Tuesday, August 22, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 22

As found on: http://autocratik.blogspot.com/2017/07/rpgaday-2017-announcing-rpgaday-again.html

August 22nd) Which RPGs are the easiest for you to run?

Cypher System. Next question!

Seriously, if you read this blog at all you knew that was coming. If you don't read this blog very often then you need only look at the way the Cypher System uses 100% player facing rolls, has a built in mechanism for GM tomfoolery, and has simplified the process of creating NPCs on the fly and you'll know why I consider this one of the easiest RPGs to run. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 21

As found on: http://autocratik.blogspot.com/2017/07/rpgaday-2017-announcing-rpgaday-again.html

August 21st) Which RPG does the most with the least words?

Another question I could look at in two ways.

At face value I can point to games with fairly minimal word counts that generate a lot of options & value for play. In this case I'd have to go with Microscope. It's literally both a game and a world engine. One of these days I really want to kick off a campaign by running a few sessions of Microscope ahead of time with my players to cooperatively build the setting.

Alternately I can look at this as what RPG does the most with it's art. In this case using art to help sell the setting, tone, gene, feel, and the like. This is hard to pick just one as art can really speak to you in a way that words may fail to do so. Games like Deadlands, Dark Sun, Gods of the Fall, and Rifts (yes, even Rifts) all contain artwork of such beauty and composition as to really draw me in and put me into those worlds. Even when the mechanics or setting proves something other than what I wanted that art can stay with me for years later. As a younger gamer the covers of the TMNT & Other Strangeness RPG and its various supplements including After the Bomb all spoke to me with such strength that to this day a few of them remain in my top 10 of all time best RPG covers. 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 20

As found on: http://autocratik.blogspot.com/2017/07/rpgaday-2017-announcing-rpgaday-again.html

August 20th) What is the best source for out-of-print RPGs?

I've been quite lucky with my local shop who buys and sells used RPGs, if you're ever in Worcester, Mass. check out That's Entertainment. I've also utilized Noble Knight and eBay at times. Depending on the urgency of the need and the expense of the item. Lastly though is Drive Thru RPG (and it's sister sites). Lots of older stuff is coming to PDF these days and depending on your intended use these can be a great economical way to get your hands on some of the older RPGs you may have missed back in the day. 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 19

As found on: http://autocratik.blogspot.com/2017/07/rpgaday-2017-announcing-rpgaday-again.html

August 19th) Which RPG features the best writing?

Hmm... let's say this is writing of setting. I'd have to say I really enjoy the way Shadowrun details the turbulent lead up to the Sixth World. Also of note is Numenera for the way that it present information for easy consumption, including notes in margins, page cross references, and the like. It's a great presentation method. 

For rules I'd have to look at things like how easy the rules are to grasp based on presentation, and how enjoyable the reading of said rules is. While I can't say as I'm a huge fan of FATE for various issues (mostly with regard to it just not aligning to my sensibilities) the Atomic Robo RPG by Evil Hat using the FATE engine is fantastic because it uses panels out of the comics as examples of the rules in action. It's both a brilliant tie-in to the source IP and a fantastic way to showcase how rules and dice translate to story. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 18

As found on: http://autocratik.blogspot.com/2017/07/rpgaday-2017-announcing-rpgaday-again.html

August 18th) Which RPG have you played the most in your life?

This one is tough. I can literally break up my RPG playing "career" into three phases. My first games through college were dominated by Palladium more so than any other. While even then I found the rules clunky in spots I loved the settings and the sort of "pick and play" aspects. After college I had no local group and no luck in finding one. Thankfully I found online play via play-by-post forums. I played a great deal of White Wolf games during those years from Aberrant and Trinity and Adventure! to the new World of Darkness titles and Scion. With time the community at the site I played on began to dissolve and I stepped away as I reformed a local group and found my way into online play via Hangouts and other video calling means. Mostly I have played Cypher System and Dungeon Crawl Classics in this medium, though I did try many an indie game or story game early on. Overall though I suspect that the Palladium games still have an edge in terms of hours of game play. Being that I started in middle school I obviously had a great deal more free time to play than I do now as an adult. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 17

As found on: http://autocratik.blogspot.com/2017/07/rpgaday-2017-announcing-rpgaday-again.html

August 17th) Which RPG have you owned the longest but not played?

Reaching into the way back of my dim memory I can come up with a handful that I've owned for more than 20 years and not played, but I cannot recall which I acquired first. Back when I first started playing RPGs I played a lot of Palladium's games and I picked up a copy of Beyond the Supernatural that has never been used as anything other than reference for other games. Likewise when Palladium reprinted their Mechanoids games I got the book but never found time to try it out. While I don't regret never playing either of them, I do think that the Mechanoids probably has the most potential for me to one day use. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 16

As found on: http://autocratik.blogspot.com/2017/07/rpgaday-2017-announcing-rpgaday-again.html

August 16th) Which RPG do you enjoy using as is?

Dungeon Crawl Classics is one of my favorite games right now and works amazingly well out of the book. There's a few things that seem largely GM preference in terms of how players gain information and how frequently Luck is awarded (and commensurately how quickly players spend Luck), but these are not hacks as much as they are interpretations of the rules as written.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 15

As found on: http://autocratik.blogspot.com/2017/07/rpgaday-2017-announcing-rpgaday-again.html

August 15th) Which RPG do you enjoy adapting the most?

At the moment I'd have to say the Cypher System. It's surprisingly robust with regard to its adaptability to genre. Tonally it is more heavily skewed to a sort of pulpy level of action and character capability so it's not truly "universal," but that's fine as I seldom want to run grim and gritty or horror focused games. If I want to run something more "street level" there's plenty of other games out there, and there's a few tricks I could employ for Cypher as well. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 14

As found on: http://autocratik.blogspot.com/2017/07/rpgaday-2017-announcing-rpgaday-again.html

August 14th) Which RPG do you prefer for open-ended campaign play?

