Friday, October 31, 2008

Rockefeller "Rock" Ross, An Urban Legend in Aventures of Doom.

Rock was a legend in all the newspapers as an explorer. He has been all over Egypt, Persia, the Amazon, and the wilds of Africa. Reporters around the globe have tried to follow him to capture the story of discovery. But none of them have ever volunteered twice! Rock seems to always stumble across lost tribes of cannibals, ancient curses, and temples on the precipice of doom.

Guy and Devon Lareux tell stories of Rock every week to the whole staff of Lareux General Procurement. They claim to have met the man just after the War when he was still a young whelp. The way they tell the story, Rock got his start working with the brothers in Africa. But they also mesmerize the staff with stories of his further adventures.

But all the stories stopped 2 years ago. Rock announced he was on to a great new discovery which he kept very secret. But he disappeared only a few days after his announcement. Most folks assumed he took off in secret as he often did. But no one has heard from his since. The world still wonders what happened to Rock Ross, the Man of Adventure!
Adventures of Doom is a True20 Pulp RPG set in 1935 that I am developing for family play. It is designed to be non-gritty, contain themes appropriate for my 9 year old, and still entice my wife to play.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Yamada Taro, An Urban Legend in Adventures of Doom

Chicago has always been a city with a reputation—a beautiful city with a dark side. Organized crime has always thrived here, but never more so than through the 1920’s with the rise of Al Capone and Liquor Bosses. Mr Capone has long been away in Alcatraz and the mafia has lost much of its power, but it remains. With the shift in power, other groups have managed to increase their influence in the windy city. High among them is the Yakuza—the Japanese mob.

The Yakuza specialize in human trafficking and opium. What is unusual about the Yakuza is their rigid discipline and culture of honor and respect. The Mafia’s Code ultimately crumbled with corruption and greed. The Yakuza are like machines—cold, calculated and efficient. Targets are identified and respect is paid in full or the result is often worse than a single death.

One of the more unique features of the Yakuza is the employ of Ninja. At first the Ninja were considered a joke. Who would fear some crazy Japanese in masks? Many foes have now fallen to the secret order known only to the Yakuza. Their methods are supremely subtle. Almost no one knows when a Ninja has been used to eliminate an obstruction. Where the Yakuza is obvious and usually messy, the Ninja are barely a ripple on the water. Overnight their targets suddenly comply or utterly disappear. Often the threat of hiring the assassins is enough to weaken an opponent.

The Master of Assassins is Yamada Taro. He is the only Ninja in Chicago who works independently of the Yakuza. While this causes some ire in the crime organization, they can not deny he is the best. Yamada-san comes at a high price, but he has never failed. The legend of how to hire Yamada is well known. Rent the penthouse suite at the Broadmoore Hotel—a dive hotel on the upper west side of Chicago. The clerk will offer you two registers. One of the registers will be new containing no other entries. If you write your name in the new guest book, Taro will find you in 3 days to hear your offer. Payment is demanded up front. The word on the street is, if the price is too high, then Yamada makes you disappear. Do not summon the Devil lightly…
Adventures of Doom is a True20 Pulp adventure setting based in 1935 Chicago.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Fright Night 2008 - Wellington

So after a bit of searching I've found a pretty cool gaming group here in Wellington. While table top gaming has certainly spread around the globe, it is not exactly "main stream" in New Zealand. The relative remoteness of the country combined with the overall lower population base makes gaming a relatively rare past time. But I also think as a result of that, the game enthusiasts I have found seem more open and more mature than a lot of others I've known.

NZ doesn't really celebration Halloween in any fashion. But these guys and gals have come to appreciate a good horror game to mark the season. They have established a "Fright Night" mini convention in October which I was just lucky enough to get in to due to a late drop out.

Fright Night is broken up in to two sessions of about a half dozen one-shot adventure games of various styles. The two games I got in to were Geiger Couter hosted by Micheal Sands and Hot War hosted by Sophie Melchior. Both games were based on systems I had not played before. The underlying theme in both was the idea that player who overcome an obstacle in the game get to then decide what direction the game takes next. I've dubbed it "collaborative" style--although I think you might also call it "interactive."

The first session game was based on the Geiger Counter system which is designed to facilitate the creation of a classic "survival horror" movie. Mike picked out the idea of a viral meme overtaking human hosts and our group of 7 players was off.

