Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Hibernation Infestation

I made another flash game via playcrafter. It's a cute little time waste, kinda like the other one in that regards. This one's not as girly - you blow stuff up. :) You're the computer of a spaceship, that's become infested by alien bugs. You have to use your automated defense systems to get rid of all the bugs. Don't let that description fool you, though - it's more of a thinker, not an action game.

Monday, December 29, 2008

O, what were they thinking?

O-game looks neat, but I'm upset I don't have a spaceship yet.

I mean, if you're billing your game as one of intergalactic conquest, you should be able to build your first spaceship, or other military unit in say ...less than 6 hours after you started playing. Don't ya think? Just strikes me as odd.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Lookie what I made...

I made this little flash game...

My game doesn't make a lot of sense, and over all it's a tiny bit ...girly, I suppose, what with the non-violent, female main character, and a color palette that sometimes dips into pastels. But, it was fun to make (and hopefully you'll find it fun to play).

It's a dexterity / "skill" game, with some minor puzzle and timing elements. The main character has a little too much inertia, on purpose, to make it tricky flying around obstacles. She also lacks any sort of weaponry, so you have to rely on timing and manuevers instead of just killing everything in site.

PlayCrafter is a very cool site that gives you online tools for building games, which is how I was able to make that. PlayCrafter is pretty much a WYSIWYG Flash game creator. It's still in it's Alpha stage, so there's limitations on what types of games you can build with it, but it's expanding. If I had wanted to spend more time and energy, I could have uploaded my own graphics and customized things a lot more. It was kinda fun, so I might make another game with it later.

PlayCrafter is a free site, and a fun way to kill time (though, since it's new and populated by mostly first-time designers, most of the games aren't terribly polished just yet). The creators of games get 10% of the ad revenue generated by their games, so if you like the game, embed it somewhere, and/or click on the ads, okay? :) Thanks!

Friday, December 19, 2008


Sarah and I were too sick to go to Wayward last night, and it occurs to me that the next two Thursdays are Xmas and New Years. Looks like I won't be getting my weekly one-shot gaming fix again till 2009. That sucks.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Further Information Is Available

I forgot to mention it at the time, but, a couple weeks ago, I wandered into my local gamestore, and what should I see upon the used shelf? A $4 copy of Further Information: A Gamemaster's Treasury Of Time, the awesome supplement for the Continuum RPG. I've wanted this book for a while, but never actually found it for sale, as it had a fairly small print run.

It starts off with about 10 pages of really good GMing advice, including troubleshooting for various problems that stem from the fact that the characters can time-travel but the players can't. After that, there's a collection of time-saving charts and indexes -- I typed most of the data up into hand-outs and cheat sheets for my campaign, but it would have been nice to have this back in the day. New skills, a new strategem for Time Combat, several additional weapons, and some tricks you can do with spanning round out this section.

The remainder of the book covers history from the Libran to Aquarian ages, 12969 BC to 2200 AD. Technology, cultures, corners, narcissists, plothooks, etc. I sure could have used that in a few eras of my own campaign. 3 whole pages devoted to the history of horsemanship. Sweet, sweet, book. Before I got this book, I'd never dream of running a game past Span Two - which is a shame because the game has some amazing potential when the characters can hop a thousand years in a blink of the eye. Having this book to fall back on means you won't just fold the campaign when the PCs randomly dive into Vielavayan, circa 6000BC, to carry the fight to the enemy during the height of The Midwives Crisis, half way through the session. Instead, you'll take a 5 minute "smoke break" while the GM reads one page of a book and finds all the facts he needs to sell that era. Normally, I blow off the official backgrounds of most games and wing it, but Continuum is a game where you can't always do that. Verisimilitude and internal consistancy are of the utmost importance in Continuum - and this book offers some pretty robust tools to cover the GM's butt.

I'm very pleased to add Further Information to my collection, especially at the bargain price of $4 for a used copy in great condition. Score!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Savage Worlds Adventure Cards

That's weird. I wrote a lengthy post about running Savage Worlds for just one player, but when I put in a second Unordered List, blogger crapped out and deleted everything except this paragraph:

I can't recommend the Adventure Cards enough. I'd grown to like Savage Worlds without them, but once I added the deck, my love of the game shot up considerably. GMs who value control over improvisation may not find it matches their style, but I think those cards kick butt. If you're GMing Savage Worlds, or are considering doing so, do yourself (and your players) a favor, and drop the $10 needed to get yourself one of those decks. Definitely worth it.

