Tuesday, June 28, 2016

GURPS101: After the End - Snowpocalypse

GURPS After the End 2: The New World talks about a cold climate in the new world but really only reiterates some information from Basic Set: Campaigns about snow. Where's the acid snow? Where's the Day After Tomorrow-equse storms so cold that they freeze you when you are exposed to them? Well, the author most likely had a limit on space and left some things up to the GM to explotrate ...so this is me. Extrapolating. My own post-apocalyptic campaign is going to be a "cold" apocalypse - because let's be honest, they are scarier than the Mad Max-style dusty everywhere endings.)

So a few assumptions first:

  • The average temperature is between 2 and 20 degrees colder than the average temperature on record for the region. Even a mild drop of a mere 2 degrees can cause terrible winters. The last Ice Age we had was a drop of only 12 degrees...
  • The remaining populous knows how to deal with cold extremes. This could be as simple as requiring everyone to take Survival (Arctic) and other useful cold travel skills like Skiing, Skating, etc. The GM could also allow a better default for Survival (Arctic) giving the equivalent of a Dabbler Perk for a single skill. Thus in "snowpocalypse" campaigns Survival (Arctic) defaults to Per-2 instead of Per-5. The latter would be a campaign switch.
  • Most precipitation is going to be ice, hail, snow, sleet, etc. 
  • The growing season is going to be short (perhaps 3 to 4 months) and cold-resistant crops (e.g., carrots, kale, or spinach) will be prominent. Domesticated animals that can more easily survive the cold or forage on their own will also be more prominent (e.g., sheep).

Detailed Winter Survival
Surviving in the cold is a matter of being able to keep warm. This is glossed over for After the End, but in the spirit of "Survival at the End" a more detailed approach may be appealing to some. Winter survival depends on the same things that surviving in other climates do, but more of it. When building shelters you must make them as windproof and rainproof as possible. Insulators such as emergency blankets, rocks, etc. to reflect body heat or a fire can make all the difference. When building a shelter (see here) the GM can allow a Survival (Arctic) to act as a complementary skill for the purposes of increasing your HT or HT-based Survival (Arctic). A well-made shelter can be the difference between life and death.

Composition of meals can also make the difference. In normal climates an adult needs around 2,500 calories a day to maintain a healthy weight - in a arctic climate this doubles. Thus the GM could fairly argue that a character needs an additional 1-3 meals per day (or double portions per meal) in cold climates. Since the very act of digestion expends energy this could also help combat the cold. In game terms the GM could decide that such a diet is effectively the Hungry quirk (GURPS Power-Ups 6: Quirks, p. 23) and a level of Temperature Tolerance (Cold). Thus, for the equivalent of an extra meal per day the subject gains +2 to HT rolls to resist losing FP or LFP to cold effects.

Starting a fire in the snow is hard. In most cases you'll first need to clear the area of snow - at least 2 to 3 feet from the outmost edge fire. If this is not possible due to either the depth of snow, packed ice underneath, or similiar circumstances a fire bed must be created. A fire bed can be anything from a "raft" of wood, an automobile hood, or other objects of "flat nature." The idea is that the fire needs to sit far enough above the snow that it won't contact the snow-melt and thus have the possibility of drowning the coalbed. Once you have a fire going you'll need to have a way to shield it from snowfall or other precipitation (building under a tree or similiar structure). The last thing you want is your fire to go out...

The good news about surviving in the cold is that as long as you have a fire and something to boil water in you can process all the water you need. In an emergency you can also eat snow, but this is a hotly contested point! Eating snow will bring your core temperature down and that can be deadly in the cold. On the other hand, eating snow while physically exerting yourself can lower your temp some, but not dangerously. Being dehydrated is probably worse!

Bad Weather
After the End 2 (p. 12) has a few entries for storms, here's a few new ones and some modifications:

"Acid Snow": Use the rules for Acid Rain, except that corrosion damage gains the cyclic modifier (another point of damage per minute for up to 10 minutes). Acid snow also sticks around for a while just like normal snow and wandering into a patch can be dangerous!
"Rad Snow": As for Fallout Rain, but use the rules for Acid Snow.

Like a normal blizzard but dumping 0.5" to 1" of snow per 5-10 minutes (optionally, roll 3d6) in subzero temperatures. Unlike a normal blizzard those caught out in must make an HT (or HT-based Survival (Arctic) roll every hour. Failure results in 1-point of injury. Critical failure causes 1d instead. GMs can increase the frequency of rolls to every 30 minutes for temperatures of -20°F or higher, 10 minutes for temperatures -40°F or higher, and 1 minute for temperatures and -60°F or higher. Such blizzards last 1d hours and eventually dissipate.

