Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Tales of MaricopaCon 2013 VI: Star Wars Edge of the Empire - The Edge of Despayre

The Edge of Despayre is a prison break scenario.  First run as a New Year's Eve game in 2012, I tightened the focus, and rewrote the endgame to turn it from the intro to a short campaign into a self-contained adventure.  The truth is I've run prison break scenarios in just about every sci-fi system I've ever run, and while the trappings are different depending on the game, the basic plot is the same.

The inspirations for this particular scenario were the old Classic Traveller adventure Prison Planet, the Star Wars novel Death Star, and the d20 Modern Post-Apocalyptic setting Darwin's World.

The characters are an odd mix: the stormtrooper who realizes he's been fighting on the wrong side and years to escape; a political prisoners; con men; an ingenue; and a smuggler set up by his comrades.  They are then stuck in a prison camp full of some of the worst scum in the galaxy.

Effectively, in four hours, the players have to scrounge, trade for, or steal the needed equipment, and formulate a plan for an escape from Despayre, the prison planet that is home to the under construction original Death Star (the one that will eventually be destroyed by a farm boy from Tatooine).

In the meantime, while they are working on solving the main plot line, a variety of complications and sideplots threaten to derail them.  Their camp is run by a martinet commander who threatens to derail their escape plans.  The camp guards are a sadistic bunch who could care less whether the prisoners live or die.  Also, just to add to the festivities, there is a serial killer on the loose in the camp, and one or more of the characters may be the next victim.

Without doing a blow by blow synopsis, due to a combination of wise horse-trading, offers of sexual favors (yeah, the players went there...I just went along), and outright guile, the group managed to escape the world only to be chased by TIE Fighters, including a TIE Advance being flown by a great pilot who may, or may not, have had a Darth before his last name (I'll never tell).  The group managed to hold their shuttle together, singe a few of the Imps, and then, just before the inevitable weight of numbers began to tell, a small Rebel contingent, intent on attacking the Death Star, materialized from hyperspace to give the pursuing TIE Fighter wing something else to worry about.

We had a group of players for this game which included at least one player who was familiar with the Beginner Game, as well as at least one fan of the EU.  The game went well, and everybody had a great time.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Tales of MaricopaCon 2013 V: My Work is Done Here.

Yes, I will get around to discussing the second Edge of the Empire game, The Edge of Despayre, but first, I'd like to tell a story about Megan.  I never did learn her last name, and frankly, I'm sorry I didn't.

I don't know Megan's exact age, but I figure her to be in her teens.  She came with her family for both days of the convention.  She played in two of my games.  Apparently, her only previous experience with RPGs was playing some iteration of Dungeons and Dragons.  She signed up to play both the Call of Cthulhu and Delta Green games.

She came into the Saturday Afternoon game with a very D&D mindset.  She's young, and hadn't played anything else.  I explained that while there are some surface similarities between D&D and Call of Cthulhu (they both use dice, don't they?), that Call of Cthulhu is a horror game, with an emphasis on investigation, and that the likely endgame of it includes some probability of character madness and/or death.

She struggled for about half the session before she began to see the differences between the two games, and really began to understand the nuances of BRP.  Unfortunately, I wound up running her through a Call of Cthulhu game (Danger Roadwork Ahead), which ended in a Total Party Kill.

I thought, great, here I am, undoubtedly the most horrible monster of a GM there's ever been.  I'm witnessing this sweet young lady trying to break out of her D&D pupal stage, and I brutally murdered her character in the endgame.  Not only will she never play Call of Cthulhu again, but she'll likely give up gaming, and take up knitting as a hobby or something equally dull AND IT WILL BE MY FAULT!

To my surprise, one hour and forty-five minutes later, she was back at the table to play Delta Green.  Who would have expected it?  By this time, she understood the system, understood the general feel of Call of Cthulhu, and really just turned loose and had fun.  Fortunately, her character survived the second scenario, and the group had a good time.

What was genuinely fun was talking to her again on Sunday morning, as I was preparing to run the Better Angels game.  She came up to me and said (and I can only paraphrase at this point) that yesterday was the most fun she'd ever had playing RPGs, and that she learned that she really enjoyed games with more of an investigative tone, where you were interviewing NPCs, searching for clues, etc., and wanted to know of some other games like it.  I took the time to point out that while many Call of Cthulhu scenarios are like this, that there are other systems that are also built around it.  I particularly highlighted the Gumshoe system as another alternative, but expressed that there were others if one took the time to look for it.

I hadn't killed her in her larval stage at other, and I'd converted somebody from d20 to BRP and others.  It felt really good to know I'd helped her learn about another game, and that she really enjoyed it.  It was the best compliment I've ever received as a GM.  It gave me a real sense, however small, of accomplishment.

If I take nothing else away from MaricopaCon, I'll have this moment.  Thanks, Megan.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Tales of MaricopaCon 2013 IV: Better Angels, The Unbearable Being of Lightness

 Better Angels was the first game of the convention run on Sunday.

I have to admit that this running 12-1/2 hours of games on a Saturday was a lot easier when I was under 30 (or 20, for that matter) than it is at just a couple of years under age 50.  Needless to say, I was dragging on Sunday.  Still, caffeine got me going, and it wasn't long before I recreated the adrenaline buzz I'd had through most of Saturday.

For this event, I broke a couple of my own rules.  To me, the best portion of Better Angels isn't the chance to play supervillains (everybody's been doing some of that going back to FGU's Villains and Vigilantes and the original TSR Marvel Heroes RPG back in the 1980s, and there are settings that specifically playing supervillains (such as Savage Worlds' Necessary Evil).  It's the interplay between the human and demon halves of the supervillain that really makes it a fascinating game.

Convention Game Rule 1: Always Have Pregenerated Characters.

Therefore, breaking with long-standing tradition, I decided this dynamic would be best created by letting tthe players generate characters.  I armed them all with a list of the Fiendish Powers and Demonic Aspects, a two page walkthrough, step by step of character generation that I created for my previous runthrough of the game for a new group, and actually printed copies of the Powers/Aspects chapter of the PDF for use at the table.

We walked them through it in about 45 minutes.  With everybody else new to the game, I thought that an accomplishment.

Convention Game Rule 2: Always Have a Prepared Scenario in Hand.

Yes.  I went there.  For Better Angels, I created an opening scene, a couple of NPCs, applied a lot of the Better Angels Mobs and Mook rules, and let the chips fall where they may.

