Friday, January 29, 2010

They said "Dinosaurs", not giant blooming Cockroaches!

At last night's weekly one-shot, my buddy Mark ran this awesome little Risus scenario inspired by a TV show Primeval. I'd never seen the show, but the premise is pretty simple: portals open up to the ancient past, dinosaurs pour out, and the PCs have to wrangle the monsters back in. Kill a dino and you might change history.

He said for player characters, we had basically four options.
  1. Badass
  2. Scientist
  3. Badass Scientist
  4. Some combination of 2 or more of the above.
That cracked me up.

My three Cliches (the Risus system's form of attributes) were:
The team was rounded out with an ex-special forces commando, a quick-thinking facewoman, and multilayered inventor type. We built our characters to complement each other, and the group functioned great as a team.

Mark did a wonderful job of handling the game, and it's mechanics. I've found that, despite being a light and simple system, the spiral of death inherent to Risus can really be a problem. Out of probably 8 games I've played of it, this was only one of 3 where the mechanics really shined, instead of hindered. It's a deceptively simple system, that takes a good GM to make it work - and Mark was up to the task, I'm happy to report.

To start the session off, we were called down to the Pike Market in Seattle, responding to an anomaly / gate that something had come through. We all had dinos on the brain, and as the clues amounted to some smaller critter, we assumed little compsognathses or the like.

Turns out they were trilobites, instead. This was a fact we discovered when I was dangling some bait over the hole in floorboards. Instead of a little lizard popping out, long exoskeletal tentacles lashed out and tried to pull me in. "Croiké! They said dinosaurs, not giant bloomin' cockroaches!" It was a great surprise, and really shook up our assumptions. Well done, Mark!

He did a series of short encounters, spread over several in-character days, as various gates opened. When all was said and done, we'd wrestled with trilobites, commandeered a DUKW from a tour group, swam with an apatosaurus, crashed an ATV into a smilodon, and exchanged trophies with primitive hominids. The plotline was simple, and largely an excuse for megafaunal havoc in the modern day, but it was a hoot. Great game, all around.

Even More Modding (Drives v3.0, plus a wiki)

More weird worlds modding this past week. It started with a tiny little update to Drives'R'Us, that was supposed to be just v2.2. And then, that snowballed into major changes so significant that if I didn't call it v3.0, nothing would ever qualify for that title. It's only been a little over 2 weeks since 2.0 went up, but I saw no reason to delay something that was a radical improvement in every way.

Here's a download link for Drives'R'Us version 3.0

Brief list of changes in 3.0
  • Added 4 new mercenary / ally vessels.
  • Radically improved graphics on all 6 of the custom ships from versions 1.11 and 2.0, and tweaks to the stats on most of them.
  • 7 new items (on top of the 30 new ones from just 2 weeks ago), including the Shroud of Primordius, which is definitely my favorite of all the items I've ever added to the game.
  • Miscellaneous minor tweaks to various graphics and game play elements. Very numerous, but none of them major.

I'm finding modding to be much easier than it was when I was doing it two years ago. Not sure what's changed, but I'm grokking all sorts of things that had been obfuscated from me before. And since I was having breakthroughs, I thought I'd share them with other modders. So I set up a wiki for Weird Worlds modding, and I'm giving myself a goal of adding at least one page to it every day from now until either it's exhaustive, or I'm exhausted. Hopefully, it'll encourage some more modding, as the community is a little slow and sparse these days.

Here's a link to the modding wiki. Should any Weird Worlds modders care to contribute, the secret code to signing up is "shrapnel and eel". You don't need to sign in to view it, but you do need the code to edit anything.

