Sunday, May 29, 2016

Gamemaster’s Guidepost: Contemporary Encounter - The Black Sun Road

In May 2013, a road construction crew destroyed the ancient Mayan pyramid of Noh Mul in
current-day Belize. While those responsible feigned ignorance at what had happened, what if
it was something more? What if it had been intentionally planned? This article offers a quick
session starter for GMs in modern-day or contemporary campaigns.

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

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

Saturday, May 28, 2016

GURPS101: Wildcard Races

There are wildcard skills (p. B175), wildcard powers (GURPS Supers, p. 41), and (recently)
wildcard techniques (Pyramid #3/61 Way of the Warrior, p. 7), but not races… But really,
what would such a trait do...

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

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

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Hurt Locker: Gear Repositories for What's In a Lair?

After one of my C-Team players for my Aeon campaign noted the lack of armories or "gadget" rooms in my rules for "What's in a Lair?" I came up with some rules on the spot, but that got me thinking: Maybe some other folks could use this too.

New Fixture: Gear Repository
A room containing gear or equipment such as an armoury or supply closet. Such equipment cannot exceed the TL of the base itself. This also includes a method of cataloging such gear. At low TLs, this is likely via a written check in or check out, while at high TLs, this could be a RFID or barcode system, embedded locator chips, etc.

Repositories give a bonus to the roll to determine if a particular item could be found within a repository using the rules for Available Resources Range (Pyramid #3/86 Organizations, p. 7) as long as that item is appropriate. For example, you could not find explosives in a food pantry or computer supply close.

For a +1 to Available Resources Range this costs +5 CF. For +2 this costs +20 CF, for +3 this costs +100 CF, for +4 to the roll this costs +300 CF. If this bonus only applies to a smaller class of equipment apply one of the following cost reductions.
  • Broad Category (weapons, electronics, etc.): Full Cost.
  • Large Category (computer parts, dwarven goods, guns): -20%.
  • Small Subcategory (desktop computer parts, dwarven weapons, rifles): -40%.
  • Narrow Subcategory (desktop power supplies, dwarven blades, sniper rifles): -60%.
  • Specific Item  (Corsair desktop power supplies, dwarven axes, Russian sniper rifles): -80%.
For example, a Gear Repository that only contained sniper rifles and assorted gear that gave a +4 to rolls would cost +60 CF. 

If you only get the bonus when finding gear from one TL less than the bases, this applies a -20% reduction (maximum of -80% when combined with the above or not)

Picking Over the Bones
I really can't believe I forgot something like this. I kind of folded it in the rules for Available Resources, but still there was room for something like this. Color me annoyed. Overall, I like how this turned out and I totally borrowed the categorical rule for the Cheaper Equipment perk. It just makes since to separate it like that.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Carpe Blogiem: Aeon Team Rosters - Part I

I've been a busy little beaver - and if my keyboard hand't crapped out on me at the beginning of the month I'd've had a lot more done. As it stands, I feel pretty good at the state of my campaign (s). I've add another team to the roster (C-Team) and I've almost completed everything I need for my face-to-face game (A-Team). I've had a lot of help putting all of this together and keeping it together. In particular my co-GM (+Ann LS ), and two "GM's Assistants" +Hal Batty and +Travis Ellis+Kyle Norton and +Douglas Cole cool get a shout out here for helping maintain my wiki and/or writing up session reports. Thanks a ton, guys,

I'm doing something rather unique (I think) with my latest campaign - Aeon. Aeon is essentially a supers campaign, except that it's not. I suppose at its heart it is a giant "What if...?" (What if superpowers were real?). More meta-gaming: What if I ran multiple simultaneous campaigns and see if I can tie them together? What if I create a diaspora in a role-playing game? One driven almost entirely by player characters? To me...that's huge. I haven't attempted anything like this since almost 20 years prior when I ran two Shadowrun games at the same time or the sprawling LARP of over 40 players from all over the World of Darkness.