For open ended play I suppose I'd have to say Dungeon Crawl Classics (DCC). DCC has a wonderful mix of old school mentality & feel but with somewhat modernized mechanics "under the hood." DCC is a game where the players are likely to see characters die if they don't play smart. At the same time it's a game where, without laundry lists of feats and character powers, a Warrior can keep up with a Wizard at high level. But you must survive, and earn your power and prestige.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 13

As found on: http://autocratik.blogspot.com/2017/07/rpgaday-2017-announcing-rpgaday-again.html

August 13th) Describe a game experience that changed how you play.

The first time I ran Numenera, well before the "generic" Cypher System Rulebook was out, it was my first time GMing where I didn't have to deal with dice. Where I had a clear mechanic for throwing disastrous curve-balls at the PCs. It changed how I looked at RPGs and changed how I wanted to run games. I no longer needed to fudge dice, or use a big GM shield. The system was so simple that I rarely need the book for anything other than reference for creatures or PC abilities. While I do GM other games, Cypher System may well be my favorite system to GM in because it gets out of my way and let's me focus on giving the players a good game. 

Saturday, August 12, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 12

As found on: http://autocratik.blogspot.com/2017/07/rpgaday-2017-announcing-rpgaday-again.html

August 12th) Which RPG has the most inspiring interior art?

Art is very subjective, and I feel like this could easily be broken out by genre at the very least. For Fantasy games I LOVE LOVE LOVE the art in Monte Cook Games' Gods of the Fall. It's epic and dynamic and gorgeous, and it's not western European inspired. For Sci-Fi games it's hard to not look at FFG's Star Wars games, but I think I'm going to point my finger towards Goodman Games' forthcoming Mutant Crawl Classics. I've got the backer PDF and the art inside is old school cool in all the best ways.

Friday, August 11, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 11

As found on: http://autocratik.blogspot.com/2017/07/rpgaday-2017-announcing-rpgaday-again.html

August 11th) Which ‘dead game’ would you like to see reborn?

Hmm. Dead game is a weird term. I guess that means a game that is out of print and doesn't see active publishing of supplements? Well one of my all time favorite game settings is Nightbane from Palladium. I doubt they consider it dead, but I don't recall the last time I saw anything new for it. I'm really not a fan of Palladium's house system anymore so I'd love to see somebody buy that up and redo it in a new custom setting, or possibly adapt it to one of the better systems out there.

I also have incredibly fond memories of the TMNT and Other Strangeness RPG from Palladium. It seems a no brainer for some RPG company to get that IP and create a whole new game that embraces the full gamut of the strangeness of the comics, movies, and TV shows.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 10

As found on: http://autocratik.blogspot.com/2017/07/rpgaday-2017-announcing-rpgaday-again.html

August 10th) Where do you go for RPG reviews?
I find reviews crop up in my Google+ stream with enough frequency that I don't need to seek them out. On occasion that I do I usually just Google the product in question or check DriveThru RPG.

Uhh ... that was quick, sorry.

B-b-b-bonus question! Largest in-game surprise you have experienced?

Since this was last years August 10 question I'll answer only within the past year's worth of gaming. I think the largest in game surprise of my past year came from a relatively recent session of Dungeon Crawl Classics run by +James Walls for his monthly Sunken City tour. THE Free Company (yes, it's a terrible name, and yes THE has to be all caps) had just banished the Mist Men from the area around Slither's End. Triumphant we headed back to town to get our just rewards and find the next line of investigation/plot hook. Instead we found that we were hundreds of years in the future and my retired psychic (and God-mayor of Slither's End) had become a God-Emperor and apparent benevolent tyrant over the countryside. While I knew James was planning something with my former PC around getting the remaining players to the Purple Planet the idyllic countryside and time jump were rather surprising.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 9

As found on: http://autocratik.blogspot.com/2017/07/rpgaday-2017-announcing-rpgaday-again.html

August 9th) What is a good RPG to play for about 10 sessions?

While I couldn't get the hang of GMing it, Shadow of the Demon Lord is sort of designed to be run for 10 or so adventures with leveling happening when the GM feels and being encouraged to level the PCs after each full adventure. I'd say that any game system can work for a fixed number of sessions. It all depends on the goal of the 10 session arc. If the intent is to go zero to hero in 10 sessions the GM can just level the PCs after each session, but if the intent is to tell a solid story in 10 parts all game systems should be capable of doing justice to that.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 8

As found on: http://autocratik.blogspot.com/2017/07/rpgaday-2017-announcing-rpgaday-again.html

August 8th) What is a good RPG to play for sessions of 2hrs or less?

I've got two for this. For small groups I really like Fiasco for 3-4 players. It's GM-less, and runs quick. It also makes for hilariously terrible characters doing awful things, which is often a great way to generate a fun game with friends. For larger groups, or groups that don't know each other well, I really dig Microscope. Being able to cooperative build a timeline and explore its key moments is unlike any other game I've played.

Monday, August 7, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 7

As found on: http://autocratik.blogspot.com/2017/07/rpgaday-2017-announcing-rpgaday-again.html

August 7th) What was your most impactful RPG session?

Hmm, this is a tough question. I think I'd have to go way back to an early game I ran for friends in middle school (or maybe high school). It was a cross country "cannon ball run" type game with the PCs as spies trying to protect a shipment of top secret microchips for the government. It was one of the first times I can remember running a game in a very improvisational style and really having fun as a GM. It also contained one of my most favored instances of a critical failure, but I think I'll save that story for another day.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 6

As found on: http://autocratik.blogspot.com/2017/07/rpgaday-2017-announcing-rpgaday-again.html

August 6th) You can game every day for a week. Describe what you’d do!
Assuming this is a perfect world scenario I'd have six of my best RPG friends and each day one of us would run a game for the rest. These would be the kind of crazy marathon sessions that adults so rarely have time for, but since this is a perfect world we'd not need to worry about kids or spouses or jobs. We'd have catered meals and in the evening there would be drinks and casual board or card games to keep the excitement going.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 5

As found on: http://autocratik.blogspot.com/2017/07/rpgaday-2017-announcing-rpgaday-again.html

August 5th) Which RPG cover best captures the spirit of the game?

Today demands a visual answer...



Yes, the Star Wars RPG from West End Games. There is no doubt about what you will get inside. There is no mistaking this for anything else. If you removed the text from the cover the content would still be adequately described to those viewing the cover. There is simply no mistaking what this is. 

