Friday, August 18, 2017

Carpe Blogiem: GenCon 50 - Day 2


Another day of "DEAR GOD WHAT AM I DOING AND WHY IS EVERYTHING EXPLODING."

Ok. First thing's first - I got breakfast this morning at like 9am - I went to bed around 3am. Showered, shaved, and then headed to the Con via Uber. I headed toward the SJGames booth and lo and behold Sean Punch was there. We chatted for quite a while and I kept him company while we discussed a variety of topics.

I did a bit more wandering about and headed over the the Plan B Games and bought a copy of the game "Century." (Note: I don't play a lot of boardgames - I love this game.) Did some more wandering. Found a few more GURPSers - got recognized in the wild again for some of my work on RPM and GURPS (which was awesome - but still weird). Hung out with Sean Punch a bit more before heading out to the hall and sitting down. Then chatted up some wonderful folks about various geek- and fandoms.

I headed back around 1700 hours and got to meet Steven Marsh in person. Wonderful man. Got to meet his wife (Nikki! Woo!) and son too and we must have chatted for an hour or so about geeky things - some GURPS stuff too. Basically [FNORD].

I then headed to buy some souvenirs for +Natiel Leealexander and +Travis Ellis since they couldn't make it where I waited for +Douglas Cole . When then went and got some dinner (fish and chips! With DELICIOUS beer!) gabbed about the con some and wait had happened during the day before parting ways.

I then headed back to the hotel and played a game of Century with a nice young family. We had a blast and they decided to go buy a copy (You paying attention B-Plan Games? That's FOUR I've sold today alone. Send me free stuff.) I got to talking about GURPS and then my campaign and the folks seemed enthralled. They asked for my card and then were off to buy some copies of the new DF boxed set via pre-order. Think I did good there.

Next I went to the pool and worked out some of the soreness of the day before crashing and resting up for Day 3.


Twitter Stream Photos

Forthcoming.

Carpe Blogiem: GenCon 50 - Day 1



Whew. Lot of stuff happened today. Let's see. I wandered around the GenCon exhibition hall for about 5 hours. I got a chance to talk to numerous folks including Steve Jackson, Michael Stackpoole, Andrew Hackard, and a dozen others. It was pretty damn amazing.

I snagged up a good half-dozen folks I knew were coming to the con so I could bring them to see +Douglas Cole while he was working a booth. What else? I bought a copy of GURPS Cabal (I didn't own a physical one), some dice for my other half, and the "shiniest RPG book ever made."

I caught dinner with Joseph Bravo and Doug at the Munchkin tavern and ordered one of their burgers - it was quite good. The right amount of bacon. So big I had to eat it with a fork. Fries were pretty on point too. I'll probably order that again Saturday when we play the DF game there with +Sean Punch.

Heading back to the hotel I meet up with some awesome folks who showed me how to play Galactic Truckers and a really fun game whose name escapes me at the moment that involved upgrading gems and buying cards for points. I want a copy. It was that nice.

I then went for a swim in the pool with said folks, hung out in the Jacuzzi a bit, then meet some OTHER folks who I chatted with for quite a while about game design and theory before heading back to my room at 0100 hours and passing out around 0200 hours.


Twitter Stream Photos

Forthcoming.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Carpe Blogiem: GenCon 50 - Day 0


Whew. I'm in Indianapolis at GenCon 50. Finally. SO MUCH STRESS OVER STUPID THINGS THAT TURNED OUT NOT TO MATTER. But I'm here now and that is all that matters. Some notes from today:


Traveling Man
I got to Norfolk Airport about 1255 hours and I was through the TSA checkpoint by 1310 hours. Seriously. It was fast. But then I left my ID in my hat and got it lost on the conveyer because I'm an idjit. Didn't notice it until I was already at my boarding area so I had to run back down. The TSA guy (Mark Jakosky) spent 25 minutes fishing it out for me. He is my hero. I ran back toward my gate then nd spent about 20 minutes waiting. I was boarded quickly and to my utter surprise and delight I had a row to myself and I was on the aisle. The seatbelt fit just fine (something I was SERIOUSLY worried about). It was awesome. 28 minutes from takeoff I landed in Dulles. Dulles is frakking huge and it needs to be the location of a a movie about the Zombie Apocalypse. Luckily, I stopped and asked for directions and a map and thus did not get lost. I used the automated walkways as respites for myself and then hit one of their trolleys. Also - that needs to be in a Apocalypse too - they are HUGE. High up, and defensible. You could totally live in one or use it as a mobile command center. Yes, people this is where my brain goes when I'm tired. While waiting for my plane to board I got recognized in the wild and talked some game theory with some folks. Was most cool. The plane I rode was tiny. And I was again afraid that the belt wouldn't fasten - it did. About 58 minutes after takeoff and I was in Indianapolis. About an 1 hour later I'd got my baggage and was at my hotel thanks to some excellent shuttle service.


