incantations. Will it be enough?

Arriving at the portal, the characters discover a demon spellcaster with an honor guard. He has cast a spell to make humans not notice the demons and their activities. The characters can discern this through speaking with other humans, perhaps the tough campus security guard or even one of the characters could be affected. They could also overhear the demon speaking to the honor guard about how it needs to cast a larger version of the spell tomorrow. They will need as many virgins as they can gather for a sacrifice. The power from the virgins will allow the demon to cast his net over the entire city. As soon as they can cast the spell tomorrow at midnight the following evening, the armies can start marching upon Earth, enslaving humanity. The characters’ only choice is to wade in and slay these demons while the portal into Hell shimmers in the background.

Entering the portal, the characters find themselves as a stasis point. Hallways, doors, and stairs lead away from what appears to be the inside of a castle. Studying the room reveals it is the central traveling chamber in this Hell. The characters have three main path choices from which to choose. They will need to fight and clear each level of this dungeon-like Hell.

If this is a long-term campaign, the characters are in for an old school dungeon crawl. They will need to fight through each major path in order to find the demon prince (Diablo, Gauntlet, The Temple of Elemental Evil). Each path will feature different elements. The final one features undead. There should be no doubt to the players that each level is harder, but also that there are simply too many pathways to go down. They stick to the major pathways in an effort to more quickly find the demon prince. After all, why would a demon prince scurry along in darkened, hollowed places instead of striding through the halls of his own realm. Along the way, they may discover allies who also wish to end the demon prince’s rule (e.g., humans stolen from Earth and enslaved, races from other realms who are also here to end the demon prince’s rule).

If this is a short-term campaign, the characters will need to fight creatively, pitting demons against each other, and using the element of surprise. After all, what demon underling would expect a band of human warriors to bring the fight to Hell.

If this is an one-shot, the characters find themselves in the castle of the demon prince. They will need to move quickly and decisively if they want to win the night and stop the hordes from invading Earth.
Having won through to where they think they will find the demon prince, they instead face off with his wife, Astarte, ruler of the dead. This fight will take the characters to the brink of death. One or more could die in this fight.

In defeating Astarte they discover the lair of the demon prince and rush to it. If the characters decide to face off against the demon prince, the fight is ugly. He does not hold back and nor should they. Weird magics and unholy items come to play. Did the characters bring any holy relics of their own? How will those items affect the demon prince, his powers, and those Lieutenants not already defeated.

If the characters decide to instead steal the page from the Book of the Dead, they do not get away without notice. Something will notice. If the characters pull it off without a hitch, they gain a huge lead in escaping the demon prince’s lair. In fact, with a few more successful stealth and fighting checks, they make it all the way to the portal where they discover the demon prince or his highest lieutenants await the characters.

Third Arc:  The characters face their final moral dilemma. Do they cast the spell to close the portal while they are still in Hell or do they fight their way through the portal and cast it from the other side? If they cast the spell while in Hell, they are trapped until they re-cast the spell to open it. This means casting the spell, fighting their way out of the portal room, and going “underground.” Ideally, the game ends here, but the campaign could continue into a second season exploring those options.

If the characters fight through the portal to Earth before casting the spell to close the portal, the demon prince follows them through the portal. Reality warps around the portal due to the high level of magical creatures and magic in and around the portal. The characters will need to either hold off the demon prince while another character casts the spell, closing the portal or they will need to defeat the demon prince and then cast the spell, while holding off his minions. Once they close the portal, the demons and the demon prince on Earth lose access to any sort of regenerating powers. They have no way to tap into the Earth’s natural powers as the characters’ abilities allow.

Original Outline:
1.       Setup
a.       Beginning:  College student gains a page from the Book of the Dead or some other equally horrible book. Doesn’t realize what they are doing and opens a portal to another world. Something comes through, kills the college student, leaves the body, takes the page of the book, and runs off to tell is master.
b.      Inciting Incident:  Increase of demon activity on campus. College student found dead by character/s. A small, scouting band of demons steps through the portal and attacks the character/s.
c.       Second Thoughts:  Are we the right people to do this? Other “friendly” students harmed and/or come to the characters for aid.
2.       Confrontation
a.       Ascending Action
                                                               i.      Obstacle #1:  Knowledge of what is going on. Where does the portal go? How do they close it? (research reveals they need the page from the book)
                                                             ii.      Obstacle #2:  A demon comes through and begins spellcasting to make the locals ignore the portal. People formerly looking for help now don’t know what the characters are talking about.
                                                            iii.      Midpoint with a big twist:  A demon prince plans to send his many minions to Earth, unless the characters go in, gain the page from the book, cast the spell, and potentially kill the demon prince.
b.      Obstacle #3:  Fighting through dungeon levels, trying to determine the location of the demon prince’s lair.
c.       Disaster:  The characters must defeat Astarte, wife of the demon prince
d.      Crisis:  They defeat Astarte, but lose something in the process (e.g., hit points, magical weapon, an ally). They hear demons discussing the fact that the armies are gathered and ready to pass through the portal. They are simply awaiting their prince to lead them through.
e.      Climax:  Do they fight the demon prince or steal the page and run?
3.       Resolution
a.       Descending action
                                                               i.      Climax Continues:  If fight the demon prince, they won and now have the page and must escape the demon realm before casting the spell or be trapped in the demon realm. If they stole the page and are on the run, they must escape to Earth and cast the spell before the demon prince’s army comes through the portal.
                                                             ii.      Wrap up:  Fight off straggler demons on Earth or if caught on the demon realm side of the portal, find a place to hide, awaiting the right time to re-open the portal to escape back to Earth.
                                    iii.    End