I'll reconstruct the rest of the post eventually, but I probably don't have time this afternoon.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Pleasantly Surprised

The fourth section of the Scion Companion released yesterday. (I think. I noticed and downloaded it at like 2 am.)

Flipping through it, I was quite pleasantly surprised to see my own words in it. My Improvised Weapon System is in there. It's not likely to be a matter of independent parallel invention, like Terrible As The Dawn / Visage Great And Terrible was. I can say that because the system presented there uses the exact same categories, names, and nearly exactly the same stats as my system.

I put that system on the Scion Wiki, and the Scion Forums, because I intend it for other's use. I'm quite pleased and thrilled and honored that they chose to use it. It's work based on their game, and they absolutely have every right to use it.

How neat. I'm on cloud nine.

Phys Soc Men

I've said it before, but an experience tonight really drove it home.

Here's my open request to GMs and game designers: If your RPG is going to have different attributes, such as Physical/Social/Mental, you need to have all of those categories carry roughly equal weight, or else make the lame stats cost less. If, as so many systems seem to do, only Physical ever gets rolled, then you really don't need the Social or Mental traits at all. They should be significantly cheaper, or just not exist.

(Amber, for example, has no social trait, and it's only mental trait is just a measure of psychic power. And that system works just fine. Matters of problem solving and intelligence are left up to roleplaying and the player's craftiness. That's much better than saying "you plan to role-play that you're smart? Well then you have to spend half your XP on stats you'll never roll.")

If you insist on charging the same amount for the three stats, they need to be roughly equal in their functional ability to solve problems.

In tonight's one-shot at Wayward, the system had those 3 traits: P/S/M.
  • I had Physical as my primary stat, and my character worked great and I had lots of fun. Someone else had literally nothing but Physical, and he did insanely well, too.
  • Everyone else (5 other PCs) had some measure of points wasted in Social and Mental, and had varying degrees of frustration.
  • The ship's Captain got creamed, because his maxed out social trait was unable to prevent any of the three fight scenes, and his correspondingly minimized physical trait meant he got hit again and again.
  • Even the two psychic characters only got to roll their psy powers twice each. Compare that to my Physical stat, which paid off at least a dozen times, in melee, ranged, and starship combat.
That's not intended in any way as a slam on the GM. It's an easy trap to fall into, because of the nature of how most RPGs are run. Here again is a link to a rant I wrote last year on this topic, which discusses the issue from a different (but relevant) angle.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

another Savage Worlds house-rule / experiment

Amongst my ridiculous dice collection, I own a couple of d14s and d16s. I wonder what it would be like if Savage Worlds carried up the die spectrum instead of making the step after d12 be d12+1. This would, of course, reduce the value of things like the Weapon Master edge, since getting your die up another slot would get it's effects and more. I wonder what other (if any) ripple effects it would have.

Obviously, it's not an ideal choice for a publisher, since 14 and 16 sided dice are rare and relatively expensive. But since I've got them, I may just try it that way with the upcoming Land of the Lost campaign. (Not that the PC in that game would qualify for such dice anytime in the first 20 sessions or so, but it's worth a hypothetical tinker.)

Perhaps I'll have Size still give it's normal bonus, and have the Professional and Expert edges give +1 and +2 to the trait (which could be a d12 or higher), but let Attributes and Skills continue up the scale into larger dice. Continual +1 is probably better than going up a die, but it's close. Being able to go up a die or two further, and still get that edge too would really allow for some high-powered Legendary Rank play. Hmm...

"Land of the Lost" Campaign

So, as mentioned in my previous post, I'm about to launch a campaign based on the old TV show Land of the Lost.

The show was pretty crazy, and some would say dreadful. However, episodes were written by well known SciFi authors such as Ben Bova, Larry Niven, Theodore Sturgeon and David Gerrold, so there's some real gems in there amidst the rough. I have a strong fondness for the setting, stemming back to childhood, and I must admit I bought all three seasons on DVD a few years ago. Dinosaurs, Aliens, Time Travel, Magic. Like Firefly, it's got everything.