They were told that they were at the Hope Museum of Art (hopefully you'll see more about my Better Angels setting for Hope in the future), and that they were to steal a very important artifact from a touring Egyptian Museum Exhibition that was touring the United States.  One of the artifacts actually housed a demon, Magnifico Giganticus (bonus points if you get the literary reference to a Golden Age Work of Science Fiction) the Unconquerable, Indomitable, Indestructible, and Infernal, Lord of the 7th Circle, Prince of the Lesser Regions of Hell.  For clarity's sake, we'll call him Magnifico from this point forward.

I had set up this exact scenario for my previous play group in what was my first run of Better Angels, and chaos and hijinks abounded.

Meet Security Guard Bill

Whereas in the previous playthrough, the human halves of the characters had at least tried to minimize the collateral damage, in this playthrough, the human side of the characters basically handed the keys to the car to the demon, got in the passenger seat, and were along for the ride.  The id was basically given full reign vs. the ego and superego.

The characters then went about whole hog trying to not only acquire the artifact, but to find a willing stooge to serve as Magnifico's vessel.  Did they look for some sort of shining paragon of virtue, a Mother Teresa or Gandhi who would keep the demon mostly in check and use the powers, if not for good, at least to avoid doing any great harm?  Of course not.  Page 1 of the PC playbook kicked in, and the group looked for the most ruthless, utterly irredeemable, character to empower.  In this case, a luckless (but essentially corrupt) museum security guard named Bill Williams.

Bill was a sketchy character who failed in everything he'd ever done in his life.  Joining the Army after completing his GED (naturally, he'd dropped out of high school), he was a disciplinary problem who was discharged for reasons that weren't entirely clear (the DNA test to prove or disprove rumors that he'd impregnated the base commander's 16 year old (but of legal age) daughter were never done).  After leaving the Army, he then failed the Hope Police Department's entrance exam.  He then bounced around a series of low-paying jobs, first in retail, then private security, and finally as a security guard in the HMoA.  Needless to say, this didn't make him look like a shining paragon of virtue, and when approached by the PCs, he came across as a bitter, sullen personality who clearly would be a dangerous man to give superpowers to.  So naturally, the PCs set about to do exactly that.  All they needed to do was steal the artifact.

The Museum and Collateral Damage

Being the rat-bastard GM that I am, the first big fight of the scenario was set in an environment where there couldn't help to be a large amount of collateral damage.  That's right, an Art Museum, on a School Day, with busloads of grade school children, teachers, and parent chaperones along to visit said Egyptian Art Exhibition.  

And along comes Collateral Damage.  Needless to say, she doesn't call herself Collateral Damage.  She's styled herself the Avenging Angel.  The media named her Collateral Damage, simply because wherever she showed up, people tended to wind up dead.

Without fully detailing the character, Collateral Damage is a 15 year old, Olympic Games-caliber, pious young woman (her particular faith is Christianity, though I didn't chose a particular sect beyond that) who has been possessed by a demon who has convinced her he's an avenging angel.  Her main problem is that she doesn't really distinguish levels of sin.  She is as likely to pummel somebody for double parking, adultery, or having too many library overdue fines as she is drug pushers, mobsters, pimps, or street gangs.  And wherever she went, innocents would be harmed.  It was no different today.  She came crashing down out of a glass dome like Batman from the first Tim Burton film (if Batman truly didn't care about the innocents of Gotham), sending shards of glass into the crowds below, and then proceeded to try to beat the characters to the artifact.  However, this plan didn't get going.  First, two of the characters had the ability to create objects.  One of them hit her with a net, which caused her flight ability to become a plummet ability, while the other was creating, then hurling harpoons at her.  By the end of the battle, she was on the ground, tangled in a net, with two harpoons sticking out of her in very inconvenient places, and the players had not only beaten her down, but indeed had broken the news to her that she was being ridden by a demon, not an angel.  By the end of the battle, she wasn't so much a villain as a cautionary tale, carefully prepared face paint running down her face in streams from the tears, with wounds all over her from broken glass and harpoons.

Needless to say, the group got the artifact and immediately handed it over to Bill the Amoral Security Guard.

If we had continued, I'd have undoubtedly had them have to take on Bill, the newly Empowered Amoral Security Guard Who Could Shoot Laser Beams Out of His Eyes, but we had run out of time.

I'm fairly certain I probably sold a couple of copies of the game, and the group had a good time.  And that's about all there is to report.  Runtime: 3-1/2 hours.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Tales of MaricopaCon 2013 III: Call of Cthulhu/Delta Green: Lover in the Ice

I have a soft spot for Lover in the Ice.  It began as an actual play recording on Role Playing Public Radio years ago, and was one of the first games run by Caleb Stokes.  In its original incarnation, it was run as a Delta Green scenario.

Then Caleb did a Kickstarter entitled No Security for a bunch of systemless scenarios, including all of his previous Call of Cthulhu offerings.  Lover in the Ice was a stretch goal scenario for backers of the project, which I jumped on.  As rewritten for the Kickstarter, since Caleb had no rights to the Delta Green IP, it was rewritten with generic FEMA agents.  Since I'm a Delta Green fan, for the purpose of the Con game, I effectively put the Delta Green serial numbers that Caleb had so diligently scrubbed off,  back on the game, and ran it as a Delta Green game.

Getting the balance of the scenario right was something I struggled with.  In the playtest, one character had access to an assault rifle (an oversight of mine, which was very quickly scrubbed off for purposes of the convention run through), which made the monsters easy marks.

For the convention run, I ran into two issues.  First was time.  While we got through the playtest in about 4-1/2 hours, for some reason the Convention game run took longer.  I had to cut much of the endgame for the sake of time.  If I were to run it again, I'd probably eliminate the Green Box generator (which, while fun, isn't really germane to the main plot line).

The other issue was game balance with the big bad of the scenario.  While the monster is more than terrifying enough in Danger Roadwork Ahead (and it is the same creature), the facts are that Delta Green investigators are pretty much always better armed, and better prepared for the use of firearms than a generic Call of Cthulhu investigator.

If I were to run this game again, I'd either give the Amantes a few points of armor for damage reduction, or perhaps lower their vulnerability to bullets (I'm more inclined to do the former than the latter).

In the run through at MaricopaCon, all four Delta Green agents survived, while two of them were mad enough to likely be candidates for the trademark Delta Green 9mm retirement plan.  Despite my personal beefs with the scenario as I statted it up, the party enjoyed themselves, and reaction was positive.

