Friday, August 18, 2017

Carpe Blogiem: GenCon 50 - Day 2


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


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


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.

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


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).

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.

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).

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.

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)

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Carpe Blogiem: All Hail The Line Editor

Sean "Dr. Kromm" Punch is celebrating a birthday this week and seeing that he's the architect of my favorite game engine and my oft-times boss I thought I'd talk about some of the things he's done that I've enjoyed or just random anecdotes.

Here comes the random

  • When I was writing GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 19: Incantation Magic with +Antoni Ten Monrós one of the more amusing bits on the notes he sent back was stop the "semicolon abuse." I have a t-shirt pattern for this somewhere I really need to get printed.
  • Kromm's always been the ludicrously thoughtful guy who goes out of his way to answer questions about his writing and GURPS in general. There are too many times for me to pick just one, but I think the most useful was when I asked for an explanation of how Reprogrammable worked and he gave me a huge email back answering my questions fully. It must have taken him 20-30 minutes to write. If you're a new author to GURPS or just a constant blogger you could do worse patterning your behaviors off of his in this regard. 
  • Not GURPS-related, but Kromm is a mixology enthusiast - once upon a time I was a bar back when I wasn't working the door of the bar I was employed at as a bouncer. I picked up a lot. I enjoyed the work and if I had stayed there I might have become a bartender. Kromm is one of the only people I've met since then who share the two hobbies and while I'm not as advanced in skill as he is - it's really fun to talk drinks with him.

Favorite Books or Articles
There are way to many to name or post here, but a few of my top picks would be:

Just about any of the Power-Ups series - those books are a bit revolutionary in many regards. They turned a flexible system into something you could pretzel into any shape you like. While +Pk Levine wrote two of the more useful volumes, but Impulse Buys changed how I ran campaigns.

GURPS Powers is something I reference all the time. I've had that book over a decade and I still find new things in that book. It's amazing.

GURPS Action and GURPS Dungeon Fantasy both of these lines are pretty amazing. The first lets you recreate just about any contemporary action flick in absurd detail, while the latter does Dungeons and Dragons better than Dungeons and Dragons.

GURPS Zombies is a one-of-a-kind resource in the gaming world and something I find myself turning to in just about every game I run.

Picking Over the Bones
Overall, Kromm is the kind of person you want to be the captain of the ship of your favorite game system. You know he's going to put serious thought into any action he makes or allows others to make for the game line. He keeps stuff straight on the forums and is pretty responsive with questions on how the game should be played regardless of how you contact him. Basically, y'all - All Hail the Line Editor. +Sean Punch thanks for doing all that you do and just being an awesome guy.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Gamemaster's Guidepost: Building a Mystery

Adding a mystery angle to your campaign is not something that's particularly hard - doing it well on the other hand can be tricky. GURPS Mysteries by L. J. Steele is a fantastic, must-have resource for GMs running a mystery campaign for any system, but especially useful for those running GURPS campaigns as it contains notes on just about every paranormal power that could be taken and how they might impact a campaign.

Regardless, here are a few tips:

Establish the Beginning, But Leave Ending Fuzzy
GMs for any genre can get caught up with the end result to the point that they have blinders on in any game, but it can be even worse for a detective mystery, cozy, or "who dun it?" Thus, the best thing any GM can do is firmly establish the framework of the mystery itself, the beginning contextual clues, and then the probable ending. Don't be afraid to change it depending on what the PCs do. Nothing is more satisfying to a player than to make an out of game guess and be right.
"Endings are hard. Any chapped-ass monkey with a keyboard can poop out a beginning, but endings are impossible. You try to tie up every loose end, but you never can. The fans are always gonna bitch. There's always gonna be holes. And since it's the ending, it's all supposed to add up to something. I'm telling you, they're a raging pain in the ass."
– Chuck, Supernatural #5.22 "Swan Song"

Don't Be Afraid to Leave Loose Ends
Seriously. Don't. Loose ends are ok when gaming (and when writing, really) because for the most part the end of one story arc is just the beginning of another and having loose ends helps create a feeling of continuity between one story arc and the next - assuming you use said loose ends at a later date.

Additionally, there is something to be said for never explaining a mystery. Simply present the main plot and something ancillary and then never explain the latter. Life never provides all the answers all the time and neither should a game.

Don't Be Afraid to Hit Them Where It Hurts
You want to involve a player or player characters in a mystery plot? Hit them right in the feels. Hard. Want to have them chase a serial killer? Have them murder a friend, contact, ally, (or if you're really mean) a dependent. (Note: doing the latter you should absolutely offer to either replace the dependent in some way or let them buy it off or swap disadvantages for equal points - Guilt Complex, Manic Depressive, Over the Edge, Obsession, etc.) Bring in their past somehow and let them know it. Maybe their parents didn't die in a car accident or maybe their best friend didn't run away after all. Regardless of what you do hit them where it hurts. Doing this will usually have the player invest heavily in what you are running and provide for satisfactory gaming.

