Thursday, January 30, 2020

Aquaman and the RPG Aquatic

Just watched the movie Aquaman and was very underwhelmed. As you, my dear seated reader might know, I happen to be quite the underwater fantasy fan. Really. While you might chuckle at "He can talk to fish" and I am the dork that thinks 'OMG THAT IS AWESOME!' The flick is full of what the creators thought would be cool imagery they did not have any understanding of what it is like to be in water let alone any understanding of the flora and fauna of our seas and oceans. Even as a superhero movie, it comes off as more geared towards toddlers during bath time than the more intellectual crowd of 11 year-old boys earning their first of many Life Guard qualifications but with alcohol and gaudy red-heads and asshole half brothers-- in short the movie was made for semi-employed 50 y/os in Floridian trailer parks.

Now why am I wasting your time with my thoughts on this movie in a blog meant for roleplaying games? Well, because underwater roleplaying is like THE place to be. Take any high leveled PCs from whatever setting or game you have, they're sitting around cleaning their fingernails with like 16" long daggers and casting fireballs at dust bunnies in their Motel 6 room. The pizza of resurrection has been eaten and the Bard/Ships Engineer has been resurrected as a were-Woodchuck. Asmodi-Gorgon is awaiting in Hong Kong, but the group just isn't ready for that boss battle just yet. Where do you go? Put everyone in their bathing suits and storm the wading pool, kicking those 9 y/os out of your beer belly's way.  Extra points to the players that slap ice cream cones out of hands and get threats from phone-watching parents about calling the cops. Negative points for speedos, unless you're the GM.

So you're underwater, where sea-elves and mermaids frolic or dealing with heavy pressure mechanics versus the void of outer space. Now what?

You don't sit on sharks
ky-flying sharks are made for selfie-taking mounts as any reader of Arduin works knows. Still, water dwelling sharks are the bears or tiger of any saltwater local flora or fauna. One does not just gallop across a bucolic seascape of anglefish and guppies on an obedient great white to go find Nemo. When one mounts a shark, there had better be a real ride involved. The average hammerhead comes from a lineage of predator that has survived three extinction events, while you and your chimp cousin have dealt with the  measly drought that formed the Sahara and created Egypt a mere six thousand years ago. An undersea Druid would get this. If you as a GM do not get this, I suggest sticking to Tiny Toon dungeon crawls or some such.

Lava is ground
It's heavy ground at that. Unless you see better in sulfuric acid and like clouds of carbon monoxide, perhaps finding a way of lighting the PC's environment that isn't lava is a good idea. There are often RPG creatures that would like the spots where lava and water meet. They're totally alien to our comfort zone and often called demons. If your not playing in a system that doesn't have say something like "dark vision," perhaps something like sonar and pressure sensitivity might be helpful. If this is a little beyond the GM's grasp, there is always the Pixar Underwater Park fairies that will provide very nice looking sets for the uninspired RPGer.

Up is where the light is
 No one is standing or sitting while submerged. Failing a light source swimmers tend to turn into the current and seek heat. Creatures with surface-dwelling lungs will always have a good idea where "up" is as their feet will drift downwards just not quite. If one is not careful their lungs will face them upwards away from the stuff they should paying attention to. No one is floating in static formations with straight lines all orientated in a certain horizontal direction. While upside-down is uncomfortable almost every other position isn't.
This is perhaps on of the simplest ways to make things trippy for a group of PCs without having to go into gravity salad, one of my other favorite RPG mixer-uppers.

Getting places can be hard
Ask anybody that has navigated their way through an outward bound tide back to shore, whether swimming or in a dingy, moving from point to point might be very trying. The distances traveled can be ironically to the traveler much greater than expected and not very straight line at all. This is why even mechanically-driven surface ships might wait for high tide to set sail on their more or less straight-lined, at least for a mile to eight at a time, voyages. Now be a PC trying to navigate about a continent with currents going this way or that based on seasonal temperature changes and rapid fluctuation of moon-based tides.
This a nod to the episodic nature of tabletop sessions, especially for major level Characters needing to complete their quests, but not able to just yet do so. "The currents just aren't going that way." The GM can say. "You want to follow them? Or wait things out?" The GM can then craft other adventures to enrich the campaign and the PCs before the final boss battle.

