Friday, May 29, 2015

Story Seed - Poison City

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"It's worse than HQ thought sir." Adams picked up his hand scanner and showed it to Sergeant Kline, "See here? Hydrogen sulfide levels are through the roof, carbon -monoxide and -dioxide levels are significantly elevated as well. It's no wonder we haven't seen any sign of even insect life."

Kline nodded, "Check the soil anyway. You two, fan out and see if there is any salvage worth reporting to the recovery teams. I'm going to check on Murphy again." The sergeant watched his three remaining men get busy and then headed to where Murphy was propped up. The man's leg was glistening wetly with a deep red bloom. "Murph, how're you doing? Need another chem?"

Murphy looked up, his face was pallid and glossy with perspiration. "I've had better days sir, but at least the pressure cuff is keeping my atmo clean, even if it's not helping my leg any. I don't think any more chems is a good idea, you've got me loaded up more than I'd normally give to any of you if I'm speaking frankly. I'm pretty groggy as is."

"Aye, but if you pass out that'll leave us to fall back on basic field medicine to treat our medic. I don't need to tell you that seems like a cluster." Murphy nodded wordlessly, tiredly. "Adams says the atmo here is worse than expected, nothing but poison. Hell, it's bad enough even the roaches are dead. I got the others doing a final sweep before the extraction skiff gets here. ETA is just over fifteen minutes. You going to be OK 'till then doc?"

"Y-yeah, just hurts like hell. Kinda ... burns ..." Murphy's nodded forward and Kline saw a readout on his HUD go to orange; the medic was unconscious, and his vitals weren't strong.

The sergeant tapped his long range comms, "Charlie Vector Seven, can you put the burn on? Our medic just went You-Cee, and there's a ton of blood. We need to get him evaced and in the hands of somebody who knows something." There was a buzzing in his ear in reply and then he nodded, "OK, but I can't do anything here, this place is too toxic to risk opening his suit and trying to get at the wound. Best time requested, I'll send up a buoy."

Kline tapped a few buttons on his gauntlet and a buoy drone deployed from his suit's backpack storage, quickly gaining altitude as it broadcast a homing beacon and flashed a bright halogen pulse once a second. "OK folks boat's coming in early, wrap it up and head to the El-Zee. Roberts, I'm going to need a hand with Murphy, he passed out a bit ago."

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Nuts & Bolts #34 - Odds n Evens

I find myself returning to the well of 13th Age again and again (and again), but as I said in my discussion of game systems I find a lot to love in the 13th Age mechanics that can be used in games that aren't 13th Age. I've also discussed in the past the variety of special dice results that exist in our games; things like the natural 20, critical failures, and the like.

13th Age incorporates a spin on the idea of special dice results with Fighter abilities that can be triggered only on dice rolls that are natural even or natural odd results, or on rolls that exceed a certain value, or when you miss. These traits, called "Maneuvers," can then be chosen during play after their die roll depending on if the natural attack roll meets the criteria for the ability. Roll an even? Call the use of "Deadly Assault" which lets you reroll 1's on your damage dice. Roll a miss? Use "Brace for It" and downgrade the next critical on you to a normal hit. How about a roll of 16 or higher? Call "Defensive Fighting" and gain a +2 AC. There are maneuvers that trigger on evens, odds, misses, values greater than X (usually 16), and even combinations like even misses, or odd hits.

These kinds of abilities make for much more interesting combat encounters, where the choice of your class powers and the value of the dice can really interact to make combat (especially for Fighter types) much more involved than just "I hit it ... again."  13th Age even has racial powers (half elf) and magic items that can change the value of the natural die roll. Did you hit, but really needed an odd value? Reduce your attack roll by 1 and gain the ability to trigger that "Any natural odd hit" ability. Fighter's never "waste" a die roll either unless they don't have an ability that triggers on that particular roll (which lends itself to making Fighter characters balance their abilities that trigger on hits, misses, evens, and odds).

In a way the Cypher System's minor and major effects are an implementation of this idea. While you can only earn a minor or major effect on a mere 10% of rolls they have a more open ended scope during play which somewhat balances out their rarity. The AGE System's Stunt Mechanic is another example of the implementation of this idea.

While this mechanic is not one that is going to lend itself to quick assimilation into other systems (being that abilities would need to be created or modified to function on these varying die rolls), it does lead one to thinking about the dice as more than just a success/failure mechanic. Gamemasters might consider implementing some similar kinds of mechanics into other roll systems. Adding a simple gamble mechanic where the player guesses even or odd before rolling and gets a bonus if they are correct for instance. Or if using something like the Escalation Die you might provide a small bonus if the attack roll is even when the Escalation die is also even (or odd when odd). These kinds of mechanics can help to take the simple and flat d20 mechanic that some find "boring" and spice it up some without adding excessive complexity. Meanwhile for those prospective game designers out there it may be something worth implementing from the ground up.

... and the award goes to ...

Last week I announced that in celebration of the first issue of the CypherCaster Magazine and my first published work I'd be giving away a free copy of the 'zine to a lucky reader. I got a number of entries (don't read into that too much, technically 0 is a number) and use complex mathematical base random determination to choose from the entries (I rolled some dice (actually I "rolled" some digital dice since the number of entries did not conform to standard dice)).

The prize goes to: Google user "World Control"

I've sent you an email to confirm your DriveThruRPG account email so I can send you a coupon. To everybody else who entered, thank you for your interest I may be able to do this again for issue #2. In the meantime I hope some of you (or all, all is good) consider purchasing the 'zine and letting us know what you think of it by leaving/posting reviews.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Story Seed - Repository

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We came upon it in the desolate and sandy wastes between kingdoms. At first we assumed it to be simply some great monument to ruler so long decayed that even their empire was long ground to dust. It was weathered and pitted and caked with sand such that it had appeared to be stone from afar. In these empty wastes scale and proportion were difficult to judge and it seemed for a while that it was farther from us that we believed. Finally we trudged up the sandy hill to the great slab of stone upon which the head stood.

Its face was human, but the back of the skull suggested a bone carapace or shell instead of hair. Other less immediately obvious differences made themselves known after time. The eyes were not quite right, nor the shape of its mouth or nose. In silence we studied it with only the blowing of sand and wind and the creaking of our packs to beat back the silence.

Finally I had filled a page of my book with a sketch of the great object, and my love had charted the location to the stars and our known travel. We had not spoken, in part because there was little to say, this was beyond us, and in part to conserve what little moisture might be lost behind out reclamation masks. I don't know why I did so, but I said aloud, floating the question on the dry winds, "What are you?" My tone must have been one of bafflement and confusion, but my reaction was nothing short of absolute surprise.

"I am memory," the great head replied. Encrustations of sand cracked and fell away from the great object's face though what lay under was no less stone than what had covered it. Still the eyes moved to regard us, the mouth and lips changed, forming each word as surely as my own.

I recovered from my shock first and stammered out another question, eager to see if I had simply imagined its reply. "Are you alive?"

"I am memory," it replied again. "Memory does not live it is. It does not grow without experience. It does not change under weight of age."

"Are you a computer?" I asked without thinking.

"I am memory. I recall, and accumulate, but I do not act or alter or analyze." It paused, it unnerving dead gaze falling upon me like a weight of ancient stone. "I am a repository of knowledge. I am memory."