Friday, August 4, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 4

As found on: http://autocratik.blogspot.com/2017/07/rpgaday-2017-announcing-rpgaday-again.html

August 4th) Which RPG have you played the most since August 2016?

I'd say this is a tie between Dungeon Crawl Classics and Cypher System (in various settings). Probably with Cypher System edging out the win. I've been in a monthly (ish) DCC game as well as getting some games in at Gary Con and the occasional other game. On the Cypher side I'm running a monthly Gods of the Fall game and playing in a Numenera game that meets about three times a month.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 3

As found on: http://autocratik.blogspot.com/2017/07/rpgaday-2017-announcing-rpgaday-again.html

August 3rd) How do you find out about new RPGs?

Sadly, oh so sadly, the answer to this is Kickstarter. Which is pretty damn terrible. I suppose I could answer "social media" but ultimately that's a dodge because usually that's just a tweet or Google+ share of the Kickstarter with basically no other information. Having backed many an RPG on Kickstarter I also get messages direct from publishers about their next big thing. So, yeah, sadly Kickstarter gets the win on this one.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 2

As found on: http://autocratik.blogspot.com/2017/07/rpgaday-2017-announcing-rpgaday-again.html

August 2nd) What is an RPG you would like to see published?

Mostly if I really like an idea I'll sort of kitbash it using the RPGs I play, reskinning rules, or making new stuff up as needed to fill the gaps. There's no specific idea that I can think of that I couldn't do via that method. However, to answer the question in the best way I can ... I'd love to see an RPG for Avatar: The Last Airbender and Avatar: The Legend of Korra. The complex martial arts of those series, combined with the bending powers, chi-blocking, and the later series' technology and spirit magic could make for a really fun product. In my pipe dream world this would also be illustrated by the animation teams who worked on the series development; if you've ever seen the "Art of ..." books for these series you know how amazing this book could look.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 1

As found on: http://autocratik.blogspot.com/2017/07/rpgaday-2017-announcing-rpgaday-again.html

Once again the best 31 days of gaming have arrived. Best because of RPGaDay and because of Gen Con. For the rest of the month my normal posting will be replaced with #RPGaDay daily posts. Enjoy!

August 1st) What published RPG do you wish you were playing right now?

This is a pretty tough question. When it comes down to it I never feel like I get enough gaming in general, let alone for specific games I love. I think though that I wish I were playing in a game of Bruce Cordell's Gods of the Fall, from Monte Cook Games. It quickly became an obsession of mine when it came out prior to Gen Con last year and while I have written many a blog post and am running a game of it I have not yet played in more than a couple of one-shot sessions. I'd love to get a chance to play in a regular, ongoing game set in the post-apocalyptic fantasy world where the gods are dead and the player characters are taking on the quest of walking the divine paths of prophecy to become gods themselves and put the world to right once more. 

Monday, July 31, 2017

Furry Road - The Driver

Notes: Drives Like a Maniac is from Expanded Worlds. Max is actually the first pre-gen I created for this, but I held him back because I needed to design the car. Also it was convenient to have a finished character in my back pocket in case I was pressed for time. Anyways, Max is a patrol trooper, so Virtuous seemed like a nice fit, especially when combined with the other assorted characters. Drives Like a Maniac was basically a pre-req for this game. The character is one of the most well rounded of the pre-gens as well thanks in part of a hefty dose of skills from descriptor and focus in addition to those gained from type. As for the Armored Patrol Cruiser, that's designed using the rules I created for CypherCaster Magazine #6. These expand on the vehicle rules from the CSR for games where the vehicle is more center stage than in other games.  I made some terminology modifications because those rules were written for spacecraft, but they apply equally well for road vehicles... for instance the "Truck" type is the same as the "Light Freighter" type.


Max the Dog is a Virtuous Explorer who Drives Like a Maniac

Tier 3 • Effort 3
Might 17 • Edge 1
Speed 15 • Edge 2
Intellect 12 • Edge 1

Cypher Limit: 2

Armor: 2 • Bullet proof vest (medium)

Skills:
  • Trained
    • Running
    • Speed Defense
    • Medium Ranged Attacks
    • Knowledge: Road Gangs
    • discerning people’s true motives or seeing through lies
  • Specialized
    • Intellect Defense
    • driving cars, trucks, & motorcycles
    • Navigation
    • Vehicular repair 
Abilities:
  • Practiced in Armor
  • Practiced With Light and Medium Weapons
  • Danger Sense (1 Speed point)
  • Quick Recovery
  • Stand Watch (2 Intellect points)
  • Machine Efficiency (3 Intellect points)
  • Seize Opportunity (4 Speed points)
  • Ignore the Pain
  • Driving on the Edge
  • Car Surfer
Equipment: Calivada Road Patrol fatigues, a trunk tool kit (heavy tools), roll of duct tape, flashlight, 1x MRE. Armored patrol cruiser. (see below).

Weapons:
  • Sawn-off shotgun • special ranged weapon 
    • 6 damage at immediate range
    • 4 damage to Short range
    • attacks as a light weapon at long range (2 damage)
  • 9mm pistol • medium ranged weapon
  • Knife • light melee weapon 
  • Molotov cocktail • thrown weapon • short range • 2 damage plus fire
Armored patrol cruiser - "Sheila" is a Hardy Truck Defends the Weak

  • Frame: 18 • Edge 1
  • Engine: 12 • Edge -1
  • Alternator: 8 • Edge 0
  • Armor: 2
  • Hardpoints:
    • Medium Weapon turret (4 damage, long range) 
    • Extra Heavy Frame
    • Light Armor 
    • Full Throttle (As Fleet of Foot, CSR pg 40)
    • Optimized for Armor


  • Cargo: None - personal items only
  • Crew: 2 (Driver & Navigator/Gunner) + turret gunner
  • Weapons: Forward mounted SMG (light ranged weapon, long range)
  • Easy to Repair: Recovery takes 1/2 time
  • Keep Rolling: Ignore one damage level
  • Brick: Trained in Hull Defense
  • EMP Shielded: trained in Alternator Defense


Initial Link: It's your job as a sworn officer of the Calivada Road Patrol to protect the roads, and the Road Hogs are the biggest threat to safety in the entirety of the coastal region.