Now these days, my perfect aquatic campaign would be play sessions held in a hot tub, but an atmospheric campaign that flexed the PC's imaginations and moved with the flow of an universe just a bit beyond the ken of them is totally worth the try. They'd be a "fish out of water" or better put "a chicken crossing the road" to speak symbolically.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

A World a Week: Blimp World Gazeeteer 2

900 miles of Blimp World
Expanding the world a bit, which I have done in my head from the original 260 miles or so of the first map to about 1,800 miles, I've stretched out the map to around 820 miles. I doubt that I'll actually ever work beyond 400 miles of detail to the setting, but more than likely there will be maps showing me, and you seated Reader, at least, the rest of the setting by the end of things.

You see those biggish islands over on the eastern side of things? The two just below the Big Island, where Pholus City-State is. Well, those are the more prominent areas of a whole cluster of islands known as the Landings. They are easily reached by the ships and blimps of Pholt and the maritime forces of Havre, but apart from an outpost here and there, neither nation can really claim them. Oddly enough the Great City of Pallis, has more of a presence there than either of the larger two. You see they are already the colony of an underwater imperial power know as the Spawn of Atlantis.
These species don't actually call themselves that, they actually refer to their realms as "Guupaanis" meaning "all-over everything domain". The dominant, as in dominating, species is the Surl, which can walk in a biped fashion on land when they are younger. As they mature they become more like giant sea-slugs, that still can ambulate above water. The most common of the Spawn are the Hinnat. They can be very human like except that tentacles grow where hair would on their bodies as they age. A couple of other species that are very distinct from each other are lumped into the derogatory term "fish-heads" by the baser land-dwellers.
Since the advent of cruisers and submarines, the leaders of the undersea empire have started to watch their island holdings here more carefully.

A Personage of Blimp-World
 Sneaks and Cheats Overseas (The Sneak Company)

Admiral ‘some bird guy’
Ostrich, the Quick 145 
An ostrich that can speak that has overcome amazing disadvantages to become one of the prominent spy-masters of the world. This Furry was born somewhere in the Far Islands where a Furry race of Ostriches have been subjects of the Pholus City-State Empire for two hundred years now. His parents were captured by pirates from the Primal Lands while en route from their homeland to the Big Island. The Admiral would spend his youth as a salve-applying slave in the Floating Sultanates. He’d escape as a teen and work his through the Central Continent to Palis where he’d enter indentured servitude to finally come to Pholus City-State.
Upon repaying his indenture-debt, he’d work his way from immigrant, to citizen, then into to the armed forces. Not being exactly good at hand-to-hand combat, his enlightened superiors would test his mental capabilities. He’d rise into the ranks of the elite known as the Admiralty of Empire. As he is not human, he hasn’t really ever been in charge of anything. He’s has had more bosses than many of his his bosses has had employees, hence his nickname “Admiral”.
He is 79 years old. Because of his non-human status, he has only Recognized status in Pholus City-State let alone any rank in the CMD. But who is that fooling? How long is he going to be around to help is anybody’s guess. Luckily he has more than a handful of few students, both human and not, that have been as loyal to the Sneak Company as he has been. Still, it takes a bit get around his spry gaze in terms of skulduggery. He’s personally killed at least a dozen of his spy students that proved less than loyal in his own estimation. 

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Each and Every Time at a Table:

17 days into the Now-Future 20s
Jan 17th, Jack-n-Coke and Sea Shelly joined me for a bit ICONS RPG.  He bought ICONS a few months ago based off of Peryton's recommendations and has been wanting to play for sure. Jack has been on a Doctor Strange kick as of late, and since he was here for my Bowie Day Eve bash (7. Jan, Russian New Year's Eve btw), I felt I owed him.
Shelly's Doctor Philosphy
So Professor Hemm (me as the GM BS Player-Character, err NPC), Doctor Queer (Jack as Doctor Strange and "fuck you on the insinuations" he states), and Doctor Philosophy (Shelly as an already existing NPC that is becoming a Doctor Fate/Cain from House of Mystery mixed together NPC) went traipsing through the Townhouse of Terror's horror of rooms. As I was a player as well as the GM, the adventure was randomized using a deck of cards and a table that I wrote up while Shelly was fleshing out her character on a character sheet.
Doctor Queer. "Fuck off if you don't like it."