Picking Over the Bones
Surviving in the cold sucks. It's probably more miserable than just about any other climate other than the desert. Even then the heat takes a day or two to kill you - you can die from exposure in just a few hours. I also think that having water everywhere (and in a form that might kill you) is more subtly dangerous. There's a reason why the Viking's idea of the end of the world was heralded by several years of severe winter and cold afterall.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Boil and Bubble: Curse as a Sorcery Spell

I've posted a Sorcery-style Bless spell already (and my thoughts on creating custom traits) so I figured I'd go ahead and do the counterpart: A Sorcery-style Curse spell.

Constructing a Universal Penalty Trait
Creating Curse as a spell has the same inherent problems as creating Bless as a spell. That is, in GURPS there's no "I take a -1 to all rolls" disadvantage. Just like Blessed is the proper trait to start with for new advantageous effects so Divine Curse is the right one to start with for disadvantageous effects. Like with my previous efforts, there is some established material (in this case, material I wrote): "Cursed Thou Art" from Pyramid #3/78: Unleash Your Soul. Cribbing off my previous notes we get the following sorts of rolls for GURPS.
  1. Active Defense rolls (e.g., Dodge or Parry rolls)
  2. Appearance rolls (e.g., the roll for a Contact)
  3. Attribute rolls (e.g., Dexterity roll to avoid a trap)
  4. Damage rolls (e.g., a sword's damage roll)
  5. Effect rolls (e.g., Critical Hit tables, Critical Spell Failure tables, etc.)
  6. Reaction rolls (this one is self explanatory)
  7. Skill rolls (e.g., Observation vs. Camouflage Quick Contests)
As I noted before there may be other types of rolls, but those are the ones that will get the most use. Figuring the cost  we get the following:
  1. For Dodge this is effectively -1.00 to Basic Speed for -20 points, but with +5 points to account for Basic Move for a total of -15. For Block and Parry, it's a bit trickier since there are about 30+ skills. You could use a Racial Skill Incompetence (p. B452) to figure the cost - that case it's going to be about -15 per level. Since we need a -1 to Block and Parry rolls that requires a -2 to skill rolls for another -30 points.
  2. As before, I'd calculate the cost as for the most expensive base trait requiring Frequency of appearance rolls - a 40-point Enemy. Averaging the appearance numbers together we get on average an increase of 1.625. That gives us a cost of -25 points.
  3. So ST without HP is worth -8 points, DX without a decrease to Basic Speed is worth -15 points, IQ is worth -20 points and decreases both Perception and Will rolls, and HT without an increase to Basic Speed or FP is worth -2 points.
  4. This one is fairly tricky since there is no "decrease ST trait" other than lowered ST. Since we've already got a -1 to ST from step 3 we simply need to calculate how much decreased ST for thrust only is worth (since two levels of ST is about -1 to swing and -1 to thrust). Since "Striking ST (Accessibility, Thrust attacks only, -20%)" is worth bout 4 points not having that trait would be worth -4 points. If you add up the cost of all Innate Attacks (71 points) and average them (there are 11 types) you get 6.46. Since that's the cost for a full die of damage we multiply that by 0.25 for 1.62 points. Adding Universal Follow-Up increases the cost by 50% gets 2.43 and if we treat it as a disadvantage we get -2 points.
  5. As before I'd call this a Wildcard Power built as a Racial Skill Penalty- that gives us a cost of -8 points and only works on various effect tables.
  6. This is worth a flat -5 points per -1.
  7. Skill rolls are effectively lumped in with Attribute rolls since a +1 increase in Attributes rolls over to skills as well.
I'm going to suggest treating this just like I did Blessed (Charmed Existence) and charging only 1/5 the cost of the disadvantage for every trait except the most expensive. Doing that means the penalty to Block and Parry is worth -30 points and then we add 1/5 the cost of everything else, or 53 points. Rounding up we get a Divine Curse worth about -55 points. So, as a variation of Divine Curse it might look something like this:

Divine Curse (Whammied)
-55 points
The GM hates you (or maybe it's just Devil being bored). Every roll you make is a made at a -1: reaction rolls, damage rolls, skill rolls, etc. If there is a die roll involved and it would be disadvantageous for you to get a bonus to that roll you get a -1. The GM may optionally allow multiple levels of this advantage, if so each -4 translates to -1d with an upper level set by the GM.

Curse as a Sorcery Spell
Building off of our previous work we get a version of Curse for Sorcery as follows.

Keywords: Buff.
Full Cost: 33 points for level 1 + 6 points/additional level.
Casting Roll: None. Use Innate Attack (Gaze) to aim.
Range: 100 yards
Duration: Special.

This gives the subject a -1 to all rolls per level the spell. This effect lasts indefinitely... until the subject succeeds a die roll (or a foe makes a bad die roll) that would remove him from serious danger. Then the spell averts the peril and the spell ends. The GM decides what exactly happens to increase the peril and should use the rules for Influencing Success Rolls (p. B347) as a guideline. For example, someone under the effects of a level 1 Curse who dodges an arrow by one might instead get hit in the Torso, while someone under a level 3 Curse might get hit in the head.