Connections:
  • You've worked with Cornelius the Chimpanzee before. On a previous mission you accidentally crashed your vehicle when Cornelius was a passenger. Though you both recovered you still feel guilty about the incident.
  • Anthony the Mouse is one of the few people you trust to work on your car.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Nuts & Bolts #129 - Hacking the Cypher System - A Visit to Freeport

Note: Because I'm taking August to do #RPGaDay and this is fairly fresh, I decided not delay it to September. Hopefully nobody gets too angry at the lack of Predation/Gods of the Fall stuff. 



Over the past few weeks I had the opportunity to step into the GM seat for my current Monday night group. Being that it was going to be a finite thing and how busy my day to day is at the moment I decided to run Death in Freeport. Freeport is a drop in city setting and, one of my favorite RPG settings. Death in Freeport is an adventure I've run before as well so I could spend my effort adapting it to Cypher rather than learning the adventure. As a D&D 3e adventure this also offers an opportunity for me to see what it takes to adapt adventures from d20 System to Cypher. Here are some of my lessons learned in doing so.

Difficulties
The d20 system uses Difficulty classes that span from 0 to 40, usually in increments of 5. This is pretty similar to Cypher's 0 to 30 in 3 point increments. Unortunately this also means that I cannot simply use the existing DCs and divide by 3, as the result would scale more difficult than intended. Likewise I cannot set level by dividing the DC by 5 as this the d20 scale has fewer increments. Instead I would need to come up with a rule of thumb that would cover most situations, but still give me some wiggle room.

Initially I used a of DC 10 as level 1. From there I can add levels equal to 1/3 the difference.

  • Ex: DC 15 = level 1 + [(15 - 10) / 3] = 1 + [5 / 3] = 1 + 1 2/3 = level 2 or 3
This will occasionally leave some remainder and you can decide if you want to round those up or not. Per the formula for instance a DC 15 is a level 2 or 3 depending how you want things to feel. With more time however this didn't quite feel right, and also required a little more mental math (albeit simple) than I wanted to do on the fly at the table. 

With some thought on the issue I settled on a simple solution of dividing the DC by 4. In this way the d20 system's 40 point difficulty range could be be adapted from 8 increments of 5 to 10 increments of 4. Remainders will be had, and as before you can round up or down, I tend to round up if the remainder is a 3 and down on a 1 or 2. So a DC of 15 becomes a level 4 (15/4 = 3 remainder 3 = round up to 4). Erring a little more difficult in Cypher is less damaging because the character's often have multiple means to reduce difficulty including training, assets and cyphers. 

Challenge Ratings and Enemy Levels
Challenge rating was where I really stumbled. My early attempts at using CR to determine the level of the enemy led to some easy encounters. The character level scales between d20 and Cypher are just too vastly different for this to end up being an easy one size fits all solution. In the end I had to rely mostly on gut estimates of how difficult the encounter needed to be, or how difficult I wanted to make it. 

At a rough estimate the level of the enemies for Cypher should be around 2-3 times the CR. Alternately one can use the health of the enemy to gauge it's level. In encounters with numerous weak enemies you can either use mob rules as normal to make a number of lower level enemies a higher grade of challenge.

Initial Costs as Combat Bypasses
During play there were two "speed bump" encounters. The first was a bunch of serpentmen and I ran it normally with the serpentmen as level 3 creatures with level 4 for attack and defense. The second was a bunch of level 2 skeletons. There were 8 skeletons in the room, most of whom had fewer than 5 HP in the adventure. I quickly realized that this was not going to be a challenging encounter on its own. I didn't want to use the mob rules as this wasn't story-centric, but I didn't want to run the encounter in full either. 

In the end I settled on making up a new rule. Using the idea of Initial Costs from the Cypher System I proposed to my players that they could pay to narrate their way past the encounter. I gave them an initial cost, in this case 2 points from a pool of their choice, to allow them to just defeat the skeletons without further rolling. The cost in points was equal to the level of the creatures and helped to show that although they quickly moved past the encounter the character's did have to fight it out and get "tired" by the effort. This worked out well enough that I will likely use it in the future as a way to drain character resources without draining player table time. This is especially useful for "side encounters" that do not further plot but do make sense in the game world.

Closing Thoughts
Running a d20 adventure for Cypher really didn't require much work, and opens up a vast catalog of great stories for the GM on the go who may not have time to develop their own adventures. The effort investment to adapt is light, and much can be done on the fly in the way that Cypher is especially well suited for. I'm already planning to follow up with Terror in Freeport with the same group when next there's a break in the normal Numenera campaign, and I'm hoping that I can finish the Freeport Trilogy with Madness in Freeport as well. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Nuts & Bolts #128 - Review: Kamandi Challenge #6


Kamandi Challenge #6 is out today, so here are my thoughts on issue #5 from last month. Spoilers henceforth.

Vitals

Published By: DC Comics • 31 pages • $3.99 • full color • Art: Philip Tan • Words: Steve Orlando

What's In It?

Spoilers ahead folks last warning!




Where were we? ...oh, right, a vivisected Kamandi lying on a lab table with his chest cavity hollowed out. Damn ... and they don't spare the visuals either. Thankfully Raja manages to coerce the scientist to help find a cure using the very machine that Kamandi's organs were fed into. The device is able to concoct a treatment that will save Kamandi, and when he next wakes he is whole and hale. We skip ahead some days or weeks from there as Kamandi is traveling with a man named Renzi, an associate of Raja's.

The pair are in a hot air balloon and quickly run afoul of a commune of bear folk in the far north. Both are captured and Kamandi is taken to the Alpha of Alphas while Renzi is taken away because of the cyclo-heart he bears that is capable of creating immense power via fission. As it turns out the city is itself a vast robotic construct that lacks only a power source, and Renzi's cyclo-heart will become that power source.

Kamandi tries to sway the Alpha of Alphas to abandon the force communistic hive mind that he both serves and leads, and embrace free will so that they can escape. The boy almost succeeds but the weight of so many minds forces Groznovo to betray Kamani, leading him away from Renzi as his heart is used to power the mecha-city of Mishkingrad. Kamandi and Groznova come to blows and we get our cliffhanger as the communist bear tosses Kamandi to his seeming doom.