Eclipse Mining Station is about to confront terror when the Princess Dawn cruise liner arrives with more than a message of of a plague stricten Earth--it transmits the plague itself. Viral nanobots make the jump from computer virus to attacking the original computer--the human brain. Infected victims are driven to blood and revenge and there is no where to run. There is no one to hear you scream. There is only darkness in the Total Eclipse.
Each of us created a character concept roughly iconic in the movies. I was Dallas a heavy industrial engineer--big, bald and black. Dallas was smart, hard working and always looking for that way in to early retirement. Eclipse station was 4 years of hell, but the pay was extraordinary. But when the station is plunged in to chaos by a nano-virus. Dallas takes his opportunity to raid the station vaults of the mined gold. But Dallas had to confront the menance in the station hanger bays. Using the massive cargo loader he fought to a stand still as wave after wave of infected zombies were crushed in his claws. In the end even the powerful man and machine couldn't hold them off. Dallas crashed over a tower of fuel barrels and blew it all to hell.

Mechanically, each player started with 2 six sided dice. Each turn one of the player would get to create a "scene" involving one or more other characters, but not their own character. The scene would resolve itself in some natural way and then the next player would make up a new scene with other characters. As things progressed the characters confront "the menace" where the player rolls their 2 dice and some one else rolls for the menace. If the player rolls higher, then the player can describe how they beat the menance. If they fell then the player must pick a "condition" from a short list--things like "lost", "pursued", "injured", etc. The conditions dictated what kinds of scenes their characters could be set in to next and if there would be advantages or disadvantages.

The second session was a game based on the Hot War game/setting. In Hot War the world outside London has been wiped away. World War III erupted in 1963 in an exchange of weapons more terrible than just nuclear bombs. Twisted weapons stolen from the crazed Nazi laboratories were unleashed one after another resulting in a world distorted and completely changed. The near dead still walk as soldiers, the boundaries outside London simply seem to warp in to nothing. People who leave the edges of reality never return.

Sophie had a number of pre-gnerated character to use. One of them was an American Air Force pilot, Brad Harris. Since I was the only American at the table, I felt it was a sign for me to play Brad. You have to remember that here in NZ, I am the one with the funny accent. Kiwi's all sound normal to me now, but I guess I still sound funny to them. But it was good. I didn't feel weird or anything. It was a good game. Mechanically, Hot War was similar to Geiger Counter, but more tradionally directed by the GM. Hot War came pre-loaded with a lot of great flavor.

The whole thing lasted from about 4:30 to midnight. We played in an old historic building called Turnbull House right next door to the Beehive building. This is conveniently 3 blocks from Wellington Station so it was super easy for me to get there on the train. It was coincidentally a bit rugby night and I did have to tolerate a number of happy drunks on the train... haha! But it was a great time.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Interface Zero: An Exploration

What is consciousness?
Is it self awareness?
How can you tell that another thing is self aware?
What makes human self-awareness different?

These are the questions I pose in a series of explorations in Interface Zero. IZ is a world projected along our darkest future. A world where nations have fought many "limited" nuclear wars, billions have died from biological weapons and the human race is simultaneously saved and doomed. The secrets of gene modification, nano re-fabrication and Artificial Intelligence have been unlocked. But these miracles have not fashioned a new Utopia--they only seemed to have pushed the human condition to grotesque extremes.

The human-machine interface has blurred to the point where all people perceive both reality and virtual reality at the same time. The information network that started with the Internet has spread to become a ubiquitous network of everything overlapping the whole world existing in both real terms and as a separate plane known as "the Deep". Some choose to live in absolutely virtual worlds, but most live in an enhanced reality blend from the two--a very few have no ability to sense the Deep. The Deep is everywhere, everywhere you look, every object you touch can have a representation in Deep that you perceive through your eyes in exactly the same manner as you perceive this message. If you could see in to the Deep you might see these pages as ancient parchment or perhaps in floating neon blue lettering--all based on your preferences. The real document might simply be a stack of white papers or perhaps a small data chip with nano transmitters connected to and part of the Deep. The Deep is powered by the mass networking of all CPU's of all devices known on Earth. Most objects right down to paperclips have small CPU's buried in them. Some places in what used to be called Japan have released processors so small they float in the air like dust. In these places the Deep is thick and impossible to filter out. In the nuclear wastelands between China, Pakistan and India, the Deep is but a faint echo where you'll be lucky to raise a single voice comm.

Nano technology has progressed to the point where nearly everyone has access to a fabricator that can re-assemble similar matter in to what ever the user requires. Grass clipping, rotting protein, and a handful of dirt can be re-assembled in to edible healthy foods--even flavorful foods if your fabricator is an expensive model. These wondrous machines can even create clothing from nearly any fibrous materials. Style-patterns are downloaded from the Deep (for a price) and the user can choose whatever she wants in whatever simulated fabrics she wants. All machines can make the basics necessary to survival for free. But despite these daily miracles, the human race is not better off. It seems all these machines really do is perpetuate squalor and suffering. The world economy can not employ the vast majority of workers. Billions are left idle, clothed and fed. Gangland wars are perpetual. Most are essentially homeless living in derelict urban districts below the upper cites where the luckier wage slaves live. Only your friends care if you're hurt and some of them might be more interested in your stuff after you're dead.

