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Topics - sinanju

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General Chaos / The New World!
« on: December 31, 2017, 01:06:07 AM »
So, having volunteered to GM a new game for my gaming group (somebody had to, as the current GM is tired and wants a break), I polled them on what they'd be interested in playing. Fantasy was the top choice. Well, as I'm sick to death of D&D (I loved the hell out of it for many years, and it was my introduction to role-playing games, but that was forty years ago...) I thought about how I could do something different.

For one thing, we'll be playing Fantasy Hero. ("Are you a lawyer?" "No, I studied the Hero System rules instead....") For another, I had a brainstorm--and I'm going to use Ross's New World setting for my game. With lots of changes and additions to make it my own, of course, but still. The idea of a tabula rasa where I could set the parameters of what exists and what doesn't, and steer away from all the D&D-esque cliches that are so ingrained in many fantasy RPG players' minds was a godsend. So thanks, Ross!

Because of you, my PCs will be trying to colonize the New World instead of dungeon-delving. They'll be exploring Lemurian ruins, every one of which is at the center of some kind of Zone of Weirdness (think magical Chernobyls scattered across the east coast of America), to justify a variety of one-off monsters. Magical "Kudzu" that has completely engulfed all other life within miles, and is only restrained from covering the continent because it can only exist within a certain distance of one of the Lemurian ruins. Or the ruin where gigantism is a thing. Giant...everything exists in that area, but can't leave (though the PCs will stumble across the occasional dead giant critter that wandered too far and died. And the Night Folk, stolen from Niven's Ringworld--they're ghouls, and they exist in huge numbers; as long as the humanoid races don't bury or burn their dead, they're content to take the dead. If not, well, they're dangerous in a fight. Plus, if they're treated respectfully, they can tell you all kinds of things about the peoples and places in the campaign.

The more I've worked on this game, the more fun I'm having figuring out what I can throw into it. (Every Lemurian ruin will also have a grailstone (from Riverworld) at its center, though I haven't figured out what they do--did--in this world. But they're there.)

RPGs / Delta Green Agent's Handbook
« on: September 28, 2016, 01:26:13 AM »
I've been listening to, and very much enjoying, the "God's Teeth" Delta Green campaign. So much so that while I was haunting my Friendly Neighborhood Game Store this evening, I picked up a copy of DG:AH and leafed through it. It looks interesting, and I'm tempted to buy it.

Except...there's not a word about Mythos Things Man Was Not Meant To Know (tm) in it. No real adventure design or Gming advice.

I was under the impression (enhanced by the book itself, which bears the legend A Role-Playing Game of Lovecraftian Horror and Conspiracy) that this was a complete game. Apparently, I was mistaken, and it's only a sourcebook. Which is a little disappointing. It means I have to buy TWO Delta Green books. Curse you, Arc Dreams! <shakes fist futilely at the heavens>

RPGs / Wushu Wannabe
« on: August 27, 2016, 02:23:34 AM »
I've tried to get my fellow gamers interested in trying Wushu. But, alas, most of them are too enamored of their crunchy superhero games. I had such plans...including some very entertaining (or at least I found them entertaining to create) supervillains to fight.

KID KAIJU is a 13 year-old boy, a bit scrawny but scrappy, with tousled hair. Not above using his obvious youth and small stature to scam adults. He can transform into any Kaiju he can imagine, but no larger than a big man.

Style: torn jeans, tattered sneakers, and no shirt as often as not.

4 – Turns Into Cute Miniature Kaiju
5 – They’re Not Cute At All, They’re Horrifying!
3 – Hey Mister, Can You Help Me?
1 – Enraged When Dismissed as Unimportant or Unthreatening

His monster forms may only be human sized (albeit a very large human), but they pack a punch all out of proportion to his size. He can fling armored cars around, shrug off the heaviest ordnance the army can produce, and bring down buildings like a full-sized kaiju. It will just take him longer.

THE HINDENBEGGAR was just another bum (or “homeless person” to gullible do-gooders) until the night some rich kids out looking for trouble chose him as their target.

Style: Filthy cast-offs and a grimy watch cap, several days growth of beard.

5 – Oh Now You Respect Me—Because I’m A Threat!
4 – I Depend On The Kindness of Suckers
3 – What Am I, Invisible?
1 – Temper, Temper

Stomping Grounds: New York City, NY

Once John Smith was just another bum. Or “street person” if you’re a credulous do-gooder. The city is just full of do-gooders who can’t wait to put a little cash in your tin cup, or food in your belly. And some of those high society dames like a man with a few rough edges, if you know what I mean. There are shelters for cold winter nights, and the hospital ER will always give you care if you need it. Food, shelter, booze and broads were easy to come by.