Do note that you must be careful when doing this and you should definitely warn your players something might happen.

Brilliant Characters and Gaming
We all like to play characters who have traits different from our own. Gaming lets us do that. But there can be issues when running a mystery when the character is highly intelligent, perceptive, etc. and the player is not. Therefore the GM must improvise a little bit. Perhaps he gives the player advice on something his character would notice about the scene or allows him extra rolls to put two and two together. Whatever you do, be aware of the player's capabilities as well as the character's. It can be incredibly frustrating when the GM creates a challenge for the character, while ignoring the player.

Every Detail Is Important Until It Isn't
One of my players pointed out an interesting thing while I was running my game - the GM never describes an element or gives information that's not important. And that's mostly true. Gaming takes time and most of us don't have but some many hours to waste pursing the hobby - this creates a kind of "inverted" importance situation. If everything the GM describes is important than the players must pay attention to everything the GM describes. This in turn means the players can take contextual clues from the descriptions and more easily solve the problem. Veteran gamers do this without thinking most of the time. So how to fix it? Describe random things that have no importance, but won't significantly impact the storyline and distract the players.

Picking Over the Bones
In the end, adding mysteries to your campaign is going to take time and work to make them something the players want to pursue. Knowing your players is also something you just have to do as well because things can get so convoluted when running mystery games that the details have to be kept straight in both the player and character minds.

So what things do you do when running mystery games? What advice can you offer your fellow GMs? Any particular technique you use or used in the past that worked particularly well?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Designer's Notes: Chi Sorcery

Chi Sorcery . . . Whew. Where to start?This one has some roots. First, this project started life as a "could I do cinematic skills as powers?" about 5 or 6 years ago. Then at some point +Pk Levine released Thaumatology: Sorcery and I was mentally milling about for something to write for an upcoming Pyramid. I pitched this idea among a few others and it ended up not being chosen for development. So back in the soup it went. When I started conceptualizing Aeon I decided I wanted martial arts abilities - but I didn't want them as skills. I did the obvious stuff first since that was going to be easiest and solicited some thoughts from others on the rest. So ♫♫with a little help from my my friends♫♫ I started to revise the notes and came up with a finished project. For a long time they just set in my campaign files and were occasionally used by characters in Aeon. Then one day I dusted them off and polished them up and sent them off. I thought this was going to be a slam-dunk and easy-peasy for the editor. It wasn't. I firmly admit that my article needed work - the problem was it needed work in places I either didn't think it didn't or didn't know it did. I learned a lot from this one both in matters of writing style and consistency as well as rules and mechanics. While I'm not pleased that it started out like that I did learn something and the end result is quite good in my opinion.

Anyways, this took me about 120 hours to write. It took me about 40 hours to edit, 14 hours of research (mostly double-checking other GURPS books), and about 110 hours of revision. I spent a further 63 hours look looking over the preliminary PDF for any issues and revising.

A few notes:

The Heretical Excision of "Every Second" Rolls
The first draft of Chi Sorcery had a add-on to Requires (Attribute) Roll that shifted the required roll to use the ability from one minute to one second and added an additional -10% to the modifier. This is did not work. The thinking was that Costs Fatigue requires payment every minute and doubles the cost for every second. I didn't have misgivings about it until I saw the first version in PDF. I flat out had Steven change every instance of this and used Reduced Duration instead. It radically altered the article in several ways. I'm putting this here in case other folks came to the same conclusion. Don't do it. It no worky.

New Keywords
These modifiers were tossed because honestly they weren't exactly needed to be spelled out. Some GMs may find them useful.

Self-Buffing: Like Buffing spells, but these only affects the chi sorcerer. To build such a spell, follow the guidelines for Buff Spells (Thaumatology: Sorcery, pp. 9-10), but don’t use an affliction at all. Simply use the base advantage(s) itself.

Unobvious: The power is not immediately obvious when used and others will explain away what happened unless they have reason to doubt. When creating such spells, add No Signature to those with blatant or obvious effects (e.g., Innate Attack or Obscure). Some particularly sneaky powers also add “No Signature, Supernatural” to hide themselves even against other chi users!