This will be a one-player campaign. Sarah will get to develop a character over time, while I (as GM) get to riff all over the thematic map. If she does get sick of her character, but we're not sick of the setting yet, she can escape via Pylon Gate and be replaced by a new PC. I told her that as long as she doesn't abuse it by retiring characters every third session, I'll let her retain accumulated XP whenever she makes a new character.

And boy are there character options. In the series the main characters were just 1970s average joes, but supporting cast included Cavemen, Ape Men, Dinosaurs, Lizard Men, Medusa, a Yeti and a Unicorn, a Psychic Alien and his Robot pet, a Civil War Confederate, a NASA testpilot, and Talking Skulls from a long-collapsed civilization.

I had a bunch of dinosaur and megafauna minis I'd used for Og a while back, so I figured I'd want to do a version with minis for combat/chase scenes. Savage Worlds pretty much assumes miniature-based combat, and it mixes genres well, so it was a natural choice. It also gives me a chance to test out my proposed 1 Hit = 1 Wound rule, which should make Savage Worlds less dangerous for one-player. I don't expect it to be combat heavy, since that would conflict the themes of the source material - not to mention T-Rex's are pretty nasty in Savage Worlds.

Knowing we'd be using minis, I told Sarah to flip through the figs we have and pick any 25-30mm humanoid figure to base her character on. She picked one with wings, which complicates things mildly, but should be fun. She took the Flight Power from Savage Worlds for the character, so it's not permanent mundane wings it's more like magical Flight. More importantly, that means she can only fly short distances/durations, with long recharge times, so the various dinosaurs aren't completely without threat.

Speaking of Og, that's actually what made me realize I wanted to run a Land of the Lost game. I threw several Land of the Lost references into my Og one-shot. As I researched and prepped for Og, though, I just kept thinking how much fun it would be to do something more serious in the setting. After all, the concepts in Land of the Lost were awesome, it was technical faults of the special effects and child actors that made it silly and not stand the test of time. Well, in an RPG, there's an infinite special effects budget and my wife's certainly no child, so this has some potential.

There's several different themes in Land of the Lost, which I'll be flipping between as I plan/run sessions. The following list is more for my benefit/brainstorming than your entertainment:
  • Survival. Food is a little odd, and there's all those darned dinosaurs.
  • Pakuni Shenanigans. Sa, Ta, and Cha-Ka sure caused some headaches in the series, with their tribal magic and niavete.
  • Sleestack Sneakiness. The tribal magic and ignorance of the lizardmen leads to many of the same issues the Pakuni can generate, but Sleestack are conveniently sinister badguys.
  • Malfunctioning Pylons. Throughout the series, it seems that perhaps the pocket dimension is falling apart. Pylons can do all sorts of metaphysical and scifi craziness.
  • Time Travel. NPCs can be sucked in from period in history, and even other worlds or dimensions.
  • Rampaging monstrosity. Not only do normal dinosaurs walk the valley, but there's also fire-breathing and/or two-headed dinosaurs, and a variety of Mythological creatures show up, so that's Carte Blanche for anything. I may order Dinosaurs That Never Were to see if it kick-starts any ideas.

I'm psyched for this. We start Wednesday night.
Update: Things came up Wednesday that prevented us from playing. The game has been pushed back to Friday.

Multi-genre-ism: Firefly, Deadlands, 7th Sea, even Land of the Lost

Man, do I ever love Firefly. I've wanted to game it for a long time, but have never quite made it happen.

What I love most about Firefly is the many Genres it draws from. It's relatively hard SciFi, but it's also a cliche-ridden Western. Every so often, an episode will be about courtly affairs and dueling, or creepy Reaver-laced Lovecraftian horror, or a good old fashion heist/caper film. There's even Orcs in Serenity. You can do anything in that setting. Each new planet or episode can have a completely different roots.

In particular, I think it'd be a great RPG setting because you could run a long-term campaign with recurring characters, yet keep everything fresh by setting each session in a different genre. I love trying out new things, yet also get significant pleasure out of ongoing character development. A setting like Firefly gets the best of both worlds in that regards.