EDIT: I should say that for those of you who missed out on the Kickstarter, Lover in the Ice is available for $1.99 on RPG Now.  Go buy it.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Tales of MaricopaCon 2013 II: Call of Cthulhu-Danger Roadwork Ahead

I had four players for this one.  Effectively drawn from the background material for the evening's game, it was also informed by two different games run by Caleb Stokes on RPPR's Actual Play feed, as well as one recorded for The Drunk and the Ugly.  I basically reverse engineered it, and ran it as an afternoon prequel of sorts to the evening scenario for Saturday, Lover in the Ice.

The basic synopsis of the scenario is this:  Counterculture author Ryan Whitehead and his college dropout, drug-addled friend (along with a translator/editor, and assorted other camp followers) travel to Brazil to investigate a traveling tent city following in the wake of the construction crew for the Trans-Amazonian Highway, discover a jungle parasite that reproduces in the most horrific way possible (turning their hosts temporarily into hormone-fueled horrors of sex and violence), and investigate what was going on, and then have to escape.

I ran this one as a playtest several weeks ago.  In that playthrough, two of the group survived, the others not so much.  One of the characters was infected.  However, the run through of the game revealed several problems with my scenario as written, and I made significant revisions to the endgame for the con.  These problems mostly revolved around a too quick reveal where the group stayed together.

Fortunately, this run of the scenario had none of those problems.  The group split up, and the reveal was more or less simultaneous for all involved.  One of the four player characters was infected by a seeder almost immediately, then spent the rest of her all too brief life trying desperately to hold herself together.  She wound up getting cut down by gunfire from soldiers of the Brazilian Army.

At the end of the scenario, the players are presented with an Alamo style situation.  The few surviving, non-infected civilians, the surviving soldiers who now occupy the camp, and the player characters are surrounded by enough of the young adult Amantes (the horror) that they are presented with a stark choice, stand and fight, or run away and try to get to safety.  If they choose the latter course, they have several directions they can flee in (though only two hold any real hope of salvation).  The three survivors chose to stand and fight.

Unfortunately, the stand and fight option is effectively a stand and fight and die option.  In this way, I effectively narrated the ending, a TPK, as the group was simply overwhelmed by the numbers of the Amantes.

We had a couple of seasoned Call of Cthulhu veterans in the game, along with one player whose only previous exposure to RPGs was D&D.  I'll talk more about her later.  The game went well, and was a huge success.

The game basically concluded about 15 minutes early, so I timed it perfectly.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Tales of MaricopaCon 2013 I: The Idiot's Array

Suzette (Mrs. Grognard), Grant (Spawn of Grognard), and I (Grognard) settled in at the hotel Friday night.  I took the evening not so much to go over the scenario as I did another pass at the rules.

The Idiot's Array might very well entail my first vehicle combat in the new system, and even though I've run about 20 hours of Edge of the Empire in total since the beta book came out, it's just enough of a weird system that I was nervous.  I didn't sleep much Friday night as a result, which meant I was tired going into a marathon 15 hours in the Mesa Room in Centennial Hall at the Mesa Convention Center.

The scenario went smoothly.  We had a full table, six players, including Mrs. Grognard.  I don't want to give too much away about the plot, except I really wrote as a effectively a film noir-inspired homage to Casino Royale, with a fair amount of some of the wonderful, early Han Solo/Lando Calrissian trilogies, and just a dash of the Timothy Zahn Thrawn Trilogy to give it that kick over the edge.

Every NPC the characters meet has an agenda, often at cross purpose with each other, and by the end of it, the players wound up doing something unexpected that threw the main villain, an Emperor's Hand, for a complete loop.

In general, the scenario went well, but the pregenerated characters I provided weren't great.  I learned a lot about character building from The Idiot's Array, and ironically, the pregens for The Edge of Despayre were much better constructed.  For those who want to know my opinion, if you aren't dumping virtually all of your starting experience into Characteristic increases, you're doing it wrong.

Still, by the end, the group had won the sabacc tournament, had created such a confused situation that at one point Imperial stormtroopers were firing on the Emperor's Hand, and managed to escape, albeit with a couple of PCs and the Imperial Admiral who was the point of the whole scenario, badly wounded.

For all of the players with the exception of two, this was their first exposure to the system.  Feedback was positive.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Useful, Non-Fantasy Flight Games Books for Star Wars Gaming Goodness

I've been busy with con prep the last couple of weeks, but felt that I could be helpful by offering some non FFG resources I still use for Star Wars game prep.

If you don't have these, go find them and buy them:

The Star Wars Atlas. Not an RPG supplement, but a LucasBooks offering. The best job of making sense of the myriad planets of the EU and their proximity to each other ever.

d20 Star Wars (WOTC-Out of Print-RCR): Galactic Campaign Guide:
Yeah, it's dated. Yeah, the statblocks are for a version of the game that stopped being supported during the Bush years. But the combination of floorplans, plot hooks, game ideas, and best of all, random name generators for about two dozen species (including all 7 in Edge of the Empire), I've been using this book non-stop since I bought it.

The New Star Wars Essential Chronology (Lucasbooks). Yeah, it's a few years old, and could do with an update, but its great for a concise treatment of the EU, and oh, yeah, has provided me with seeds for a good dozen scenarios over the years.

d20 Star Wars (WOTC-Out of Print-RCR): Coruscant and the Core Worlds. Yeah, it's dated. But it has great writeups of locales, NPCs, and adventure seeds on a couple of dozen important worlds in the Galactic core...all very easy to convert to Edge of the Empire (and the system info is basically unchanged).

d20 Star Wars (WOTC-Out of Print-RCR): Geonosis and the Outer Rim Worlds. Does for the Outer Rim what Coruscant and the Core Worlds did for the central part of the galaxy.

d20 Star Wars (WOTC-Out of Print-RCR): Ultimate Alien Anthology. Let's face it. If Edge of the Empire has a weakness, it's the lack of playable species. While this book is a few years old, and statted for d20, converting races from d20 to Edge is simple as can be. Together with the Unofficial Alien Supplement on the GSA's website, this should give you all the alien races you could ever want, and more.

