Friday, August 28, 2015

Spacers, Just Another Universe to Go

The last couple of days a certain illness has had me away from the project that I wanted to be working on. But I have been able to put the time to use reading the rough_er_ draft of Spacers: Universe. One of the contributing artists, Bradley K. McDevit (Mikk-D, from now on), has been plugging away at one of the section "covers." Here's a the roughest draft that he has sent me to preview over the last week.

A sketch cover to the "Era of the Rocketmen" section
Of course I saw some parts that I want to rewrite, this "quick and easy" sci-fi game is now about 157 pages long before art is added and the formatting has been completed. But something else occurred to me. I have posted my play notes from table-top sessions throughout the sections. It would not be too hard to include some play stats and make the notes into mini scenarios. Imagine that. the "quick and easy" space game with quick play sessions already included.

After typing up scores and scores of handwritten pages dating back from 1997 and onward, I kid you not, I had thought of this idea until re-reading the work. I am definitely more a percolating coffee-maker than an expresso machine.

This is going to add some more time, but I'll definitely be happier with the product overall.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

End of the World: Zombie Apocalypse

It had the Crabb working on it!

We have a household saying, "A little bit of zombie goes a long way." But the rest of the world loves the stuff almost as much as folks east of the Danube love dill, so we get to keep seeing more movies and reading more material about the shambling dead as the dutiful fantasists that we are. When I came across Fantasy Flight game book The End of the World: Zombie Apocalypse, I glanced in its general direction not much else. Then I remembered that Christine Crabb mentioned that she had been working with the game-makers for some time, though she never could hint at what she was editing for them. Well, I opened up the book and there her name was. So I had to buy it, and it happened to at a newly discovered, for me, local area gaming store which didn't specialize in Magic tournaments-- indeed there was a D&D group setting up as we shopped.

Now the Crabb wasn't the only person in the "Credits." There was Andrew Fischer as the Game Designer, and a whole slew of others that mentioning would turn my enjoyment at writing this blog into work, anybody that I missed can yell at me later. The book itself is about 140 pages long, broken down into three main sections (excluding the intro and index), Playing the Game, Running the Game, and Scenarios. The interior art is really rather excellent, and the cover decent enough for a zombie game. The book itself was printed in China, which is a major drawback to me as a dude that likes homegrown games being about growing the home not overseas investment-- sharing ideas with other creative sorts from overseas is wonderful, products produced in grossly corrupt regimes to increase profits is, once again in my opinion, tacky.

The game mechanic is one color six-sided dice based on Character stats and "positives" versus other color six-sided dice derived from "negative" factors rolled against each other. The pools of dice nullify one another with the higher results reflecting success or failure. Failure results in the accumulation of Stress, as well leading to trauma and death both physical and, interestingly enough, mental. The running section is quick notes for how a GM can handle her games and the designer's, maybe the writer's, Tim Cox, thoughts on campaign length and Character advancement.

The scenarios are the parts which I enjoyed reading the most. Each is broken down into two subdivisions of during the breakdown and afterwards (the Apocalypse and the Post-Apocalypse). "The Night of the Meteor" deals with slow shambling zombies and throws in every dead creature as well, as if squaring the circle between Night of the Living Dead and Return of the Living Dead feature movies with steroids. "No Room in Hell" still has the shambling dead, this time without the undead farm animals and rats, which I think most established zombie GMs, like JerryTel and The Boy, will be most comfortable. "Pandemic" is the "new-rabies" virus where the fast zombie has a few "primes," think the vomiting meth-heads from 28 Days Later, sprinkled around. "It Ends with a Whisper" works in the traditional zombie from folklore, the undead slave, into a luddite take over of the world using a fictitious voodoo as its secret weapon, complete with zombi-masters.  Topping things of is "Under the Skin" where a parasitic infestation is the cause of the zombie outbreak, getting folks into the mood for gas-masks and moon-suits as well as parodying governmental approaches to recurrent disasters-- this one is the cleverest of all the scenarios, in my book.

Overall, the work is a King Kong on the "Smurf to Godzilla" scale of the Portal, a group that I hang out with talk about fantasy-based products with. The artwork inside the work is very nicely chosen. The authors took a well-established sub-genre and worked in new angles instead of deconstructing or rehashing the work of others before them. Each of the scenarios, both parts, are well worth the price of the material.