In-Country/Hotel
I checked in - there was some mix up at the counter and it sucked greatly but it got fixed. I had less than 30 minutes to clean up, put my stuff out, etc. before I had to rush off to the Diana Jones Awards. I basically tossed my stuff down, took a quick breather, and then rushed to get in my Uber.


Diana Jones Awards
My first time here. It was crazy. An utter madhouse. The food was mediocre, but the company was excellent. I talked to a few publishers, met Ken Hite, and hung around with +Paul Stefko for a bit. I probably should have stayed longer, but after I ate there, saw the award, and did some mingling I was ready to head back to the hotel. Hopefully I'll get some work out of that.

I also managed to meet up with +Edmund Charlton and I bought some books off of him. Overall, a good start. Tomorrow I'll probably go for a swim and then head over to the Con to meet up with +Douglas Cole and others. Thanks again to everyone who got me here and I promise - lots of pictures/video.


Twitter Stream Photos

Forthcoming.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Carpe Blogiem: Author, Patreon, and Blog Highlights - July 2017


Here's the highlights for me from July 2017.


Authorial Highlights
  • I have finished a Pyramid article for Hot Spots and Locations - but it needs some work and perhaps a map. We'll see. I submitted the Deep Space article (hint: it's about space opera and ritual path magic) and the nameless article I mentioned before to Steven. This still leaves Combat, Hot Spots and Locations, Action, Alternate GURPS, and After the End - all of which I have ideas for or partially completed items. I did finish my goal of submitting of three articles submitted last month which I'm pretty proud of.
  • I was mentioned in the GURPS news. Sekrit Project is sekrit.
  • My article "Chi Sorcery" came out. I was pretty happy overall with how it turned out. You can find my Designer's Notes here.

Blog Highlights
  • I trimmed down the blog topics file to a mere 8 entries. DEAR GLOB THAT WAS A LOT. I got rid of about 10 topics for one reason or another and solicited about 6 more from various places. I still plan on writing new posts as the fancy takes me but I've got some breathing room for the sekrit project now.
  • Revamp on the blog continues, but I don't think it'll be ready before September what with me heading to Gen Con 50 and all.
  • As a part of the blog revamp I have went ahead and purchased web hosting and I plan on using wordpress for my new blog engine. They've come a long way with their particular interface and I rather like it from what I've seen.

Patreon Highlights
  • I began looking over my plans on what exactly I wanted to do for my Patreon revamp.
  • I got 4 new patrons in July and $11 of additional pledges for Patreon.
  • I pulled some interesting stuff from my files and current campaign to give to my patrons for August's specials. I think those like ritual path magic or Monster Hunters will enjoy them.

Miscellaneous Related News
  • I continued work on a fiction piece I'd like to self-publish later this year.
  • My ride to Gen Con had to bail at the last minute for reasons way beyond his control so I thought I wasn't going because I simply didn't possess the funds necessary to get there any other way . . . then the amazing community of nerds and creatives decided otherwise. I will be going to Gen Con - I hope to see many lovely people there.
  • My mother has gone to stay with my sister in northern VA for a while. She fractured her pelvic bone (they don't know when it happened even though she recently slipped). On the bright side she's fully cleared of the bacteria that nearly killed her and with her staying with my sister upstate my stress levels have gone way down so I can get some more work done.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Chronicles of Ceteri - A-Team - S00E12 - Given Up for Dead, Part IV


Dramatic Personae
  • Sir Al-Shams mac Lannageal aka Al MacLannageal (played by +Christian Gelacio): Man out of time. The Last Templar Knight. Warrior. Scholar. Sorcerer. Carries the Blood of Solomon and is the benighted grandchild of Brigid.
  • Annalise "Annie" M. Murphy (played by +Ann LS): Exorcist extraordinaire, sorcerer, psychic, twice cursed and twice blessed monster hunter. Ex-Gladius Dei. The Murphy. Talks to God, sometimes He talks back.
  • Dr. Francesco "Frankie" Novella (played by +Troy Loy): Doctor and accidental hero. Surgeon with a shotgun. Unflappable. Logical. Sometimes literal. No sense of humor. Always capable.
  • Nimbus (NPC Ally): Free-willed tulpa that can assume any shape living or unliving. Prefers being an orange cat with white socks or a Model-J Duesenberg. Why? Because. That's why.
  • Ronan Sloane aka The Gunslinger (NPC Ally): Dead man. Dullahan. Master sorcerer and shootist. Monster Hunter.
  • Youko Muramasa (played by +Natiel Leealexander): Master blacksmith and enchanter. Member of one of the Five Families of Kagutsuchi (descendent of the Japanese god of forges and fire).