Statistics: Affliction 1 (HT; Disadvantage, Curse, +60%; Extended Duration, Permanent, Use of Serendipity Points, +150%; Increased 1/2D, 10x, +15%; No Signature, +20%; Sorcery, ‑15%) [33]. Notes: Each level of Curse is Divine Curse (Whammied) [-55/level] and a Serendipity Points [-5/level] and increases the cost by 55/level. Serendipity Points cost the same as Destiny Points (GURPS Power-Ups 5: Impulse Buys, p. 5), but automatically refresh fully each session thanks to their narrowed scope.

Picking Over the Bones
Honestly, I'm not sure if I'm happy with the price - for a mere 20 more points you can be Cursed and get hosed all the time. That said, Cursed is more GM-subjective and is more akin to having bad serendipitous events occur vs. a hard game mechanical effect. I suspect that playtesting both Blessed (Charmed Existence) and Divine Curse (Whammied) would be required to see how things shake out. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Gamemaster's Guidepost: Back to the Drawing Board

My recent post on creating an advantage that gave a bonus to all rolls was pretty controversial. On one hand some folks liked my methodology, on the other hand I was to be branded a traitor of the Holy Word of Rules as Written. I still stick by my blogpost. But that whole thing raised another issue I'd not really been aware of: people seemed to have radical views on how you could create a new advantage. Even the section on making new advantages in the Basic Set pretty much says "price new advantages as you think appropriately." So here area few tips I use when designing new traits for GURPS.

Renaming & Redefining Traits
These are easy - change the name, change the flavor, but keep the game mechanical effects the same. The only problem most GMs might have is coming up with a cool-sounding name. I personally like to come up with the setting bare bones first and then change names of traits if needed. Your mileage may vary, of course.

Combining Traits
This tends to be the method that most folks go for. It's simple, easy, and familiar: you're basically going through the same process that you'd go to for creating a new meta-trait or superpower. This one is also fairly straightforward and uses the normal methods for creating abilities in GURPS.

A Case for Alternative Abilities for Alternative Pricing.
One thing that I noticed while designing "Blessed (Charmed Existence)" was that Alternative Attacks (p. B61) requires no Ready maneuver like Alternative Abilities (GURPS Powers, p. 11). That says to me that when using those rules as long as the powers are all the same thing (or thematically the same thing) then there maybe there is no Ready maneuver needed, but you can't use them at the same time.

So sure, you can get a discount for multiple types of DR, but only one of those types of DR could apply in a single instance. Another way to play around with this might be with a perk - Dual Ready allows you to ready two different things at once with a single maneuver so why not two powers? It may also make sense to add Game Time for some powers so that while you can't use those powers for everything, you could use them on a "per roll" or "per action" basis.

Modifying and Fine-Tuning Traits
Again, the rules here should be pretty familiar: it's just like designing a power or meta-trait. You're tweaking the final cost or trait to be more customized to your particular campaign. For example, if everyone in your campaign who possesses a Talent (p. B91) also have tattoos/birthmarks that glow when you use a covered skill you could bundle that as "Innate Skill (Healer) [9/level]" for a character sheet and long-hand it as "Healer (Visible, -10%) [9/level]."

Creating Entirely New Traits
Probably the most "Rule Zero" (or as I like to call it sometimes "Rulez" - I don't really, but it sounds cool) of the guidelines. This section relies on both GM oversight and a balancing act against previously established traits. It also requires a lot of playtesting to make sure it works. It's also a bit shaky on how it works using fractions without any seeming caps vs. percentages that do have caps. In short, the "ugly" side of GURPS is showing. The side that most folks who play the game look at and go screaming in mindless terror. "Numbers are not objective here! It's all subjective! Hallllpppppp!"

What bothers me (and what +GodBeastX noted as well) is that GURPS uses made-up numbers to begin with. No one knows how balanced DX is against HT except by rigorous playtesting. They are gaming abstractions that allow us to have balanced play without the metaphorical Cowboys and Indians argument: "I shot you! You died!" "No you didn't! I shot you!" The numbers aren't based on anything but the game designer's gut feelings and playtesting. To suppose that they were mathematically derived somehow boggles the mind.

This is something I feel GURPS players and designers lacks sometimes. We all become so obsessed with the numbers we forget that they aren't based on anything but playtesting and a number some game writer thought appropriate. This can make some of us outright deny such things, but deny it or not it's the truth. That's why I think that when you are designing something new it's very important to remember this unvarnished truth.

Picking Over the Bones
As I've said (probably ad nauseam) creating new traits is so in the GM's wheelhouse that he probably shouldn't let his players do it at all. Being able to weigh and judge the value of a game mechanic is something that comes with time, patience, and lots of play. You can't really say if something is going to work or not unless you actually play in a game using it. You can't armchair quarterback actual honest to goodness playtesting or experience at game design. There's a sort of feeling you get when something is right (or near right). The closer you get to something balanced and playable, the louder the sound.