Thursday, June 27, 2013


None of these comments really justify a post of their own, but they've been stacking up a bit, so here goes:

  • I ran two games at last week's Free RPG Day.  Eschewing the convention of actually running one of the scenarios given out, I instead ran two Delta Green Scenarios, the classic scenario Convergence, as well as The Last Equation.  Both games went well.
  • Work continues apace on The Idiot's Array.  It's taking a bit longer than I expected, but I've finally got an outline, so it should speed up.  I'll be posting a few builds once I have it written into coherent shape.
  • I will be attending Imperial Outpost's Gamer Garage Sale on Saturday.  Hopefully, I can find some goodies there as I did last time.
  • Finally, I'll have some spoiler-free information about The Edge of Despayre posted later today.  It's based on the starter of a short campaign, that's on hiatus at the moment, I ran on New Year's Eve last year.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

New Skill for Star Wars Edge of the Empire: Knowledge (Gambling)

I'll be posting pieces of the design work for Idiot's Array as a write them.  First up, and created today for the game is a new skill Knowledge (Gambling).

My general approach on creating on new skills and mechanics for existing games is pretty conservative.  I rarely house rule for the same of house ruling something if there's an existing, working mechanic for it.  In this instance, there is no such mechanic.

In the Beta version of the rules (and a very odd omission for a game focused on Scoundrels and other Edge of the law types which Edge of the Empire is about), there is no game mechanic that addresses the knowledge of games of chance.

While such things as bluffing, picking up on an opponent's tell, creating electronic or other cheats, etc. can be easily covered by the game's core skills, there is no mechanic that says, I know the rules, and have instinctive feel for what the odds of winning a sabacc round with a particular hand are.  For this reason, I've invented the following:

Knowledge (Gambling) (Int):

You are familiar with the rules, and more importantly, the strategy and odds of winning and losing in most games of chance.

Note that Gambling will do nothing towards helping you with gaining a psychological or mathematical edge in games of chance where such elements in a particular game of chance may be present.  This better lies in the domain of other skills, depending on what the character is trying to do (e.g. Coercion, Cool, Discipline, Negotiation, Perception, Skulduggery, Streetwise, etc).

This skill is available as a Class Non-Career skill to all Edge of the Empire character classes Careers, as gambling and games of chance are a large form of entertainment in the rougher edges of the galaxy.
If I were writing this for official publication, I'd probably want to think on that third paragraph a bit, but the truth is, we've seen scenarios, stories, and novels where characters from a variety of walks of life gamble, so I didn't really see putting restrictions on the character classes this was available to.  If a character wants to spend one of their precious skill points on Knowledge (Gambling), I think they should be able to do it.

Needless to say, this skill will be available to some (but not all) of the characters and NPCs in the game.

EDIT: Groan.  Still trying to Use Star Wars Saga Edition terminology with Edge of the Empire.  I should be able to break myself of the habit in about another decade.

MaricopaCon Game Preparation IV: Star Wars: Edge of the Empire - The Idiot's Array

Work begins on this one today.

My goal in creating this scenario is to create a game that will have the feel of a cross between the old L Neil Smith Lando Calrissian trilogy of novels and the much more recent Bond film (and to a lesser extent the novel) for Casino Royale.

We're going to stretch Edge of the Empire, and see how well it runs an investigative game, in other words.

For those curious, no EU characters will be present for this one.

I'll discuss more about this once preparation is complete in a few days.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

MaricopaCon Game Preparation III: Better Angels-The Unbearable Being of Lightness (and a Confession)

OK.  Here's a dirty little secret about this scenario.  I came up with the title before I had a story seed, or had even run Better Angels for the time.  Yep.  I'm that guy.

I knew what the game was supposed to be about from the Kickstarter and Previews, and I'd briefly skimmed a draft version of the rules circulated to backers as an ePub, but I hadn't read them.

In an effort to get a feel for the play of the game, once a final preview copy that I did proofreading for came out in PDF, I took that PDF and ran a session of Better Angels in late May for one of my groups.  It was brilliant, but it also destroyed any preconceived notions I had of how to run a one-shot in this system.

The central part of any story, regardless of the medium in which it is told, is conflict.  Without conflict, there is no story to tell.  With about 99% of all of the RPGs out there, that conflict is external.  Someone or something is out there to prevent the characters central to the story from getting what they want.  That someone or something may win or lose, but it is there to oppose the hero's plans or aspirations.

Now Better Angels has these sorts of antagonists: do-gooder angel-powered superheroes, dark antiheroes who may not worry much about collateral damage, angels in abusive relationships, other demon-ridden supervillains who have let their ids run wild, etc.  The difference is, in Better Angels, these are background conflicts.  The real conflict in Better Angels, the Central Conflict, is between the human and demon sides of each supervillain.

The truth is the flip side of your character can wreck the character more easily than an angel riding on a white steed firing lightning bolts of holy vengeance out of its ass.

This central fact has led me to six weeks of figuring out how I was going to write a scenario to capture this.  It led me to two conclusions:

1. Pregenerated characters in this game would suck.  Hard.  Getting one person to buy into characterization of a pregenerated character in a convention game setting is tough enough.  Two people (screwtape and human) doing it?  It isn't going to happen.  I might as well run Mutants and Masterminds or Wild Talents.

2. The interplay between the human and screwtape halves of the characters, as illustrated by my one playthrough of the game, is central to the game.  When done right, all the GM has to do is throw out the beginnings of a scene, and let the chaos flow from the players, occasionally adding new plot elements to further things along.

With these two conclusions in mind, I'm doing a couple of things in preparation for this game that I would have never considered doing even as recently as a year ago.

A. No pregenerated characters will be used.  The characters will be created by the players, at the table.

B. No plot will be written prior to character generation.  That's right.  I will be running a game based on the characters generated at the table.

As part of the character generation, each human half of a character will need to provide a goal they want to accomplish in the session.  The demon will then name a goal that aids, or hinders (or probably a bit of both) the human's goal.  Arc Dream wrote up this idea more or less a few weeks ago, but I had pretty much come to it on my own prior to the publication.

So, what am I preparing?

I'm preparing a handful of villains and a deluded antihero who has a real problem with target identification (the unbearable being of lightness of the title).

I've created a two page, front and back, cheat sheet for character creation.  I will photocopy it and the Powers section for use in character generation, and will walk the players through the creation process.

I will take their goals, and then make a scenario out of it.  How Indie Game of me, eh?

We'll see how it works.  It may be a brilliant idea, or it may be the most spectacular disaster since the last flight of the Hindenburg.  Either way though, it's bound to be entertaining.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

MaricopaCon Game Preparation II: Call of Cthulhu/Delta Green - Lover in the Ice

Preparation for the second convention scenario, Delta Green - Lover in the Ice is complete.

Lover in the Ice, much like Danger Roadwork Ahead, began its life as an RPPR Actual Play.  It was created to run originally as a Delta Green game by Caleb Stokes.  He then turned around and offered it (with the Delta Green portion scrubbed off, due to licensing issues) systemless as part of the No Security Kickstarter.