Previously...
The PCs have decided to go see "The Mick" - a crime boss who is running a high-end gambling establishment. The Mick is rumored to be aware of the supernatural and takes chyrs (the coin of the Conclave) as well as relics, spells, etc. and offers the same to those who are "in the know."


Gambling Your Life Away
Al MacLannageal, Annie Murphy, & Dr. Frankie Novella
The Shadowed Heights
Friday, October 29th, 1999, 11:00 pm

320 Washington St, Brighton, MA 02135

Leaving Youko in a food coma back at the Heights, the rest of the PCs decide to go ahead and see the Mick and try to get Youko's sword back. Since Casanova told them it was "upper scale" Al, Frankie, and Ronan dress to the nines in swanky suits, while Annie dresses in a silver sequin "mermaid" dress and has some of the brownies put her hair up. If looks could kill she'd be a tactical nuke.

Once there, the PCs immediately start playing cards with Frankie and Al being confederates and helps to bolster Ronan's already stupidly high skill. Annie uses her Sex Appeal to distract the other players. The first round of poker results in doubling their money ($15,000 to start with) and successive rounds result in multiple royal flushes with different suits as Ronan cumulatively doubles the spending money Annie gave him over the course of a couple of hours until finally a large man with a thuggish face and close-cropped hair whispers to the dealer and offers the PCs access to "the backroom." They accept and head back there.

Once in the back, the PCs win several more hands and win more cash - but win even bigger in the form of a "Grail" (a lesser version of the real thing) and supposedly the Ring of Solomon himself. Of course, Ronan bet Annie once to get this since she gave him full leeway in betting. A little annoyed, she agreed and the pot was increased. Eventually, the thuggish man comes in, sits down, and introduces himself as Michael Parrino - the owner of the establishment. The other backroom players leave and Parrino offers the PCs their choice of cash, spells, relics, or other supernatural doohickeys in exchange for what they had just one. Al picks out a few items from a cart that's rolled in getting some lesser things along with an odd sword and Youko's weapon. The betting is pretty intense and Parrino is a great player, but he loses to Ronan even though he's trying to cheat.

All the veins in the large man's head pop-out as he gets angry, but then calmly asks how the PCs knew about this place. Annie flat out decides to tell him it was Casanova as both parties realize they've been manipulated by the incubus. Parrino into possibly killing Annie and her group (unlikely) or Annie killing Parrino (more likely). Parrino asks them to leave, but before they can Ronan steals the item allowing him to cheat (a magical bolo tie made of turquoise, silver, and shaped like a coyote head). Annie asks Parrino if he really wants to do that and after he calms down a bit both he and Annie agree to a short-term mutual non aggression pact as Annie decides to hunt down the bastard that part her and her friends in danger.


Aftermath
Having a hunch, the PCs head to Casanova's nightclub to ask him about his little "tip" and realize he's not there. After ransacking the place a bit they find his books in a secret compartment extremely well-hidden (Al-Shams magical eye for the win). Going over them, the PCs realize he's made several new succubi in the last few months and has tried to increase his capital by setting up a gambling hall and doing pornographic movies using his stable of girls. They smell a rat and decide something is up and want to go find him or at least visit his other places of "business" and safehouses.


After Action Reports/Game Notes
I was REALLY set up for the PCs to start a fight and get some combat on . . . but they didn't. Because reasons. That kind of threw me for a loop. Instead, they just used Ronan to get what they wanted since he's a card sharp and while they worked well, they may have gotten the ire of some rich folks in the process. We'll see. +Pk Levine's poker rules - "Straight to the Flush" from Pyramid #3/59: Conspiracies worked beautifully and I'd happily use them again if needed.

I'm really digging the 10- to 15-minute talk at the end of the game where the PCs discuss what they want to do next - I'm probably going to do this for all applicable teams from now on.

The PCs straight up took the Mick for a ride. Introducing this character to the campaign as a whole has been a waiting game for me and the A-Team just got luck it was them. Michael "Mick" Parrino is a criminal with a plan to take over the Boston area crime and he's doing it from the top down. Scary smart, unafraid of death, and with his fingers in all the pies he may be one of the more dangerous personages in the Ceteri campaign setting.