Sunday, August 9, 2015

#RPGaDay2015 Days 6-9 catching up

Time to play catch up on this blog project. I was travelling for work last week and unable to keep up. 

Day 6:  Most Recent RPG Played
I had the opportunity to play in a Delta Green one-shot prior to GenCon. It was a playtest for a scenario at GenCon. We over-thought the first portion of the game, forgetting the prime rule of a one-shot. You are in an one-shot, you are the stars of the show, go do something or force something to happen. If you don't, the scenario never ends. All three Delta Green agents survived and we completely burned the friendly who was assisting us. He likely ended up in Gitmo or some other black hole in ground. 

Day 7:  Favorite Free RPG
In the early days of the game, Eclipse Phase was available for free to download. The product was so good that many people went on to purchase the game. Enough sales of that core book have occurred to drive it to a fourth printing, 7 published adventures, and another 5-10 other source books. I think I own a digital copy of most of their products, even if I haven't read them all. I backed the most recent Kickstarter project:  Transhuman. It's awesome. The books are layed out well, have beautiful interiors, and the setting can do anything you want. The two detractions I hear the most about this game are the rules system (percentile based) and how large the space is in which to play. The game is set up to let you do anything you want with it and you can. If you want a hard sci-fi game with aliens, you can. If you want dimension hopping through portals, it's available. If you want to go on antique hunting adventures to Earth, you can - but I wouldn't. Body morphs and lasers and space ships and sentient AIs and Things Man was Not Meant to Know are all in there. 

To the best of my knowledge, it is no longer a free game. Look around the Internet, I may be wrong.

Day 8:  Favorite Appearance of RPG in Media
I can't say that I have a favorite. I watched and loved the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon as a kid. I own the episodes on dvd. I enjoyed the quick snippets of roleplaying games that show up in TV shows, like season nine of Buffy. GG appeared in an episode of Futurama. I guess the old cartoon is my favorite, but this isn't a topic I think long and hard on. 

Day 9:  Favorite Media You Wished Was an RPG
I was going to say Flash Gordon, but GORDON'S ALIVE! So, I'll go with something more up to date, with just as much silliness, but not quite the amount of glam or camp:  Jupiter Ascending. This movie has so much going on in the background, that it almost feels as if it were designed to be a tv series and then someone kicked it to the movie production business. The mainline is girl who doesn't know she's super awesome important, finds out, finds friends that will help here, and then wins the day. Or, you can go to IMDB or Wikipedia and get a real description. Whatever.

Jupiter Ascending brings elements of Flash Gordon, Dune, Highlander II (come on, I'm not the only one that thought of that with the rocket booster roller skate things), and everything else they could throw into it. There is a big, all powerful family who is fighting in and among themselves to control the universe. As it turns out, Jupiter, a young adult with horrible parental units, can save the day. She can't do it alone and needs help from others, including a human with wolf's blood or genes or something. 

The movie is painful at times. You don't know whether to watch the background images or pay attention to the characters. If you pay attention to the characters, you get some stilted dialogue, over acting, and a sense of, "what were they thinking?" At the same time, the amount of CGI or paintings used to fill the blank space around the characters is amazing. There are worlds to be explored in this setting. Worlds, we'll never see, because the movie really wasn't that good. 

Also:  Sean Bean does not die in this film, even though he is in it.
Also Also:  No soundtrack by Queen.
Also Also Also:  There was a Flash Gordon and the Warriors of Mongo rpg by Lin Carter and Scott Bizar that I didn't know about until I went looking for a link to Pinnacle Entertainment Group's upcoming game based upon the movie Flash!.

Past entries in the #RPGaDay2015 project