In any case, I wouldn't consider running it in anything other than Call of Cthulhu/Delta Green, so I've converted it back to Delta Green.  The antagonist is the same as in Danger Roadwork Ahead, so that was already complete.  The remaining job is just to stat up the Player Characters, and the few NPCs specific to this scenario.  That part is done.

We'll see how it runs in playtest.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

RPG Podcast Trends That Need to Die In An Acid Based Chemical Fire.

Podcasts that consist of interviews with schlubs who spend 50 minutes talking about the RPG product they just launched a Kickstarter for.

Sorry. Not interested.

I have no problem with a popular podcast mentioning a particular Kickstarter they find interesting, but don't want to listen to 50 minutes of it.

And while we're on the subject, the next podcast I listen to that interviews the guys from the GM's Real World Reference Guide might cause me to want to bludgeon somebody to death with a copy of the Pathfinder core rulebook.

Yes I'm looking at you Postcards From the Dungeon.  If more than 50% of your recent podcast episodes consist of "Tell me about your Kickstarter", it's a clear sign your podcast needs to podfade.

Just saying.

Monday, June 10, 2013

MaricopaCon Game Preparation I: Danger Roadwork Ahead/Lover in Little Altamira.

Rest assured that this discussion will remain spoiler free for obvious reasons.

A little background is necessary.  Danger Roadwork Ahead is not a pre-written scenario.  It has however been run into actual play podcasts, however.  First, it was a bonus Skype game for Kickstart backers of a certain level Caleb Stokes/Hebanon Games' excellent No Security package of systemless scenarios.  It's background can be found in the GM information in Lover in the Ice, originally run by Caleb for RPPR's Actual Play podcast as a Delta Green game, but now written up as systemless.  In addition, two recordings of the Actual Play.  First, The Drunk and the Ugly recorded their Skype game.  Also, RPPR recently released their playtest as an Actual Play.

Effectively, I'm doing a loose interpretation of the game based on the two Actual Plays, and the GM information and Lover in the Ice, which was a bonus scenario from No Security.

Danger Roadwork Ahead, as I will be running it will be run with Call of Cthulhu 6th Edition rules.

My work, while it may seem simple, basically consisted of turning three slightly different narratives into one fairly cohesive structure.  Accordingly, I took the time to write up the scenario as though it were meant for publication.  While I tend to run games very loosely, with reference to few notes other than a bullet pointed outline and a fistful of NPCs, I find, for con games especially where I'm a little more nervous than usual, that the discipline of actually turning those bullet points into text gives me a comfortable background from which to run a game.

In this case, that file is 22 pages long. Um, yeah.  I got carried away.  Still, it's 100% ready to go.  The game is best described as a survival horror scenario set in 1960's Brazil.

It's based around an actual historical fact, that being the never fully completed Trans-Amazonian Highway project.  Effectively, the scenario gives a Call of Cthulhu answer to the question of why was it never finished?  The players play a gonzo journalist and his strange retinue, his permanent student friend who knows where all the best drugs can be found, an interpreter, a soldier, a professor, and a representative of the Brazilian foreign office, who is determined to put a shiny happy face on a thuggish military regime.

I will be debuting it this Saturday in a playtest at Free RPG Day at Imperial Outpost games and will be running it again at MaricopaCon.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Call of Cthulhu 7

The Kickstarter launched today.  I'm in for the two books in hardcover.

Looks like it will reach it's funding goal no later than tomorrow at the pace its setting.

FWIW, if the changes I'm hearing about are true, this will represent the first serious revision of the rules since Fifth Edition, almost 20 years ago  So far as I can tell, 6th Edition just took 5.6 and put it in a more indecipherable typeface.

Atomic Age Cthulhu: A Review

I'll admit it.  I'm a fan of modern gaming (with or without powers) and sci-fi gaming first, low fantasy a close second, and high fantasy not much at all.

This takes me to the Call of Cthulhu Roleplaying Game (hereafter titled as Call of Cthulhu).  Unfortunately, Call of Cthulhu is, by and large, stuck in the 1920's.  This is, in my opinion, an unfortunate decision.

Yes, H P Lovecraft wrote the bulk of the novellas and short stories that would inspire the game in the 1920's and 1930's.  But at the time Lovecraft wrote his stories, he was not writing historical fiction.  Lovecraft's stories included the latest technologies available or conceived of at the time, such as submarines, airships, airplanes, automobiles, trains, etc.  I think, if H P Lovecraft had lived long enough to see Call of Cthulhu come to fruition, he'd have been genuinely puzzled by Chaosium's being stuck in the 1920's.

I say this, because judging by the Kickstarter, Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition seems to be determined to be stuck in a historical timewarp that none of its players have ever lived in.  Frankly, my players can't relate to it for the most part, which has led to their enjoyment of Delta Green and modern scenarios far more than the 1920s.

So when I heard that Chaosium was publishing support for the Cold War Era of the 1950's with Atomic Age Cthulhu, I was rather intrigued.  Would it be a great book full of adventure hooks, source material, and maybe an adventure or two to give the keeper's some ideas of how this stuff might be worked into the game or was it going to be adventure heavy?  Let's take a look and find out.

Atomic-Age Cthulhu: Mythos Horror in the 1950's.
Authors: Too many to list

Publisher: Chaosium, Inc.
224 Pages, Perfectbound paperback
Retail: $31.95

General Layout and Design
The cover art is excellent, very evocative.  It sold me on the book pretty quickly.

The interior layout for the book, is, how do I say it, primitive.  It reminds me of RPG supplements done in the early 1980's (and not from the companies/games that survived into the 21st Century either).  Very art light, and were those actually Dot-Matrix Printer Jaggies on some of the larger font sizes?  Frankly, Chaosium should be a bit embarrassed at how far back they set the art of graphic design with this one.

Enough on the sizzle, let's look at the steak.  After a short introduction, the book is straight on to the first adventure, which to me is another questionable decision, but the reason why will become obvious in a few moments.

This Village Was Made for Us

I'll try to keep these scenario chapters as spoiler-free as possible, and merely describe the setup where possible.

This Village Was Made For Us is a scenario that could be very easily converted to a Delta Green Cowboy Years game.  Set in one of the small towns (Hanford, Washington) built up around a nuclear facility that grew out of the original Manhattan Project, it captures the feel of such a town excellently (I've spent some time in Los Alamos, New Mexico, another town that grew out of the Manhattan Project).  A nuclear scientist commits suicide, and its up to the investigators to find out why.  The group melds crazy cultists, the nuclear facility (still going strong at the time of the scenario), and the Mythos into a wonderful casserole of crazy.  Of the scenarios as written, this to me is the most intriguing of the bunch, and that's high praise.