On a related note, I've been helping one of the other modders at the forums (ExplorerBob) debugg his mod. He's got a really neat set of quests that make the relations with various races unpredictable. So in one play, the Muktians might hate you from the start, and then next time you play they're friendly and amicable. It's pretty clever, and spices the game up a lot. I'm looking forward to his first real release, not just the partial beta test / debugging files he's given me.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Creeping up on sentries

We all make mistakes while gaming. I've made plenty. There are times where craziness happens, or where one mistake leads to another. Hindsight is 20/20, and sometimes all you can do about it is learn not to make the same mistakes next time.

Advice for the next time you're creeping up on the sentries around an enemy camp:
  • Don't split up the party if you don't have to. If you do split up, don't get impatient and head away from your agreed rendezvous point without permission.
  • If you happen to know that your groups Tank / Fighter is prone to wandering off and stirring up trouble, and you see him wander off, follow him. Don't do your own thing instead.
  • If the sentries are of a race that has infravision, your stealth precautions need to be more significant than putting out your torch, and carrying the smouldering remains of it with you. This goes doubly so if the system in question doesn't put a limit on infravision range, it just says "Goblins and Orcs suffer no penalties for darkness".
  • If you don't know the total numbers of the enemies at the camp, dispatch their sentries with something silent, like a knife or a bow, not an area-effect stunning spell.
  • If you do use the area-affect stunning spell on the two sentries you can see, arrange the area-of-effect so that it includes both of them.
  • After you use your area-affect stunning spell, and it alerts a huge crowd of orcs to chase after you, if you can cast it again, do so. Don't spend several actions standing around trying to make a persuasion roll against the two dozen orcs that are charging you. They're not listening.
  • When the resulting chase lasts so long the GM asks for a Vigor roll to resist fatigue, AND you roll double-ones on it, use your last bennie to reroll that. Don't save it for "if things get really dire later". Double ones on your Fatigue-resisting roll when dozens of orcs are chasing you is dire.
In the end, all the PCs survived, but extricating themselves from the situations this caused took over 6 more hours of play, and a lot of die rolls. It was ugly.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Daybreak as an RPG

My wife and I recently Netflixed a TV show called Daybreak. It's sort of like if Groundhog Day were a serious Detective show. The lead character is living the same day over and over again, and it's a heck of a day, with murders and conspiracy aplenty.

The show could inspire a really awesome RPG campaign, especially for a single-player campaign. You'd set up two or three mysteries, all happening on the same day, all with serious consequences for the PC if they were left unattended. In the background, you probably set up an additional mystery of a more sci-fi variety, that explains why the character is stuck in time.

The PC experiences each day over and over again, with things happening on a particular course if they do nothing. They need to solve all the mysteries, and then figure out how to resolve them all positively on the same day that they undo the time loop. You'd have a campaign with a definite end-goal in sight from the start.

There'd be a big burden on the GM, and I'd say you'd want to run it with a laptop at the ready, so you could have instant access to a lengthy timeline of where every NPC is at every minute of the day.

I'd run GUMSHOE for it. Both because I really like Gumshoe, but also because it has really easy mechanics to repeat actions again and again. When something comes up that goes poorly, you can spend a point to make it work out better next time. If you get a version you're happy with, a simple point spend ensures repeat performance when you try it again the next day. Very little dice karma to complicate things.

I'd have the PCs point pools refresh at the start of every day, so they had a limited supply of points to juggle for overcoming the obstacles. Experience would be tricky - as the cyclical nature suggests you'd never get to level up. However, if you watch the show, he does find ways to change things over time, and that might result in bonus dedicated pool points in GUMSHOE.

And I'd definitely use Daybreak's precedent for damage. Your whole body is doing the time loop, so if you're shot, you wake up with a bullet hole the next morning. Health and Stability would NOT refresh daily, so getting medical and psychiatric care may prove important if things go badly early on. That helps keeps the tension, and prevents certain Bill Murray style antics.