Revised Abilities
A few abilities were heavily revised and here are the originals:

Immovable Stance: Resistant to Knockback (+3) (Chi, -15%; Requires Will Roll, Every Second, -15%; Visible, -10%) [3] + Resistant to Knockdown (+3) (Accessibility, only while Resistant to Knockback is in effect, -10%; Chi, -15%; Visible, -10%) [4] + Skill Adaptation (Use Will when calculating Knockback rolls if better) [1]. Level 2 increases the bonus to +8 and adds Skill Adaptation (Use Will when calculating Knockdown rolls if better) [1], for 8 points, while level 3 grants immunity to both effects, for 8 points.

Phoenix Heart: Regeneration (Slow) (Chi, -15%; Costs Fatigue, 1 FP/hour, +5%; Requires Will Roll, -5%; Maximum Duration, 12 hours, -5%; Nuisance Effect, -1 per multiple of HP¥0.5, -5%; Takes Recharge, 12 hours, -35%) [7]. Higher levels increase Regeneration a step at a time (Slow to Regular, Regular to Fast, etc.).

Precognitive Parry: Danger Sense (Accessibility, Only to allow defenses against surprise attacks, -20%; Chi, -15%; Cosmic, You roll, not the GM, +50%; Reduced Fatigue Cost 1, +20%) [21] + Defense Meta-Trait (Chi, -15%; Reduced Fatigue Cost 1, +20%) [31.5/level].

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

GURPS101: Battle Fatigue

GURPS After the End 1: Wastelanders brought us the amazing rules modification "Long-Term Fatigue Points." A system which allows the GM to assess penalties for lack of food, water, sleep, or a comfortable environment without the hassle the regular rules may pose to some.

I've repurposed these rules a lot on my blog and in my official work and yet what else could they be used for? Today's post repurposes the LFP mechanic again - this time for combat.

Battle Fatigue Rules
This is a rather simple switch, but it can have far-reaching consequences - much like my friend +Douglas Cole's article "The Last Gasp." First, using Extra Effort in combat (p. B357) for things like Feverish Defense, Mighty Blows, or Flurry of Blows still cost FP to use, but they also increase your LFP. Next, you lose LFP equal to half the value assessed for Fighting a Battle (p. B426). Finally, recovering LFP lost to battle requires that you stay out of combat for an hour per point of LFP regained. Double this if you are completely away from the front lines or in a otherwise peaceful place. Triple this if you both conditions are true.

Picking Over the Bones
I know this post is short and sweet, but it's an interesting idea with a lot of implications and not a lot of mechanical "gristle" behind it. The goal of FP loss and any negative "condition" is not to penalize the player to put his character in an unplayable situation, but to showcase how badass that character is for overcoming that condition while still kicking butts and taking names. In the end all players want their characters to be John McClane - beaten, bloody, bruised, but ultimately a scrappy buttkicker that wins in the end.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Hurt Locker: Doodads and Gewgaws, Part II

The follow-up to a previous post. This post is all about the Doodad perk and a few other odds and ends for gizmos and gizmo-like traits.

Foreight, Schmoresight
+Pk Levine's "Fortunately, I Saw This Coming" from Pyramid #3/53: Action is one of my absolute favorite articles of all time. It's a bit of brilliance that if there is ever a 5th edition or 4th edition revised needs to replace Gizmo. Period. So what is it? It lets you simulate just about any cinematic retcon you can think of. "You get ambushed!" "We were prepared." [rolls Tactics]. "We did the switch already." "Ok..." Seriously. It's amazing. If you don't own that issue of Pyramid you should stop reading right now and go buy it. Got it? Back? Excellent. See how awesome it is? Good. I'm not really sure how I could expand this more. It's really good as is.

Doodads or "I Always Have a Paperclip"
Perhaps the most underrated perk in existence in my opinion, Doodad lets you have one a pencil or gum, or things like that. Now in the past, I've let it function as Gizmo for things under $10, it can fit in your pocket or container you have on you, and that could be bought over the counter anywhere. That's totally a house rule, but would fit in any cinematic campaign as an optional rule.

The excellent +Christopher D went through the GURPS Basic Set and GURPS High-Tech to bring you this spreadsheet of items that cost $10 or less if using said optional rule - some are more bewildering than others (DMSO? A coffee maker?)

So what can you do with a Doodad? Here's a short list:

  • a book of matches
  • a pen or pencil
  • a dead or dessicated common creature(s) weighing up to 8 ounces
  • a paperclip or similiar office supplies (e.g., push pins)
  • a notepad or stack of paper
  • a set of keys
  • a set of tweezers or similiar cosmetic care items
  • a washcloth or hand towel
  • a butter knife, fork, spoon, etc.
  • a bit of yarn, twine, or string
  • a penny, quarter, or other loose change
  • a dose of aspirin, antacid, tylenol, or similiar ubiquitous OTC medicine.
  • a pair or reading glasses
  • a pamphlet or business card
  • a feather, scrap of fur, or similiar item
  • a pebble, bit of sand, or similiar
  • a crayon, piece of chalk, or colored pencil
  • a packet of gum, breath mints, or similiar item
  • a pair of dice, deck of cards, or poker chips
  • a empty water bottle, disposable cup, or similiar item
  • a disposable medical item for a disease you have (e.g., a finger stick for a diabetic)
  • a disposable tube of soap, hand sanitizer, or similiar item.