With all of this, I got to thinking...how could I create a Divine Curse that gives you a -1 penalty across the board? But that's probably a post for another day.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Boil and Bubble: Bless as a Sorcery Spell

So I've been using Sorcery a lot in my campaigns lately. (Even in my RPM-using campaigns as it makes perfect "quick" spells.) I saw this thread pop up and thought "Huh, this would be perfect for stating a 'Bless' spell for Sorcery." So here it is - "Bless" as a Sorcery spell.

Constructing a Universal Bonus Trait
The first step in creating Bless as a spell requires laying a proper foundation. In GURPS there is no "I get a +1 to all rolls" advantage. My first thought is to use the rules for "Blessed Be" from Pyramid #3/78: Unleash Your Soul and create it as a version of Blessed. (Which is worth buying by the way - even if it does have one of my articles in it.) So what's needed for a general +1 bonus? Well, let's look at what sorts of rolls there are in GURPS.
  1. Active Defense rolls (e.g., Dodge or Parry rolls)
  2. Appearance rolls (e.g., the roll for a Contact)
  3. Attribute rolls (e.g., Dexterity roll to avoid a trap)
  4. Damage rolls (e.g., a sword's damage roll)
  5. Effect rolls (e.g., Critical Hit tables, Critical Spell Failure tables, etc.)
  6. Reaction rolls (this one is self explanatory)
  7. Skill rolls (e.g., Observation vs. Camouflage Quick Contests)
There may be some other types of rolls for different things, but these are the major ones. So breaking down the cost (and treat the component pieces as an alternate ability since you only make one roll at a time) we the the following:

  1. Defense meta-trait (GURPS Supers, p, 00) for 30 points.
  2. This one is tricky, but I'd calculate the cost as for the most expensive base trait requiring Frequency of appearance rolls - a 30-point Patron. Averaging the appearance numbers together we get on average an increase of 1.625. That gives us a cost of 18.75 or 19 points.
  3. Again, a bit tricky: ST without HP is worth 8 points, DX without an increase to Basic Speed is worth 15 points, IQ is worth 20 points and increases both Perception and Will rolls, and HT without an increase to Basic Speed or FP is worth 2 points.
  4. A bonus to ST-based weapon damage rolls is worth about 10 points - two levels of Striking ST essentially. Increasing the ST of non-muscle powered attacks is a bit trickier and requires a bit more thought. If you add up the cost of all Innate Attacks (71 points) and average them (there are 11 types) you get 6.46. Since that's the cost for a full die of damage we multiply that by 0.25 for 1.62 points. Adding Universal Follow-Up increases the cost by 50% gets 2.43 or 3 points.
  5. Another tricky one: I'd call this a Wildcard Power built as a Racial Skill Bonus - that gives us a cost of 8 points and only works on various effect tables.
  6. This is worth a flat 5 points per +1.
  7. Skill rolls are effectively lumped in with Attribute rolls since a +1 increase in Attributes rolls over to skills as well.

All in all this gives us a cost of 50 points per level. We start with Defense rolls as the base since it costs the highest and add 1/5 the cost of all the others. Assume any rolls not listed also get a bonus and are thus worth less than a perk for such costs. So, as a variation of Blessed it might look something like this:

Blessed (Charmed Existence)
50 points
Maybe you have a guardian angel or maybe the Devil looks out for his own, whatever the reason you live a charmed life. You gain a +1 to any roll you make: reaction rolls, damage rolls, skill rolls, etc. If there is a die roll involved and it would be advantageous for you to get a bonus to that roll you get a +1. The GM may optionally allow multiple levels of this advantage, if so each +4 translates to 1d with an upper level set by the GM.

Bless as a Sorcery Spell
Building off of our previous work we get a version of Bless for Sorcery as follows.

Keywords: Buff.
Full Cost: 82 points for level 1 + 55 points/additional level.
Casting Roll: None. Use Innate Attack (Gaze) to aim.
Range: 100 yards
Duration: Special.

This gives the subject a +1 to all rolls per level the spell. This effect lasts indefinitely... until the subject fails a die roll (or a foe makes a good die roll) that would put him in serious danger. Then the spell averts the peril and the spell ends. The GM decides what exactly happens to negate the peril and should use the rules for Influencing Success Rolls (p. B347) as a guideline. For example, someone under the effects of a level 1 Bless who gets shot in the head might instead be shot in the arm or chest, while someone under a level 3 Bless might not get hit at all and the nearest foe gets shot instead!

Statistics: Affliction 1 (HT; Advantage, Blessing, +550%; Extended Duration, Permanent, Use of Serendipity Points, +150%; Increased 1/2D, 10x, +15%; No Signature, +20%; Sorcery, ‑15%) [82]. Notes: Each level pf Blessing is Blessed (Charmed Existence) [50/level] and a Serendipity Point [5/level] and increases the cost by 55/level. Serendipity Points cost the same as Destiny Points (GURPS Power-Ups 5: Impulse Buys, p. 5), but automatically refresh fully each session thanks to their narrowed scope.

