Monday, January 8, 2018

Star Trek the RPG: the Twenty-Teens Edition

For my B-day, I bought myself four RPG products. Two RPGs and two sourcebooks indulging in adventure gaming passions Sci-Fi and Horror. Of course my bank account didn't need the hit and my book shelves have been overflowing for over three decades so this present is as decadent as a trip a Greek island. Still there is some joy in sitting back over a couple of evenings with my reading glasses on and reading through works written for the crowd that has role-playing in mind. Ah the fantasy-trip. As a guy writing his ultimate sci-fi/space opera RPG, I have to read all other SF games in existence. Of course the various Star Trek iterations are on the top of the list of what gets read. My first indulgence on the couch of yellow light and warming cats, was the latest RPG by Modiphius, Star Trek Adventures: The Roleplaying Game.
Well, looking at the cover, I see the darker disaster-driven tone of the Star Trek reboots (the ones w/ Chris Pine and incomprehensible space battle scenes) movie-- is that blown up London in the background? And I think Tuvok is leading a mission into somebody's tool shed on Smoggy-IV while an Andorian engineer struggles to get into a footlocker with a hapless red-shirt looking on dramatically. The overall product is as big as encyclopedia, heavy hardcover bound, and the pages are so glossy that paper cuts are not hard to come by. I know that this stands for quality (or rather "bang of the buck") in the Kickstarter era, but I begin to identify with our antenna-having heroine on the opening illustration.

I spent about an hour of the three hours reading it from cover to cover, looking at the inside of the covers. These are filled with star maps of what I think is Alpha and Beta quadrants of the franchises' universe. I never paid enough attention when watching the shows to hear if the writers identified real stars as many homeworlds for this or that alien species, so this was like a box of chocolates to me.

Turning through the sharp pages it read quickly. The historical sections strung together the franchises' sometimes at odds milieu. Enterprise, the grossly incoherent original series, the meandering Next Generation, and then about the second season of Deep Space Nine are woven together. The events of the Voyager's beginning and the Gamma quadrant are mentioned but not delved into. This history is more ascertained from atmospheric quotes of characters from the differing cultures referring to events from the various series and the movies. The writers want the gaming experience to occur using their mechanics and products. Long descriptions on point allocation, how dice effect things and how players should view their Star Fleet careers fill many, many pages. Pointers for the GM get thrown in here and there, and later a full section for the GM adds more to details already given. Meanwhile only the more TV photogenic of alien species of the UFP are bothered to be profiled. Later, some ships are discussed and then adversarial aliens and their ships get some coverage. And I was ready to play a game or two set in DS9 with maybe a time travel episode going back to STtOS.

The book and the writing has a lot of good things going for it especially when compared to other Trek RPG projects before it. There is high quality artwork, no pictures from the series, like an earlier effort. The ships and technobable (Treknobabble) are easily understood. The writers mention the Gorn but did not try to fill the Klingon and Romulan empires with animal-people and the Kzinti from Larry Niven's writings like say works that rhyme with Starfleet Battles (and its spin-off Prime Directive). It keeps itself from getting bogged down in details that never appeared or were even mentioned in the shows like FASA's RPG did way back in the day.

At the same time, as space role-playing games go, I wanted more to the universe if I had to deal with such a big book. Overall a Bigfoot of a sci-fi RPG.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The GenCon

This year was GENCON's 50th anniversary. This convention is a creature more like a bear than a dragon. It grew too large for its spot by the lakes and forests of Wisconsin and it had to move where easy pickings of high calories (like cheesy and syrupy garbage) are available-- Indianapolis, capital city of the Corn God. Efforts to move it to hipper, more happening climes, like say somewhere on the West Coast, only irritate it. It only notices that its uncomfortable when it comes to sleeping, and even then if it's too busy, it won't notice.