The idea is pretty simple: put together multiple online and face-to-face campaigns and then cross them over. Imagine the possibilities if I could make this work. "Okay, Doug, Zephyr and Arc Light are helping out A-Team, but in return AEGIS sent you two of their best operatives to help you track down that human trafficking ring." Seriously, think about it. A pool of players that know in advance that they are going to be a part of a larger campaign with dozens of other players. It makes my mind swim.

(And if anyone is interested in actually running in Aeon to add to said diaspora, hit me up. We can talk about it.)

So here I am, thinking outloud on my blog about the various teams I've put together. First up: A-Team!

State of the A-Team
This actually ended up a bit messy as we went (as a group) through three sets of characters until we found something we all liked. Then my brother decided he was going to be unable to play and then he could play and then he couldn't and finally we are back at he can (for sure this time - life is omnomnoming him). Add that to the fact that our mutual friend wanted to play but was hospitalized due to kidney failure and damn near died... So things have been hectic for my face-to-face group. Still, in another couple of weeks the first game is going to happen and man I'm really excited by that. Since the inception of Aeon I've always known the A-Team were going to be the "Avengers-level" supers. That they were going to work with or for AEGIS in a similiar capacity in handling problems that are otherwise to dangerous for normal people or other metahumans. After conferring with my players over a span of a couple of weeks we mutually decided  that they might not start out from that point. They wanted to do a kind of origin story that started a year or two after the Transatlantic Pulse. This presented a problem to me for several reasons, chief among them was to achieve the power levels I was looking at I couldn't start them there. Now, I could easily accelerate the amount of points I give, but that could lead to artificial inflation of some traits which was why I decided on using buckets of points to begin with. So the idea I came up with was to halve their starting points and build "high school" versions of their characters. The high school "prequel/mini-series" would last 3-6 sessions at which point in time "Season 1" would start and carry on 10 to 14 sessions, and so on. At the end of each major arc I'd let them add 20% of their starting points to their characters (for the mini-series) and another 40% for Season 1 and Season 2 plus whatever they earn in game. This will hopefully allow me to tell the story I want to tell while giving my players what they want. Overall, I'm very pleased with the tie-ins from the B- and C-Teams and I'm looking forward to seeing how it players out.

Scale: Escalating (starting out as neighborhood, then borough, then city, then nation, then international).
Basic Campaign Concept: "First Generation" metahumans coming to gripes with their powers and the world around them.
Point Range: 1,000 points to 2,000 points (tolerance of ±50%)

The A-Team consists of 5 players and 1 NPC ally.

Aysella Shinjitai aka Marionette (played by +Ann LS): a telekinetic with the ability to animate objects by imbuing them with Kyberian Energy. She can also detect kyberian energy traces (e.g., "power signatures"), possesses a moderate amount of TK, and can dampen or boost other metahuman powers. She's also a skilled hand-to-hand combatant and related to the Commander (his third cousin or some such, it's distant, but they were pretty close growing up). Overall high attributes - but not super-high.

Hobs Ini-Herit aka The Alchemist (played by +Christian Gelacio): a straight-up matter controller with super-strength (he has two power-talents: Hyper-Strength and Matter Control). He's a brick that's flexible enough to pull off all kinds of tricks - including the Absorbing Man's shtick to mimic a materials atomic structure. He's also quite strong and has a high enough HT that it's doubtful he'd die until he hit -HPx5. He's also a natural athlete, moderately wealthy, and a wizard when it comes to chess (grandmaster by the time he was 12).

Roth Reynard aka Red Zone (played by +Troy Loy): a super-genius with flame powers and a fear of heights. He has a unique ability to summon "pseudo-elementals" of fire that do his bidding. His powers are mostly heat-based, but he can chuck a fireball too. He practically wrote the encryption for most modern security services. High IQ and HT.

Samuel Donick (no alias yet) (played by +Curtis Johnston): A really interesting character. Samuel Donick was actually killed during the TAP, but his body remained in a vegetative coma. Unbeknownst to anyone, his neighbor - a retired Nobel-Prize winner (as of yet unnamed) as a metahuman and when the TAP hit his powers - Telepathy - activated. It also destroyed his body. His mind went into the comatose body of Samuel where he stayed in a coma for an entire year. When he eventually woke up he realized what had happened and did his best to act like how he assumed his teenaged body would. Samuel is a massive telepath with the ability to cloud minds, read minds, communicate with them, knock a target unconscious or paralyze them, and so on. High IQ, high Will, moderate physical stats (his new body was a quarterback).