Picking Over the Bones
Overall, I love Gizmos and similiar traits - they let you create a wide variety of characters from the crazy madman who just has the right doohickey because reasons to the overly brilliant detective who say the need coming and properly prepared. It also always you to emulate some types of stories where the hero has just the thing he needs at the right time.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Chronicles of Ceteri - A-Team - S00E10 - Given Up for Dead, Part II

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).

It's been a week since the PCs killed a bunch of werewolves from the Haugldr Clan and Annie has put out a bounty on their head. Things have been quiet and Annie has sent Ronan to quietly discover if the Stygian Circle has been working with the grave wolves when an "old friend" of the Murphy family comes a'calling.

A Friend of the Family
Al MacLannageal, Annie Murphy, Dr. Frankie Novella, & Youko Muramasa
The Shadowed Heights
Friday, October 29th, 1999, 3:00 pm
7 Cathaoir Road, Murphy Island, Boston, MA 02171

Annie is busy in the kitchen baking (something she often does to relax) when the doorbell (an actual bell made of silver operated via a lever outside) rings. Stopping what she's doing and leaving Nimbus and Ronan (A bad idea since the two quickly conspire to eat the brownies and chocolate cake before she returns).

At the door is an older-looking gentlemen with a slight frown on his face and with him a younger Japanese woman. He asks to speak with Darius and after a few minutes of talking Annie confirms that Darius is missing. He introduces himself as William Stark and the young lady as Youko Muramasa. Annie stands aside and waits for them to enter, but does not invite them. Stark, being a seasoned hunter steps inside as he knows this is a test of sorts. Youko follows and Stark asks to speak with Annie alone. Youko wanders off into the kitchen where she is given cheesecake by Ronan (who promptly eats the rest while giving a sliver to Nimbus). Youko is then hassled by Nimbus who keeps trying to eat her food and knock over her glass of milk.

Meanwhile, in hall Stark reaches into his pocket and then withdraws a tessera1  from his pocket.
Stark: "I wish to call in this marker. I saved the life of Darius and his brother's once and they gave me this."
Annie: "And what is it that you want in return?" 
Stark: "I want you to protect the girl from her 'guardian' - Casanova the Incubus. I'm laboring under an oath to protect her but I feel I may not be able to as I'm also laboring under an oath to not harm the one person I believe will harm her - Casanova. If you agree to become her guardian then my oath is fulfilled and I can find a way to break this binding and kill the bastard."
After a few moments of thought Annie agrees and takes the tessera from him and snaps it in half. Stark thanks her and heads outside to his rental car where he retrieves the few things of Youko he could and then hands Annie several stacks of cash (which she declines) before hugging his charge (something she doesn't like or at least pretends to not like) and then leaves. Frankie had been coming up the drive himself as he watches the other man leave. The PCs talk amongst themselves some and when Youko complains that she had to leave her stuff behind Annie offers to go with her to get it. Ronan tries to bring an RPG to "kill demons," but he is vetoed and instead sneaks a few grenades instead.

Back That Thing Up
Al MacLannageal, Annie Murphy, Dr. Frankie Novella, & Youko Muramasa
The Channel Nightclub
Friday, October 29th, 1999, 7:00 pm
100 Stuart St, Boston, MA 02116

Annie has had dealings with Casanova in the past and the only reason he still lives is do to the fact that he does have access to useful information. When they arrive the club is dead, but the dancers are still shaking it like it's Friday night. Youko says hello to the dancers (whom she views as her family members) and heads upstairs to get her things along with Frankie. Al is flirted with shamelessly by the succubi - many who offer to take him to the back for a bit . . . - but is too knowledgeable to fall for their charms. He does take them however whispering to the others:
"I heard there was a contest for getting these."
One of the succubi flirts with Ronan and draws Annie's ire enough that she cuts her hand, bleeds on the creature's face, and then watches it burn due to the holiness of her blood. She flees from the front of the club and Annie calms down. Meanwhile, Ronan snickers and then whispers to her:
Ronan: "Sooooo do you want to check out that bathroom?"
Annie: *stares at Ronan, takes to the bathroom, and clicks a black light on*
Ronan: "Oh, dear God seeing that makes me feel dirty."
Al Shams: *has a magical eye that allows him to see into multiple spectrums* "I do not need a blacklight to see what is in the bathroom. I cannot unsee what is there."
Right before they leave, Casanova shows up and demands to know what is going on. He tries to sweet talk Youko, but fails and when he does tries to convince Annie and the others that this isn't the best course of action. He also fails. When Youko demands to know where her sword is he confides he bet it in a poker game. He offers to get it back for her if she stays and Youko instead counters that she'll create him two objects of power of his choice if he'll lead them to who has it. Realizing he's lost her, Casanova agrees to find it and get the information to her immediately. The PCs then leave for Murphy Island leaving Casanova to his schemes.