Before traveling to Indy this year, I spent about as much time as I usually do getting my scenarios ready. Of course instead of doing my maps and graphics, I spent the start of this vacation playing Civilization III (plus), just so there'd be that element where I must be stressed out at GENCON about something. According to the interwebs there was plenty to be unhappy about. Recurring personages were complaining that it was too hard to get rooms. Folks were up at arms because there would be a Sunday morning mass across the street from the Convention Center directed at gamers (apparently gamers aren't good atheists). There were other issues but it was mostly about how hard it was to get rooms. I was happy to see that my GENCON package was a file of some 40 pages of a flip chart (the kind which doctors use), a dice bag, and 9"x 5 1/2" x 3" box with multiple card decks and Crawlspace Character sheets. I threw in some just arrived spare copies of Crawlspace and Crawlspace Gothic, to fill up the book-bag. Getting Peryton into the car was easier than usual. I had done all the housework over the four days that I had off before hand.

Wednesday was a test. We hadn't reserved a special room or table at any restaurant. Folks had been notified on FacetuBe (my word for "the Facebook") about three weeks before, not through about six emails. Instead we ended up in an organic gathering at the Crowne Plaza bar, where we had done it the year before after our restaurant reservation fell through, starting at 8 and lasting until whenever. What a party it was. A little stiff at first but by the time Bill Bricker (of W.E.B. Design) showed up looking to make drunken mischief, we were ready for him. Peryton even joined in to accompany the group to second, then third, then we lost Bill, and finally the fourth locale. Home, as in the hotel room, around 3:05am, with the latecomers from the Chicago LARP brigade already in the room as we were putting them up for a night.

Thursday was awesome. I was sad because both of my Wobble games were a wash.  My morning "Eye of the Needle" had one player show up. I did an hour-long "talk thru" before the person (Russ, whom I know from many other games) got tired. At the second game, "On Dealing with Satanics," absolutely no one showed up, and when I dutifully dropped off the "0 sum" ticket the person at the desk tossed it, in front of me, onto the floor. I almost walked into the Dealers' Room, then a female cosplayer fell down in front of me and about twenty dudes rushed in front of me to help. The staff at the door looked either confused or on. This scared me away. But the rest of the day was mine, to do with whatever I wanted. Katie Oh from the Chicago Brigade invited me to a party somewhere. I declined and fell asleep watching Blade the vampire slayer on the SyFy channel.

Friday I would have no such luck though. I would have to perform both Spacers (TM) "Green Pod is Active" and Crawlspace's "Detroit Death Metal Audition Apocalypse" to sold-out, plus, tables. Spacers (TM) doesn't normally sell out so the mental exercise was fulfilling. I actually had to confirm the math behind ".6C" and discuss ion drive propulsion systems, not to mention time dilation. What a good group of players. In the end, I was complimented on my pacing and and crowd handling. The DDMAA crowd was ready to rock. Apologies to Ajax Tolbert of QAG running next to me. I had a group of bass-players willing to sell their souls to be the next musician in Detroit Death Metal. Sex, drugs, and Rock and Roll were the rule of the session. I closed out that night with Ronnie and Phillip whom had been sitting to just right of my GM chair for the game. Our varied military experiences and civilian proclivities, and wanting to GENCON it up a bit had us drinking until midnight.

Saturday, I was scheduled to take on my latest rendition of "The Horrible Fate of the Haunted House Hunters" (see 2007) in the two linked scenarios of "Death of a Ghost Hunter" and "Ghost Hunter Hunting" both using my Crawlspace system. This went amazingly well. I think I might have recruited another Crawlspace GM to the cause from either Saskatchewan or Manitoba, I can't remember which. I'll let you know later. I would do Saturday evening with Batman, Sligo, and Peryton. That is until I realized that I lost my bag. I actually made polite apologies and we broke up the party. The midnight crew at the Crowne Plaza would not let me see a bag that they were holding because my name wasn't Campbell.