TV Casualties

Having hooked into one of the 1950's nightmare scenarios (Great Old Ones and Nuclear Weapons Facilities) with the last scenario, TV Casualties picks up on one of the very real nightmares that parents, teachers, educators (not to mention movie theater owners, and sporting event ticket sellers), etc. thought was a nightmare from the 1950's.  This, of course, was television.

It's very easy, in this cynical, jaded, postmodern world to realize that there were actual living, breathing people who were convinced that television would be the downfall of humanity and America in particular.  This scenario, of course, takes those worst fears, adds a dose of the Mythos, and says, relax, everything you feared about television, well, it's all true.  The setup in this one is a small town that is seeing a sudden rash of violence.  A decently written scenario, the biggest thing will be convincing investigators it's not the joke we in the 21st Century now know the evils of television to be.

The Return of Old Reliable

The 1950's saw the dawn of the Space Race.  Missions to launch satellites (starting with Sputnik in 1957) and even animals into space happened with both the US and USSR, though sadly, the first human in space, Yuri Gagarin, didn't take place until 1961.

Still, the space program as it existed in the 1950's is the subject of this scenario.  The scenario mixes a test animal launched into outer space, and creatures from beyond time and space together and launch a plot that could easily destroy the world.  Much like This Village Was Made For Us, this one could be easily converted to a Delta Green cowboy years game, or run as a straight up FBI investigation.

Forgotten Wars

The Korean War gets short-shrift in a lot of ways.  So far as I know, this book may be the first published scenario I've ever seen for an RPG set in that conflict, and it's a gem.  Forgotten Wars sets the players as the crew of an M4 Sherman Tank.  Light on investigation, and heavy on combat and survival horror, it involves crazy cultists, a powerful Korean sorcerer using the Korean Conflict as an excuse for his plot to bring about the end of the world, and oh, yeah, there's a war going on that the crew is in the middle of.  If you've ever wanted to see how a Sherman Tank would do up against a Great Old One, here's your chance.

High Octane

In the 1950's, two new social phenomena appeared.  The rise of mass car culture, and similarly, the rise of the first motorcycle gangs.  Oh yeah, and more than half of America thought Joseph Stalin or Nikita Khruschev was going to jump out of the broom closet and go Boo!  Mix all of these elements together, add somebody getting a hold of the wrong sort of books, and you've got High Octane.

L A Diabolical

If The Call of Cthulhu (the story) and L A Confidential (the film) had kids, they would look a lot like L A Diabolical.  The only question left is why did it take Chaosium 32 two years to do the chocolate in my peanut butter thing with film noir and Lovecraft.  Oh well, at least we've finally got it.

Destroying Paradise, Hawai'ian Style

If L A Diabolical is a crazy mix of film noir and the Mythos, this one takes another 1950's staple, the teen-oriented surfing movie (in this case, a surfing movie being produced in pre-statehood Hawaii) puts it into the blender with the Mythos, and hits frappe.  The results are about what you would expect.

1950's Sinister Seeds

A short 5 pages, this provides some adventure hooks for the time period.  They're OK, not great, but OK.

1950's Sourcebook

And this is where the wheels come off the horsecart.  First, when buying a book about Mythos Horror in the 1950's (it's in the title, Chaosium), it seems to me this chapter should be fairly meaty and deep.  After all, the 1950's were 60 years ago at this point.  A teenager growing up in the 1950's would be pushing 80, or over 80 by now.  Instead, we get 25 pages, near the end of the book.  The handout pages from the various scenarios at the back of book get almost as much space. 

Now don't get me wrong, what's here is solid.  The bulk of that 25 pages is writeups of various topics of interest during the period, the same sort of general cultural stuff one finds in the 1920's Investigator's Companion, or Cthulhu By Gaslight.  Finally, the section ends with some new professions tailored more toward the era.  What's disappointing is that this chapter could be so much more.

Missing (and seemingly strangely), first and foremost, are a firearms and equipment section.  If I'm thinking of running a game in the 1950's, it might be nice to have a list of generally available firearms during the period.  While there are some mixed in the scenarios, they are not exhaustive lists, and even for weapons that might carry over from the 1920's, prices would be nice.  And a list of generally available equipment (with prices) would also seem like a necessity.

Finally, I'd have liked to have seen a few of the more iconic movie monsters get a treatment anywhere in this book.  The 1950's were pretty much a Golden Age for B Grade Sci-Fi and Horror Films.  Giant, irradiated ants, cockroaches, rats, and even terrible lizards off the coast of Japan would seem to be a must for the era.

Honestly, I'd have been happier seeing the size of the Sourcebook section doubled, even at the expense of cutting one or two of the scenarios.

So what's the bottom line?  Here goes.


Several of the scenarios appear to be first-rate, and they do cover a broad brush of Americana circa the mid-1950's.  Though I haven't run any of them, there's a few I look forward to running when I get the opportunity.


The Sourcebook section needs more meat.  I can write scenarios.  What I really need is the setting material to properly run games in the era.  Sadly some of this was lacking in Atomic Age Cthulhu.

Finally, the ratings:

Style: 2 of 5

The 1980's called and said they want their dot-matrix printer desktop publishing tools back.  Seriously, Chaosium ought to be embarrassed at the layout of this one.  I expect this sort of stuff in a monograph.  Not so much in an actual Chaosium imprint.

Substance: 3 of 5

Really, the scenarios here aren't the problem.  They're easily a 4 out of 5, maybe even 5 out of 5.  However the thin page count of the setting material, and all the things that could have been part of it but weren't are where the problem lies and its tough to overlook.

The Bottom Line:

If you like the 1950s, and are looking for some Call of Cthulhu scenarios set in the era (and don't mind lazy layout) this is the book for you.

If you are looking for games and information on how to create 1950's Call of Cthulhu scenarios (and frankly have no idea about the time period), this book alone isn't going to do it for you.

After the brilliant successes that were Cthulhu Invictus and the new Cthulhu By Gaslight, this book is a letdown.  I know the bulk of their resources are devoted to Horror on the Orient Express and 7th Edition, but Chaosium really should have taken a closer look at this one before shoving it out the door.  With a little more care, this could have been so much better.

Monday, May 20, 2013

FATE Core PDFs available to Kickstarter Backers.