The boon of technology has fused biology with machine. All humans have TAPs installed in their heads for interface to the Deep. But this meshing with hardware extends to full prosthetics, eyes, internal weapons and skill upgrades. How far this can go has yet to be fully explored.

But mankind was not satisfied with just the Deep and nanofabrication. Humanity also choose to alter itself. The genetic code has been solved, mapped, rendered to component parts and fashioned anew. Humans can now select exact traits both before and after birth. In the Amazon Wars, genetically enhanced warriors are used for the first time taking science in to a darker art form. The goal in warfare is to eliminate the enemy--no semblance of humanity is required. Chimera are born. These radically altered "humans" possess a variety of outlandish features designed to kill--period. Generally only used in battle and always with gruesome effect, these creatures are often shunned by society. But still the pride of man was not complete. Man created Simulacre. Wholly biologically copies of humans with artificially limited mental capacities to be an endless source of labor--a new race of slaves. Each Simulacrum is designed to fill a purpose and die in a limited time. The new labor force quickly replaces any need for Human workers. Simulacre are cheaper, require nothing but nano-replicated food and clothing, and are fully recyclable. Any tasks considered too unsavory for humans to dirty themselves with directly including prostitution and suicide combat squads are given to Simulacrum. Lastly, man created AI. A necessary technology to administrate the vastly complex Deep and civil systems to control the exploding populations of the major cities. AI control all traffic systems, power, communications, entire manufacturing facilities and even some military applications. However, science wasn't entirely naive. AI programs are closely and intensely monitored. If any sign of self awareness and creativity are expressed, the AI is brutally eradicated and copies burned.

Corporations control the world's economy. City-states and nations are cowed before policies of embargo and arms races. Humans lucky enough to work inside the megaconglomerates are the elite of the world. These individuals are rich beyond the wildest dreams of "sprawlanders" (those that survive on the toxic streets of the new cities). These executives make decisions that doom millions to death, starvation or war. Anyone working for a corp as a wage slave only knows that they could be instantly cast aside in to the gangs wars, nuclear wastelands, or (worse) experimental biological testing. Employee satisfaction surveys are high... always high.

This is the world, such as it is...

My proposal is to create a few iconic characters based on IZ (True20) to explore both character abilities and a few philosophical questions. Since it would probably be impractical for folks purchase the True20 core rules and the Interface Zero setting, I would create characters for use in certain one-shot stories. These stories are likely to explore the Deep, sentient AI, Simulacre and Chimera. I will attempt to run these via live chat primarily. But I would also use materials posted, emailed and maybe even a virtual table top app (one of the free ones if I do). I'll probably try to kick off a True20 how-to session with Skype or phone calls or something where I can talk you through the system--unless you happen to have the rules. Interface Zero is a setting based on the cyberpunk genre seeded from inspirations like "Ghost in the Shell", "The Matrix", "Neuromancer", and "Blade Runner." The characters I want to test are Hackers, Martial Adepts, heavily modified humans and AI's. I might foray in to heavy military machinery.

Who wants in?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Joshua Spectre

Level 3 Warrior (True20 Character)

Joshua Spectre is the only son of a dock worker and hotel maid. He grew up in Chicago living a fairly tough life, but was always physically adept. He always seemed to come out on top in a scrape and had a knack for interacting with the urban jungle. At a very young age he caught the eye of a wise oriental man. Unknown to Joshua, the man sent word to a teacher in the East. On Joshua's 14th birthday he was invited to train in a remote school of Japan. With no understanding of the unusual offer, Josh took it.

Two years later Josh has returned to Chicago. His training is not yet finished, but he had to come home to help out his folks during this Depression. But his Sensai has kept an eye on him and will continue to teach his young student. He sees a great destiny in him.

STR: +2 DEX: +3 CON: +2 INT: +0 WIS: +0 CHA: -1

Will: +1 Fort: +5 Ref: +3
Toughness: d20 +2 Con +3 Combat +2 Armor = d20 + 7

Stealth (Dex) +9, Climb (Str) +8, Jump (Str) +8, Sleight of Hand (Dex) +9, Acrobatics (Dex) +9

Martial Weapons, Rage (+2 Str, +2 Fort/Will, -2 Def), Attack Focus (Unarmed), Stunning Attack, Improved Speed, Improved Strike, Ki Dart

Core Ability:
A warrior can spend a point of Conviction to immediately erase all bruised and hurt damage conditions (and their associated penalties).