We stumbled into a Dimensional Shambler, that in the Scrapiverse is a very heavy opponent indeed, as whatever Lovecraftian author that penned the creature would have wanted it. We didn't lose the fight, Jack used his "Penned by Ditko" Quality to some surprising original magic crafting; still we ended up on the world of Shad. Closer to the Mayhem and Myth poles than any place Mechanical, imagine a chaotic and supernatural world. The fact that its sun is forever eclipsed by a jet black gas giant that it orbits, things are not just dark in these parts.
Things were very dark and hot, as the gas giant Kaddat "is an invisible sun, that gives its heat to everyone" said Dr Philosophy. We could see the purple, yellow, and green hues seeping through the fungal forest around us. Trying to get to their source, we ran into some "rad caps" (lizards/garden gnomes). Dr Queer wanted to "blast them into nihilism" but Philosophy couldn't allow that. So using her "Hips like Shakira" quality she retconned the other's attacks into a seductive dance that made Papa Rad Cap think that Queer was too hot to be attacked. By the way, Shelly and I both ruled that Jack using nihilism opened him up to Dr Philosophy's interference. The shirtless blue-skinned lizard-boy in white pants pointed out the correct path towards the city of Caddabra. The shirtless man gave Dr Queer his cell number as we left.
Finally we encountered my one planned villain of THE WARLOCK. The Warlock is any person among a group of AA attendees back in Beta City, that attains some major magical powers when the previous Warlock dies, see (Scraps of Magic issue #1-#4). The Warlock seeing his arch-nemesis Doctor Philosophy (See SoM issue #9), started to invoke his favor owed to him by Monkey. The trio was already being beaten down by the Warlock's dream-apostles, whimsical-powered napping members of the AA group, Jack knowing my, the GM's, high esteem of the Monkey King and his chaos turned to Hemm to shout, "TIME TO GO!"
So seizing the Merlin Helm off of Doctor Philosophy's head, an action that we agreed could be done earlier before play started, Professor Hemm pulled everyone back to the Townhouse of Terror back on First Earth. This was not before the Warlock threatened "Philosophy I am coming for you!"

Bowie Day gifting
On Jan 8th, Wobble: Transdimensional Roleplaying officially moved from the red ink into the fat stacks of spare cash moneys. Our company's distributors sent a load of beer and pizza cash into our Paypal account on my birthday. Wallah! Thank you guys. My turkey has become a golden goose, nothing but better from here.

Elvismas Eve Gatherings
Jan 7th, Peryton, Curtis, and Jack showed up for my sixth World a Week installment: The World that We Would Play. And with a DCC 5-sided, it's not really five sides, die roll the Star Track world of Chi Erridanni-7 . It was one of the best RPG sessions that I ever had as a GM, but I am sure that my players were only humoring me.
I did not fudge my roll as to the randomized setting that we would play in. So when the "Star Track" result popped up, it was like a birthday gift to myself. And when I rolled for the random plot, included on the original post, I was even happier because "Romulan skullduggery" is the easiest RPG trick in the book. Now I have shut up about my "not really cheating at dice" rolling skills for a while,  but I swear I was not thinking about it when I rolled either time.
Now while Peryton and Curtis rolled up their characters, Jack had his Andoran ready to go for earlier video chatting throughout the day about another project. So "the Trouble in Tellarite Territory" would become ship's doctor Dr Hus Kegar's prequel to his role as Captain aboard the USS Nightingale. Physicians can become warrior-generals as well dammit. The high on life, mostly, creation by all the players involved of the "half Ferengi-half-humn" known as a "Gnoman" in pre-STtNG space, was as fun as it was campy. But come on, we're dealing with styrofoam planets and bad costumes.
The Delf class Federation starship, the Atari, would end up reluctantly being captained by Curt playing gold coverall wearing Ming Ischmeal. Peryton would go on to play blue mini-skirted wearing but with sensible knee high boots science officer Alice Morgan, the XO. Jack would decide to wear Kirk's shirt-sleeve from STtMP. They'd have an uneasy dinner among the rude Tellarites and the less-friendly Gorn guests. And when the Gorns would be attacked by unseen assailants on their way home, the USS Atari would prevent a war by uncovering the culprits, a Romulan ship using its cloaking device, and then go on to defeat them in space battle.