For those of you who kicked into the FATE Core Kickstarter, check your Kickstarter Activity thread.  The FATE Core and FATE Accelerated books are available for download.

They look pretty darn good.

Yeah, I know I'm late with an Atomic Age Cthulhu review.  I'm reading as fast as I can.  :)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

For Your Reading and Entertainment Pleasure.

Arc Dream Publishing has an excellent article on creating adventures for Better Angels.  It seems to draw heavily on the same sort of ideas that I discovered running my first session of the game last Friday.  It's well worth the read.

Coming this weekend:

An article on the preparation for the first game that is con-ready, Lover in Little Altamira, a Call of Cthulhu adventure set in 1960's Brazil.

A review of Atomic Age Cthulhu, Chaosium's 1950's Era Scenario Collection and sourcebook.

Weekend Gaming

The homegroup has a chance to playtest a scenario for Arc Dream Publishing and The Unspeakable Oath.  I'm reluctant to talk more about it much beyond it's for Call of Cthulhu in the Delta Green setting.

My family loves the heck out of Delta Green, so I'm looking forward to running this one.

I will also post about the status of prep for the con games later this year.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Previews of Coming Distractions

Yep, it's time I gave that blogging thing a try again.

Accordingly, expect a few posts on con game prep.

I'm running five scenarios in two days at MaricopaCon in August.

I'll be detailing progress on them in the next few posts.  Stay tuned.

Better Angels: A Review/After Action Report

Better Angels
by Greg Stolze
Arc Dream Publishing
176 pages
PDF available via RPGNow
Full Color Hardcover available soon through Arc Dream's online store.

Warning: The following anecdote will likely offend tree-hugging liberals, and fans of former Vice President Dick Cheney (I'm sure there's at least one or two, right?).  In other words, though my own views are left of center, in this case, I'm an equal opportunity offender.  Fair and Balanced...That's Me.

There are transcendental moments in gaming.  Hopefully, you know the moment when players, game master, story, and the fickle fingers of fate in the form of combinations of one or more polyhedrons combine to create those moments in time where you have created a truly great scene or moment, and you wish you could bottle it, or know exactly what formula was needed to create such a memorable experience.

Ironically, I've had this feeling more with Call of Cthulhu than any other system, mostly that dawning moment of realization and terror where the player realizes just how over the heads a predicament her character is in. But I've seen it in others.  The OGL 3.5 Midnight campaign I ran where the players realized that everything they've encountered before has all been manipulated to bring them (and the villain) to one place and moment in time.  The Star Wars Alternate Timeline campaign when I brought a player to tears with the revelation that someone had murdered Senator Amidala.  The point is they're rare, they're difficult to achieve, and they're why, after 30+ years as a GM, player, and in some cases freelance writer in the hobby, that I keep coming back, keep buying books, and dice, and accessories, and all the other accoutrement of gaming.

And I was very fortunate to have one of those moments (indeed, a few of them) last Friday night.

Recently, I've been kicking into a few Kickstarters.  Hebanon Games' No Security package of PDF scenarios...systemless, but most screaming for a Call of Cthulhu treatment.  Chaosium's revamp, rerelease of the classic Call of Cthulhu campaign, Horror on the Orient Express, Evil Hat's FATE Core system.  Onyx Path/White Wolf's newest new World of Darkness corebook, Mummy the Curse.  And finally, the subject, of this return from blogging hiatus after 9 months to tell you about it, I kicked in to the Kickstarter for Better Angels.

And that's where that latest transcendental moment happened...but first, I need to tell you a bit about Better Angels.

Better Angels is a roleplaying game that is the latest work of genius by Greg Stolze, the man behind some Old World of Darkness books, as well as the excellent Unknown Armies.  In recent years, Stolze has done a number of books using his excellent One Roll Engine.  First developed for use in the World War II Supers game, Godlike (in conjunction with Dennis Detwiller), various iterations of the engine have been the guts of other supers games (Wild Talents and its various settings, eCollapse, Grim War, Progenitor, This Favored Land, The Kerberos Club), Sword and Board fantasy with the excellent Reign, Horror with the free for the download Nemesis, the Kids with Monsters theme so popular in Japanese anime and a certain subgenre of children's literature, Monsters and Other Childish Things, and finally, film noir, with my all-time favorite system, A Dirty World.

Better Angels began as a discussion thread on RPGNet regarding possible settings for Wild Talents (the thread can still be found).  While it never became a Wild Talents setting, Stolze did take the greatly modified One Roll Engine version in A Dirty World, and adapt it to become Better Angels.

The central idea of Better Angels (and this can be found in that original RPGNet thread), is a world where Superpowers are granted by Angels and Demons, who effectively meld with an ordinary human.  In return for the ability to treat the laws of physics as little more than guidelines, the human must negotiate with the angel or demon riding shotgun.  More specifically, Better Angels focuses on the demons, and tries to reflect on why comic book supervillains are, well, not to put too fine a point on it, rather inept at villainy.

Borrowing heavily from an idea first tried in White Wolf's Old World of Darkness game, Wraith the Oblivion, each character in Better Angels is played by two people.  Each player in Better Angels has a hand in playing two characters, his human, and the demon of the player to his right.

That's right, characters consist of the human host (who represents goodness and light), and the demon. Depending on the moral compass of the character at a given time, the demon may have more or less say in what happens in the situation, though if the human uses a demonic power (and there is no other kind available) in a scene, the demon gets let out of the cage for the rest of that scene.  What this results in is a situation where the character is trying to walk a narrow tightrope between not being so evil that he gets first-class ticket on the Express Train to Hell, yet he needs to be just evil enough to keep his demon entertained so he can play with all the new, cool, superpowered toys.

In practice, this means that the human and demon halves of the character are constantly negotiating with themselves, the demon trying to entice the human with bargains for greater powers, the human trying to walk at least righteous enough a path to not board that Express Train to the Ninth Circle I mentioned a bit earlier.

And that's where the transcendental moment came on Friday night.

I had written what I figured was a one-shot scenario for the game.  I won't reveal the title, or much of the plot, since some of my players may read this, but after a character generation session, I dropped the characters into the New Arcadia Museum of Art.  Specifically, one of their demons had become aware of the existence of a particular artifact, an ornately crafted jewel encrusted golden statuette, supposedly of Set, at the museum's display of a touring exhibition from the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities.