The art this issue is pretty great. No real complaints here in regards to the look and the ability to follow the panels. The resolution of the cliffhanger is well executed and feels genuine even as Kamandi is more or less forced to part ways from yet another companion. The main story however leaves me feeling a bit "meh." It's high on exposition with much of the story progression coming from Kamandi being told what's happening rather than doing it or experiencing it.

Worldbuilding is good though. We get a confirmation of modified humans, and a new society of bear folk. The idea of the communist bears is better than the execution though, and that's mostly the fault of the story. The massive mecha-city is the kind of thing you could build a campaign around as the PCs race to find the means to stop it, and that's always a good thing.

Overall I'd say it was a decent issue, but maybe the weakest of the stories thus far. Thankfully the art was nice including a few panels that seems laid out specifically to showcase some Kirby Crackle.

Rating: 80% - The resolution of the cliffhanger was great but the "A" story was only OK.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Furry Road - The Face

Designer's Notes: Ahh, the Face. Face character's can be the ones who run an adventure in weird places, especially if played very cunningly. So an Impulsive face seemed a great way to balanced things by making this character a potential powder keg within the group. Wields Two Weapons at Once is really meant for melee weapons, so I decided to allow its Tier 2 ability Double Strike to use Speed pool when attacking with ranged weapons, but still require might for melee. I don't see an issue with dual wielding guns otherwise so this was a pretty easy fix. Ability wise rabbits don't really need much except a lot of speed which allowed me to focus on social abilities. 




Jessie the Rabbit is an Impulsive Speaker who Wields Two Weapons At Once


Tier 3 • Effort 3
Might 10 • Edge 0
Speed 14 • Edge 1
Intellect 20 • Edge 2

Cypher Limit: 2

Armor: 1 (light, leather jacket)

Skills:

  • Inability
    • any task that involves patience, willpower, or discipline
  • Trained
    • initiative
    • Deceiving
    • Persuading
    • Running
    • Speed defense

Abilities:

  • Dual Light & Medium Wield
  • Double Strike (3 Might or Speed points)
  • Practiced With Light & Medium Weapons
  • Enthrall (1 Intellect point)
  • Fast Talk (1 Intellect point)
  • Spin Identity (2+ Intellect points)
  • Unexpected Betrayal
  • Impersonate (2 Intellect points)
  • Telling (2 Intellect points)
  • Blend In (4 Intellect points)
  • Grand Deception (3 Intellect points)

Weapons:

  • 2x 9mm Handguns (medium ranged weapon, short range)
  • 2x .38 Handguns (light ranged weapon, short range)
  • 2x knives (cheap, light melee weapon)

Equipment: Dark clothing, gear harness, flashlight, padlock w/keys.

Initial Link to the Adventure: You requested a team after you heard rumors about the Road Hogs allying with another faction.

Connections:

  • You think Cornelius the Chimpanzee is too analytical and needs to be more willing to make quick decisions in the field. 
  • You once mistook Nausicaa the Bird for an enemy and nearly killed her with a grenade. You still regret the results of your impulsive actions that day.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Predation - Paradoxical

Just gonna check my texts real quick here ...

So, previously I've discussed my thoughts on the "c" and my opinion of the cause of time travel failure and, by extension, the time anomalies found in Grevakc. Those time anomalies though, I haven't said much about them. Till now...

Firstly, there's not much information in the book. The game isn't about Time Travel after all. The time travel created the universe but that's not what the game is about. As such we're pretty much limited to whatever we decide for ourselves and the information on page 74, under climate and weather.

What we do know is that the time anomalies seem to be a development that occurred in the wake of the failure of the time travel apparatus. There's nothing to indicate that these anomalies existed prior to that event. There's even a sidebar that says as much, indicating no records of anomalies prior to the failure of the time travel devices. Given my opinion on the why and wherefore of the failure of time travel I think it's a safe jump to the conclusion that the time anomalies are in fact the manifestation of Temporal Paradox.

Time Anomalies

The run of the mill time anomaly is described as sometimes looking like
[...] glitches in the landscape, places where the edges don’t line up. Occasionally, they seem to look like a mirage, the flickering image of a place or structure that doesn’t belong. (Predation, pg 74)
People in Grevakc hunt these anomalies down because with them come cyphers, and rarely artifacts and remnants. I like to think of the latter two as the detritus of a paradox destroyed future timeline, the world to which the time bridge (for lack of a better term) once connected and the characters' ancestors originated.

To me this adds an interesting layer to the game with a touch of post-apocalypse scavenging the remains of the old world. These items come from a dead world; a time that was once future, but is now no longer anything more than a fragment causing paradox effects as the new timeline continues forward. I also view these pieces of the timeline that was, and possibly the future that was, as "temporally stable" items. Things that were real enough by some virtue to survive the paradox.

Cyphers on the other hand are more ephemeral and also more indicative of the temporal paradox that is Grevakc. These unnatural powers that somehow encode into human DNA are perhaps holdovers from genetic lines that have been wiped out. Or perhaps they are simply bits on another reality crystallized into "time bombs" usable by those who find them. Perhaps the nature of cyphers is even tied to whatever enabled the paradox to occur in the first place.

Time Terrors

Time terrors are weird. They are described like some kind of pop-up thunderstorm on steroids, a force to be reckoned with that causes ball lightning to be flung around, temperatures to rise or drop rapidly, and high winds. Time terrors are described as being extremely deadly, with few people having managed to escape getting stuck in one.

In the wake of time terrors anomalies are more likely to be found, and some even believe that there may be a cause-effect relationship. Furthermore in some instances observers outside of a terror have noted seeing strange discontinuous landscape-like mirages. I like to that that if anomalies are the result of the timeline crushing paradox that broke contact between Grevakc and the future, then time terrors are actual active paradox.

Consider how tectonic plates pushing against each other cause earthquakes when the force built up exceeds the friction between plates and causes slippage. In this case the plates are the original timeline and the new Grevakcian timeline, the paradox of humans existing in the Cretaceous who originate from a future that can no longer exist is causing "pressure" between the timelines. As the new timeline overwrites the old there are slippages that result in massive "time quakes" which the characters perceive as time terrors.