There's other RPG settings that get a similar multigenre feel...
  • Deadlands explores much of the same territory, but includes pulp and steampunk elements instead of SciFi, and plays up the Horror aspects much more than Firefly ever did. It also has magic, which is about the only genre trope you couldn't work into Firefly. It uses a variant on Savage Worlds these days, and I expect I'll end up running it or playing in it someday. The poker hands used in Hexslinging and fastdraw shoot-outs is pretty slick.
  • 7th Sea is all historic fantasy, but it leans heavily on more than one era of history. I like that one PC can be a pirate, another a viking, the third a french musketeer, the fourth a celtic bard, and the 5th a spanish inquisitor. Despite all that crossing of the streams, it manages to stay coherent. It's also got the most flavorful magic systems ever set to paper - Porté is damn creepy. Which brings up it's other cross-genre embellishments: Swashbuckling pirates, noble nights and scheming courtiers cross paths with supernatural archaeology, witches and demonologists, the sidhe, dark conspiracies, and Zorro. Good stuff.
This week, I'm embarking on an ongoing RPG experiment. I'll be starting a one-player Savage Worlds campaign with my wife. The setting will be the cheesy old children's show Land of the Lost. More on that in my next post.

Back to Cybersavage

Here's a far better Cyberware system for Savagepunk 2020 then that dreadful thing I'd put together last month. This version is super elegant (but has yet to be playtested, and will result in a very cinematic campaign if used), and doesn't require making a Savage Worlds equivalent of the Chrome Books.

The Cyber-Die
The Cyber-Die works very much like the normal Wild Die in Savage Worlds - having cyberware is very much like having a second Wild Die. You roll it in addition to your Trait die and Wild Die for anything that the character's cyberware could effect. As with the Wild Die, you keep only the highest die rolled. PCs will frequently roll three dice and use just the single highest die.

Categories of Cyberware
Cyberware falls into a few basic categories, and these types determine what sort of rolls the corresponding Cyber Die can be rolled with.
  • Cyber-Legs: Applies to Climbing and Swimming checks. May also be used on running rolls, adding the better of two dice to your base Pace. Since a large amount of your flesh has been replaced with metal, you may use it on your Soak rolls, too.
  • Cyber-Arm: Applies to Climbing and Fighting skills (the later of which makes the Full Defense combat option a bit more attractive than normal). You may roll and add your Cyber Die to the damage total of your unarmed attacks. Since a large amount of your flesh has been replaced with metal, you may use it on your Soak rolls, too.
  • Cyber-Senses: Applies to Notice and Tracking skills. Can also be used to resist Smarts and Agility tricks. The GM may allow you to use it to resist social rolls when someone is lying to you, as the improved senses will pick up their tells better.
  • Neural Ware: Applies to Agility rolls (but not to skills). Applies to Spirit rolls made to recover from being Shaken. Can be used on Shooting rolls on any smartgun you plug into.
  • Cosmetic Enhancements: Applies to Image rolls, and to any roll where your Charisma Modifier could be applied. If you're gaming with a silly group that rolls to find out how good the sex was, this would certainly apply.
  • Synthetic Organs: Applies to Vigor rolls to resist Diseases, Poisons, Fatigue, and environmental effects. Also applies to Soak rolls, and rolls to recover from being incapacitated.
Starting Cyberware:
The default assumption is that PCs begin with one of the above categories of Cyberware, and a Cyber Die of d6. A cash-poor campaign about characters struggling to survive in the gutters (like the old MOC game) might restrict them to a d4. A campaign about more afluent characters at the tops of their careers would still start with a d6, but PCs would get more than one category of cyberware at the start of the campaign.

Increasing Cyberware:
For game balance reasons, additional cyberware is increased by Rank, not money. Once per Rank, a PC may spend an Advancement to either increase the size of their Cyber Die, or to pick up an additional category of cyberware. The Cyber Die represents not just the tech, but also how well you've acclimated and mastered the use of your enhancements.

Optional Money Rule:
Still only allow the Cyber Die to be increased by Rank/Advancement, but you could allow someone to buy the parts

Humanity Loss and Cyber Psychosis:
Willingly having parts of your body carved out and replaced with chrome and circuitry takes a psychological toll, making you cold, distant, and inhuman. Every time you improve or increase your Cyberware (except via minor Chrome, see below), you gain a permenant -1 penalty to your Charisma.