Sunday AM was what I thought it would be. Me picking up my bag from the morning staff because Mr Campbell never came down to look for it. One person showed up for my Glow "Robot Jazz" game, but I folded us into Christopher Dean's I Love the Corps finale. I had been watching him since Thursday weave his on-going saga of space marine fighting. Though I don't like combat RPGs his can be said to incorporate the plot in a combat-driven universe. In short it worked. I had a drink with him at lunch, and Deacon and Alexis from Toledo showed up for a sip as well. Robin came in hungry for lunch. At 3pm, I finally ventured into the Dealers Hall picking up a couple Rifts Sourcebooks concerning the Phase World space opera that it has. We had a false after-party start at Acapulco Joes. On the way back, a cosplaying female was too busy lording (ladying?) over a horde of minions to pay attention to walking. Despite the fact that she wouldn't stand, because how can one do so when so many ppl are fawning one's self, she told me she was alright and I walked hurriedly back to the hotel.

Kal Luin, err Bret, from Canada pulled the Peryton and me out of the room at 8pm. At the Crowne Plaza lounge once again, we spent time with a gaggle of Canadians. And it was quite the party. We were laughing our asses off at a bean-bag tossing competition making ESPN2 prime time, while commercials showing LARPing as "bad fantasy" versus Fantasy Football, where the hobbyist gets to spend money but has no role in anything. It just kept getting funnier. Thanks to Kevin, Brad, Dan, and Kal, this was a great close out to the Dorkness Gathered of 2017.


Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Games Afoot, err Under Foot (Carnage 16)

Part I

I didn't run anything until Friday evening, which gave me pretty much all morning to go back to swimming pooling. This time I did the hot tub until I about died instead of the sauna. This left the afternoon free to lounge and relax. At least until I noticed that I didn't have my scenario outline print-ups. Rushing to the office area, which happened to be by the Carnage registration desk. Here I ran into Zach, the Carnage son. He was actually getting a room this year instead of hoboing it in his car, crashing with "Carnage Mom and Dad" (Peryton and me), or the Brat Pact (Spacers(TM) kids Heather, Patrick, and Derrick). His was bigger than mine even. He helped me re-print my outlines and brought some beers up to the room from the brewery that he works at.

At 7pm, well 7:20-ish, Patrick, Derrick, and Zach all showed up for my Crawlspace "Spook Story" scenario. I tried to turn the classic gritty spy tale into a version of the Sixth Sense. It worked out okay, but I didn't get my desired gimmick of going from the atmosphere of an espionage-laden detective story to a psychological horror story. Instead I got a pretty decent David Lynch like mind-flik made better with the high quality players around me. Our familiarity with each lead to about 40 minutes of pretty much just hanging out and speaking about their college projects.

My Spacers(TM) "Dune: The Rock Opera" set for the 11pm-until whenever slot lost Patrick, the guy who made me offer to run it this year, and I was able to push Steven Dresser and another fellow over into Petra Jackl's Fiasco "Viva Las Vegas." So I was able to slip over to a newer GM's, Roy Larsen, CoC "Just Another Ghost Adventure," where I got to work on my Trans-Atlantic diction and accent in a 1920s game. Really had a lot of fun in that last one.

Coming back to the room, I was totally not surprised to find Matt and Robin hanging out and little worse for the wear with 2/3's a drained whisky bottle sitting on the table between them. I have no idea what we talked about, but I ended the party, like the old person that I am, a little before 4:00am.

I really must be getting old, because I was awake at 11am, and almost running late for my Saturday 1pm game of Red Bat (whatever, Gonzo?) "Operation Magog: Cave of the Ettin." This had originally been crypto-Biblical fantasy RPG scenario, which due to a typo on the on-line registration it turned into a super-spy versus Nazis story line. I have no idea what my full table that I had expected, but it turned out to quite a enjoyable session to run. The Characters took a left turn when I expected everyone to go right, so to speak, but I had the work sandbox enough I could work with it. It took a while for the "twist" to come into play, but the players were strong enough to work through it. When the session went from technicolor WWII costume and prop festival into full Hammer Horror mode, it got everyone, including me, fully into the game. By the time the group flew away in a flying saucer from the Battle of Mon Casino, I was already thinking of the sequel for next year.