Unnamed Character (played by +Thomas Phelps): Still working on this one, but so far the character is a florakinetic (he controls planets) who was raised in an orphanage. Unfortunately, the administrator of the orphanage is corrupt and a part of the criminal underworld. Because of this Thomas's character is forced to commit crimes (including growing various plants with narcotic properties and robberies). More mysteriously, his character's powers manifested before the TAP.... (His actual stats have yet to be determined, I'll update this when they are.)

Picking Over the Bones
I'm really rather happy with how this one turned out. I dislike it when I have false starts of any kind, but it really bugs me when I do it while gaming. This line up and what sort of concepts we're going to explore seems like its going to work just fine. I've also already tied in some of the characters from this campaign (Marionette and "Sue") into the B-Team and look to explore the origins of some characters from the B-Team in the A-Team's game. We'll see how it goes

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Designer's Notes: Codex Duello

Codex Duello was one of those things that came out of a "I wonder if I could..." after a conversation that started in Pyramid Write Club and degenerated into a off-list email conversation with +Douglas Cole. Doug thought that Control Points from GURPS Martial Arts: Technical Grappling might be more broadly applicable elsewhere. I just happened to agree with him and went looking for ways to implement it. In my urban fantasy campaign - The Chronicles of Ceteri - one of the methods that ritual path magic mages settle scores is via "mage duels." This pretty much became the seed idea for Codex Duello.

Unfortunately, Codex Duello was one of those articles that everything made it in in the final draft - even the super badass vignette which was inspired by one of the PCs from my Ceteri campaign. And yeah, she totally used the "When the clock strikes midnight, we dance, you murdering bastard." line. I have awesome players and Annie's player (my other half, L.A.) just has some of the best character dialogue around. But enough digression, too the statistics!

It took me about 21.75 hours to write, 49 hours to edit, 2 hours worth of research (mostly in old dueling codes and traditions from around the world), and 60 hours of revision (took me forever to get it where I wanted it).

The article itself could be used in just about any magical system as it's what I call a "meta-mechanical overlay" and before anyone calls me on it: Yes,the training dummy in the equipment section is totally for those who want to run Harry Potter-esque duelling clubs. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

GURPS101: All-Seeing Eyes

The Clairsentience advantage is one of the most underused and overrated of the "information-gathering" traits GURPS has to offer. This is most likely due to it's high cost (50 points) and low range (starting range is a mere 10 yards).

Clairsentience as Pieces Parts"
So what does Clairsentience do and how does it do it?

  • Requires you Concentrate for one minute, pick a desired viewpoint within your range (which can also be inside of something), the facing of your viewpoint, and then make an IQ roll. You cannot split your senses.
  • If the roll is successful you can use your ranged senses (sight, hearing, and smell) within that area as if you were physically there. Failure by 1 or more results in your senses going somewhere of the GM's choosing, while a critical failure means your ability is crippled for 1d hours.
  • Regardless of native vision Clairsentience-based Vision rolls ignore darkness penalties. 
  • You cannot see through something - though, as noted above you can see into something. E.g., you could project your senses inside of a barrel, but you couldn't see outside of the barrel.
  • To return your displaced senses you must make another IQ roll and concentrate for a second.
  • Viewing the inside of a moving object such as a vehicle automatically moves your viewpoint as well without any extra rolls.
  • Base Range is 10 yards (which also affects vertical as well as horizontal range). This may be doubled temporarily by spending 2 FP.

Associated Penalties:
-5 if the viewpoint is out of sight (you must specify direction and distance).
All related penalties for Hearing, Vision, and Smell.

Rules as Written Clairsentience Special Modifiers
Here is a short list of modifiers for Clairsentience and where they can be found and a description of when you might need them. Reliable (GURPS Powers, p. 109) will be especially useful to get around some of the inherent penalties in the base ability or special modifiers and gives it's bonus to Sense rolls using the ability. Note that Increased Range (p. B06) is the only way to allow you to see further than the base 10 yards included in Clairsentience and 19 levels are required for a "global" range. Affects Others (GURPS Powers, p. 109) allows others to see what you see.