Until the night a bunch of hooligans thought it would be fun to set a bum on fire. They were almost as surprised as John when, instead of dying in a fire, he discovered his power to wield it like a weapon. Yeah, they were surprised, all right. Briefly.

ALEXEI TORSHIN was once a low-level thug, an enforcer for a mid-level eastern european syndicate. Then he was captured and interrogated by A Man With A Very Particular Set Of Skills (tm), electrocuted and left for dead. But he didn’t die. He changed.

That was years ago. The man with the particular set of skills is long dead, and Alexei has moved on from revenge to capitalism. Murder is his business, and business is good.

Schtick: He absorbs, generates and throws around electricity.

Style: Supervillainy has been good to him; he could give 007 fashion tips.

5 – Shocking. Simply Shocking!
4 – The Women, They Love Me
3 – Euro-Trash
1 – Inveterate Womanizer

Stomping Grounds: Europe primarily, but he goes wherever the job takes him.

RADIATION RAVAGER is a skinny college student whose lifetime of being bullied and dismissed has left him a seething ball of rage. Maybe that’s the source of his power, the ability to unleash godawful damage with a look. Maybe he’s a mutant. Maybe his fairy godfather finally came through. He doesn’t care. All he knows is that his days of being bullied are over and it’s time for some payback!

Style: White jumpsuit with radiation icons in red, and flip-up shades.

5 – Ultraviolent Vision
4 – Collateral Damage Is A Virtue
3 – Take Me Seriously, Goddammit!
1 – Socially Inept

General Chaos / Jack Reacher: Murder Hobo
« on: September 27, 2013, 12:49:01 AM »
Some weeks ago my lovely wife and I went to the coast for the weekend. It was a little getaway for us from the day-to-day trials of her recovery from (her second) surgery on her (second) inner ear to cure her of a debilitating vertigo she's been suffering for over a year now. Not that she's completely recovered yet--that won't happen (per the doctor) for another three or four months. That's when she can expect to be fully recovered from both the surgeries AND from the vertigo that prompted them. But she was recovered enough to enjoy a weekend at the coast.

It was a very nice weekend. We drove down Friday afternoon. We spent a large part of Saturday on the beach, basking in the sun that shone on us despite the predictions of cold and rain. (Which came along on Sunday, a day late.) It was a great day. That night I wandered down to the lobby of the hotel to choose a few DVDs from the huge collection they provide for guests to watch.

We settled on JACK REACHER, the Tom Cruise vehicle from a year or so ago. I'd heard things about the movie, that Cruise was in no way the Jack Reacher from the novels (which I hadn't read), that it was a vanity project (another attempt to prove he was an action hero), etc. But still, we gave it a try.

And it was good. Really, really good. No, Tom Cruise is not 6'5" tall and 250 lbs. But the movie was still a damn good story, and he was convincing enough. We both were really impressed by that movie; so much so, that we bought a copy to own.

And I went to the library to find a copy of the book it was based on, ONE SHOT by Lee Child. The movie followed the novel pretty well. They filtered out a few characters and gave their duties to surviving characters, or simply did without. They gave some of the bad guys some scenes not in the book to flesh them out for the movie. And they added some action that wasn't in the book. But overall it was still a fairly faithful adaptation of the book--and it worked because of that.

I enjoyed that book very much. So I went and borrowed four more, and I'm working my way through them. They're entertaining and instructional. (From a writer's POV, any writer who can write a very popular novel series and get all the books optioned for movies is doing something right, even if his stuff isn't your cup of tea--and these are my cup of tea.)

Tom Cruise is NOT Jack Reacher. Reacher is huge, physically imposing, and a drifter. Jack Reacher is a "murder hobo" in the parlance of some gamers I know. (Your standard RPG action hero PC is a rootless wanderer who finds trouble, kills the guys behind it all--with or without collateral damage, to taste--and then moves on. A murder hobo.)

Jack Reacher is a murder hobo. A former officer in the Army and an MP, he lives with no job, no fixed address, and owns nothing but what he carries with him: the clothes he's wearing, a passport, an ATM card, a roll of cash, and a toothbrush. He supports himself with his pension and the occasional replenishment of his reserves from odd jobs, or cash liberated from bad guys who won't need it anymore. He wears the clothes for a few days, then discards them for new. Expensive habit? Other characters have remarked on that--and he counters with the question, "How much do you spend on your mortgage and insurance every month?" He takes the bus (doesn't fly) when he can, hitchhikes when he can't, and walks when he must.