They head to the island and Youko moves into one of the many rooms of the Shadowed Heights and the PCs head to the kitchen where Annie begins to cook including some fried chicken (which her player crits as always) and discuss strategy. They want to retrieve Youko's weapon.

After Action Reports/Game Notes
This game was shorter than I would have liked because a) half the players were late getting to my place because of holiday traffic; b) we ate and chated fair longer than we normally do; and c) it was the first game in a while so where everyone was getting used to their characters.

Overall, it was great and I much enjoyed the time we spent. Next game will get better I think if only because the PCs know exactly what they wish to do (retrieve Youko's sword). A clear goal always helps to expedite things for both players and GMs.

1The physical component of a mystical oath or favor which resembles a large coin with a 13-pointed star in inscribed on it).

Session Soundtrack
"La Grange" by ZZ Top (opening song)
"Lone Digger" by Caravan Palace (during the entrance to the Channel)
"Baby, I Got Your Money" by ODB
"The Love of Money' by the O'Jays
"Fight the Good Fight" by Triumph (closing song)

Monday, July 10, 2017

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

I figured I should probably start doing a monthly update on Patreon as part of my "new plan" so that's what I'm going to do. But today is Independence Day in the USA and I'm going to spend it with my family.

I still want to go through the plan with my $5 and up Patrons first so this might be a while before it's updated - overall I think I'm going in the right direction. I fully intend to release (for everyone) one past Patron Special at a predetermined rate and time (and possibly voted on by the current list of patrons - we'll see). Other stuff to come.

I figured I'd go ahead and throw this up as a placeholder for now and I'll reorder my thoughts later on.

Authorial Highlights

  • I finished Pyramid articles for Monster Hunters, Thaumatology, Deep Space, and Combat. I've submitted the first two to Steven and the latter two are being tinkered with by myself at the moment. This leaves only Combat, Hot Spots and Locations, Action, Alternate GURPS, and After the End - all of which I have ideas for or partially completed items. I also started work on an article that has no current theme, but I felt I needed to write. My goal is to have at least three more articles submitted this month and I'm well on my way there. 
  • I was in the first ever Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game theme of Pyramid. I'm pretty proud of that.
  • It was announced that Jason "PK" Levine and I wrote the new Traps supplement for Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game. WOOT! So proud of this - my first kickstarter.
  • Something else happened I can't talk about yet.

Blog Highlights

  • I started work on my lengthy blog topics file. It has 54 entries and I've trimmed it down to 41. I want to write about all of those topics before soliciting for more from readers.
  • I started work on the beginnings of my plan to revamp the blog. So far what I'm hearing from people is "FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, MAN, MAKE IT BLACK AND GREY NOT BLACK AND WHITE."
  • I did some sketches of the new icons and such I want for the blog. I'm happy with most of the headers, but I'm liable to change the Gamemaster's Guidepost. It never did sit right with me how it looked.

Patreon Highlights

  • I began looking over my plans on what exactly I wanted to do for my Patreon revamp.
  • I got 3 new patrons in June and $18 of additional pledges for Patreon.
  • I rewrote my summary on Patreon and added a few things. I'll likely rewrite it again when I do the Patreon revamp.

Miscellaneous Related News

  • I began work on a fiction peice I'd like to self-publish later this year.
  • My mother is much better and recovering rapidly so I've got some free time back. I still need to help her with things, but she's coming right along.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

GURPS101: Simplified Skill Maintenance

Last week I talked about how to simplify the Improvement Through Study rules to streamline them in a way that allows you to track such things, without it becoming homework. This week I'm going to talk about another rule that's great to use . . . but problematic in the execution: Skill Maintenance. Maintaining skills lends an air of "use it or lose it" to a campaign and adds a realistic kick even to cinematic games.

In my current campaign - The Chronicles of Ceteri - I'm using this rules modification to keep a certain balance to the points granted via study or teaching and so far it works quite well.

