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

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

#RPGaDay2015 Day 5 Most Recent RPG Purchase

#RPGaDay2015 Day 5 Most Recent RPG Purchase

My most recent round of purchases was at GenCon. I picked up games from 4 companies. I'll go with the one I went to the con to find - Mutant Year Zero.

After finishing up my run on Night's Black Agents, I suggested a game set in the post apocalypse. It didn't need to be zombie related, but I wanted something that if I put time and energy into it, I could use the material with All Flesh Must Be Eaten

My group and I travel in similar circles online. It's only natural, given similar tastes in things. We were watching a lot of discussion around this game. People were excited, having fun, and generally giving it a positive vote. It's also one of the more recent RPG products to address post apocalypse that isn't related to AW/DW, which I do not like. 

I did some looking into it and it looks keen. I picked up everything they had for it at GenCon:  core book, dice, map, screen, and first book supplement. I have yet to read it. I poured through two other post apocalyptic RPGs I purchased and quickly put down, first. I hope to start in on reading this one later this month.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

#RPGaDay2015 Day 4: Most Surprising Game

And now, for my 201st post, I give you #RPGaDay2015 Day 4:  Most Surprising Game

I will narrow this one down to the past 12 months. In that time, I honestly have not played or game mastered many different games. The list is short. Night's Black Agents, King Arthur:  Pendragon, D&D 5e, and Stars Without Number. The first as game master, the others as a player. Of those, only two are new:  D&D 5e and Stars Without Number. Interestingly, both were run by the same game master. 

For me, D&D5e is the winner of most surprising game. I didn't expect it to work as well as it did. I didn't expect to enjoy the rules as much as I did. I didn't expect to want to steal the rules for other games, at all. 

And it was pretty easy to learn. Sure, I've played 1st through 3.5 edition, some Pathfinder one-shorts, 13th Age, and a dizzying amount of non-F20* games. However, with some versions, the nuances and rules can change. Those changes are not always obvious and I get annoyed when I find out I am doing it wrong. (Clerics in Pathfinder, I've got my eyes on you)

We played three sessions of the Lost Mines of Fandelver with our normal south-side gaming group + one. I think it went well overall. We all learned the rules the first night, clarified everything the second night, and coasted through the third night (rules-wise). We survived the fights, started our own fights, and came close to a TPK at one point due to everyone being down points - not due to the system taking out one type of character, then the next, etc. 

The game works. If you are looking for a new flavor of D&D, try it, you might like it. If you want my preference for F20 games, look at the rules from 13th Age. There is an SRD for it, if you fancy such things. 

*Defined by Robin D. Laws as fantasy games that use the D20 as the core mechanic, ala D&D. I heard it from his mouth first, so until he says and I hear it was defined by someone else first, I'm attributing it to him. 

Day One:  Forthcoming game you are most looking forward to
Day Two:  Which Kickstarter are you most pleased that you backed?
Day Three:  Favorite new game of the past 12 months

Monday, August 3, 2015

#RPGaDay2015 Day 3 Favorite New Game of the past 12 Months

#RPGaDay2015 Day 3 Favorite New Game of the past 12 Months

From the ad blurb:
Civilization came crashing down. Billions died.

A new Dark Age has begun. The descendants of the apocalypse's survivors scavenge the remnants of the Before Times, struggling to build a new life amidst the ruins of the old. In a savage world where the strong ravage and exploit the weak, the survivors' settlements are oases, connected only by convoys of armed and armored vehicles that run the gauntlet of raiders... and worse.

Though the threats of chemical and biological agents and radiation have all but faded, their taint lingers on in every mutant born to man and beast.

This is the world of Atomic Highway.

My newest favorite game could be Radioactive Ape Designs' Atomic Highway. It's a crazy, rules light, game of the apocalypse with badass cars. So, it's Mad Max or a version of Max and that's okay by me. 

The game is by Colin Chapman. He's a good guy who spent many years promoting Buffy and Angel in his local area. At one time, he was probably one of my top three choices to write adventure products for those lines (not that it was my choice), because I enjoyed what he was doing with his games. 

There is a supplement for it, Irradiated Freaks, that adds rules for mutants, crazies, monsters, and more. 

I don't know when I discovered Atomic Highway, but I purchased it (it's free) within the past year. The content made me more excited for Mad Max:  Fury Road. When the movie came out, it helped pump me up for the next game I hope to run. I'm tentatively titling it Wastelands of the Apocalypse. I plan to use Unisystem or my own game system to run it. 

So, in review:  Mad Max, Colin Chapman, Inspiration to run more games, and maybe a large influence of what I purchased at GenCon2015. 

I think I'll call that a win.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

#RPGaDay2015 Day 2 Kickstarter Most Pleased I Backed

For day two, Autocratik asks, "Which Kickstarter are you most pleased that you backed?"