The characters did not know each other at game's beginning (other than a couple of them), but had all found reasons to be there.  I set the opening scene.  It was a Wednesday during the school year  I described a typical downtown museum on a school day in a large buses in the parking lot, a ton of adolescents and younger touring with their classes, grade school and middle school teachers, parent chaperones, and museum employees and tour guides all milling through the special displays...and one deluded Hellbound who had fashioned herself as a gritty hero, but who frankly was beginning to lose even the pretensions of being a hero.  And then, I set them all after the artifact.

I actually have a plot written.  It will have several scenes.  It was supposed to finish in one night.  Instead, we spent nearly four hours on one scene.  And they were four of the best hours of gaming I've even enjoyed.

Before I tell of that transcendental moment though, let me introduce you to my players, and more specifically, their villain/human/demon combos:

My four players, first names only, were Jason, my wife Suz, Eric, and my youngest son Grant.  Here's who they played.

Human Name (Player)/Villain Name/Demon Name (Player)
Magni Eriksson (Jason)/Magnus Minimus/Mighty Shrinky Dink (Suz)
Keila Montrose (Suz)/Skinwalker/Wixalin (Eric)
Malcolm Raines (Eric)/Bullwing/Clarence from the Nether Realm (Grant)
Jim Rainer (Grant)/The Buggerer/Dick Cheney (Jason)

I'd have to pull character sheets to give you the full scoop of what they were capable of, but each of them used one or more powers or aspects to great effect.  Magnus Minimus didn't actually use powers much, though he did use Ghost Form to good effect at least once to escape the museum.  Skinwalker's schtick was Ghost Form (a popular power, as it turned out).  Bullwing used Animal Form and Ghost Form to great effect, though the comedy of trying to watch him fly through crowded doorways in a museum made it entertaining.  Finally there was Jim Rainer, whose Dominator Strike, led to the transcendental moment I spoke about.

The "gritty hero" in this case is a character who had earned something of a reputation as "Flamethrower Faith".  She'd become known as something of a vigilante, killing rapists, drug dealers, prostitutes, pimps, johns, and even torching a branch of the First National Bank of New Arcadia in the process of foiling a bank robbery.  Intend on stealing the statuette, she robbed the display case, but didn't make it out of the room she stole it in before one of the villains (BullWing) stole it, only to lose it back to Faith, who then in turn lost it to The Buggerer.  All this time, alarms are going off, powers are being flung around a room filled to near standing room only with grade school kids, panicky teachers, and useless museum personnel.

Fortunately for the innocent bystanders, I had my usual run of bad luck for the most part when making collateral damage rolls, and other than one museum security guard (targeted by the Buggerer to obtain a change of clothes), and a hapless liberal tree-hugger trying to escape the row in the parking lot in her Toyota Prius (the Buggerer again), nobody innocent was harmed.

The museum security guard had a particularly bad day.  First robbed of his clothing by The Buggerer (Dick Cheney didn't have to put him up to this), he then was groped and beat up by Skinwalker (as part of a deal with her demon) while he was merely trying to head to the locker room to get his second uniform.  I'm fairly certain that he turned in his resignation the following morning.

As for the liberal, she was doomed to death by The Buggerer.  Specificaly, Dick Cheney agreed to offer The Buggerer the use of Ghost Form only if he hurt somebody.  This led Jim Rainer/The Buggerer to look for a target in a parking lot to amuse Dick Cheney with.  As a result, The Buggerer set his eyes on the Liberal.

She never had a name, and I feel a bit bad about that.  She was just this cute, adorable looking museum employee, a tour guide I made up on the spot, and threw a couple of stats at.  Late 20s.  Still living at home. Still single.  Still paying off her usurious student debt, and regretting having not gone back for her Ph.D. Earnest.  Sweet.  The kind of girl you'd take home to meet mom in a heartbeat (unless mom was Lynne Cheney, I suppose).  She had the Obama/Biden 2012 bumper sticker on the car.  A Coexist bumper sticker on the car.  A Sierra Club bumper sticker.  And the car, just to complete the cliche, was a late model blue Toyota Prius.  She was already freaked out by the experience of her narrow escape, and just wanted to get home.

And then, enter the Buggerer.  Egged on by Dick Cheney (waving a liberal in the face of the demon was like waving a thick porterhouse steak in front of a pair of ravenous rottweilers), The Buggerer threw his power of Dominator Strike at her.  Now, I should say that Dominator Strike is a ranged attack.  Energy beams, gouts of flame, sprays of ice, beams of molten lava are all Dominator Strike.  Well, in this case, my son, aka Jim Rainer/The Buggerer, defined the weapon as hypersonic rubber bands dipped in lemon juice.

So if you can imagine a freaked out young woman trying to start her hybrid car, fumbling with the ignition, hands shaking, tears running down her eyes like a torrential rain, and all of a sudden her driver side window shatters in a hail of lemony rubber band fire.  She gets lightly wounded by the glass and the bands.  Cheney eggs the Buggerer on.  The Buggerer fires another round of lemon juice rubber bands.  The liberal, her fact shoulders and neck a wreck from the cut of a million citric acid-laced rubber bands, slumps forward on the steering wheel...where suddenly the airbag deploys, bruising her face further.

Realizing to his horror that he stands a good chance of just having killed the woman, Jim stops, opens the driver side door of the car, and begins to render first aid.  At which point, Dick Cheney, realizing that The Buggerer still had one more use of Ghost Form left, just as Jim begins to render first aid, suddenly makes the Buggerer go immaterial again via Ghost Form, making it impossible for Jim to care for her.  It was at this point that I realized that I wasn't really part of the story here.  In fact, I never ran a story.  I ran one scene, and enough chaos flowed from that scene to fill a gaming session.  And it was the best gaming session I ever ran.

There were several times during the course of the evening, as the characters were dealing with the chaos around them, and frankly, sometimes just the consequences of their own poor choices, that I realized I had reached one of those moments where all I had to do was just introduce new elements to the chaos, and the players would thoroughly entertain themselves.  It's a feeling I've had only a few times in RPGs EVER and then only for a few fleeting moments.

With Better Angels, I had that feeling for three hours last Friday.  It should be noted that several of my players were lukewarm on playing the game at all.  By the end of it, now that they'd learned the system, and discovered some of their errors in building their first characters, they couldn't wait to play it again.

In conclusion, Better Angels is a unique take on what is, in general, a pretty tired gaming genre (supers), at least as run by a lot of GMs.  It's a brilliant idea, with brilliant mechanics, and frankly, the best game I will have purchased in 2013.  Don't walk, but run, and buy it.  You won't be disappointed.