Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Running Dune

I've gotten a group together on Roll20 and have started running a Dune campaign using my Cortex Plus hack.  The four players have been really great and enthusiastic for both the system and the universe in which we're playing.  Two players are old friends, one is a guy that I met on the Cortex Plus Google+ group, and the other I met on Roll20 and is playing from Mexico.

Three of the four players have not had Cortex Plus experience, but are learning quickly.  The finer points of Assets and the importance of acquiring Plot Points will be their next big milestones in learning the system.  It helps that they like the idea of the system and are enjoying the narrative power that the system gives them.  I did the "Ask the players questions" thing during the first session and the player didn't know what I was asking - she didn't know the answer to the question that I was asking (that's generally the GM's job to create that).  When I explained that I was asking HER to help create that part of the story, she was bowled over and went with it.  It was great to watch her enjoy the new-found freedom that CP gives players, over less narrative systems.

It's been challenging coming up with the plot-line and making sure to incorporate all of the things about the characters that are important to them, but it's coming along.  And there's a lot of pressure to present my most beloved fictional universe well in the RP setting, but I have a general plot-arc in mind and it's been running pretty smoothly and everyone has been having a good time. The group has agreed that, while the plot starts on Caladan, they want to be RPing on Arrakis and have that experience sooner than later.

Also, because this is the first time that my hack is being used, to my knowledge, the players are also my play-testers.  Already, I have several ideas for creating a second edition of the game.  Mentat calculations, created in the vein of a Leverage-style wrap-up flashbacks, and firming up distinctions top that list.  I'm also thinking of adding a House creation system as well as a House-against-House system akin to the nation against nation system from the Cortex Plus Hacker's Guide.

If you're interested in following our RP journey, I'm chronicling it HERE on Obsidian Portal.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Star Trek Bridge Commander VR Woes!

Just saw the Star Trek Bridge Crew virtual reality game video the other day.  I went from intrigued to awestruck to saddened in the space of about three minutes.

Watching the game being played by some of my favorite Star Trek actors was just amazing - especially how into the experience LaVar Burton was.  It was like he was home again and it warmed my heart to see it!

This game is the game that I've dreamed of for some time.  There surely are space simulators that allow you to take on different roles on a bridge (Artemis, for example), but I really wanted to do it in the Star Trek universe and actually, along with my friends, take command of the ship and go where no one had gone before...and likely blow some things up along the way.  In addition, while it's not TRUE virtual reality in that you reach out and touch virtual controls, each player is in charge of their station and uses a controller to do their thing.  You can even look over at other crew members to see what they're doing.

Then reality set in.  I don't have VR gear for my PS4 or an Occulus.  Those things cost about $400ish these days.  And even if by some miracle I got such an expense past the CFO (my wife), finding four buddies who also have a VR headset is outside the bounds of reality.  They all have their own CFOs to whom they have to answer.

So the sad reality is that this looks like a dream of a game that I'll never get to play.  Maybe someday the VR gear will come down in price to a point where other married folks with bills to pay and other responsibilities can own them, but for now it's because of the price matter that I can't see this game doing very well in sales.
If you and four or so of your friends have VR gear, please feel free to comment on this post and tell me how the game was - I'd love to at least live vicariously through you!

Loving RPG Settings

I've loved role-playing games since I was a kid.  I've also always had a great imagination and constantly wanted to use it to mentally transport me to fictional places and times and explore them.  It didn't take long to see that one fed very easily into the other.

In essence, an RPG is like a novel where you see the world and its history, but the actual story is yours to create as a GM and as players.  The RPG will, of course, also have rules to aid said GM and players to adventure in that world.  On no few occasions, I've found myself either liking the setting but not the mechanics or enjoying the setting and the mechanics but could not find any players to play it.