Now if only Jack could get more time off of work. Both the scenarios here are one shots until the next time my buddy has a lot of time on his hands.

Monday, January 6, 2020

A World a Week: Six of 'Em Dammit-5

The Imperfect Triangle Multiverse

When we started doing the multiverse thing in our Scrap Pile adventures (ICONS superheroes), one of my characters was Professor Hemm. He was created to help solve all the dimensional wall issues that Peryton was throwing at us. We kept spilling into the 80s Universe where Mister Roboto by Styx was the reality. Dimension Q the domain of the dread lord Kithraq was spilling into our own. Baron Karza from the Micronauts, the Marvel one, was worked in there as well. So in one game session the "Imperfect Triangle" of our Scrapverse realities came into being, so we could conclude the over-arching dilemma.

Along three reality poles, Myth, Mechanical, and Mayhem worlds are set. Hemm was able to identify the ties of each of the universes to the respective centers of extremes. Creating, well actually embodying forces already in existence if amorphous, the "Tether Guards" Psy and Psi would reinforce the dimensional barriers by maintaining the singular worlds anchors to their poles. Of course there had to be a big superhero battle in Avengers movie tradition to get things stable.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

A World a Week: Six of 'Em Dammit-4

Welcome to Chi Eridanni-7, my first "Star Track" world set-up for this year's BASHCon in Toledo next month.

As a GM I often explore popular culture in my games. Just the research gives me something as author to do besides think of monsters to be encountered and motivations for the Characters for encountering them. My whole Rat Pack (Frank Sinatra and gang) vs. Cthulhu run of scenarios was the first. Then I started delving into street-level D.C. Comics with Gotham P.D. sessions. And now I am doing bootleg Star Trek. This is because I can't afford the FASA ST RPG from the Big 80s, and I am increasingly not a fan of the Modiphius licensing the more I read it. For how long? Until I get bored of learning about the universe.

My "Star Track" is set in the timeframe of being in-between Star Trek-orginal and the first movie. Players are aboard a DERF-class starship, that's a saucer and fuselage and only one warp engine according to ST fan Mark Hunt (maker of Gangbusters) and I like his take better than the more popular designs at places like Memory Alpha on-line. These crews are doing the more routine things, like setting navigation and communication buoys in already-explored places, rather than boldly going about the galaxy and causing trouble. 

So Chi Eridanni-7 isn't too far from the Neutral Zone. It's cloud covered and rather steamy for humans. Its moisture comes from primarily underground water tables and the atmosphere comes from a series of Amazon forest-sized realms of eukaryotic fungal biospheres spread out over the planet. Most parts look like a sand covered sound-stage with styrofoam rocks though. Two exceptions to that are a group of mountains in the planet's northern hemisphere. These very high attitude areas happen to be rich in the resource of dilithium and other materials required for spacefaring. The other is very near the southern pole where an open saltwater sea is.
Telarite mining firms have been investing in getting assets to this planet. They started the same time as Gorn entrepreneurs. Unlike the more violent human-gorn interactions in the past, the tellarites and the neighbors have been working separately from each other while diplomatically offering assistance when needed. It would seem that both species find the others candid and straight-forward natures agreeable.
In the southern sea regions, a race of beaver-sized frog-looking creatures have been noted to be building hydroelectric dams and small steamships. This has prompted the UFP to set up a clandestine observation post to monitor the species. The station is manned by mostly vulcan and tellarite scientists that specialize in ecosystems and alien anthropology.
The UFP has establishing a 40% tax on any minerals taken from the planet to be placed in a trust for the natives for when they establish warp-drive. The tellarite mining firms gripe about it, but it is the leadership from Tellar-Prime that proposed the plan. The UFP, pushed by Earth delegates, is in talks with the Gorn Hegemony to do the same similar sort of taxation on their denizens.

1- Evil guy wants revenge
2- Super alien makes contact
3- Romulan intrigue
4- UFP passive-aggressiveness
5- Gorn's being untrustworthy
6- Orion Syndicate corruption

A World a Week: Six of Them Dammit-3

Probably started out as  CIV III session
I missed a day, so today I'll have to post two worlds. I remember in the late 90s, like '99, introducing my neighbors at Holmden Ave (Nether-Tremont) to Monsters! Monsters! one long weekend. I worked late shift at Ford and I would come home to the end of their BBQs. Sean and Pat both were mostly-retired mid-40s dudes missing D&D. I was their youthful gaming friend. I would only run T&T and CoC for them because "I don't do D&D." as I'd remind them often.