I bet my friends are so proud when I yell to them in public.

The next parts of the series, I will gladly read. Though I will do that on PDF, sorry game book distributors, I like supporting the American printing shop.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

7th Edition T&T Still Stings

I am currently in the process of writing possibly my last T&T scenario ever. While I am one to get sentimental, I am not actually felling that way about this yarn. What I am kind of amazed at, is the experience convention within the game rules. Okay, the mechanic states, paraphrasing, that when an attribute hits a new tens digit in select attributes that this becomes a higher "Level" for that character.  Now even a person as dim as I am knows that makes for a lot variability among Character-defining statistics. What I didn't exactly realize, was how the levels of gaming, at least on the table-top were changed.

While generating characters, PreGens, I noticed something. Using my own tables of developing sets of numbers for very specific ranges, still rolling dice, for eight sets of eight values, things got numerically amazing. I wanted "24" as a mean, but the dice wouldn't stop. What I got was something in the 50s at the top, something a bit lower than 24 as the mean, and a whole lot of decent T&T balance. I decided that I would decide the character's Kin (D&D Race) after the results.  Let's look at a few of my results.

Str 16 Int 15
Con 23 Wiz 14
Dex 39 Cha 18
Spd 19 Lk 36

Str 36 Int 15
Con 12 Wiz 24
Dex 9 Cha 31
Spd 17 Lk 26

Those are the two "mean" PreGens. Here's a couple of others.

Str 56 Int 5
Con 52 Wiz 4
Dex 19 Cha 31
Spd 6  Lk 16
Str 36 Int 25
Con 22 Wiz 24
Dex 29 Cha 21
Spd 27 Lk 26

These would fall into the "medium" of results if I remember a couple of math classes correctly. I have been rolling 4d6, dropping one, and using the TARO rule to develop these stats.

Now, a mathematician is going to say, "What'd you expect." I am going to slap him and remind him that I used to fight bullies wanting his lunch money back in '82. I'll also point out, that a "3rd Level Character in a 3rd Level Adventure for T&T"  is one bandersnatch of task to work out in tabletop terms.

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Joy of Yetis

Developing role-playing scenarios in the paranormal media realms has been a wonderful experience for me. Sometimes it's a catharsis, other times it expands my horizons.

Many years ago, when I scripted out "The Horrible Fate of the Haunted House Hunters," I vicariously stuck it to the horrible shows about ghost hunting. You can ask Peryton, I have fits when watching the silliness of various "paranormal research" groups' antics on TV. I ghost hunted, for free beer, back in the Aughts ('98-'o2), so I am a bit snob when it comes this hobby-- I was the audio guy after all. Every time I've ran it, it has changed into a whole new narrative. Having ran this adventure some eight times since and it's a gift that just keeps giving.

Along with the fun of dealing with big-feet in North America, the yeti (homo sasquatchi) has been something of eye-opener. While writing "Yetis, Yet Again" for my T&T adventure, I came up with trappings of the setting around the players. Though it was cartoonish and campy, I had studied into the nationalities of Tibet and Yunnan (western Chinese cultures). It wasn't just the folklore. I've never been a fan of "the Orient" (women, RPG supplements, and whatnot) so if not for the Abominable Snowman, I never would've thought to read up. I find I am enjoying the reading of east Asia histories and moving westward and northward.

Getting behind the moth-man has been a study of social psychology, as well as developing a creature, actually more than one, for the table-top. Throughout the Castle of the Moth series, though I have some very specific details about what is going on, quite often the players develop their own story-arcs and come up more terrifying shadows than those that I have written.

Now I just have to get these pieces released, if only so I can get to see the artwork.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The GenCon 15 Rundown

Getting back to some semi-serious game-mastering was rather good for my soul. Here's my re-cap of the events, along with my thoughts from the "Green" notebook.

Thursday's scribble- "I bring in the Torpedo from Toledo and his cable TV show for three paranormal adventures. I hope BASHConners don't get jealous."

"Hunting Big Foot,"
A Stay Alive adventure, for Thursday morning.
Notes: Maybe it was because this was the first event ran but this was one good game. Great characterizations. The players playing the film crew got right into it. The locals got quirky as quickly as they read their PC sheets. The players actually succeeded at the scenarios objective, getting a clear and focused shot of a saquatch (that's BIG FOOT). I had to stay on top of the pacing, but the players jumped in on my prompting.
Afterthoughts: Probably my favorite game of the convention.