So in my years of gaming, I've collected more than my share of RPG core rules books and sourcebooks.  If I had to put a number on it, I'd say that of the gaming books that I own, I've played/employed 30, maybe 40, percent of them.  And when I bought them I intended to try to play perhaps 70 percent with that last 30 purchased just for their settings.

We're doing some basement remodeling here at home, which has necessitated moving my RPG books out of their bookcases and onto the floor temporarily, so I took a few pictures that I'm putting in this post.  Over the years, I've lost more than a few games to damage, a loan that never returned, or that simply got lost in the shuffle, but I've done my very best to keep what I've bought.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Played Some Android: Netrunner

Android: Netrunner core set box

By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, Link

Friday night a couple of my buddies came into town for a Guy's Weekend, so Saturday that meant hanging out at the local game shop for a little while - Board Game Barrister, Towne Center.  Mark mentioned how he was really interested in the Netrunner game, so we got our hands on a demo copy there and played.

Having been a Cyberpunk 2020 fan from when it originally came out, I never did play the original Netrunner card game, but I'd been eyeing Android Netrunner for some time.  The thing stopping me was the fact that I figured that it would be difficult to find someone to play with and I never went for it.  Also, while this is a living card game (there are expansions, but no one has any advantage over the other due to having collected a better set of cards), the collectible card genre put a bad taste in my mouth, so even though they're different, subconsciously I associated one with the other.

Onto the game, this is one of those games where it's good to set it up and just play, learning as you need to in order to progress the game.  I ended up playing the hacker while Mark played as the corp.  You each have your own deck that has cards just for your side to use.  My goal as hacker was to hack the corp servers and steal their agendas for victory.  Mark, meanwhile, wanted to build enough of those agendas to win, while also trying to kill my hacker by damaging me with his intrusion countermeasures (ICE).

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Apocalypse World RPG Gameplay

I've recently gotten into watching RPG gameplay streams on Twitch.  While it's great to read about a role-playing game, it's really nice to see it in play.  Even better if experts are playing.

Roll20 has some Games Master Series streams going, each series of nine game sessions or so each.  I was curious about the Powered by the Apocalypse (PbtA) RPG system and found the Apocalypse World 2nd Edition series...and it rocked!

The Gamemaster (or MC in the case of PbtA) was Adam Koebel, who created half of the Dungeon World RPG which is mentioned and joked about a bit for the duration of the series.  The guy is the GM that I wish that I could be - definitely something to strive for.  His reactions to the players' plans, his seriousness tempered by humor, the way that he rolled with the punches and kept the game going, referencing the rules only enough to keep things moving smoothly and to educate the viewer on the system - these are the hallmarks of a Master.

Each of the four players really brought their A-game to the series, each playing a character that was quirky to the Nth degree in their own way.

DistractedElf played Dice for most of the game - a character who constantly pushed the envelope of violence  and mayhem even when it was obvious that the smartest move was to shut up and just take it for once.  I truly admire those players who can make those almost-suicidal choices in gameplay - just going for it because it's what their character would do, survival be damned.  She was also the most animated - really getting into the camera to emphasize her points.

Andrew played Tynant - the guy in charge of the clean water supply and law-giver to the area because of it.  I enjoyed his almost zen delivery when he spoke as his character - serene, soft-spoken, and honest at every turn.  He made his share of hard choices as the story progressed.

Dave played Ferrous, the INCREDIBLY quirky fix-it guy who was impressive in his ability to constantly be just several frames out of step with society in every scene.  Ferrous just didn't get other people, how to interact with them, or what was really expected of him and played it to a T.  Seeing him in another series, you get a great idea of how well he was RPing the character of Ferrous.

Bluejay played Brace - a Brainer character who could literally kill people with her brain...though for the most part she chose to merely manipulate them.  She, too, didn't get people at all.  To Brace, everyone around her was someone to be manipulated so that she didn't have to work for things herself - people really were her playthings and the character was to a better part successful in having others do her bidding in one way or another.  It was hilarious when a new situation came up and, having watched the series and gotten to know the character, you just KNEW what her angle was and how she was going to try to go about getting it.  Great fun!