Natiel had to miss a game, but since I had at least 60% of the rest of the group I continued it.


Session Soundtrack
"Street Fighting Man" by the Rolling Stones (opening song)
"Queen of Hearts" by Juice Newton (gambling scene)
"Way Down We Go" by Kaleo
"Gambler" by Kenny Rogers (leaving the gambling hall)
"Renegade" by Styx (closing song with Casanova on the run)

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Gamemaster's Guidepost: No Such Thing as a Free Lunch


Free lunches? I don't believe in them, well, when it comes to free stuff in a roleplaying game anyways. Now, I'm not talking about one woe for every weal - I'm talking about taking disadvantages and then weaseling out of actually playing them or suffering for them in some way. First, it's just bad roleplaying and second it's cheating. That's right. Cheating. They took those points and used them to increase their capabilities in some way, but don't want deal with how they were disadvantages in play.

There are a couple of ways you can handle this and I've thankfully only had to use them sparingly in my own campaigns.


"You Fall Onto Five Death Checks"
I think the idea of the antagonistic GM is awful. I'm a firm proponent of GMs and players working together. But sometimes when you play with antagonistic players (and I definitely don't think you should) you have to take action. I've a very simple rule: if a player isn't playing his disadvantages and refuse to take cues from the GM then I simply give him a -1 to his rolls per -5-points his disadvantages would be worth in a given situation. Bam! The points suddenly matter.


Sneaking Disadvantageous Effects Into NPC Interaction
Say you've got a player who took Bad Temper, but isn't playing it out - what do you do? Well, make NPCs react to them as if they were playing it out. Since they didn't do their job as a gamer do it for them and don't give them a choice on how the interaction plays out. Seems a bit harsh, but it does two things: 1) it lets the player "earn" those points for disadvantages and 2) it can create a feedback loop of reinforcement. Eventually, the player will get the idea or he'll just not take disadvantages for his character.


Picking Over the Bones
Now, you're reading this and thinking "Man! Those are terrible to do players!" And you're right. You never get hostile with a player if it's possible and if they get antagonistic I suggest you dump them and try to play without them.

Sometimes this isn't possible or you want to give them a chance. In the long run, players that you can rehabilitate will be rehabilitated and players that Want To Watch Your World Burn will still start the fire every time. I've long since lost patience for hostile players so my automatic reaction is just to kick them from the game - but not everyone can do that for various reasons.

How do you handle things like this in your game? What tricks and tips do you have? What sort of situations have you dealt with before in such circumstances.?

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Boil and Bubble: Detailed Ritual Path Magic Grimoires


A spellbook. A book of shadows. A grimoire. These are all names for the same thing: a formula for casting a spell. GURPS Thaumatology: Ritual Path Magic has rules for grimoires to use with the eponymous system, but that has a few assumptions built in from the book it originally appeared in (GURPS Monster Hunters 1: Champions). So what would a more detailed ruleset for grimoires look like? Well, wonder no further! I’ve got you covered...

...if you'd like to read more, consider becoming a patron!

Note: the link to the actual content for patrons is here.

The Hurt Locker: Spirit Phone


In Pyramid #3/82: Magical Creations I wrote “The Hunter’s Reliquary” which gave Monster Hunters champions a new tool in their arsenal: relics. I didn’t have enough space for all relics, so here’s another one of the leftovers...

...if you'd like to read more, consider becoming a patron!

Note: the link to the actual content for patrons is here.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Gamemaster's Guidepost: Slow Lane Sessions


They happen to everyone eventually. The game you're running or playing in bogs down. Whether this is because the players (or GM) don't know what to do next or the players (or GM) runs on a "tangent" (non-gaming related talk at the table) or something else. It happens. It's not something you can really stop or prevent from happening, but it is something you can prepare for and thus minimize the effects. Here's a list of some of my favorite tactics to escape a bogged down game.


"Two Goons With Guns Jump Out At You!"
So the players (or the GM and some of the players) are debating on what to do next and it's turned into a 3 hour debate (a 3 hour debate) and you keep rolling your eyes and trying to interject and . . . you are ignored. What do you do? Well, if you're a GM the best thing is to just toss in something unexpected at the players to get their attention. Start a combat. Bring in a screaming NPC who begs for help. Do something to draw the attention to the game.


I Wanna Do Something Crazy
If you're a player the best thing you can do is to be impulsive. Normally, I'd say "No, never do this. It's bad gaming etiquette," but in this case (and used sparingly) it can help get the game going again. Basically, as one of my player's characters would say "I wanna do something crazy!" Be in the moment. Do whatever you think is right at the time and do not analyze it. Pretend you're wearing Nike's and Just Do It.