Picking Over the Bones
The more I toy with Sorcery the more I like it. It's like Ritual Path Magic in that it gives you a way to build a balanced magic system. It's different from RPM in that it's more concrete and less prone to GM discretion. I find the two systems are essentially the opposite sides of the same coin. As for the building of Blessed (Charmed Existence) I'm sure forgot something, but 50 points seems about right for "I get a +1 to everything" if you consider that a 15-point Talent as a wildcard power is worth about 60 points and is likely overpriced. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Gamemaster's Guidepost: Decomplicating Combat

As it oft times happens to me, a conversation can inspire a whole blog post. In this case a conversation with +Kyle Norton is the huckleberry. He asked "How do you deal with something like someone with Extra Attack 2 and Altered Time Rate 4 or a necromancer with a horde of minions?" And it's really a good question because there's not obvious solution. One thing Kyle mentioned was how he lets his speedster player collapse multiple actions into a single action and that got me thinking. What could you do with such a rule? We traded a few words back and forth and eventually I hit the blog, because hey, why waste a good idea?

Multiple Actions into a Single Action
To speed up combat simply compile multiple actions into one single action or roll. To do this use the following steps:

  • Pick a specific Maneuver (e.g., All-Out Attack or Move and Attack) to affect all attacks.
  • Determine the maximum number of attacks you could make in a single second of combat.
  • Look up the number of attacks as Shots column from the Rapid Fire (p.B373), but shift the bonus gained up by one and add that to your base skill. For example, if a character could perform 14 attacks you'd get a +4 bonus to base skill.
  • Add a "Rate of Fire" equal to your total number of attacks.

Make a single skill roll against your best attack (alternatively, if the GM wants to he can average the skill if using multiple attacks as well as damage - but that may be too complicated). For every point by which you succeed you hit with with an extra attack. Roll damage once.

The character can exclude actions from this if he wants. For example, if someone had Extra Attack 2 and Altered Time Rate 4 he could theoretically get off 16 attacks by taking All-Out Attack (Double) four times. This would give him a +4 to his attack skill and give his attack a RoF of 16. Alternatively, he could decide to split this up and take 3 All-Out Attack (Double) and 1 All-Out Defense (Double). He'd get a +3 to his attack skill, RoF of 12, and the effects of an All-Out Defense (Double) for that round. If the GM feels this is too beneficial each "mixed" maneuver reduces the skill bonus granted by one.

SSDD, Same Stuff, Different Dude
Having a horde of minions is thematically awesome - don't be hating y'all, you know it's awesome - but in game it's a nightmare. "Oh, ummm, you have 20 zombies, so let me spend the next hour figuring out how they're going to act and then making rolls." There are two ways you can deal with lots of NPCs on the board:

Make it a Mob: Treat large grouped numbers of beings as a mob using the Swarm rules (p. B461). This lets you keep the danger of lots of combatants while keeping the rolls minimal.
Elevensies: Don't roll the dice at all (or minimally, only for 20%), instead compare their skill to a roll of 11. If they succeed then resolve it normally (e.g., their target must attempt an Active Defense). For large groups of creatures look up the total number in the combat on the Size and Speed/Range Table in the Linear Measurement column and read the Size column as a bonus to their rolls (half the bonus for Active Defense rolls).

Picking Over the Bones
Speeding up combat can be important for some games - for others it's all about the combat. In general, the GM is going to need to decide what's best for his game. Alternatively, he can mix it up and make some fights use these rules with other fights using the basic rules. ("Mook" fights and "Boss" fights, if you will.) I personally like the idea of being able to skip over some combatants and get to the good stuff: player characters and important NPCs. It feels more like a simulated TV show or movie that way.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Boil and Bubble: Power Reserve Magic

I had an interesting conversation with +GodBeastX the other day about how I might go about creating a magical system that would be good at creating a "combo-chain." I totally misinterpreted what he said and the conversation devolved into other methodologies on how to do what he wanted. But it sparked an idea of my own. So the basic concept is this: some forms of fictional magic rely on separate energy reserves to use, while simultaneously sapping another energy reserve. For example, if all magic is broken into "fire wizardry"and "ice wizardry" then your "fire mana" fuels your fire spells, but also decreases your "fire mana." In order to increase your limit you must then use your ice magic. (Note: This concept draws on the idea of "Long-Term Fatigue" presented in GURPS After the End 1: Wastelanders by +Pk Levine.)

The Basic System
Use the following steps to determine the starting energy pools available. This depends heavily on how magic is broken down into groups. Note, while colleges can be individually groups - it would extremely complicated and hard to keep track of. Further, these rules assume that all casters get this reserve of energy for free, but that regular FP cannot power spells at all.