Installing Chrome:
You don't just want better eyes, you want better eyes with telescoping infrared vision. You don't just want a cyber-arm, you want one with a digital "kill counter" that ticks up every time you grease another scumbag. Part of the fun of having a Cybered character is the various options, gadgets and subsystems. For simplicity, we'll call all that good stuff "Chrome".
Chrome is primarily cosmetic and minor. Chrome almost never gives mechanical benefit (if you want your cyberware option to give some extra benefit, take an Edge to represent that boost), but they can give narrative/flavor benefits, similar to the way players can decide on the Trappings of their PC's Powers. If the narrative benefit seems too potent, the GM can deny a particular bit of Chrome, or choose to allow it only if the PC takes an additional -1 penalty to Charisma as a trade off or some other penalty to balance it.
Chrome is free, but you are restricted in how much you can have. At character creation, characters may choose two bits of Chrome. Every time they go up a rank, they may choose one more. Every time they increase or expand their Cyberware, they may choose another.

Chrome Examples:
Players are encouraged to make up their own Options, but here's some short lists to get the pumps primed for you...
  • Cyber-Legs: Spring legs. Telescoping legs. Talons. Built-in spike heels. Skatefeet. Hoverskirt. Cyberlegs that look human and normal.
  • Cyber-Arm: Digital kill display. Tool hands. Detachable fingers. Concealed weapons. Pneumatic Piston Arms. Telescoping arms. Joints that rotate nearly 360º . Four arms.
  • Cyber-Senses: Telescopic. Microscopic. UV. IR. Recording devices. Nasal filters. Eyes that change colors or display messages on the iris.
  • Neural Ware: Reflex boosters. Datachip sockets. Math processors. Smartgun link. Remote piloting. Built-in phone or modem. Music database.
  • Cosmetic Enhancements: Grooming nanites. Mood skin. Furry. Adjustable cup size. "Mr Stud" implant. Pheromones. Concealing your other Cyberware.
  • Synthetic Organs: Communicable antibodies. Ultra-efficient digestion. Perfect bladder control. Internal air bladder. The ability to mentally shut off circulation to wounded areas.
Further ideas for Chrome can be found in any Cyberpunk 2020 book.

The point isn't to have Chrome add extra powers. Instead, Chrome does two things:
It looks cool and is fun to narrate.
It explains why and how you get the benefit of rolling a Cyber Die.

Cyber Weapons and Cyber Armor:
Any armor or weapon can be installed as cyberware, and so can most bits of equipment. Doing so costs 10% more than the mundane equivalent. The benefit is you can't accidentally leave home without it, and you can't be disarmed.
There's two drawbacks:
  1. Each such built-in item inflicts a -1 Charisma penalty as it edges you deeper in Cyber Psychosis.
  2. It's pretty obvious. A cyberlimb can hide a weapon or two via Chrome, provide they aren't big anti-tank weapons. Cosmetic Enhancements can use Chrome to make armor look decorative, or hide a few small weapons or gadgets. Beyond that, if you're a walking tank, it's probably obvious to any cop, bouncer or booster that sees you.

In Summary:
Wow. I wrote a lot of words, but the overall concept is pretty simple and there's not much added to character creation. You get a Cyber Die and a couple of fluffy "Chrome" options. The Cyber Die can be improved (to a higher die, or to apply to more types of rolls) once per Rank. To "balance", you get -1 to your Charisma. You get another free bit of Chrome at each rank and each time you improve your Cyber Die. Have fun making up your own Chrome.

Monday, December 1, 2008

1 Hit = 1 Wound

One area of Savage Worlds has consistently bugged me: that being Damage. Here's why:
Most of the game is really fast and simple, and practically math-less. Unless a die explodes, you never do anything more complex than adding +1 or +2 . When a die does Ace, you can generally stop counting/adding somewhere around 8, as there's rarely any benefit to going above a single raise. 