In this is the paradigm then it also means that time anomalies can be looked at as aftershocks; smaller less damaging paradox effects. It also implies that the mirages may in fact be actual views of the dying timeline. It could even be possible to use a time terror to travel through to the other timeline (though that may be a fatally poor choice).

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Nuts & Bolts #127 - Review: Adventure Writing Like a Fucking Boss

Yup.
Editor's Note, given the product title I'm not going to bother censoring myself this week. 

So, earlier this year I had a moment of realization. I came to see that while I'd been ignoring the written adventures of both yore and today I'd been missing out on learning design from other people's effort. It's not that I can't run a game, or write an adventure for myself, but going through the process of writing one for other people made me realize where I tended to say "fuck it" and just improvise. Not a bad thing, but not a great thing for published product.

So I've been looking at various bits of advice in this regard. The latest of which is "Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss" which is a title that really says something about the confidence level of the author...

Vitals
Published By: Kort'thalis Publishing • Written by: Venger As'Nas Satanis • 14 pages • $3.00 • Color PDF (with a print friendly option)

What's In It?

Advice that strips out most of the bullshit. Seriously, there's very little pretension here, which is a good thing. Hell, it's probably the best part of this product that it doesn't treat itself as being too far "above the reader." In what amounts to about 9 pages of text if you strip out the art, cover, and credits the author lays down the foundations of adventure writing. As a GM for decades there's not a lot here that's "new to me" but it's refreshing to see it all laid out and bare.

The content is broken out into fifteen sections ranging from about 3 paragraphs to a dozen or so. The author starts off by detailing why you may want to write your own adventures. OK, fair enough, but probably anybody who has gotten this far already made that choice. It then goes into the idea of the elevator pitch as a metric for good and bad ideas. This is pretty reasonable, if you cannot sum up an idea into 2-3 interesting sentences it's probably not an idea that will yield an interesting adventure. Or it's too much, and you need to consider breaking it up into smaller parts; perhaps your epic idea can become fodder for a series of adventures instead. From there we get some advice on finding your own writing style and trying to make the best of it. There are some words of wisdom here in regards to over-writing.

Next we get a discussion of the adventure rails. Ah, to railroad, or not to railroad, that is the question! Actually, no, screw that, NEVER railroad. But, to the author's point, knowing when to toss in "guardrails" to keep the adventure from going entirely ... ahem ... "off the rails" ... is wise. Players are ... unpredictable creatures, and having mitigating factors in place to help keep the session from going bananas is good. Most GMs simply cannot keep up improvising after a certain point without abandoning the original adventure, which sucks.

At this point we're on page four and getting into the meat. First we get "Anatomy of an Adventure" breaking down the basic (and classic) structure for storytelling. Then the author dives into scenes and starts discussing each component therein. The fact that adventures and scenes have the same basic structure is makes this all the more valuable.

From here out the product fires on all cylinders for me, right up until the last section, which just didn't float for me, but hey, that's cool, it's only one page. The writing keeps being punchy and direct, and breaks down how to build a scene up without getting overwrought. It's presents the idea of a "Trailer Test" to help prune scenes much in the way the Elevator Pitch helps prune out bad adventure ideas. This is just the fractal nature of things in my opinion.

After scenes we get a quick hit of the three most basic aspects of gaming (and storytelling) and how these should all be present in some form to make for a good session. Lastly there is some advice for "moments" or interludes, the stuff between scenes that adds color, as well as the idea of callbacks.

The layout if functional, the art is minimal (which is fine) and of a good quality, but I couldn't stand the full color version with these angry red veins rimming each page. It added nothing, and it detracted plenty. Thankfully there's a printer friendly version without that. I will say the cover is quality, and I imagine that's just good marketing to put an attractive eye catching cover onto any product. Duh.

Closing Thoughts

I'd say that if you're new to GMing, and new to writing up your own adventures this is a pretty damn good purchase for $3. If you've been at it a while it may make for a nice refresher course, and the clean and bullshit free presentation of the writing does help make this a nice reference or refresher. Will this make you a "fucking boss" at adventure writing? I'm not sure about that, but it sure as shit will help prevent you from making an ass of yourself. There's plenty more to writing good adventures than structure, but if you don't have good "bones" the flesh won't matter for shit.

Score: 85% - Pretty good for those wanting a refresher course or those who are new to adventure writing. Maybe not what you're looking for if you've been GMing for a while.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Furry Road - The Scout

Design Notes: Let's start with the basics; Soars Across the Sky is found in In Translation. I wanted to ensure that the character had true flight and this was one of the few foci that provided it, and early enough for this to allow for an interesting pregen character. As a scout I needed to get some perception in there and Sharp-Eyed  worked well at that and provided the "Find the Flaw" ability that I thought made an interesting addition to the character and took her in a slightly different direction with a more military intelligence feel rather than a more "traditional" field scout. Adept was a weird fit, but I wanted two of each type and I'd already run out of Explorers. In this case though I think it worked out to make for an interesting set of abilities when combined with the idea of a mor military espionage & intelligence scout. 



Nausicaa the Bird is a Sharp-Eyed Adept who Soars Across the Sky
Tier 3 • Effort 3
Might 10 • Edge 0
Speed 15 • Edge 2
Intellect 17 • Edge 1

Cypher Limit: 3

Armor: 1 (flight suit, no penalty)

Skills:
  • Trained
    • initiative
    • assessing danger
    • Sneaking
    • intelligence gathering 
  • Specialized
    • perception

Abilities:
  • Find the Flaw
  • Hover (1 Speed points)
  • Flight Suit
  • Flight (4+ Speed points)
  • Flying Punch
  • Protected Flight (3 Speed points)
  • Practiced with Light weapons
  • Push (2 Intellect points; SFX: buffet the target with your wings) 
  • Scan (2 Intellect points)
  • Understanding (2 Intellect points)
  • Subterfuge
  • Flex Skill

Weapons:
  • Custom .45 Carbine (light ranged weapon, long range, 4 damage)
  • nightstick (light melee weapon)

Equipment: Aerodynamic flight suit (counts as light armor with no penalty), shotgun microphone, binoculars, gear harness, 2x rations, box of chalk.

