Sep. 18th, 2005 06:48 pm
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Hey, I actually blogged the previous adventure -- so this is something like a real series now. Cut for those who don't care to read game writeups...Read more... )
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I'm finding it pretty hard to construct interesting fight scenes -- perhaps because drawing them out is so time-consuming, but also because I have trouble visualizing realistic maps.

Most resources I've found online for real-world places are a bit too large-scale: campus or park maps are too big, with little or no detail available down at hex scale.

Most floor plans, on the other hand, seem too small-scale: too much crammed into too few hexes.

And often I have to come up with the map on the spur of the moment, since it's sometimes very hard to predict just where a fight will break out.

Can experienced GMs or others help me out here? Where do you go for your maps?
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Champions game mechanics porn. Read more... )
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Saturday's game writeup. It occurs to me that, though it's unlikely anyone would, I should be explicit that anyone reading who recognizes any element of this story from any published Hero product will please mark their responses private to me, refraining from adding spoilers where my players could read them. Read more... )
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For my players, and for Champions gurus who want to give feedback: The Base Power Pool Read more... )


Jun. 10th, 2005 04:40 pm
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Not a terribly long entry, but it's for the champions adventure two weeks ago now... some important bits for the future: Read more... )
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I've done more journaling recently than I'd done for a while. Maybe because, with the end of the school year coming, it's a sense of transition, and I feel like documenting it; or maybe it's something else, I dunno.

Weight has satisfactorily dropped 6 pounds in the 6 weeks since the first of May -- which is excellent, and leaves only 34 to go. But it's starting to get serious: much of that 6 pounds dropped simply from when I was sick for a few days, and I managed to not gain it back in the intervening time. The moving average curve is now kissing the required-loss line, and I need to make sure I stay in the green. I also haven't been biking the proper five days out of the week, and it's slowing down and reducing my enjoyment of ST:TOS tremendously.

Upsilon really, really needs a better name. (Suggestions?) But now you can go from the countryside (big map) to a small-scale random 'wilderness' map, which has a down-staircase, to the first level of the goblin caves. I think this is all the styles of connectivity I need for the basic game structure, which means it's only a matter of adding a bunch of lines to switch statements (I know, I know, they should be object hierarchies, but they're simple enough that it's not worth constructing them as such yet) and you'll be able to wander around in all, um, 15 dungeons. (Well, or so. The game should have *some* secrets that people discover in play.) Time for the 100 Days to happen, which I only announced um six months ago. Damn I'm slow sometimes.

Character definition, I think, comes as a consequence of world complexity. The only reason to have a given player stat is when it impacts the world in some way. So when I add -- for example -- the ability to do rough identification of items, the perception stat (or whatever I use for it) and the various skills associated (alchemy?) become relevant, and are added, and there's no reason to add them until then.

I need to take a break from reading blogs. It figuratively raises my blood pressure (makes me cranky, anyway) without actually helping me learn anything. The fact that, for example, most people I talk to don't know about the Downing Street Memo, yet I do, does not really help my existence.

Some puzzles just aren't fair, at least to nine-year-olds. 'These colours should remind you of a fictional hero': the pattern was two rows of three colored circles: the lefthand column is two red circles, the middle column is two orange circles, the righthand column is a blue circle on the top and a yellow circle on the bottom. The critical detail (for me) required to solve this puzzle is in the specific way the challenge is worded. And in my ignorance I would have not thought 'fictional', but I suppose I don't know.

More later. I think I might try to journal the champions adventure before last, because they actually won something. And maybe give a synopsis of some untied threads from previous adventures (the source of the cursed guns, for example, or the crashed interdimensional alien ship).
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Saturday's adventure was a bit world-of-darkness, but hey, the PCs do have a werewolf (who kept admirable control over himself the whole time), and it's supposed to be a mystic campaign anyway. Read more... )
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Boring gaming recollection. It's understood that ground rules (and characters) may change after the first several adventures, as people get better at character design. Jason and/or Sherilyn might wish to chime in with more of the story, so we don't lose it in the mists of nutrasweet-induced bad memory.

In our first adventure, the characters all meet in a bar. Well, not exactly a bar: a sports bar in San Francisco, a short distance from Ash's shop where she deals in magical curios and books, which we expect will eventually be the place where everyone spends their 'contribution to group base' points. She's having buffalo wings with Seamus, an air mage who does a fair bit of legitimate shipping and occasional smuggling, who is selling her an artifact that came in from the Far East.

Also coincidentally in the bar is Idam, a refugee from Feng Shui. Also, prowling around outside in the alley, following the trail of a reported dimensional whatsit is Joshua, who's a werewolf who works professionally as a bounty hunter.

Police show up across the narrow street from the bar, checking out some sort of disturbance in the three-story apartment building there. Seamus' enhanced and radio hearing, and Ash's telepathy, start subtly scoping out the place, getting little conclusive until all electronics and complex mechanical devices suddenly stop working, in the bar and the street. (This includes vehicles, pacemakers, electronic vehicle door locks, and even guns.) Moments later, a demonic figure bursts from the third floor window, followed by a man who stands in the window and starts mystic-bolting, and the game is on.