I can't remember any details about these sessions because we usually were drunk by the time I wrote up a session. Harry Goblin was Sean's highest level T&T PC. He like made it to 9th level Wizard in 5th ed terms.

Friday, January 3, 2020

A World a Week: Six of 'Em Dammit-2

A part of northeastern Marvel City, New Jersey

 Marvel City, New Jersey is becoming quite the mapped out RPG city. For most of my urban supernatural or Superhero scenarios, I place them in this megalopolis. And for a city running 22.7 miles from north to south and as wide as 25 miles from east to west, I have about  19 miles of detailed maps for various parts. More whimsical urban locales, like Egg City, usually started out as a part of Marvel City before requiring their own place on the fantasy globes in my head.

The map that you see above is for my Count Vulgarr 1970 scenario that I had planned to run for the first time at GenCon last year. Alas it was a wash, but the notes are the yarn have grown into threads in other sitdown sessions both had and planned for this year.

The dock district is going to need some work as my bootleg "Gotham Major Crimes" scenarios have been catching on and where else are those scribbles going to end up officially besides "...the big Mack City."

Thursday, January 2, 2020

A World a Week: Six of 'Em Dammit-1

With the conclusion of my War Star Spacers campaign, my dabbling has returned from the more epic-minded saga back into what I call "episodic space." Who knows, maybe I just can't help but make maps of space and come up with story lines even when I don't a play session or two lined up within the next couple of months for it, I am working on my "Big Space" rules for my Spaceship SF RPG. My excuse is that I have a randomized genre gaming event next week, so I need to have some notes ready.

Episodic space, is where I don't have much of a outline as to where the story is going to go when the PC spacers show up. Oh there is a purpose that must be worked through, like "ship repairs," "system survey," or "science projects." A narrative twist like "romance," or "rescue," or "robbers," or a few other things is going to pop up. The "Big Space" notes are my shortcuts to developing the minutia of the universe around the players.

With my charts I develop a "sector" with 2d3 alien species to encountered. I go with the aliens first because, you know, fantasy.  Rolling my ever-handy 2D (two six-sided dice) and translating them into "2d3" results (find a chaos theory doctorate students  to explain this approach), I've come up with four as my number. Using my carts I come with the looks, motivations, and tech levels of these species. I even randomized the names, because I get tired of hearing my own head.
"Zovindu", an interstellar race of orange-skinned shape-shifters (limited to environmental forms), that want to dominate the universe. They, the denizens of "Zov Space," are rather outgunned by the universe though.
"Ukawin," the species of little green men that dominate 3/4 of the sector with their "standard" (as advanced as the PCs) spacefaring technology. Their "United Ukawin Kingdoms" (the U.U.K) could be a serious evil empire, but they're short and cute, with a single antenna, and pink/brown spots.
Now the noble Nesm, the Nesm, species, known for their tall stature grey to pink skin, and three antennae, would rather be space explorers, but 2/3rds of their worlds have been incorporated into the U.U.K. because of their rudimentary knowledge of space travel and weaponry.
The Truzow Federation, is the strongest of all the non-UUK spacefaring species though still not as modern as they need to be. Their cooperative politics with both Zov Space and the Nesm's Free Worlds have strengthened all three nations.

In each sector there is six sections, which are divided into six more fields. I roll a "red D6" and a "yellow D6" and that helps me map out the 36 fields of the sector. The first tells me how cluttery a sector is with solar systems and planetary sub-systems, a "6" result tells me there is at least one nice Earth-similar planet. The second die tells me how populated, or how much traffic is moving through the area. A six means a major mining colony or a space-station is in the area. The result of a "2,1" following Ken St Andre T&T critical fail rules means a black hole in the area. Meanwhile I get more creative with the "1,2" result with stuff like pulsars, ion storms, and heavy-dust nebulae. The Characters whips will enter the sector at a starting point numbered 1-6 depending on a D6 rolled by its pilot.

It took me longer to write this blog than it took me to develop this game setting standby.