At the 7pm game, one that I really want to run one day, Red Bat "The Wrong Side of History." Steven Dresser came up and pointed out that he had signed up for the game, but played his turned away coin from the night before (the Dune scenario) to let me know that he'd like to run his Pathfinder campaign intro scenario "Hartsford Heroics." Luckily the other player that showed, Sandor Silveman, was willing to jump in as well. I really had a good time. I don't often do D&D, but Steven's hinted at world was very captivating.

After the game I waited around for a meet-n-greet with Scott Legault and Petra Jackl's Dark Phoenix Productions. Since it was Saturday night and they were serving only spicy hummus, I only stuck around long enough to say to Andre Kruppa. Back at the room, Zach and the Absurdist Twins (Matt and Peryton) were tripping out over the arguable existence of a basement in the resort. I am sure that there is one, but the on-going drama was some Jungian-level LARPing that was intoxicating to watch. Later, I actually pulled Zach out of laundry basket, calling him a basket case, and refused to endeavor to his Notes From the Underground basement. Everyone disappeared "for a smoke" at around 3am too long and I wanted to go to bed, it would've been 4am according to the Daylight savings time clock if just left unchanged. So Pery and Matt wnet and found Scott and Petra's real party.

The next morning, I was able to bundle up the hungover Peryton and her bags into the trunk of the car and escape before any bodies were discovered.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Carnage 16, pt 1

Going to Vermont this year for the Carnage Convention was awesome. I needed the trip. Not because I was overworked or really stressed out, but because I needed to get around the mass of great gamers to get energized. I haven't seen my PeryPubbers since August. While my local gamers are awesome, we've all been too busy to really game. Beckett was just opening his own gaming store (Weird Realms), three have been caught up in the World Series, another was moving, one was way into the election, and Peryton just doesn't often like me. So getting into the car on Wednesday night, was pretty exciting. So exciting that we left all my printed scenario outlines with the shopping list for the trip in a shopping cart outside of our nearby Target store.

That's a floor for gaming!

The trip itself was, as always, a lift. For the night drive Peryton and I were doing Bowie albums because there wasn't much to see. So when we arrived in Syracuse at our special Red Roof Inn, it was very romantic. We even got a ground floor room. The next day while visibility was better, it wasn't much so with all the rain. The route we took was inexplicable due to relying on GPS and having forgotten to bring along even rudimentary maps, but hey we probably saved fifteen meters here and there.

Once we got to the Grande Killington Resort, the Thursday evening pre-show was in full swing. Dr. Nik and I had our obligatory hug in the lobby, where we checked our schedules and realized that we wouldn't see each other for the rest of the convention (as usual). I thought about heading to the pool but Robin made sure that Matt and Steven Dresser were in the room to keep the conversation alive until it was time to start her game "Aliens Love Jazz." T.D showed up not too much later and we were able to pull Ray Hickey into it. Matt disappeared just before Ray showed up.
Everyone is smiling because the pizza showed up.
Thursday night was Pre-Con party night after the game as it always is. TD mumbled something the Game of Growlers being in " 329 or 327. Which ever room is open and loud." He had to go check on something and would meet us there. We stumbled down to room 329 and busted through an unlatched door. I announced our presence with a party gift of New Cleveland Pilsners. from the Platform Brewery, for anyone willing to try and everyone was talking about comic book heroes, Batman in particular. Something strange happened then, I turned into the half-sober, observant person of the assembled group. I noticed that the two groups, the folks sitting at the couches and us newcomers, weren't mixing it up. Every time someone reached for the bottle of Maker's Mark on the counter between, the couch gang would scowl.
I dragged a chair to the couch group and did my best social graces, which is like a 4th grader at a biker bar, at the best of times. Through a couple minutes of dialog I discovered that this was the after-party for the Vermont Educators' Information Systems Conference. After a few minutes of the folks being polite, I slipped back over to the party at the other side of the counter.
"This party is a teachers' conference." I said to Robin, with Steve and Ray close enough to hear.
"It's free booze." Replied the Peryton as she grabbed the whisky bottle, and the stares from the couches ensued.
"I'm going to the pool." I said finally.