Initial Link to the Adventure: You’ve been noticing some strange things going on, and this all appears related.

Connections:
  • Anthony the Mouse made you your custom carbine which has served you well in the field. 
  • Jessie the Rabbit once mistook you for an enemy and nearly took you out with a grenade. You still have a few scars from the burns.
  • You are impressed with, and a bit envious of, Nux the Horse's ability with firearms. 

Friday, July 14, 2017

Gods of the Fall - Session Prep - Finding the Way



Once again we return to the Afterworld... kinda.

The characters have entered into the twisted and nonsensical interior of The Furnace. Or maybe they simply passed from one realm to another? Uncertainty about where they are combined with confusion about the rules of this place and its doors that lead to other realms has them flatfooted. In addition there are strange beings here who seem hostile in part, and who may be cypher-phages, consuming the divine energy of the cyphers the character bear.

The characters themselves are of course divinely powered and thus contain divine energy, that'll be the crux of this session as the creatures feed on that energy. This is the curse of this traveling space, as it turns mortals who stray too long into these phage creatures. The PCs will encounter some who are far more fargone than others, and may even be able to help the prior party return to the Afterworld and regain their humanity.

I have two main goals for this session:,
  1. The PCs should figure out what happened to the lost party. 
  2. The PCs should figure out how to control the traveling doors. 
The former should be easy enough as the last part of the prior session had them finding the campsite of the last party. I plan to drop clues as they investigate which combined with the behavior of one of the phages/party who has an uneasy truce with the group should point them in the right direction.
Turns out that either I wasn't adequately setting up the "riddle" or it was just a bit too obtuse, but it took the players some time to grasp the fact that the windows and doors were controlled by their wills. They did eventually figure it out, and before frustration boiled off all the fun. 
The latter calls back to the characters' trials from their first adventure during their trials within the shard of a past heaven. As divine beings they have the ability, nay the right, to enforce their will on the world(s) around them. This is something I feel strongly is a core theme to games where the players grasp at godhood: the power to change the world to your will, balanced (or not) by the wisdom to know when to do so and when not to.
I needed to take a little more direct approach with this, using a final GM intrusion to have "No-face," who had been following them around and eating their cyphers before attacking and trying to siphon off Polodius' divine power, slip through the doorway they'd opened back to the Afterworld. Removed from the doorway realm the creature vomited up some cyphers as it's body tried to return to normal, but injury and/or the duration of its stay meant that the man perished before he could become fully human once more. 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Nuts & Bolts #126 - Mutant Crawl Classics - Repeater Bears


Post-apocalypse games have always been something I've enjoyed. I posted last year about why I was backing the Mutant Crawl Classics Kickstarter on the basis of my love for After the Bomb. I've been posting a lot of Cypher System content lately related to After the Bomb, but Mutant Crawl Classics released to backers recently and so it's only fitting that I begin to look at that game and embrace it's altogether different brand of post-apocalyptic craziness.

Ultimately, I'm not sure if MCC will earn itself a dedicated "day of the week" slot like other games/features have, but for now I'll slide my creations into N&B as an outlet...

So I saw somebody use the phrase "it bears repeating" elsewhere and now I have this crazy idea for Repeater Bears ...

Repeater Bear

Repeater bears are mutations caused by exposure to the ancients' broken and malfunctioning time dilation technology. Repeater bears have mutated the ability to become unstuck in time. They appear much like normal bears but have faint after images and pre-images caused by their temporal echoes. These temporal echoes can be made physical by interaction with temporally stable matter. Though they are not sentient they are intelligent enough to control the repeater bear's natural abilities in combat making them especially ferocious, being capable of striking multiple times thanks to their temporal echoes.
Repeater Bear: Init +1; Atk bite +4 melee (1d4+2) or claw +5 melee (1d6+1); AC 17; HD 4d8; MV 20’ or climb 10’; Act 1d20; SP Bears Repeating; SV Fort +2, Ref +6, Will +4; AL N.
Bears Repeating: When attacking, if the repeater bear hits it's target, it may attack again with a cumulative -1d penalty until it misses or the target it dead.  

Monday, July 10, 2017

Furry Road - The Triggerman

Design Notes: I'd considered making this a character a bow user early on, but then changed my mind as I realized that the technological capacity of the After the Bomb universe was more than enough for bullets to not be a rare and prized commodity. Carries a Quiver becomes Carries a Rifle and otherwise remains mostly intact. Horses primary have the traits of speed and/or strength. Swift and/or Strong seemed good descriptor options, but I obviously could only use one. Further, I really didn't need excessive strength or Might because the character prefers firearms and so Strong was out. In the end I also decided to forego Swift as well and rely on training and Edge to represent the horse's inborn speed. This allowed me to focus on adding an interesting personality to the group by way of another quirky descriptor. Enter the "Vengeful" descriptor and a character who has some personal stake in the mission at hand... 


Nux the Horse is a Vengeful Warrior who Carries a Rifle

Tier 3 • Effort 3
Might 16 • Edge 1
Speed 18 • Edge 3
Intellect 8 • Edge 0

Cypher Limit: 2

Armor: none

Skills:
  • Trained
    • Attack: Rifles
    • intimidation
    • torture
    • tracking
    • Craft: Rifles
    • Jumping
    • Lore: Road Hogs
  • Specialized
    • Craft: Bullets
    • Running
    • Speed Defense
Abilities:
  • Archer
  • Covering Fire/Double-tap (1 Speed point)
  • Overwatch (1 Intellect point)
  • Pierce (1 Speed point)
  • Successive Attack (2 Speed points)
  • Deadly Aim (3 Speed points)
  • Spray (2 Speed points)
  • Trick Shot (2 Speed points)
Weapons:
  • AK47 Rifle (Medium weapon, long range, rapid fire)
    • 2x magazines of 30 rounds
  • .308 Rifle (heavy weapon, long range, bolt action)
    • Nightvision scope
  • .45 Pistol (medium weapon, medium range)
Equipment: Clothing, light tools, functional GPS map, 2x rations, flashlight, duct tape.

Initial Link to the Adventure: Your gang was wiped out by the Road Hogs and you want revenge, plain and simple. 