The demon and sorcerer are dispatched, albeit with the demon making good use of a car as a club, Idam figuring out that killing attacks aren't really all that good at killing things with high PD, and Josh going berserk from taking body and almost killing a police officer. As the opponents fell unconscious, the 'sorcerer' was revealed as a middle-aged woman of quite different appearance from her young male looks while fighting, while the demon fizzles into nothing. A bit of dancing around with police later, everything turns back on, and Ash is able to retrocog what happened: it appears the 'real' villains didn't take part in the fight at all! A man (the Demonologist) and a woman (Gyre) had invaded the apartment -- the Demonologist captured the apartment owner and ritually sacrificed him in the living room to summon the demon, while Gyre opened a magically-locked footlocker and extracted a magic dingus, which she then activated (with some tools of her own) to cause everything faintly technological to fail, causing the Demonologist to caper with excitement.

The Demonologist then grabbed the occupant of the next apartment, clapped a collar around her neck, and she became younger, male, and possessed of the power to zap people with mystic bolts; he placed her in the window and directed her to do just that, after which Gyre did something space-bending, and the two villains exited the scene.

It appears the Demonologist had some ties to the Circle of the Scarlet Moon, but has generally been considered a fairly low-powered nutcase. Gyre is new to the scene (he called her by name in the retrocog), and her mask prevented any followup on her possible identity.
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One of my resolutions for this year is that I'm going to journal all the adventures I run, at least my new campaigns.

We've had two Champions adventures so far. Both were fairly simple, purposely intended to have a thin plot, introduce some villains without closing off their later storyline potential (i.e. have them get away), mostly have a combat and learn what the characters are like.

One thing that comes to mind is that I really have to work out with Sherilyn exactly how Ash's Retrocog works. I hate and love it. I love it because it lets me fill in backstory in a believable way ("okay, what just happened here?" "Well, you can learn that...") and it overcomes the weakness of my player group at deductive thinking (they often can't figure out, from my descriptions, what's happened and what the villains are planning, and what they should therefore do.)

But I also have problems with it. It needs a strongly defined self-limiting special effect -- right now it's just defined as "psychic based retrocog", which means I wind up making it operate sort of ad hoc -- sometimes you get something, sometimes you don't. This feels manipulative. I don't like it when the players feel manipulated (obviously neither do they).

The ad-hoc feeling is exacerbated by the look I get when I make a decision that goes against what they ask for -- a "there you go again" sneer that reminds me I've never been forgiven for killing off the PCs in the TOEE three years ago, and that Sherilyn decided a long time ago that as a GM I'm a control freak, which means everything I do is seen through that filter. I have to tread very carefully to avoid looking arbitrary.

So I need her power to be better defined. But I really like that it's there. And Retrocog is supposed to be intrinsically limited somehow, to avoid the GM having to give away all his plots.

For the first adventure I treated the retrocog as though it had an implicit limitation "only seeing through the eyes of people who were there at the time you're probing, works better if they died here" but that would obviously be a limit worth some points, and Sherilyn didn't buy it that way and doesn't appear to see it as working that way. (I could require some such a limitation, of course, but I'd rather negotiate one.)

I also think it's going to exercise my storytelling skills. In both the adventures so far, the PCs have happened on a location after the fact, and everything stopped for too long while I figured out what to tell Ash for her retrocog. So at the least I have to have it canned and rehearsed so it doesn't take long to give them background -- even better, write it ahead of time and have the printout ready -- plus, I have to have more adventures that don't have the obvious early step of going where the bad guys were and retrocogging to see what they were doing there.

Anyway. Hey, I was going to summarize the two adventures, before I completely forget them. Soon, I guess.
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We were missing three people last night for gaming, which is the magic number at which we do something else -- so Jason, Wendy, Chris Belfey, and Sherilyn worked on Champions characters.

Several hours and they didn't get them done, unsurprisingly, but good progress -- Sherilyn tried and discarded two character concepts, and she's currently angsting about how 250 points isn't enough to make a world-saving hero (about which she may be right, and we may have to up the starting point total to do the kinds of stories I want; life is short). Wendy didn't get far with hers and I didn't hear much about it, but the characters that got some fleshing out have lots of plot hooks and interesting intraparty conflict potential. Chris in particular is making a character with a compelling backstory... though his conversion from evildoer to dogooder still seems to have happened under obscure circumstances, and I'm going to have to ask him about the cause of it.

The Rule of X is going to be hard to enforce, but I'm going to try. Sherilyn wants a complex character with a wide arsenal of powers, which is going to make her X kind of low (so I might come up with another factor for X to represent 'my best attack isn't as effective, but I have a diverse arsenal'). I have to make her fit in the same campaign as Chris's character, who is clearly committed to maxing out a huge attack and high speed and OCV, and with Jason, who is trying to create a energy projecting wizard using the heavily-limited, high-power spells copied right out of the Fantasy Hero Grimoire (the concept should work okay, given that we're talking about a mystic-themed campaign and the character has had some kind of interdimensional training in a more traditionally "mystic" place; I've suggested that 'magic skill roll' be replaced by a regular activation roll, and I'm disallowing the Spell (-1/2) limitation since there isn't a gamewide 'magic system' for it to apply to).