Typically, he stumbles across villainy in the course of his travels, and when he is unable (sometimes) or unwilling (mostly) to ignore it, he gets involved. While he's capable of cunning, and definitely experienced at violence, he tends not to be subtle. The bad guys can't ever say they weren't warned at least once. By the time all the dust settles, you can be sure that a lot of bad guys will be fucked up, and at least some of them will be dead. Again: murder hobo. Let us be clear: some of the deaths are self-defense. Others are executions.

Jack Reacher is DOING what Jules only talked about in Pulp Fiction*: he walks the earth (well, the USA, anyhow) like the guy in Kung Fu, just going where fate takes him, with no job. Or in the words of Vinny Vega: "A bum." Or in other words, a murder hobo.

These are not "thriller" novels (they're too slow paced and densely written for that). They're mysteries, with action. There's always a mystery at the heart of each novel, one that Reacher will slowly unravel in the course of scratching his curiosity itch and/or teaching the bad guys that they messed with the wrong folks (either Reacher himself or someone he's protecting), before he lights the fuse on the final explosion (literally, in the book I just finished), and then heads on down the road while chaos reigns and the authorities swoop in to pick up the pieces and tag n' bag or arrest the bad guys.

They're not quite like any other novels I remember reading, but I'm enjoying them.

*To be fair to Jules, he may well have followed up on his plan. We just don't see it happen.

RPGs / Mind Controlled PC--Threat or Menace?
« on: July 12, 2013, 11:45:42 PM »
I was playing in a weekly face-to-face Champions game a couple of years ago. First one in years. The campaign ended with a double (two night) wrap up, since the GM is traveling to China for an indeterminate period for work. He wanted to wrap up the adventure we were having before he left.

So we confronted the Big Bad Boss Monster, a vampire who was stronger than any of us, faster than any of us, and had vast mental powers.

I was playing the Black Knight. He was based on the Kurgan from the original Highlander film. He regenerates like an SOB (I have 20 points of rPD and rED armor to represent the fact that any wound smaller than that heals so fast that it effectively doesn't even slow him down. Plus some Damage Reduction (even larger wounds heal really, really fast), and Regeneration. STR 50 and a huge sword for lots of HTH KA damage.

(For the non- Champions players among you, let me translate: Wolverine only wishes he healed as fast as this guy.)

In short, he's a combat monster who's very, very hard to stop.

Did I mention that he's got 2x Effect from Mind Control attacks as a disadvantage? And that the vampire had Mind Control? Yeah.

First thing the bad guy did was an area effect Mind Control command "Kill yourselves!" I was the only one who succumbed and I impaled myself on my own sword, to little effect.

So the vampire's second command--to me--was "Kill your friends."

The Black Knight ripped the sword out of his own torso and immediately attacked the nearest player character. For all the years I've played RPGs, I have a strict policy regarding my characters being mind controlled. And that policy is: do your damnedest to carry out your orders.

If my PC is under someone else's mental influence, I don't dither, or try to be deliberately ineffective. I fight just as hard and just as enthusiastically as I do when I'm in my right mind.

Alas for fellow player Ben, his character was closest. And he had virtually no resistant defenses. I sliced him nearly in half in one shot, and on my next action kicked his bleeding (but not quite dead yet) body into the next nearest PC. Which killed Ben's character and knocked the other character out.

Another player managed to disarm me and knock me down with martial arts at that point. (He was savvy enough to know he couldn't rally hurt me, but he could keep me out of action.) And before I could do anything else, the rest of the group managed to take out the vampire. But Ben's character was dead as disco.

I posted about this on another forum at the time and I was surprised by how many people came up with rationalizations for why they wouldn't have done the same. I understand trying your best to AVOID being mind-controlled by the bad guy. I do the same. But once it has been established that, yes, my will has been subverted and I'm under orders from the bad guy, I think it is a) only fair and b) a hell of a lot of fun to do my absolute munchkin best to fulfill them. If nothing else, it forces the other players to bring their A game, because I'm sure not going to hold back while I'm trying to kill them.

I have to say, though, that that was the most fun I've had gaming in a long, long time. Most of my gaming for the last three years has been online. Which is fun, don't get me wrong, but it's not the same. Sitting around the table, rolling dice, and making wisecracks and riffing on one another's jokes--it was loads of fun. I laughed more (and frequently harder) than I have in a long time.