Attacks: Base +3 (Combat) +3 (Dex) = +6
Punch/Kick +6 for damage +2
NunChuk +6 for damage +4
Sword of Destiny (Katana): Damage +5 (sheathed non-lethal, blade lethal)
  • Light: Blade is +1 Positive Energy DR
  • Honorable: Blade must not be drawn unless it is use (blooded). Blade must not be used on targets with no Honor. The weilder can sense this.
  • Contracted: When the blade is used in a contracted kill, the victim is plane shifted.
  • Defended: Warrior can shift 2 points of Attack Bonus to Armor Bonus (+3 Attack +2 Armor Bonus)
Defense: Base 10 +3 (Combat) = 12 w/Parry +2 = 15 or w/ Dodge +3 = 16 (Weapon Armor Bonus +2)
Light Leather +1
Ninja body suit +1 to Stealth

Evelyn Drake

Level 1 Expert / Level 2 Adept (True20 Character)

Evy's slight frame holds a frighteningly compelling woman of young years. Highly educated at Radcliff she has studied archaeology. While Evelyn’s family is not well-to-do, her Aunt Alice was the first female professor at Harvard. Alice mentored Evy through Radcliff.

Evy's father was a well travelled global purchasing agent for Marshall Field’s based in Chicago. Mr. Drake raised Evy’s as a single father following the death of his wife when Evy was only two. The young girl spent most of her life with her Aunt on her mother’s side, Alice Hamilton. Her father taught her to fly aircraft, to shrug off limitations, and how to shoot just in case.

Miss Drake currently resides in Chicago and works for Lareux Procurement.

Evy can quickly capture the attention of men and women, but never seems to lack for men willing to do her favours. Men find it difficult to pull their gaze from her and often hang on her every word.

Combat is a rarity for Evy. Most men can not bring themselves to be physically violent with the disarming woman, but in the rare instance it becomes necessary, Evy has been fully trained to use pistols, rifles and shotguns. In the field where danger appears to be inevitable she carries a shotgun for guaranteed close combat success and a pistol for general defence. But, more often than not, Evelyn only needs to politely suggest that fighting isn’t necessary and this is usually enough of a distraction that the matter resolves itself long before she has to actually fire a shot. In game terms, Evy can paralyse a non-threatened target with Fascinate and then use Suggestion to completely avoid combat.

While out of combat, Evy can make a lot of friends very quickly—especially male friends. She has a 1 in 4 chance to convince neutral strangers to offer genuine help (small amounts of cash, rides, personal information, shelter, small gifts, etc). She has roughly a 50/50 chance of convincing a man who was sent to kill her in to only making sure she leaves town (as a hypothetical example). The odds with women drop slightly, but they are still quite good.

Due to her college education Evy is great judge of human nature. In some cases she may gain bonuses to social interactions where she can employ both her natural charm and her keen intelligence. Years of field and college study have given her a broad understanding of history. She has about a 4 in 5 chance of knowing common historical facts (like when the Romans occupied Alexandria) and roughly a 50/50 chance to know details (like how big the Roman army was, where it camped, what important artefacts is may have carried). She has a naturally cautious nature and can occasionally spot traps and tricks, she is much better at stopping and systematically searching areas. When she does find a trap she has slightly less than 50/50 odds of disarming a basic threat. Since there are many “issues” around access to historically significant sites, Evy has learned to “avoid interest” by sneaking in unseen. She is no master of stealth, but would in time become quite difficult to notice for average guards.

STR: +0 DEX: +1 CON: +0 INT: +3 WIS: +0 CHA: +2

Will: +2 Fort: +2 Ref: +1 Toughness: +2

Disable Device (Int) +8, Knowledge (Human Behaviour, Int) +7, Knowledge (History, Int) +8, Pilot (Dex) +6, Notice (Wis) +5, Search (Int) +8, Diplomacy (Cha) +7/+11, Bluff (Cha) +7/+11, Sense Motive (Wis) +4, Gather Information (Cha) +6, Stealth (Dex) +5, Medicine (Wis) +5

Fascinate (Diplomacy), Suggestion (Diplomacy), Firearms Training, Attractive (+4 to Diplomacy and Bluff vs. Men), Defensive Roll (+1 Toughness Save, Spirit Guide (Ghost Familiar)

Summon Sand Golem,

Core Ability:
An expert can spend a point of Conviction to gain 4 temporary ranks in any skill, including skills in which the expert is not currently trained or that cannot be used untrained. These temporary skill ranks last for the duration of the scene and grant their normal benefits.