Spending the rest of the evening swim pooling, until the staff called the police to get me out of sauna, I would receive texts from Pery like 'Oh the party is in room 327,' 'TD found us, Loce yuo.' After a butt dial on my phone where Robin was saying "My thouffts on religion..." I walked down to room 327 and found her and Steven D hanging out on the balcony. Seeing that it was him and not some creep in a red tee shirt or something, I returned to the room. At about 1:30 am, Matt knocked on the door. Though I was getting ready for bed, I had him come in so I could find the text with the room number. Steve, and Peryton busted into the room for the night cap. And there were Matt and I sitting on the edge of the bed, with me in bath robe. We all had fun with that scene for at least 20 minutes. Steve started telling us about the Pathfinder campaign he and Matt were working on. I asked about the other party. Robin explained to me, "I thought you were speaking metaphorically."

 The nightcap lasted until about 2:45.

(part II)

Friday, September 23, 2016

Wobble: An Incomplete Compendium of Verses

The Verses of Wobble still evolve as I continue to try to catch up with my writing.

Alpha- Currently a theoretical construct. What is it going to called now that the Nu Verse is called the Alpha Verse is a debate for another time.

Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, Zeta- Currently a theoretical construct.

Eta- Wobblers from XJ state that their grandmothers have traveled to this Verse

Theta- Wobblers from XJ state that their grandmothers have traveled to this Verse

Iota- Outside of contact with Tzadi species Wobblers from a place called XJ, and mentions by visitors from the Lambda Verse, there is not a whole lot known about this Verse.

Kappa- Wobblers from Lambda and XJ state that their grandfathers have traveled to this Verse

Lambda- A Verse where a continuum of universes where people and creatures from Earth's prehistory are still very present. Though the technology tends to be rustic at best, there are accomplished transdimensional travelers that dwell on these “proto-Earths.”

Mu- The collection of universes that we on Earth would find the most familiar. Or own, which we call Mu-Prime, happens to be the easiest universe to get to in this Verse for transdimensional travelers from other Verses.
GM's Note: This is as far to-date as any Wobbler from the Omega Verse has been known to travel to.

Nu- Called “Alpha” by the Wobblers from Omega

Xi- (Access Denied)

Omicron- Infernal

Pi- Where the (Oi-Process) started

Rho- Mahajanapada

Sigma- Ether Bunnies

Tau- Just Wrong

Upsilon- Radio-Ape

Phi-(Access Denied)

Chi- The Aquarius Verse. Hippyhalla

Psi- “Never-Never Worlds”

Omega- Home of the first and, most likely, the most advanced Wobbling civilizations. The Verses as modeled here were discovered by them first.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Two New Crawlspace Mechanisms

The Stand-In (PERK) - The Actor of this Character will stop a scene where another Character could be seriously affected and dress up like him or her to act out a dangerous action. The "standing in" Character will absorb any Damage or suffer any sort of NERVE effects from the action, also no Fame will awarded. No fame is awarded because the camera can never show the main Character's fame during that sequence.
(Inspired by Beckett Warren)

The Camera Gag - Once in a game when, before the Climax, an action in the scene is important, the Director (the GM) will stop things. Apparently the camera man has stepped away, a Character not involved with the action going on will have to jump in to film the shot. Now the actor(s) in front of the camera as well as the actress behind the camera will have to make successful Draws. If both sides do, everyone gets a FAME Card and there is at least one kewl scene in the flik. If anyone drawing fails, then only the successful Character gets a FAME Card.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

GENCON 16: New Places Of the Mind

This is Brett (Kal), not me.