Thou Shalt Have No Table-Talk
Some GMs find comfort in a strict policy of "If it's not related to the game we're not talking about it." I personally like to give everyone plenty of time to chat and catch for 15 to 60 minutes and then enforce this rule as much as possible. Most players will respect it, but some will balk at the restraints and do their best to circumvent it. When that happens give them a warning and make sure everyone knows what happens when the rule is violated. If they persist then enforce it. If they keep on - boot them.

The GM is usually elected by the players to run the game and therefore he is the collective will of the group. If they can't respect that then they likely aren't worth playing with.


Picking Over the Bones
I could probably go on forever with a post topic like this - I've had a lot of players to practice on - good and bad. When you've been running roleplaying games 1-2 times a week for 24 years you pick things up. It's just inevitable. You make a lot of mistakes and if you're smart you learn how to not make them again. (If you have good players you probably won't have to make as many.)

What sort of things do you do in your games? What best practices do you use to get back in the fast lane? What tips do you have for your fellow GMs?

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Chronicles of Ceteri - A-Team - S00E11 - Given Up for Dead, Part III


Dramatic Personae
  • Sir Al-Shams mac Lannageal aka Al MacLannageal (played by +Christian Gelacio): Man out of time. The Last Templar Knight. Warrior. Scholar. Sorcerer. Carries the Blood of Solomon and is the benighted grandchild of Brigid.
  • Annalise "Annie" M. Murphy (played by +Ann LS): Exorcist extraordinaire, sorcerer, psychic, twice cursed and twice blessed monster hunter. Ex-Gladius Dei. The Murphy. Talks to God, sometimes He talks back.
  • Dr. Francesco "Frankie" Novella (played by +Troy Loy): Doctor and accidental hero. Surgeon with a shotgun. Unflappable. Logical. Sometimes literal. No sense of humor. Always capable.
  • Nimbus (NPC Ally): Free-willed tulpa that can assume any shape living or unliving. Prefers being an orange cat with white socks or a Model-J Duesenberg. Why? Because. That's why.
  • Ronan Sloane aka The Gunslinger (NPC Ally): Dead man. Dullahan. Master sorcerer and shootist. Monster Hunter.
  • Youko Muramasa (played by +Natiel Leealexander): Master blacksmith and enchanter. Member of one of the Five Families of Kagutsuchi (descendent of the Japanese god of forges and fire).


Previously...
The PCs have gained a new ally - a Japanese blacksmith with the ability to forge magical items. Annie has agreed to protect her since Youko's oathbound bodyguard has called in a tessera (a supernaturally enforced "marker" or favor) to do so. With the rest of her fianna having shown up at the house, the PCs wait for a call from Casanova to find the location of the man who has her sword.


War Councils and Fried Chicken
Al MacLannageal, Annie Murphy, Dr. Frankie Novella, & Youko Muramasa
The Shadowed Heights
Friday, October 29th, 1999, 9:00 pm
7 Cathaoir Road, Murphy Island, Boston, MA 02171


The PCs eat and talk about what they are going to do to get back Youko's sword when Casanova calls. An hour or so later, Casanova calls Annie and informs her that he bet the sword to a guy who works for "the Mick" - a small-time mobster living in South End. Frankie, Youko, and Ronan want to go in and just kick butt, but it's Annie that decides they should be diplomatic first - no need to make enemies when they don't have to. In fact, she, Youko, and Ronan know how to play cards at a professional level and decide to try to stake something (money or relics) to try and get Youko's sword back.


Aftermath
The PCs then begin to plan the possible outcomes and chat as they continue to get to know one another.


After Action Reports/Game Notes
This session was a lot of back and forth between the player characters and I mostly just listened in or played NPCs when they were included in the conversation. Due to massive traffic a third of the group arrived late again so we started about 90 minutes past the scheduled time. Then I got a headache from hell so intense that I literally had to blindfold myself because the light hurt me. I tried to run for about 20 minutes - but it wasn't working so I called the game off and the players meandered home somewhat disappointed. To make up for this I plan on running the casino bit online on Wednesday using the excellent rules from +Pk Levine's "Straight to the Flush." Which should be great fun.


Session Soundtrack
"The Skyw Boat Song (Outlander Theme)" by Kathryn Jones and Raya Yarbough (opening song)
"Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen
"Paper Doll" by Fleetwood Mac
"Suppertime" by Ella Fitzgerald (while eating)
"I Guess I'll Have To Change My Plan" by Frank Sinatra (closing song)