I've backed 14 Kickstarters. One I cancelled out of due to the creator using their Kickstarter adverts to futher their unrelated personal socio-politco beliefs. Another funded and the person took off with the money. Their husband would later ensure everyone was repaid their monies. Another one is still funding. Four have funded, but not shipped. One of those four is past due, but the parties involved have begun a campaign to keep backers in the know. The company is reputable, the author did a bad job on time and communication management. It happens. I've backed another project from said company and buy their products when I can find it.

The other Kickstarters are:

  • The Dracula Dossier:  a sandbox approach to Night's Black Agents
  • Chill 3rd Edition:  hunting supernatural creatures
  • The Last Parsec:  sci-fi gaming using Savage Worlds rules
  • Amazing Adventures:  pulp action
  • Blue Dungeon Tiles:  tiles that are laminated, designed for use with erase markers, and come with rooms, hallways, stairs, etc. on them 
  • Transhuman:  The Eclipse Players Guide:  yet another awesomely designed product from Posthuman Studios
  • The Guide to Glorantha:  an encyclopedic approach to the world of Glorantha, two massive tomes
I've read most of them, but not all. I have yet to use any of these products at the table. Some, I backed to have for future games. I backed other Kickstarters, because they were friends' projects and I wanted to see them succeed. 

The one I think I am most pleased that I backed is also the one with the most heartburn surrounding its release. The Blue Dungeon Tiles from Kevin Chenevert was plagued with delays. There were design changes, composition of materials changes, shipping delays, more shipping delays, and I think there may have been personal sickness involved at some point. It was painful to watch happen and I truly felt bad for him. 

However, out of all of the products I backed, this one will get the most use. I can use it with any game. I can use it repeatedly. My order fits in one medium, white "arrow" shipping box for easy storage. It also allows me to completely design a dungeon and not need to use a hex map. Granted, the tiles are filled with squares, not hexes which are my preference. It doesn't matter, because I no longer need to draw out the spacecraft, dungeon, or villain's lair on a hex map. I simply design the space on graph paper, like I would with a hex map, and then pull out the pieces I need. I can place the tiles out as the party traverses the map and not worry about removing cardstock from the hex map or drawing it out as they go. It adds flexibility to old school style game play. 

Still, I've enjoyed each of the Kickstarters I have received. While I was running my own Night's Black Agents campaign, I perused The Dracula Dossier for ideas. Amazing Adventures keeps my friend Jason Vey in business and gets me on more covers (by accident). Chill 3rd edition gets the book back on shelves and helps Growling Door Games keep making good products. The Last Parsec provides me with memories of Traveller and the fun I had with that product. Transhuman is yet another beautifully laid out book for the sci-fi game I am most likely to run in the future. The Guide to Glorantha is the most intense set of books I think I've seen since Aria or Nobilis. These are seriously beautiful books whose publishers put a lot of time and effort into. I wish I had the space on my shelves to have backed the physical copies of the books. The Acrobat files are awesome, but wow are those physical books even better. 

Be seeing you. . . 

#RPGaDay2015 Day 2 Kickstarter Most Pleased I Backed

Saturday, August 1, 2015

‪#‎RPGaDay2015‬ Day 1: Forthcoming Game you are most looking forward too.

My good friend Dave Chapman is at it, again! Last year's RPGaDay is back. He's changed up a few days. He's asked industry insiders to put together their own videos for the different days. And he's linking to them via his YouTube site:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TIuHaeoQ_-s&feature=youtu.be

So, here's my entry on day one. I hope to see your posts this month and I hope to be seen around the 20th. . . 

At first, I thought this would be a tough one to do as I have three I'm very excited about. However, I realized that one is a minis game and this isn't #MinisaDay2015. Then, the other two came down to one I'm the lead on and one I'm not. I'm going with the one on which I'm the lead. It's selfish, I know. 

The AFMBE Director's Cut is something George Vasilakos of Eden Studios and I have discussed for quite some time. We wanted it to be meaty. We wanted it to have everything, EVERYTHING, the fans would need to run the game. We realized we could put everything, but not EVERYTHING in the book. But really, what would that include? How would we do it? What would we want in it? What would the fans want in it? What would it mean for future products and how we went about things? What would it mean to lay out and editing? And how would we get EVERYTHING else to the fans?

A bunch of things happened in real life that put that on hold. Day job changes. Life changes. Living out of hotels due to construction on the home. Log books were lost. Files disappeared. Bigger projects came along that needed much more attention involving important, top men. Top men.

And one day it clicked. This is how we do it. This is what we need for the future. This is how we produce the Director's Cut and this is how we produce EVERYTHING else. So, now I am back to working on the Director's Cut. It's not a new book, whole cloth. It's not a retelling of the tell. It's an updating of text. It's a collection of things. And I hope it's a precursor of good things to come. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Designing Starship Layout for AFMBE and other Zombie RPGs

This is a follow up to the previous post.