Despite efforts by our PeryPubber clique's "Quitter Club" to bring things to halt over the winter, we did it. Kal, Beckett, Jedi Bacon, Saharrah (Sarah), Jess (Kashi), and Caed Phaser all pulled it together and came up with a way to get to stay downtown at the most massive tabletop gaming convention in existence. We also were able to have fun and make the hard work that we had to do a lot of fun.

The LARPS of Dread
We ran five LARP sessions designed for forty people to attend, complete with two mini-scenarios to compliment two of them. Caed had talked me doing some LARPS anyway some fourteen months earlier. My Crawlspace games always turns into some live action by the end of the second act anyway, so why not? The attendance was from nine to just over 30 people (a rough average of 50% planned attendance), but that worked out better in the end.

The Rat-Pack Versus Cthulhu sessions were a gas. "Cthulhu at the Sands," "The Search for Dino," and "the Sword of Sammy" brought in the hardcore LARPers. We as GMs often got to sit back and eat popcorn, or in my case buy drinks, and watch the action. Once in a while I'd insist on injecting scene breaks and closures, often to the dismay of of the folks around me. Kal really shined as a GM/GPC (guided character?) when he took on the role of a Rat-Pack member for all three of them. Kashi mustered up her courage and insisted on playing the role of Lilith for "The Sword of Sammy" scenario that she'd been working on for weeks already. She did great.

The zombie apocalypse scenarios "Outbreak" & "Extraction," including the sequels "Patient Zero" and 'After Action Review," pulled in more RPG players and a smattering of LARPers. Attendance of course was a bit more than the Rat-Pack events as well. All this increased the level of difficulty for the us, but we waded through.

I swear my co-GMs, especially Sarah and Beckett (and Caed jumping in where she could) were working against my plot the entire time. I was running around wondering 'where are my zombies?'. On Saturday when I got my zombies, I got vegetarian zombies that negotiated a peace deal with the zombie-kill squad sent in by the "Extraction" scenario. After a ten minute panic session, I had to start laughing.

There was a convention to go to as well

Most of my free time was spent either really getting along with or arguing with bartenders at Crowne Plaza or Union Station. I did get out a bit on Saturday night. I went to a DCC session where the point of the gig was to interrupt GMs running role-playing scenarios to groups actively participating by adding a gaggle of reluctant role-players from other tables. Once this didn't go well, the original GM was replaced with a very loud GM that's mission was to hammer down anybody that was role-playing and assist the players that had enough sense to be quiet to remain under the radar for the rest of the course of play. Later I heard that I was among the winners. My unimpressive PC with a role that I didn't ask for, was killed and replaced by a skull-headed robot, which had no incentive to do much of anything but not breath. The atmosphere was ripped away from the planet and only the skull-sucks remained. Hurray?

Still there were parties to be had and gamer people to hang with, so I took it upon myself to accept three earlier invitations and a couple of dances and drinks. Free libation, beautiful men and women to hug, I struggled through it. I am rather giving like that. I especially had to check out the "Changeling Kids,"  my own name for them, Katie, Casey, Andrew, and Michael from Chicago who showed me how to really do a LARP-- kidding aside, I got a lot of good tips from these peope.  By the way, Mike had a really great quote which I wrote down and wanted to post, but I can't find it right now. I'll post it later. One day I might tell you of Beckett's very quiet Fear and Loathing in GENCON experience.

I'm in the center.
When Sunday am came, I had only one player show up for my Glow "Robot Jazz" session so I bought his ticket and we talked for about thirty minutes about indie gaming. I hope to attend one of Scott Favre's scenarios next year. I turned in the last envelope for the last event I had. I walked to my car, parked right by Acapulco Joe's, so some enchiladas and beer for breakfast made sense. With that I bid adieu to the Circle City, but not before my host Batman (Jordan) called to see if I could loan his youngest my now long forgotten behind badge-- close friends of both of us will understand the hilarity of this.