"The Keys to Christmas Place"
Rolling dice and hacking in the afternoon.
Notes: Why in the world did I ever put one of my darkest horror scenarios in the middle of the afternoon? I actually thought that I was doing a T&T scenario and had to double-check what I was running. True to my horror, one of the ticket-buyers brought his preteen kids to it.
Afterthoughts: This session helped increase my flexibility immensely. I turned it from pretty much a horrible detail porno into "a gory pulp story" according the father bringing his kids. Things working.

"The Horrible Fate of the Haunted House Hunters"
Rolling dice and hacking the day's end.
Notes: The original adventure, back for its third re-writing and sixth play group. Had a group of players that knew each other. Because of the party atmosphere, the first to acts where letting the Characters think that they were doing the writing. The third act was me pulling the rug out from underneath their feet. The scenario matrix works just fine. Dead Characters stuck around, even worked in a flashback.
Afterthoughts: A few players really enjoyed "the twists". If it went bad, I'd would've have a real bad night.

Friday's scribbling- "Ah yeah, boyee. It's experimental."

"The Goldfish Incident"
 My Spacers game for 2015
Notes: Having left the old rules book at home, as well as not having the new stuff at least printed up, did not help this game. At least I had pre-gens. The least interested player at first turned out to be almost as big a fan of space opera as me.
Have a great start to the next episode already.
Afterthoughts: Totally have next Spacers episode soundly started based on this ending. 4 hours and 21 minutes. HAH! I'd like to think that we were indulging ourselves. This might be the real gem of this GenCon.

"The Wrong Moon"
Crawlspace shoot, 7-11pm.
Notes: Eight people at the table is a bit much for Crawl.  I was tired and more than three players were less than enthused about being at the table. It was the players though that made this session end with a classic twist. The point of the scenario is to have the ISS avoid crashing into the Blind Spot (from "Party Nights") once something from Earth touches it, the end of the world begins. Having turned the character role "Astronaut's Love Interest" to "Astronaut's Parent" the player turned his Character into a failed, drunken father. The cultists working at the company, Space Z, found a way for him to not only get into space but be seen saving his son.
The ISS was able to avoid crashing into essentially the Spawn of Azathoth, but his father was coming right up behind him. He gave a wonderfully drunken speech as he would become the first man ever to land on an asteroid. And thus the End began...
Afterthoughts: Definitely working in the second launch into the scenario.

"Full Moon in Grimhaver"
Crawlspace at midnight.
Notes:  Four people, five tickets. Nice and quick Hammer horror story. Got out before the room got too sweaty because the A/C clicks off at 11pm-- the time my game started.
Afterthoughts: Remember to bring copies of Crawlspace Gothic and the Crawl Clock visual aid next time.

Saturday's scribble-"Into the home stretch with easy ones."

"Yetis, Yet Again"
T&T adventure for this GenCon that afternoon.
Notes: Six players, four had played before. Newcomers friends with older players. My Tunnel-Hack charts made everything look easy. Spent a bit of time talking about non-RPG things, like local tax systems in Indianapolis and Cleveland. I loved the final scenes, killed like almost everyone.
Afterthoughts: Either I make it look too easy or I look like I don't know what I as doing. I was accused of making it up as I go along. My math values for the game were spot on.

"Close the Door
Crawlspace shoot, 11pm-3am.
Notes:  Forgot to bring decks of cards. Folks found card dealing apps on their phones, w/o Jokers though. The Boy, who was allowed to come with me, ran and bought some from hotel shop (STILL OPEN!!!). Eight players, working well together. The world, drunks and heat of the room, around us was making the game very hard.
Afterthoughts: GMs should not have to work this hard.

Sunday's scribble- "There's a fine line between art and camp and I crossed it a decade ago. Hope it goes easier today than last night."

"Easter Bunny, the Holy Day Horror"
Crawlspace the "brunch" shoot.
Notes: Seven players, three groups of father-son and the Boy. Plot moved along quickly, Grimhaver is getting very well defined in my mind. Players got right into their roles as locals and caught on to the rules rather easily.
Afterthoughts: None. Need to get this formatted and get some artwork.

Monday, August 3, 2015