Simplified Skill Maintenance
For maintaining skills, use the following, simplified method. When the GM offers downtime between game sessions, use the following. First, determine how many skills the character were not used during the previous adventure and that are not directly listed on the character’s required skills for an occupation. Once you have this number, divide the skills up into physical (DX and HT) and mental (IQ, Per, and Will) and consult the table below. To speed up time, this table assumes a single roll for all unused skills. Next, make a roll against DX for physical skills and IQ for mental skills. The GM may rule that he roll against HT for physical skills is most of them are HT-based, or Perception or Will, if most of the skills are Per- or Will-based. He may even opt to use an average base just for this rule. For example, physical skills may require a roll against DX + HT / 2 or mental skills may require a roll against IQ + Per + Will / 3! Treat all skills from a single Job Training advantage as five skills regardless of the actual number. Wildcard skills count as ten skills for this purpose.

Number of Skills        Roll Modifier
          1                       +1
          2                       +0
          3                        -1
          5                        -2
          7                        -3
          10                      -4
          15                      -5
          20                      -6
          30                      -7
          50                      -8
          70                      -9
          100                    -10
          150                    -11
          200                    -12
          300                    -13
          500                    -14
          etc.                     etc.

Modifier: +5 for Eidetic Memory, or +10 for Photographic Memory. If all unused skills come under a Talent or Talents you possess, add that as a bonus. Time is also a factor: +5 for a week, +4 for two weeks, +3 for three weeks, +2 for a month, +1 for two months, +0 for three months, add an additional -1 per month added thereafter. GMs may treat values of a year or more as -9 plus -1 per year thereafter.

Success means that none of the unused skills have degraded. Critical success allows you to immediately spend character points equal to half your margin of success on any of those skills. Failure means your highest level skill drops by one level. Every two additional points by which you fail causes the next highest level skill to drop by one; treat a leftover margin of one as two for this purpose. Critical failure means you count your full margin for this purpose! Skills with a single point in them degrade fully! Treat them as if they had zero points invested in them.

Picking Over the Bones
I think I fell in love with the maintaining skills rules after rereading the old Star Wars d20. I came across Anakin/Vader's entry and noticed with much amusement that he had the skill for Podracing as both a kid and as the Dark Lord of the Sith. Not only that, but he had a higher level later on. This meant at some point the Terror of the Galaxy went back to podracing. Which kind of made no sense to me. When I read the maintaining skills rules early in my GURPS career they just made sense. I often use them to the chagrin of my players who don't mind the rules so much as the rolls. That was a huge part of what prompted me to come up with something more playable. I hope you get some use out of them.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Boil and Bubble: Seiðr Ritual Path Magic

Norse magic, or seiðr (anglicized as siedhr), is typically practiced by women (called völva or seiðkona), but male practitioners (called seiðmaðr) are possible. Seiðr magic involves the manipulation of the elements, communication with the gods and their messengers, traveling the nine-realms, fortune-telling (usually by runes), and the direct manipulation of fate. Practitioners of both sexes served their communities, though seiðmaðr were typically looked down upon as magic was considered a woman’s purview...

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

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

GURPS101: More Telepathy Powers for Psionic Powers III

GURPS Psionic Powers offers one of the more interesting power frameworks for GURPS Fourth Edition. The following new techniques are available to any psi who has the prerequisite power...

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

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

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Designer's Notes: It's a Quest!


Hmmm. Where to start with this one? Well, like my two other installments ("It's a Threat!" and "It's a Trap!") "It's a Quest!" is designed to help make the GM's life easier by giving advice, content, and some random generation tables to help jumpstart games. I briefly talk about two important modes of gameplay: "sandbox" and "plot-driven." Both are equally valid and both can put different types of work on the GM in different ways. I talk about a few shortcuts I've used over the years and a technique I've used forever to keep track of everything when things do become complicated.

I didn't really have any outtakes from this one - I flirted with a few extra tables but stopped before actually creating them. I'm glad I did because honestly I think what I put in was plenty for a Pyramid article.

Note, a lot of this stuff did come from monstrous (about 100,000 words) life-path generation system I've created. One day I might get off my butt and finish it as it can be used for any GURPS game and has specific tables for GURPS Action, Dungeon Fantasy, and Monster Hunters. After the End wasn't out when I finished it and I haven't really touched it sense. It's really more of a GM's aid, but a player could completely generate a character using it without actually building the character (it suggests traits to take or just flat out use depending on the entry).