So we'll have to compare X and adjust characters, once they're made. People also seemed moderately to like the mechanism I thought of for enforcing a close X: if the highest-X character in the group wants to increase his OCV or attack, but it would create too big a spread between him and the lowest-X character, he can spend some of his XP on the lowest-X character's powers, represented as figuratively taking your own time to drag the other out to practice combat acumen.

I forgot to ask Jason if he understood that removing that limitation does increase the real point cost - but I'm sure he understands the math. I also have to warn him that he's probably going to find himself annoyed by all the gesture/incantation/focus/concentrate requirements, since -- unlike D&D -- to get the point break for these limits they actually have to inconvenience you at least some of the time, but that's a Hero wizard for you.
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which not everyone will be interested in reading. Read more... )
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I still find myself wanting to run two different campaigns.

I want to run Mystic Masters -- Dr. Strange/Trenchcoat Brigade-style mystical superheroes, dealing with the interdimensional and mystical threats to society as the conventional superheroes deal with Viper and Dr. Destroyer and so on. The setup and setting in Mystic Masters is really cool -- the adventure itself kind of loses its focus and trails off into weirdness, but I can improve on that; I'm good at writing adventures that fit the setting, if I like the setting and it's chosen well. It's the choice of a setting that makes all the difference.

But I also want to run some kind of starhopping adventure. I reread all of Known Space over the last couple months. The idea of being the first explorers to investigate a whole solar system... not specifically Known Space, but that kind of technology and setting. Between the M-K wars and the time of Beowulf Schaeffer: when hyperdrive has just been invented/discovered/purchased, you're the crew of a hyperdrive ship that gets to explore a brand new system off somewhere, and the system becomes the setting for your campaign. (Niven's humans are so *incurious*! After four hundred years there are still unknown star systems within a hundred LY! Just how expensive is a hyperdrive? Shouldn't we be putting a fair amount of our resources into a constant active search for every Slaver stasis box everywhere in the known universe? Suppose there's another Soft Weapon! Or something worse!)

My fear is that I won't be able to pick a good setting for starhopping; my converse fear is that I won't be *happy* running a different campaign, because I'll want to visit Europa and Titan, and Wunderland and Jinx, and all the other places SF wants desperately to take us if we would only get off our duffs. And Champions just doesn't get us there, not satisfactorily. (It's no *challenge* for the X-Men to go to Europa. What's heroic is for normal SPD 2 humans with NCM, who need to buy Life Support through Bulky OAFs, to get to Europa and make a home there.)

Okay, okay. Mystic Masters. For the next while. (Probably.) But I get serious about my starhopping adventure in the meantime.
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I don't know what I'll run next for my GV/Roseville gamerclump.

(First challenge: there are eight PCs. That's about three more than I like to have.)

The thing they would like is to do a Champions adventure. I don't have a big problem with that, but I'm not sure it's what I want to do. If I do run one, it'll have somewhat of a dark feel, like Torg/Champs-On-The-Run/Shadowrun/X-Files: something has just started to change about the world -- producing a greater order of threat than the world has seen previously -- and the emergence of superpowers is part of this change.

The alternative would be something space-operatic-like. General classes of campaign occur to me, all of which are not very original:

- Wanderer PCs in command of a big-ass starship, running from a disaster. Attractive structure, with troupe-style play (one set of PCs in command, one set of PCs as crack 'away team', pool of PCs used as grogs/fighter-ship pilots). But difficult to have continuing plotlines, and episodic generation of whole star systems would be a bit hard on the GM.

- Variant of the above: the mysterious universe holds many secrets. The PCs are explorers, traveling from star system to star system, seeking new life and new civilizations. More of the work would be up-front as I decide what the secrets are, how they play into the foreground of the campaign events, and what they learn from where.

- PCs are attempting to undermine the social order that they consider to be evil. Probably a more Borglike or more Zhodanilike than Empirelike -- I want the bad guys to be more identifiable than just through the color of their outfits and the background music that plays when they appear. Potentially cohesive, could use old or new Star Wars RPG rules.

- Galactic society has fallen apart and faces internal and external threats to human survival, but the PCs have some unique resource that gives them hope for putting a society back together in time to face the threat.

- Single space station at a crossroads (there's this exit ramp on the hyperspace bypass, see...), PCs have some responsibility for managing a planet, station, alien technology, occasional visitors off the bypass, galactic politics.

- PCs inherit a trading company that it turns out is deep in debt, and have to figure out how to make enough money quickly enough that they can avoid a shooting war.

- Far less space-operatic: STL campaign set in the Solar System. I like the idea in theory a lot, but not sure yet what to do with it, beyond perhaps adapting Trinity.

I have to consider my players, and complicated plots are more difficult to pull off. I can't do much with real physics or speculative stuff, because it'll be over their heads. And there can't be that much PC-NPC interaction or seven of eight players get bored.


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