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.