1. Determine the number of "power groups." A power group could be as simple as "light magic" and "dark magic" or as complicated as the "wu xing" where one element counters another and nourishes yet another.
2. Determine which power groups oppose one another. Continuing our example from above, light magic opposes dark magic, while in the wu xing wood opposes earth and is in turn is opposes by metal.
3. To determine the starting power reserve divide the total number of power groups into 10; round all fractions to the nearest whole number. For example, if magic is divided into the classical four elements then the starting power reserve for each element would be 10 / 4 = 2.5 or 3 when rounded up.
4. To determine the character point cost of purchasing a higher reserve divide the total number of power groups into 3 and round up. For example, continuing our example to increase the light or dark power reserve would cost 2 points (3 /2 = 1.5 or 2 points).

How It Works
When casting a spell the energy for the spell is drawn from your power reserve just as if it were FP. Each point of power reserve spent also increases your accumulated power residue (APR) by one. The maximum size of your power reserve is reduced by your total accumulated power residue. For example, if you had a power reserve of 10 and cast a spell that cost 3 PR then you'd also accumulate 3 APR.

Getting rid of APR from a power reserve requires that you spend points from its opposite. PR recover at a rate of 1 point per 10 minutes.

Other than how the magic itself is fueled nothing else changes. Because of how PR and APR interact with one another you must use opposite forms of magic.

Getting Tricky
Changing how APR are shed could create entirely different systems. For example, imagine if the only way to shed your APR in a magic system featuring the four classical elements is to spend time in or near your element and they are shed at a variable rate. For example, you might get back 1 APR (Fire) every two minutes for being near a volcano, 1 APR every five minutes for being in a raging inferno of a burning house, 1 APR every ten minutes for being near a bonfire, and 1 APR for being in a hot (but not humid) environment. Being immersed in water or in an arctic environment means it's impossible to shed APR.

Picking Over the Bones
The idea of using LFP for other things is starting to grow on me quite a bit. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Long-Term Fatigue Points are an absolutely brilliant idea (kind of like +Douglas Cole's Control Points). I'm looking forward to seeing what else I can repurpose them for.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Carpe Blogiem: Where's My Gorram Patreon Specials?!

If you're wondering where your patreon specials are at as I explained last month I'm going to be switching up  the release schedule. Instead of twice a month on Saturdays the specials will now be released at the beginning of the coming month on the first Saturday of the month.

Why? Well I'll be frank (you can be Joe if you want) - I've had people coming in, collecting the new material, and then not paying and skipping out. I've struggled for months with a proper way to do right by you guys and by myself. For now, this is the way I've chosen. I completely understand if some of you decide that this is no longer worthwhile for you. Thus, the two Patreon Specials for June will be uploaded on July 2nd, 2016.

Two additional notes:

1) I am searching for a way to keep the archive functioning, but not allow folks to just scoop and drop. There should be a reason to stick with me long term and I think that's going to be one of them. Likely I'll keep 6 months worth of specials active and keep the rest offline. I'll let you know what I decide, but for now it stays as it is.

2) If anyone gets declined for payment two months in a row and doesn't respond when I contact them I'm going to automatically remove them from the patron list. If it goes three months in a row regardless I'm going to remove them from the list. I'm sorry if this sounds harsh, but I'm running a semi-sort of business here and as much as I like to give away free content it's not fair to the people (you) who take the time to support my endeavours.

If anyone has any questions, please feel free to contact me here or email me.

Thanks again for everything you guys do for me. :-)


Christopher R. Rice

P. S. I just started watching Firefly for the first time today and Gorram is my new favorite word. No mocking me because I'm a decade or so behind. :-P

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Gamemaster's Guidepost: Playing With High Point Totals

Sigh. Ok. The following blog post is going to sound equal parts preachy, derisive, and ranty (the last is my favorite dwarf from Snow White - he looks like Lewis Black and is just as pissy). For that, I'm sorry. I'm pretty sure I'm going to manage to offend someone out there who believes that the One True Way Of Gaming means anything over 150 points is overpowered and thus unplayable. I've seen people balk at 250 points and declare that the 400 point Monster Hunter templates are physically unassailable and thus hunting monsters is moot. To those people I say this: You are wrong. You are wrong and a decade of gaming in GURPS 4th edition with 200 or more points proves it (for me at least). Basically I call shenanigans. So here are a few pointers, but before that let me introduce you to the Rule of Awesome:
The Rule of Awesome: When dealing with characters who have high point totals (250 points or above) or in a cinematic game let the players be awesome. This does not mean that you should let them constantly win - you can be awesome without always winning. You can be awesome and still lose. Let them put a spin on the knife they just threw. Let them kick the door down in in one go. Let them do a run jump kick off the wall into someone's head leaving a boot imprint. Let the players be awesome. The point here is that if you are constantly hosing your players because they have a point total you find "too high" then start another game at a level you are comfortable with. Inversely, high point totals does not mean powerful - you could have a 400 point character who is almost completely social traits (e.g., Rank, Status, Wealth, etc.) who is abysmal at physical conflict. Regardless, let the players be awesome.