Damage, however, breaks that rule/generalization. Getting a higher roll on damage means doing more wounds, which in turn means it's far harder for the enemy to soak the wound away.  Even if one wound was likely to kill them, you still are encouraged (by the system) to keep rolling and adding as high as you can to get an unsoakable total. Getting to 40+ on an open-ended 2d6 happens more often than you'd think, as it turns out, and takes forever to roll and count it out. 
From my first play of the system, I wanted to simplify that damage roll in some way, but I wasn't willing to do so till I had a some experience with Savage Worlds from the GM's seat.

Well, I've now run about 13 hours of it, all very combat-intensive (old-school D&D-esque dungeon romps), and I'm even more convinced that my initial instincts were correct. Damage rolls have some serious potential to bog the game down.

On top of that the spectre of the one-hit-kill looms pretty large. The owlbears and the dragon both came pretty close to doing just that to PCs in my most recent session, which would have sucked. (The PCs dropped one big badass NPC in a single hit as well, but that's rather less of a problem.) I want there to be danger and risk to the PCs. I'm okay with it being random. I just don't want it to happen in the first round of combat, or without warning, or as a result of a fluke die roll where the main character (a PC) gets killed by some two-bit extra. 

Some GMs would just fudge the dice - for me, with my Magic Tournament Judge background, and my Amber Diceless background, I don't see the point in ever lying about the dice. If I wanted something to be a foregone conclusion, I wouldn't roll. I roll all my dice in the open, unless I'm rolling for something the player shouldn't know - like, say, the results of a "Detect Lie" spell.

So, I've come up with a really simple house rule to solve what bugs me. Here it is:
Any single attack can only do 1 wound to any single foe. 
Only exceptionally deadly forces can break this rule. Exceptions would include Heavy Weapons, such as Rocket Launchers, and Powers intended to represent really big and dramatic earth-shattering magics, and really nasty traps in the second-to-last-room of the dungeon. Your typical Bolt or Blast won't do more than 1 point, nor will the swing of a mundane sword by the beefiest hero or villain. The GM has the final say on what can circumvent this rule.
I think that's sufficiently elegant and easy to remember. Obviously, it's only meant for fairly cinematic campaigns, as it lacks gritty realism. It does, however, have many benefits for campaigns concerned with story and character:
  1. This greatly speeds up the damage process, as the GM can tell the player the target's Toughness, and once you hit 4 more than that number, there's no need to keep counting. Less math = faster combat = more excitement.
  2. It also makes it very clear when a PC is really in danger of dying. Players can act bravely and heroic, at least at the start of fights, with no fear of character death. You'll have lots of warning before getting greased, unless the GM throws something special at you (like the nastiest of Grimtooth's Traps, or a rocket launcher ambush, or the fight with a dragon that starts with a breathweapon inferno), which he should do only when dramatically appropriate. 
  3. Lastly, it empowers the GM to have a finer degree of control over the length of encounters and the challenge they provide. In addition to the current distinction of Extra vs Wild Card, you could add in Henchmen (ala 7th Sea) that can take one wound just fine (well, a -1 penalty like a Wild Card would get) but are incapacitated by the second wound. Likewise, you could make a boss extra tough by  giving him 4 or 5 wounds instead of 3. 
Of course, it's not without some measure of troubles. Soaking wounds would become much easier, and that may have subtle ripple effects I haven't foreseen. I'm considering this corollary rule to keep that in check:
Possible corollary to "the 1 wound rule":
Soaking wounds is now a bit harder. Instead of soaking the first wound with a roll a simple success, and an extra wound for every raise, soak rolls would have a difficulty of 8. 
I might also consider a Legendary Edge (with Trademark Weapon and No Mercy as prerequisites) that would let you break this houserule with your Trademark Weapon. Spellcasting could get an Edge that mirrors that, or just have one or two "high level" spells/powers that count as heavy weapons. I haven't made the big decision on how (or if) to deal with it at the higher ranks, as so far I've run only Novice-rank games. 

Common gaming logic would be to give "higher level" characters access to more potent weaponry - but at the same time, it feels like high level fights need the "no one-hit kills" policy more than the low level conflicts. You certainly don't want you all-powerful wizard or two-fisted-pulp-hero to go down in one hit, after all. I'll try the rule out first for a few sessions before deciding whether or not to make it circumventable at the high levels. I imagine the call on that will have a lot to do with just how cinematic the campaign is.