To generate the starship’s layout, first determine the size or Class of ship. Using the Ship Size Table from All Tomorrow’s Zombies, we can carve out a few sizes for generating layout. Snub fighters and small transport shuttles are not going to contain multiple rooms. There is a chance the small transport or a drop shuttle will have a cockpit and a cargo or seating area, but that is all. At size 2, the medium transport shuttle, there are more than two rooms. Size 2-4 starships are classed together. Size 5-6 and smaller Size 7 starships are in the next Class. Size 7 and above are a different Class at each size level.

Laying out a starship Size 7 and higher is not an easy task. However, the design mechanisms described here work as a localized area layout generator. The design mechanism can represent specific floors or functional areas within the ship. In these situations, the main bridge becomes the localized command center; i.e.:  the main office. Most other locations should work as designed.

These mechanics are a variation from my Random Subway Generator.

When using the random generator table to decide the layout of a starship, the selection of rooms generated may not meet the exact expectations of the Zombie Master. When this happens, Zombie Masters may choose to add additional rooms or swap rooms created via the generator for rooms required. If the Zombie Master rolls a location that does not belong in the setting or in the particular starship (such as a hypersleep changer in an Orbital Platform), the Zombie Master may replace this room with another random room, choose to replace it with a necessary room, or remove the room from the starship and not replace it.

Zombie Masters may choose to combine rooms. For example, the mechanical and electrical rooms are sometimes in the same room of a medium transport shuttle. They are found with the engine room in other starships. Zombie Masters are encouraged to combine rooms when it is relevant to the story and action of the plot.

To determine the number of rooms in a starship, roll the number of dice listed next to the starship size in the Room Quantity Chart. Sum the dice rolled and then roll that many times on the Room Type Table in the Random Charts for AFMBE and other Zombie RPGs.

Room Quantity Chart
Starship Size
1D10 (5)
2D10 (10)
2D10 + 5 per area (15)

Specialized star ships, such as an Orbital Station, Research Lab, Safari Ship, Nobleman’s Yacht, or Satellite Station will often fit into the Size 2-4 categories. However, the Zombie Master should determine the size of the ship using the rules in All Tomorrow’s Zombies before consulting the Room Quantity Chart.

Upon determining the quantity of rooms and the type of rooms, the Zombie Master determines the layout of the ship. Zombie Masters write the name of each room either horizontally or vertically on a piece of paper. For each room, the Zombie Master must discern to which other rooms it connects and the type of connecting structure (just a doorway, stairs, elevator, etc.).

To determine which rooms connect to, rolls 1D10 and consult Connection Table 1:  Connecting the Rooms. Start at either end of the list of rooms and work towards the other side. If the results of the roll move the count past the end, move back to the beginning and continue counting.

Connection Table 1:  Connecting the Rooms
1D10 Result
Connected to the next room
Connected to the second next room
Connected to the third next room
Connected to the fourth next room
Connected to the fifth next room

After determining which rooms are connected, the Zombie Master determines how the rooms are connected. For each connect, the Zombie Master rolls 1D20 and consults Connection Table 2:  Method of Connection.

Connection Table 2:  Method of Connection
1D20 Result
Method of Connection
Stairwell Up
Stairwell Down
Hatchway Up
Hatchway Down
Elevator Up
Elevator Down

Example One:  Scout Ship Geronimo
Size: 4
Quantity of Rooms:  9
Rooms:  Lounge, Lounge, Escape Pod, Main Bridge, Staterooms, Staterooms, Engine Room, Staterooms, Fuel Bay (for extra-long trips), Staterooms, Storage Rooms, Passenger Cabins, Holding Cells

Connects to
Fuel Bay
Stairwell Down
Escape Pod
Hatchway Down
Main Bridge
Storage Rooms
Engine Room
Engine Room
Hatchway Down
Fuel Bay
Holding Cells
Storage Rooms
Passenger Cabins
Passenger Cabins
Holding Cells
Escape Pod
Hatchway Up

Example Two:  Attack Ship Miami
Size:  6
Quantity of Rooms in this Area:  8
Area of the Ship:  Aft-Starboard
Rooms:  Staterooms, Crew Cabins, Airlock, Engine Room, Hypersleep Chambers, Weapons Bay, Security Office, Control Room, Lounge, Staterooms, Mechanical Room
Connects to
Crew Cabins
Hypersleep Chambers
Engine Room
Weapons Bay
Hypersleep Chambers
Weapons Bay
Weapons Bay
Mechanical Room
Security Office
Crew Cabins
Hatchway Up
Control Room
Mechanical Room
Hypersleep Chambers