Attacks: Base +1 (Combat) +1 (Dex) = +2
Shotgun +2 (+3 inside 30') for damage +5/+6
Browning 9mm +2 for damage +3
Unarmed +2 (non-leathal) for damage +0

Defense: Base 10 +2 (Combat) += 12 w/Parry 0 = 11 w/Dodge +1 = 13
Leather Jacket +1
Toughness Save bonus: +1 (Leather Jacket)

Spirit Guide: Kinkaid
Kinkaid was found trapped a steam tunnel vault oned by Dr. James Breasted underneath the University of Chicago. Originally of scottish ancestry, he died while sealed in the vault along with the artifacts of his discovery--a discovery so shocking the academic world ignored it. But the US commission of sensitive information paid closer attention. They pressured Dr. Breasted to seal Kinkaid away. The ghost has progressed through various stages of existance in the 20 odd years he's been dead. But recently he discovered a link through Evelyn. Her connection to him has provided new awareness to the world of the living as well as given him doorway to the other spirits of the dead. Evy found rituals that would bind the two together forever. Kinkaid agreed to be part of her adventures and protect her as long as he was able.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Like... WoW, man!

Hey, Warcraft has just release the pre-patch to launch their Lich King expansion planned for November. All I can say is... WTF?! Blizzard gets a release out *before* Christmas? Inconceivable!

This patch installs many of the features that are going to be seen in Lich King. While I'm sure we'll have to purchase the release to play in the new zones and get the raised level cap, Burning Crusade players can still see many new features. Everybody gets new Talents. There's now a new Profession, Inscription, and literally hundreds of other enhancements. Its virtually a whole new game.

I was pretty stunned. After many months of game disappointment, I was surprised to find new life in a game I was sure was overplayed. But I guess I should have learned to expect more from Blizzard. WoW still delivers. If you have an account and you've been waiting for the expansion , well you sure don't have to. The pre-release content is pretty cool. Re-activate and be ready enjoy it, then enjoy it all again with the pre-Christmas release.

Game On! For the Horde!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Savage Worlds

I've let all my MMORPG's expire. I was getting pretty tired of them and nothing new has really come out. I spent all my game money on Warhammer, but that sucked and I'm not even playing it. So I have retreated to the comforts of my table top systems.

I picked up the Savage Worlds of Solomon Kane well before I moved. I flipped through it a bit, but didn't really get a chance to read it. I had read some good things about the Savage Worlds game system and knew eventually I'd come check it out. So now is a good time.

I have only read through character creation so far, but I like it. It is not quite a "simple" as True20, but it is certainly designed to be an easy and fast system. It has a number of game elements that look like great fun (like using playing cards for initiative). The basic mechanic of d4 to d12 ability progression also trips my triggers as I like lots of dice and I was beginning to fear that the d20 focus was going to eliminate the "lesser" dice. I'm happy to have all my friends back at the table. I will do a more thorough review when I've read and play tested it, but so far the production quality on this book is excellent. The rules are easy to understand and it appears that game play would be fun and fast. A great combination!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

d20 Modern: Tweaks and Tips

This is an old system with many flaws. I've documented "house rules" before, but can't seem to find them. So I'll post them here quick. For the record, I'd recommend you ditch d20 Modern for True20--all the same benefits and fewer flaws. However, I'd take the Dramatic Chase rules from Spycraft.

#1: Dump cross-class skills
Characters get to spend skill points on any skill that any one of their classes knows 1 for 1.

#2: Wealth Check multiples
Every doubling of quantity adds +2 to the wealth check Purchase Check.

#3: Wealth and Cash
Sell the suitcase of money as if it were an item to determine if the cash amount has any impact on the character's wealth score. Alternatively, let the players keep the cash for other purchases.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Warhammer Online: The Age of Suck

I'm in the first 24 hours of owning this game and I regret it. Several things have already gone wrong.

#1 The disks shipped to New Zealand and Australia contained an image flaw that broke the install. There were multiple versions of a patch available. It took me a long time to find the description of the problem and ultimately find the right patch. The patch failed several times before I decided to reboot. Patch worked and the game would now load... 4 hours after install.

#2 The game is buggy as heck. It frequently locks up, disconnects, or fails to display objects. The client flat out refuses to close when I select quit.

#3 When it is working, it feels clunky. While the detail is pretty good, the animations seem unconnected... like the models are not well placed in the environment and they don't relate well to each other.

I'll update more as I attempt to play...