"My Player Characters Are Too Skilled!"
It doesn't matter how many points your player characters have in a skill because you're the GM and you can increase the difficulty of their skill rolls. And I'm not just saying "You suck! Have a -5 penalty to your skills." You can use the the modifiers from GURPS that most people forget about and just GO with it. For example, let's say you have a party of people who's lowest combat skill is 18 - they're a bunch of world-class warriors. So how do you handicap such a motley crew? Penalize them. Penalize them until their eyes bleed (but not too much, remember - let them be awesome). "Okay, you have a -2 in vision penalties from darkness, another -2 because it's raining, and a further -2 because the road is a slippery mess." DESCRIBE the penalties they are getting so they understand why. Why is as important as how. This way when they do succeed it has a higher impact: "Dude, my swordsman is so badass he stabbed someone in the Vitals just after sundown while it was raining cats and dogs." They will come to accept the penalties as part of being awesome and that is as it should be.

"My Player Characters Are Too Hypercompetent!"
"Okay, anyone have Expert Skill (Hydrology)?" "Yes." "What about Geography (Physical)?" "Me again." *sigh* "Any skill you don't have?" "Not many..." Hypercompetency is not really an issue if you follow the guidelines above. Having too many skills is never the real problem. The real problem is that your skill overlap between players is too high. This is only natural when you have one player who takes boatloads of skills at 1 point and high attributes. How do you fix this problem? Don't let the players take the skills or use the rules for "My Player Characters Are Too Skilled!"

"My Player Character's Attributes Are Too High!"
"What's your DX?" "14." "Your ST?" "Also 14..." Overall, high attributes are not really an issue in most campaigns that feature point totals that let you buy those attributes. If this is a problem simply specify a maximum attribute (I like to use 16 for starting characters with the option of buying Special Exercises) or a maximum amount of character points that can be spent in attributes (e.g., 200 points or less). GMs should be careful with high attributes because they can bash a realistic campaign into cinematic status (and yes, realistic campaigns can have high point totals).

Picking Over the Bones
If you want to ignore everything I just said (and you can), simply set up character creation to use Buckets of Points. Even with my fairly substantial experience GMing I used Buckets of Points for my current campaign (Aeon) and I have not regretted it. In my case I  split it into "Attributes," "Advantages," "Skills," and "Metahuman Powers." It worked so well that I plann to do it across all my campaigns.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Carpe Blogiem: Aeon Team Rosters - Part II

As promised by prophecy the next installment of how things are going - this time for the current most long-running campaign in Aeon: The B-Team.

Additionally, since I've had a few folks ask me about why I demarcate game sessions into "Seasons" and want an explanation I wanted to give one. Basically, the way I typically frame campaigns is the way most script writers write movies or TV shows. My process is pretty simple: I create a story arc that goes from start to finish and then I "hang" smaller plots from it with the idea that eventually the PCs are going to get from the larger plots onto the smaller ones (which I call "mini-arcs"). Each mini-arc is from 2 to 5 sessions long and each story arc is composed of 3 to 5 mini-arcs. Related, but not needed is the "over arc" - the overall theme of the story I'm trying to tell. Story arcs are 2 to 5 seasons long. Campaigns last between 1 to 3 over arcs. Thus each season is 6 to 25 game sessions long, each over arc is 18 to 125 sessions, and each campaign is 18 to 375 sessions long.

Framing a campaign in this way is highly advantageous for several reasons, but key among them is the ability to quickly tell players how long a campaign might last, explain extended breaks (if needed), and, more importantly create holiday-themed campaign sessions. Because you gotta have your Christmas episode! (Actually, this is something I might talk about in a another blog post because it is something I think other GMs might find useful.)

State of the B-Team
The B-Team have had a rough spell recently. Their first villain of Season Two, Oblivion, was a super-smart, constantly over-prepared, revenge-drive madman. It started with a "simple" bombing and led out from there. The players just kept jumping into the deep end of the pool without looking to see if there were sharks and this hurt them badly. I'm not the kind of GM to pull punches in most cases: If I tell you something will happen if you do X and you do it anyways I'm going to do it. This isn't me being an antagonistic GM. It's not about me "winning." It's about me establishing ground rules literally months before play begins an then following through. I don't coddle my players for the same reason I don't really use "rails" - it's much more interesting for everyone involved if what happens in game play is somewhat unpredictable. That said, I really dislike killing PCs if I can help it and I'm pretty forgiving most of them time. So what happened when most of the B-Team lept for looking? Bad things. They kept trying to chase the bad guy down like they would any other and he kept outwitting them. It was only an eleventh hour plan that stopped Oblivion from destroying half the city. Oddly enough, it was Arc Light's player who figured out Oblivion's one weakness (forcing him to calculate what someone might do next who is emotional and unpredictable), while The Commander actually created the plan to beat the bad guy. That mini-arc was brutal on the players as failure after failure pummeled them downward. I wasn't trying to drive any particular point home or anything, but I did follow through. The second mini-arc of the season (the one the B-Team is working now[just finished up]) has gone much better: the players are working together and being more proactive than reactive. I like this. I hope the trend continues.