A tiny bit more about the show:
Daybreak ran for less than a season. One season's worth of episodes were made though, and the last episode was clearly crafted knowing that they weren't gonna get picked up for a season two. It wraps up the plot neat-and-tidy, including several things that would have made a killer second season. It's really sad it got canceled, 'cause it's 5-star material, IMHO. Great acting, intelligent scripts, and plenty of unexpected twists. It's 58% mystery / detective, 40% action / adventure, with 1% humor and 1% sci-fi. If you've got netflix, it's well worth the rental.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Mods 'R' Us

I put up another Mod for Weird Worlds: Return to Infinite Space.

This one is the 2.1 version of my Drives 'R' Us Mod.

Changes from the 1.11 version (which I'd made almost 2 years ago) include:
  • Recalibrated prices on everything. I did extensive testing and number-crunching to arrive at more-accurate values for almost every item in the game.
  • Technology items are now split into Civilian Tech and Military Tech. The Military mission focuses on military tech, and the Science mission gives a little bit of emphasis on civilian tech.
  • Changed the starting equipment for all Terran ships, and what spawns on Hope.
  • Over 30 new items!
    • 9 New Weapons
    • 3 New Drives
    • 2 New Sensors
    • 1 New ECM
    • 4 New Combat Computers
    • 5 New Repair Systems
    • 5 New Thrusters
    • 2 New Shields
  • Miscellaneous tweaks to various systems and weapons.
  • Added a couple new ship variants. Should mix up the fights a bit.
  • Bloodfang is very different from the main game, and better balanced than he was in version 2.0.
  • Removed all the Superweapon KEYS. The sheer quantity of items in this mod makes it unlikely you'll get a large stockpile of so-called superweapons.
  • Tweaked the Civil War event. It's now a little more unpredictable (there's two versions), and no longer claims to be a supernova after the fact. I'm much happier with it now.
If you're thinking I jumped from 1.11 to 2.1, I didn't. There was a 2.0 version that I forget to link to from here, but it was only up for 3 days before I found some minor issues that I fixed in todays version.

Here's the download link:

Have fun!

I also updated Tech Transparency 2.1 to v2.1.1.
It's just a small fix concerning the text on the repair units.
Download link:

Monday, January 11, 2010

Savage Boomerang

I have a player in my irregular Savage Worlds fantasy campaign whose character uses a boomerang. Just for flavor reasons, the boomerang is her main weapon. I think it's rather cool, in a Road Warrior sort of way.

In the previous session, in which she made the character on-the-spot and dove right in to the game-in-progress, I just used the same stats as a throwing knife. Which, not surprisingly, is a little wimpy. Chances are, those stats will result in her feeling underpowered, and eventually swapping to a better ranged weapon, like a bow. That would be a shame.

She's a new player, with no previous tabletop experience, so rewarding her flavorful decisions is the right thing to do. My hope is that it will encourage her to experiment and invent, and overcome any shyness or awkwardness about the game. It's always best to make someone's first couple of gaming experiences positive and welcoming, so I've spent a tiny bit of energy figuring out ways to make it a feasible weapon choice in the long run.

First, I'm pumping up the range to match that of a sling: 4/8/16 (instead of a daggers 3/6/12). That's a pretty minor boost, and something I can do without any worries about balance, but of course it still makes it inferior to a bow.

So, to pump it up a notch, I made up the following edge for her.
Boomerang (Combat Edge)
Requirements: Agility d8, Notice d8
When you make a Throwing attack with a Boomerang (the weapon), you may pick a secondary target, which must be a different character than the primary one. If your attack misses against the primary target, you may immediately make another attack roll against the second target. Only one target can be hit per round - if you hit against the primary target, you do not roll against the secondary one. You're only throwing one boomerang per action, but the circular flight path "buzzes" past more than one target.
It's not terribly realistic, admittedly, but it catches the proper cinematic feel of someone using a boomerang weapon. More importantly, the the second attack roll will help compensate for the low damage rating, making it a good mook-killing weapon even in the later stages of the campaign. The secondary attack will take some of the sting out of bad dice rolls, which is something that can be very frustrating for new players.