Connections:
  • You are especially taken with Jim the Raccoon's junk-scavenged crafts, and when you use an item in a way that requires a roll, add +1 to the result. 
  • You think that Jessie the Rabbit talks too much and wonder if she really understands the threat of the Road Hogs.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Predation - A Before B and Also C

See, I told you that would attract ants!

Why "c"? These things aren't arbitrary. Large corporations like SATI have rules that govern everything internal. So the Gre-Vakian c trials that brought our PC's ancestors to the cretaceous era were almost certain preceeded by Gre-Vakian a and b trials. But what about those trials? Very little is even implied, let alone said, of them, and their existence isn't confirmed, just conjecture based on a logical presumption.

Gre-Vakian a Trial

The "a" trial was probably the prototype phase, or the phase immediately after that. The commuters from the "a" trial clearly either failed in whatever mission SATI set forth (very possibly the same mission as the "c" trial) or had another mission entirely. I'm going to choose to think that they probably had a different mission, as SATI sending two groups of commuters back in time and then opting for "third time's a charm" seems a bit forced. So what was the intent of the "a" trial? Infrastructure.

Consider that the Last Commute has been described as a failure of the machinery in the cretaceous. This seems reasonable at face value, but give it some thought and you realize that there must be more to the story. I got into that last week, but suffice to say I think that the Last Commute was the result of Paradox biting SATI square in the butt. I think that SATI's time travel was one way; you can send but but your cannot retrieve. Trial "a" was very likely concerned with getting equipment in place in the past to verify that return trips were even possible. Imagine being part of the "a" trials and knowing that if the tech didn't work you were dino chow!

My guess is also that the "a" trial was very small scale. A small group of experts and technicians and the mechanism to send them home. A proof of concept that only barely counted as being a trial at all.

... but if that's true, then what about "b"?

Gre-Vakian b Trial

What exactly is SATI up to in the past? We may never know, unless we are the GM, or the GM chooses to reveal that to us in the game we play in. Or is Shanna writes a Predation novel. A novel with awesome dinosaurs ... I'll try and suggest that at Gen Con this year. I digress, while we may not know the point of SATI's expeditions we can make certain assumptions.

Assumption: The "b" trial was either a failure, or had a different goal from the "c" trial.

This seems pretty reasonable. SATI must have a reason to be sending thousands of its employees back in time. So either "b" failed but a "c" trial was still positive on the old risk vs reward analysis or "b" was doing something different from "c".

Assumption: The "b" trial was located elsewhere (or elsewhen) such that the "c" trial would not find evidence of the prior trial, or run into and interfere with the prior trial.

Yes, I'm implying that the "b" trial could be/have been concurrent with the "c" trial. I don't think this is too far fetched to assume that these could be concurrent in different locations, or that the "b" trial was taking place in a different time period. This feeds directly into ...

Assumption: The commuters of "c" trial were not in any danger from "b" trial, nor were they required for "b" trial as such.

Basically if SATI was putting this kind of investment into these trials they wouldn't sabotage themselves, and they probably wouldn't have the left hand unaware of the part they had to play in the right hand's projects.

So with all that what was trial "b" up to? I obviously cannot say for certain but I have a couple of ideas.

  • The Gre-Vakian b trial had the same/similar goal as the c trial but elsewhere/elsewhen. Possibly at the end of a prior era like the Jurassic or the late Paleogene. In this case I think they were essentially "mining" genetic information. Ancient DNA could give insight into the evolutionary process, provide treatments for diseases, and even yield means to improve crops by adding prehistoric DNA.
  • The Gre-Vakian b trial isn't even on Earth! SATI is and INTER-global corporation. I don't think that this is a mistake and there are references to other planets. I think SATI could have sent a trial back in time to study Mars when it was livable. It's even possible that they had reach beyond our solar system, and if so there are any number of places they may have wanted to use time travel to exploit. 
  • The Gre-Vakian b trial "failed" and the "c" trial was initiated to pick up the pieces. The reason there seem to be a lot of "lost" SATI facilities in just the 100-ish years since the last commute is because they are facilities that were part of trial "b". Perhaps the commuters of "b" are dead and gone, or maybe they were recalled 
    • Could it be that "c" is just a ruse and the "b" project continues on even now?

Regardless of my thoughts there's plenty of room for your own interpretations, assumptions, and conclusions. Do you think the commuters of Gre-Vakian c trial are the first? If not, what do you think happened to "a" and "b"?

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Nuts & Bolts #126 - Hacking the Cypher System - P.E.T.S.

Image Source: http://www.deviantart.com/art/Vangaurd-654639758

One of the big features that Predation is likely to sell books on is its Companion dinosaurs. I think that's great because it obviously a cool idea that catches the imagination of a lot of folks. I think it's also great for the Cypher System in general because I think the companion rules are pretty fun and a nice addition to the continually expanding tool set that is the Cypher System.

It doesn't take a lot of effort to reskin the dinosaur and upgrade names to something that suits your campaign world. It could be various fantasy type creatures for a Gods of the Fall game (or something more D&D-ish if you prefer), or it could be strange aliens in a game world similar to Avatar (the blue people one, not The Last Airbender one).

For my money though I think that these could also make great robotic companions, or as I am wont to call them: P.E.T.S.

That's Personal Electronic Technical Servants. Small drone-like but semi-independent robots that would fit great into a science fiction game. These could be small recon bots, larger combat models, or even semi-sentient and autonomous "vehicles" that can carry a rider or act on their own. Unlike a game of Shadowrun where only the rigger has drones, everybody (or nearly so) in a setting with P.E.T.S. would have one to help them out and act as a companion. In fact people find that even though the limited AI of these drones sometimes misinterpret their commands, they are more than worth having around because the personalities they develop over time make people bond with them as they would a dog or cat.

In such a setting the need to roll to "convince" your P.E.T.S. to do what you want is a result of the stock AI needing to learn it's owners vocal and non-vocal queues and signals. When fresh out of the box these AI tend to get easily confused by the unconscious signals a human makes without realizing. Over time however the AIs better learn their humans and become less prone to confusing mixed signals.

It's not a very big hack, but I thought I'd share the paradigm shift.