The B-Team is still working on their team tactics, but their characters and personalities are very well defined. Their place in the campaign world is equally defined. Overall, I really love the characters that my players have made - they are unique, exciting, and wholly interesting.

You can read about the B-Team's current exploits from this page..

Scale: Broadly local (the B-Team works out of New York City's Bronx for the MAPS program).
Basic Campaign Concept: Metahumans working for the local government to deal with criminals, rogue metahumans, and other threats to the city and their territory.
Point Range: 300 points to 1,200 points (starting point tolerance of ±25%)

The B-Team consists of 5 players.

Luca Damini aka Arc Light (played by +Christian Gelacio): It's no secret that Chris is a fan of Iron Man - it's his favorite Marvel character - so when he suggested playing an armored hero I was already somewhat prepared. What I wasn't prepared for was his addition of metahuman electrical powers (which he later lost stopping the Indian Point Energy Center from going sky high). His character in a way is "reverse Tony Stark." He's not flashy, keeps his tech mostly to himself, and works as a low-key (but highly paid) "Security Consultant to the Stars." After his second near-death at the end of Season 1 he's gotten a little more broody and morose. Death does that I guess. During the Oblivion storyline he had some information that could have helped the team, but he kept it to himself. While this was bad for the players it was amazing role-playing. The character was so conflicted about everything he just didn't know what to do.

Eamon Finnegan  (played by +Kyle Norton): When Kyle came to me and said "I wanna play a gravity user" I was all for it. When he said "I'mma be the face and like, a lawyer" I was understandably "???" That lasted for about three game sessions before The Ultimate Fighting Lawyer brought out some legalese that saved the day. And then just kept doing it. Kyle rolls so well on Roll20 that he's being (teasingly) accused of hacking the platform's dice roller. Seriously, recently he rolled a double-crit (3 and then a 4) and pulled out the key evidence for tracking down Oblivion. He originally started out with both Density and Gravity manipulation, but neither of us were really happy with how it was working out in game. So we swapped it to just Gravity. Still trying to convince him to take Lawyer! (since he is one in game). Overall, Eamon has been the break out character. I was dubious of his skills and that was at my own peril. Never underestimate the players.

Ian Owari aka The Commander (played by +Douglas Cole): An interesting (if predictable) character concepts. Like Chris, I knew Doug was going to either go for a Cap-clone or a Thor-clone. We've had some bumpy starts with this character, but eventually we figured out how he should be played. He's not Captain America. He's freaking Batman with a sword. Seriously. He's got the patriotism of Cap, but is bat-sneaky with his bat-katana (batana!). He's also got kinetic control powers (which he keeps forgetting to use). Moreover, he's the team leader and is very good at it - especially after he purchased Foresight. Ian went through some hell at the beginning of Season 2 (Doug was going to be absent for several sessions) and his exit and reentry was extremely well done. Currently, his handling of Singleton was masterful. His planning out-of-game to get that handling (perfectly) done was also appreciated. I hinged a lot of my campaign background on Doug's character and he hasn't let me down yet.

Pontikia Paroni aka The Rat Queen (played by +Emily Smirle ): My favorite character concept of the bunch (a shapeshifting rat mind hive with super-strength? Yes, please). Emily's character went from "I'm a brick!" to "Oh, I can do other stuff - never thought of using my powers like this." Seriously, she's been instrumental in gathering information, protecting people, communication, and even bodyguard work. Emily has missed a couple of sessions this Season due to illness or emergencies, but I'm hopeful that's past because I'd really like to see where she goes with the Rat Queen.

Murui Ao aka Zephyr (played by +GodBeastX): A former criminal turned hero, Zephyr is a speedster with criminal skills and a complicated past. More than that he's got some magic and chi skills (the only character so far with chi skills and number two for magic stuff). His jack of all trades approach to powers has been useful to the team more ways than one. In Season 1 he picked up a magical kris knife (which he still doesn't know what it does) and has been trying to get rid of it for a while now (it's a teensy bit cursed apparently - it likes to stab, stab, murder, murder people).

Picking Over the Bones
The B-Team's success even when my A-Team game switched up so many times kept me going as a GM. The B-Team's players helped me when I needed it and their near-spotless record of showing up every Monday to play kept refilling my creative tanks. Overall, I'm happy with the line-up and I hope the players are happy with the game. The A-Team might be the heart of Aeon, but the B-Team is it's backbone.