I now get the PbtA system pretty well, thanks to this series, and went out and bought it myself.  To be honest, I have never been an RPGer who wanted to role-play in a post-apocalypse era, but the gang really showed how fun exploring those characters can be and how easy it is to find a purpose and some adventure if you're looking for it in that setting and with the system.

My only critique of the system comes from a bias of my own background.  Basically, if you enter into combat in Apocalypse World, you're pretty much guaranteed to take damage.  My other-RPGs-molded-mind tells me that if you're good enough you shouldn't take damage - that you should have a chance to escape unscathed while the enemy is lying in a puddle of their own blood.  Looking at the PbtA system, though, I see the "why" that it works like that.  While it encourages combat, it also lets you know that there's a price to be paid - you're going to be hurt.  It also encourages healers to have a function in the game, which is great - if a group is going to be in combat a lot, they WILL need a healer character or NPC of some sort.  The death mechanic of the system encourages acting boldly and dangerously - even if your character dies, they can come back in ways that make the character more interesting and also keep the story interesting.

Definitely check out the series when you have some time - I have a feeling that you'll be entertained.  I watch Adam's various Roll20 series' on Twitch and YouTube in the same way that I binge-watch on NetFlix.  I've found my new form of entertainment and the expert entertainers thereof!

Cortex Plus Dune RPG Hack

I'd posted this a bit ago to the Cortex Plus G+ group, but figured that this was a good opportunity to open it to a potentially wider audience.  Here you go straight from the document's intro:

Dune, by Frank Herbert, is possibly the best novel in all of science fiction.  Fans like myself wished for a good system to come along to properly represent the things that we loved about the novel, but the one highly anticipated try fell short and went out of business not long after putting out an unfinished and unplayable core book.  I’m looking at you, Last Unicorn Games.  So here is my best shot.  Cortex Plus Action Firefly is a great base.  The Cortex Plus Firefly RPG is required to use this hack.

The Skills section is modified to better reflect the Duneiverse.  I also added Strategize to cover the goings on in Dune from the politics of the Imperium to the plans of assassins to open war on the battlefield.In creating this hack, I went through the Dune novel and designed a new Distinction every time that I saw something in the book that wasn’t adequately covered by the Firefly system.  Any Firefly Distinctions that the GM decides will work in the game are allowed, though you may want to change their names to be more “Duneish.”

I added a category of Distinctions - Advanced.  The idea behind them is that they have a prerequisite of one other Distinction in order to take on that Advanced Distinction.  The prerequisite Distinction doesn’t need to be maintained, but the skills that got the character to that point in the first place may be integral in being successful in the Advanced Distinction.  The Advanced Distinctions are also positions of high responsibility.  If your character is interested in taking on those Distinctions, they have to understand that they have become more duty-bound and less autonomous than they were before taking it.  Your GM may even require the entire campaign to change directions from the characters being out in the field, so to say, to being the leaders of the people who are out in the field.  Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown, as the saying goes.

The last section - Special Rules For Dune - is just that.  Some things that are important or prominent in Dune weren’t easily represented using the standard Cortex Plus Action ruleset.  Poison is now just another weapon in a killer’s arsenal.  Body-shields are another form of armor, so to speak, with their own drawbacks.  And The Voice - without which a Dune RPG wouldn’t be the same - is represented, but with serious limitations to keep its use from getting out of control and dominating the game.  It was, after all, a very subtle and rarefied skill even in the book.

Well, there you go.  I hope that you enjoy playing this Cortex Plus hack!

Dune RPG Hack For Cortex Plus
It is time.

Time to start blogging again and to share what's on my mind about gaming and geeks.  Lately I've found myself a bit overloaded, so this should be a nice outlet. Plus, I think that I have a bit to share on both (broad) topics.

Happy blogging to you all, as well!