RPGs / In Defense of Rules Lawyers
« on: May 18, 2013, 02:44:58 PM »
Or at least the rules lawyers I have known and gamed with.

I started gaming in 1977, when I started college and discovered Dungeons & Dragons. I was hooked instantly by the idea of being able to _participate_ in the sorts of fantasy adventures I'd only ever read before. We played D&D obsessively for a whole semester. I came back after the Christmas break, ready to game on--and the group had moved on to Traveller. We still played D&D sometimes, but mostly we played Traveller.

And we played it for years, and still called it "Traveller" though it rapidly evolved into a home-brewed system as we threw in bits and pieces of every other game we stumbled across, plus home-made rules we found entertaining. In those pre-cell phone days, I would occasionally get a garbled message via a dorm mate that my friends had called and we were "traveling."

The thing is, we were playing by what appear in retrospect to be incredibly odd rules. The GM made ALL the die rolls in the game. You simply told the GM what you were trying to do, and he'd tell you what happened. It was a great for immersion ("IMMERSE ME!"), and for newbie players who had no clue how the rules worked. You didn't need to know. It also made for more flexible gaming because players didn't think in terms of rules or game mechanics, they just reacted naturally (or cinematically).

I played with that core group of players for fourteen years, until I moved from Virginia to Oregon, where I joined the Western Oregon Wargamers (the RPG sub-group). Over the years, I was amazed by the reactions I usually got when I described that east coast group's approach. The GM made all the die rolls? Burn them! Burn the Heretics! You'd think I'd said, "We raped babies for fun and profit."

The WOW group played the usual way, with players making (most of) their own rolls. They were also unrepentant rules lawyers, one and all. Two in particular just simply lived for the moments when they could blindside the GM (or the other players) with a cunning use of some obscure rule, or airtight logical argument for why some outrageous behavior should have the intended effect. But they all enjoyed the challenge of building the most efficient and/or effective (usually but not always combat-effective) characters possible, and then crushing the enemy with a minimum of risk. And I fit right in. After many years of "diceless" play, I found the change very refreshing.

The thing is, if you knew how to handle them, they weren't a problem.

First, they mostly (especially the two ringleaders) wanted to be recognized for their cleverness. When I ran games for that group, I learned that if I said (not in so many words) "Yes, you're very clever. I applaud your creativity. But, no, you cannot play that monstrosity/pull that trick in my game" they'd generally accept my ruling without complaint. Then, having demonstrated their cunning, they'd settle down to actual role-playing.

Second, one rules lawyer in a group can cause lots of problems. When the group is composed of rules lawyers, they are very much aware that the GM is also perfectly capable of rules lawyering, and he has an infinite supply of points to spend on NPCs. His NPCs were just as capable of being devious and cunning, and laying traps that would murder the PCs just as efficiently and with as little risk as anything the PCs were capable of, so it was generally a good idea to treat him (his NPCs) with some respect.

It also wasn't just rules-lawyering. Some of it was just play-style. This group lived by the military/police axiom that a "fair fight" was for suckers. If you didn't go into a battle with overwhelming superiority, you weren't doing it right (although, of course, they recognized that often you had no choice when the enemy brought the fight to you). A lot of would-be members joined the group briefly, only to depart again soon thereafter because that kind of ruthlessness didn't suit their approach to gaming. I suspect a lot of them ascribed it to their rules lawyering, but that really wasn't the issue.

One of the group members was as much a rules lawyer as the rest of us, but he tended to build his NPCs on the same point totals as our PCs (GURPS, this was) out of some misguided sense of fairness, and he was reluctant to arbitrarily crush us. As a result, we ran roughshod over his games. When the Prince of the City in his Vampire game called two PCs (one was mine) into his office to order them to kill another PC (who had violated the masquerade by having a death duel on live tv...), we laughed in his face. We, the players, knew he WOULDN'T just kill our PCs out of hand, and our PCs were pretty sure they could take the Prince and his minions if it came to a fight. After all, he hadn't had us searched before we entered his presence and we were, as usual, loaded down with weaponry in addition to our powers). Had ANYONE else in the group been the GM for that scene, the PCs would have clicked their heels together, salutely smartly and said "Sir! Yes sir!" because any other GM in our group would have murderized our PCs in a heartbeat for that kind of insolent reaction.

That had nothing to do with rules lawyering and everything to do with play style.

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