Anyways, this took me about 60 hours to write. A good 20 of those was just pulling from another file - I wanted to create new entries but that didn't happen (Personal note: my mother grew grievously ill and nearly died at the end of May. She's doing much better now, but between being sick at the time with food poisoning and worrying over her I had very little ink in my quill.). It took me about 2 hours to edit (I really dropped the ball here and I know it. I should have done better, but as I said. Issues), 3 (ish) hours of research, and about 17 hours of revision. I spent a further 4-6 hours look  looking over the preliminary PDF for any issues and revising.

I'll proudly note that this was the first every Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game Pyramid issue and I was in it. 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

GURPS101: Simplified Improvement Through Study

I like to play around with the Basic Set rules - make the complicated stuff simple and the simple stuff complicated. I find you can learn a lot about a rules system by doing that and GURPS is no exception.

In my current campaign - The Chronicles of Ceteri - a lot of the external friction I'm setting up between the players and the campaign world involves a lot of split life scenarios "Yeah, you need silver bullets, but they are $50 a pop and you lost your job - how you gonna pay for them?" To do that you need rules for how to spend your time and rules for social upkeep. Add rules for maintaining skills (if you like those - and I do) and you're golden. Today I'm going to talk about the first thing: how to spend your time.

Simplified Improvement Through Study
Somewhere between the “you do whatever, fine!” approach and the “I want to know how often you poop” method are rules for a "simplified" Improvement Through Study (p. B292). First, don’t use the standard Time Use Sheets, use the rules below. Second, the GM will need to decide if the player characters have jobs outside of “adventuring” or if adventuring is their job. This also becomes complicated if the GM is using the standard rules for Status upkeep (p. B265). For games where an organization or similar group pays for such expenses simply ignore it.
  • Sleep (56 hours/week): Human beings require 56 hours of sleep per week. This increases by ±7/week per level of Extra/Less Sleep. Those with Doesn’t Sleep can ignore this completely. They get an additional 56 hours per week to do with as they like.
  • Meals, Personal Hygiene, and Miscellaneous Upkeep (20 hours/week): Human beings need around 20 hours of week for eating, proper grooming, hygiene, and other “personal maintenance” tasks. Reduce this to 14 hours for those with Reduced Consumption 1, 7 hours with Reduced Consumption 2, 2 hours with Reduced Consumption 3, and effectively eliminate it with Reduced Consumption 4. Increase this to 40 hours a week for Increased Consumption 1, 80 hours a week for Increased Consumption 2, and so on.
  • Job (40 hours/week): Assume that most jobs take around 40 hours. Those without jobs ignore this (e.g., those with Wealth (Dead Broke)). Add an extra 10 hours for “OJT” (On the Job Training) to the final amount of hours available if spending points on job-related tasks.
  • Travel Time (7 hours/week): Typical travel time for most workers to get to their job is about 30 minutes one-way, this adds up to about 7 hours a week for those with a full-time job.
  • Recreation (25 hours/week): It’s estimated that most people spend between 20 to 30 hours on various forms of entertainment. These rules assume 25 hours are spent blowing off steam, relaxing, etc. Not relaxing has an impact on your sanity! Put another way - all work and no play makes Homor something something.
Thus, that leaves about 20 hours a week or 80 hours a month to do whatever you want with. It actually works quite well if you wish to treat learning as a job and then use these free hours as an internship or a side gig too. 

Picking Over the Bones
In general, I like the idea of advancement off the screen and by studying - it's not something you find commonly in RPGs and it lets you emulate all sorts of stuff. But keeping track of the time can be a teetch annoying. This was one of the reasons why I decided to use a simplier route for Ceteri - we'll see how it plays in game.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Hurt Locker: Doodads and Gewgaws, Part I

No adventurer or hero can carry everything they need. GURPS allows you a extremely broad choice of gear thanks to its many catalogues and tech-books - but what if you really need a bunch of paperclips and you're not near an office? Or you need to make a repair to an engine and you've got no toolkit?

Well GURPS has a solution for that: Gizmo and it's less experienced and still useful, but must cheaper cousin Doodad. Today's post is going to be about generalizing these advantages to other TLs, new modifiers, and a list of useful things you can get with Doodads (all at the low low price of a perk!).

It's the Gizzle-Fo-Shizzle
Gizmos are pretty self-explanatory: You didn't have something before and now you do. Why? There is no why. Only plot. More seriously. Gizmo could represent a character's foresight to bring something useful to a situation or in preparation of an emergency that may happen. GURPs Action, GURPS Dungeon Fantasy, and GURPS Monster Hunters (and probably a few I have forgotten) have all gone into more detail about what Gizmos can actually do. For the sake of this post I'm going to detail them briefly:

  • Option 1: Any item the character owns but didn't say he was carrying that can "fit in a pocket." (but see Genre Relaxation below).
  • Option 2: Any item that suits the character's profession, job, class, etc. and that is consumable or one use of an item that is normally non-consumable piece of gear (e.g., a tool kit)
  • Option 3: Any minor (i.e., not costly) consumable item that anyone could have in the setting or one use of an item that is normally non-consumable piece of gear

Now, for those with gadgeteer there is a fourth option:

  • Option 4: An item that the character creates on the spot with things he has or can plausibly acquire on the scene.

