Friday, November 6, 2015

Story Seed - Dead Men Tell No Tales

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"Ready?" Sergeant Jordan asked over the team's comms. A round of nods and affirmative responses followed. "OK then, my condolences to your families," he said as he thumbed the holo display in his helmet on. The view of his head was replaced by a holographically projected skull, awash in blue light, it followed the movement of his head within the helmet. "Ready to drop in thirty," Sergeant Reaper told his team, and the crew of the drop-ship, his voice now modulated with a deeper timber and an echo.

Jordan and his men were part of the United Terran Marine's Vigil program. Outfitted with the latest and greatest tech they were the first in when a new Xeno hot-spot showed up. Each member of the team was the best of the UTM forces for their role, and even still they knew that the odds were skewed heavily against survival on any given mission. As a result Vigil squad had taken to assuming they were already dead at the start of a mission; "resurrection" waited for the survivors afterwards. The skull motif, the black armor with white accents to emulate bones, and the voice modulation were all added as nods to Vigil Squad's particular mindset.

The cabin light changed to red and the floor opened as the craft's belly split to allow the high altitude release. The HUD inside Reaper's help counted down to zero and he launched out and down, plunging into freefall. Behind him the other members of his team followed suit; Anubis, Cerberus, Yama, Hel, and Izanami soon formed a loose ring with Reaper.

"You know the drill, check the corpse on your right," he ordered. A few morbid chuckles sounded out across the comms as the team checked each other's gear, specifically the high powered rocket packs that would slow their descent instead of parachutes. "Green indicators all around, but don't get cocky. Remember this is a standard sweep and point. HQ wants to know where to aim the big guns. Don't screw up and you may just come back to life ... and if not?"

"Dead men tell no tales!" the rest of the squad responded.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Nuts & Bolts #54 - Board of Maps...

... which is not to say that I am bored of maps.

What I'm saying is that maybe you have a bunch of ready to go maps in your closet that you just never considered. A few examples ...

Clue/Clue Master Detective


Take a look at those boards. They have grid based movement, nice artwork, and pre labeled rooms. If you were planning to run a game where you need a big house or a mansion you could probably do worse. Sure, the rooms themselves aren't gridded out, and it's not a huge map, but for a horror game set in the early 20th century it would be a great way to use close quarters to help accentuate the horror. Just make sure you don't let that eldritch thing escape ...

Arkham Horror

Need a place for that early 20th century mansion to exist in? Maybe you are running Call of Cthulhu? This is a more abstract map of the town of Arkham, Massachusetts, but if your style runs toward more "theater of the mind" and you just want the players to have an idea of where they are and where things are happening this might be a good fit. It also comes with monster tokens and character standees, so if you have this you may be able to mine a good bit of the components for your next RPG session. If your investigators fled the house, or the eldritch thing escaped, this could be a good place for your game to expand to...

Firefly: The Game

Wanna run a game in the Firefly 'verse? Wanna have a decent map of the system that even comes with a couple of ready to use decks you can draw from as part of a travel mechanic? Yeah, this game has both of those. Hell, the game itself is good, but it might actually be better as an accessory for the RPG (regardless of the system you use). The travel mechanic is great too, you just draw a card from the appropriate deck for each square you move. You could find smooth sailing out in the black, or maybe you have a run in with some reavers or randomly stumble on a derelict...

Build your own ...

There are games out there that don't use traditional fixed boards. They rely on tiles that may or may not interlock. Descent (and the Star Wars spin off Imperial Assault), Space Hulk, Carcassonne, and House on the Hill, to name a few, all use modular tiles that you build the game board with. Some like Descent you build ahead of time, while others like Carcassonne and House on the Hill are meant to be built as you play. Descent and Imperial Assault both use gridded tiles and could very easily make the jump to full RPG use for your fantasy and Star Wars (or generic sci-fi) gaming needs respectively.

House on the Hill is aimed with a heavy horror theme and may be a better fit than a Clue board if exploration is more in line with your game play. Carcassonne is highly stylized, but it could be used to create surface maps for a fantasy or medieval setting. Treat each square as being a mile or two on a side and figure that cloisters represent small hamlets of less than 100 persons with the city tiles being 100 persons per tile and you can quickly build up a small region for your game's setting with very little effort.

Fringe Benefits

Of course if you enjoy the game in question, so much the better as you get more "bang for your buck." Even if you don't play something like clue anymore it may be possible to find a board at a yard sale for cheap, you can possibly even repurpose the pawns/pieces and the cards and weapons. The meeples in Carcassonne can likewise be used for rough positioning in games where full minis are not in use. Alternately, with some creativity you can turn those meeples into more detailed minis (see below). Some of the more detailed games like Descent and Imperial Assault will provide some very detailed figures that you will no doubt want to use during play.

I hope this got you thinking about possible resources for your games that you may never have realized you had. And please let me know if there are games I didn't mention that you think would make good maps for RPG use.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Story Seed - Sunken Treasure

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The weight plopped into the water and disappeared, dragging the thin line behind it. "Fifty feet ... sixty ..." Carl read off as the boat rocked and the line un-spooled. He looked over at Kristin, pulling on a skin-tight fish-suit and re-breather. "One thirty ... one fifty ..." the line continued to run out and into the water.

"Should be close then. How do I look?" Kristin asked. Everything was in place but the portion fit to her mouth and nose. She looked like something out of some mariners tall tale; the rubbery scaled suit fitted to her like a second skin, and the webbing between her fingers, and extending from her feet only added to the strange image.

"Umm ... like you're ready for a swim I guess." Carl shrugged as he checked the line which had finally stopped. "Looks like around one eighty. You ok that deep?"

"Yeah I should be fine. The re-breather will give me thirty minutes so I'll have to be quick but maybe there'll be stuff shallower so I don't have to dive deep."

"Yeah maybe, but this place looks pretty picked over. My dad used to say this was the richest place in the world before it was flooded. Said the scavs hit this place hard early on too, so I'm guessing you'll need to go deep to find anything. I'd head straight down and search on your way back up if you still haven't found much. The prime pickings will be at the bottom."

Kristin fitted the breather to her face completing the alien transformation. She nodded in reply and help up a thumbs up. Carl returned the gesture and Kristin flopped backwards into the water leaving her brother alone, bobbing on the surface of a graveyard to the old world.