  • Aware (+50% Enhancement; GURPS Powers, p. 44): Lets you sense your body's viewpoint and the viewpoint of your Clairsentience projection.
  • Based on IQ/Perception (+20% Enhancement: GURPS Basic Set, p. 102): With this enhancement you can switch all IQ-activation rolls to Perception or make all Perception rolls used with this advantage IQ rolls instead. The latter allows for highly intelligent, but not so perceptive characters to still be able to use their ability usefully.
  • Clairaudience (-30% Limitation: GURPS Basic Set, p. 42): You can only hear from your viewpoint.
  • Clairosmia (-60% Limitation: GURPS Basic Set, p. 42): You can only smell from your viewpoint.
  • Clairvoyance (-10% Limitation: GURPS Basic Set, p. 42): You can only see from your viewpoint.
  • Fixed Range (-5% Limitation: GURPS Psionic Powers, p. 13): You can't spend FP to double your range.
  • Normal Sight (-20% Limitation: GURPS Psionic Powers, p. 13): You suffer darkness penalties normally.
  • Projection (+0% Enhancement; GURPS Powers, p. 44): You send out your entire consciousness from your body (which falls unconscious until you cease using your ability). This makes you vulnerable to supernatural abilities such as psi, spells, etc., but allows you to affect the insubstantial world (this may be the Etheric plane, Astral dimension, spirit world, etc.). If you have abilities that can effect people in the material world this becomes a +140% enhancement.
  • Second Nature (+70% Enhancement; GURPS Powers, p. 44): Lets you change your viewpoint and the viewpoint of your Clairsentience projection as a free action. Still requires an IQ-5 roll and a minute of concentration if your viewpoint is out of sight.
  • Time-Spanning (+0%, +50%,  or +100% Enhancement; GURPS Powers, p. 109): Allows you to use your ability in the past or future (or both). Being unable to use your ability in the present can reduce the price considerably. 
  • Visible (-10% Limitation: GURPS Basic Set, p. 42): Your senses visibly manifest.
  • World-Spanning (+50%  or +100%Enhancement; GURPS Powers, p. 109): Allows you to use your ability only in another world or dimension (+50%) or also in your current dimension.

New Modifiers for Clairsentience 
Some new modifiers I've posted on the forums or use in my own game:

  • 360º Viewpoint: Your viewpoint doesn't have a facing - you automatically see in all directions at once. This works exactly like 360º Vision (p. B34). +20%.
  • Blind: You don't take a -5 to your IQ roll to project out of sight. +20%.
  • Clairgustance: Your sense of taste is also projected. This costs +10%. If you can only project your sense of taste this becomes a -70% limitation.
  • Clairenunciation: You can speak from your abilities' viewpoint. This costs +20% and is incredibly useful for long range communication. If you can only project your voice this way this becomes a limitation worth -80%. If you can only speak and hear at a distance this is a -25% limitation.
  • Clairtangence: Your sense of touch is also projected. This costs +10%. If you can only project your sense of taste this becomes a -70% limitation.
  • No Strain: Your ability isn't vulnerable to crippling. +25%.
  • Scry: Your ability doesn't manifest internally. Instead, when you use it you can "project" the clairsentience viewpoint on a nearby surface. This window is typically a round shape, but any shape that the user can imagine is possible as long as it's no bigger than it would be. If you can change the shape to anything you want this costs an additional +10%. If you can choose to project or not add another +20%. There anyone can see, hear, and smell what your ranged senses could pick up. This costs +40% if you can create a projection whose diameter is equal to your IQ/2 in inches. Anyone in the area can view this projection and it lasts as long as your ability is being used. If the diameter is equal to IQ in inches this costs +80% instead. If you can have multiple viewpoints this requires the Split View enhancement (see below) and costs either +80% or +120%. Traditionally, this is a reflective surface of some kind (e.g., a mirror or pool of still water), but this is not required. If you must use a special surface this reduces the cost. Use the rules for Limited Enhancements (p. B110) and the modifiers for the Special Portal enhancement (see Jumper in GURPS Powers, p. 58). E.g., Scry that projects a surface equal to IQ/2 diameter in inches on reflective surfaces would be worth +32% (+40% x 0.8 = +36%).
  • Sensory: You require an animate being to use your ability. You can only sense what they can sense (usually hear, see, and smell), but you can switch to another being as easily as switching your viewpoint. If there is no roll to resist this is worth -20%, if they can resist with a Will roll then this costs -40% instead.
  • Split View: You can split your senses into multiple viewpoints as long as it's within your range. You're at -1 to all rolls per sense so split. This costs +50%. For +50% more you can have multiple viewpoints that use all your senses, but each viewpoint beyond the first inflicts penalties which are cumulative. For example, having two viewpoints would be -1 per sense projected or -3 on rolls to notice anything in either view. You can split up your senses anyway you wish and even change senses (which takes one second and an IQ roll per sense).
  • Takes Damage: Your viewpoint manifests in a noticeable way which can also be attacked! For the purposes of your power treat it as a creature with a Size Modifier equal to yours - 7 and with HP equal to your IQ/10. Destruction of your viewpoint causes you 1 point of injury and results in your ability being unusable for 1dx5 minutes. This includes Visible. -40%.
  • Takes Range Penalties: When rolling to initially pick a viewpoint you take Long-Distance Range Penalties (p. B241). This is worth -15%. If you take normal range penalties (p. B550) this is worth -30%. IF you take -1/yard this is worth -45%.
  • Warp-View: You must have Warp (p. B88) for this enhancement. You can teleport to any location your clairsentience viewpoint is at even if you've never been there. Combined with Scry and Warp with the Tunnel enhancement this allows you to fix on a location and then enter your scrying projection! +10%.

Example Build: Eye in the Sky

Eye in the Sky: Clairsentience (360º Viewpoint, +20%; Aware, +50%; Blind, +25%; Increased Range, x200,+70%; Reliable 5, +25%; Scry, Shapeable and Switchable, +70%) [180]. Allows you to project your ranged senses over a mile from your current location (over 2 miles for 2 FP). You must make an IQ+5 roll and concentrate for 1 minute. Success results in you being able to see, hear, and smell from that location as long as you concentrate. You can switch viewpoints with a 1 second of concentration, but the viewpoint you are not concentrating on takes a -4 penalty to any roll which requires your attention/senses. You can share your view with others by "projecting" what you sense on an area equal to IQ/2 diameter circle in inches.

Powering it Up:
  • For 25 points you can add Split View allowing you to concentrate on difference areas. For another 25 points you can fully sense multiple areas.
  • For 10 points your viewpoint can now speak.
  • For 5 points your viewpoint can now touch.
  • For 5 points your viewpoint can now taste.
  • For 13 points your ability cannot be crippled.
  • For 20 points your projected viewpoint's diameter is equal to your full IQ in inches.
  • For 35 points you can initiate, change viewpoints, or end your ability as a free action. 

Picking Over the Bones
Like my previous in depth looking at the mechanical construction of an ability, Clairsentience has a lot to give if you tweak it right. Information is always something that the players can use more of and someone who is a "diviner" is as useful as the guy who swings the sword. Unfortunately, in my campaigns I rarely have people take such abilities due to their less flashy nature. Eventually someone will come to me and say "Christopher, I want to play the guy who 'knows' stuff." and I will smile and say "Boy, do I have a build for you..." 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Carpe Blogiem: Malfunctioning Compy

So several of my keys on my keyboard are malfunctioning. I cleaned it and that's not helping. So ordered parts which won't be here till 10th

Patreon specials and blog posts will commence as soon as my computer is back in order. Likely, specials will all come at once at the end of the month (which I've been considering for a while anyways). Sorry for all the mess. :-( I'm fixing it as fast as I can.

UPDATE: Ok, got parts,working on machine. Catching on up work,Patreon, blog, etc. Should be up and running at full speed by next week. Thanks again for the patience guys!