Those are good descriptive guidelines, but what if the GM wants harder rules? There are a few things here and there, but here is a possible progression. Do note that at higher TLs the GM may wish to smooth the cost out since it does allow so much. Though it should be noted that all of this is consumable and one-use only so it's probably balanced.

TL:             Option 2               Option 3
TL0             $13/$63                $3/$13
TL1             $25/$125              $5/$25
TL2             $38/$188              $8/$38
TL3             $50/$250              $10/$50
TL4             $100/$500            $20/$100
TL5             $250/$1,250         $50/$250
TL6             $500/$2,500         $100/$500
TL7             $750/$3,750         $150/$750
TL8             $1,000/$5,000      $200/$1,000
TL9             $1,500/$7,500      $300/$1,500
TL10           $2,500/$12,500    $500/$2,500
TL11           $3,750/$18,750    $750/$3,750
TL12           $5,000/$25,000    $1,000/$5,000

Option 1 allows an item you own up to your Basic Lift/10 to be revealed, while Option 4 is pretty much always -1 per $250.

Genre Relaxation
Depending on the mode of the campaign (whether it's cinematic, gritty, or somewhere in between) and the genre (is it a shoot'em up? a political thriller?) the GM may wish to relax some of the rules. A few examples:

In free-wheeling dungeon-delving like Dungeon Fantasy the rule about being able to "fit in a pocket" for Option 1 may be reduced to allow larger items. In such cases, it still can't be heavier than BL/10 lbs., but can be up to Reach 1 (if a melee weapon or similiar item) or Bulk -4 (if a ranged weapon). The GM could also rule this depends on the Size Modifier of the target. If so, use the Weapon and Armor Scaling Table from GURPS Low-Tech 2: Weapons and Warriors (p. 21) to figure the max size using the Reach column. For example, a SM +2 ogre with Gizmo 1 could use Option 1 to pull a Reach 2 melee weapon or a Bulk -7 ranged weapon.

The GM may want one-use weapons (it's a kind of tool with a very specific purpose) to be available using Option 2 (use Option 3 for ammunition). If so treat them as a tool kit with shots equal to the 1/5 the weapons base number of shots with one clip or power cell. Use the guidelines listed above to determine maximum Reach or Bulk.

The GM may wish to allow a roll against an appropriate skill to have a better object or larger dollar amount. Treat the skill toolkits are for as the skill for this, otherwise use Machinist, Scrounging, or some other appropriate skill. Success gives a +1 to use the item or +20% to the maximum dollar value. Failure gives -1 or -20%, while critical failure means you got junk and wasted your Gizmo. Critical success gives +2 to rolls or +50% to the maximum dollar value.

New Modifiers for Gizmo
If the GM allows, the following modifiers to Gizmo can change its flavor and/or usefulness:

Accessibility (varies): Use the rules from GURPS Powers to find an appropriate value. Optionally, use rules for aspected High TL (Pyramid #3/8: Organizations, p. 6). Multiple other values can be found in GURPS Supers as well.
Based on IQ, Special (+20%): For Option 1, the character may substitute his IQ for his ST, if better. This allows the character to pull larger items than his ST would otherwise indicate.
Cosmic, Higher Improvisation Cap (+50%): Use the first Option 2 dollar amount (see above) per -1 penalty to cobble together an invention using Gadgeteer.
Game Time (+0%): Adding Game Time means you can use a Gizmo once a game week instead of once a session. Adding Selectivity (+10%) means you can use it once a game week or once a session - whichever is best.
Instant Improvisation (+5%/level): This allows gadgeteers to ignore -1 worth of penalties per level when using Option 4. The GM sets the max, but ignoring -10 worth of penalties is probably as high as most games should go.

Picking Over the Bones
Gizmos are one of those things that you want when you don't have and when you do have it you just never have enough. Gizmos are usually restricted to 1 in most campaigns (or 3 in cinematic ones) unless you have Gadgeteer in which case you can have as many as you want. I think that even though the higher caps get crazy at higher TLs they are probably fair, but require some playtesting. I'm also wondering if you could do a "Social Gizmo" to let you have a one-off Contact, Ally, etc. - but that's probably another post.

Stay tuned for Part II where I discuss Doodad and how it's often overlooked, what useful items you can get at what TLs, and a few other bits to wrap up this topic.