Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Boil and Bubble: Quick and Quirky Charms

Guest Post by Kalzazz

One of the things that has always seemed a bit peculiar to me is that the Quick and Dirty rules for Charms make it rather difficult to have quirks, and especially, much more difficult to quirk a spell than to botch it entirely. Further discussion on that here.

Now, for those of us who love seeing what kind of suffering quirks bring from the twisted mind of the DM (or enjoy being said DM), I offer a simple rules tweak. When using Quick and Dirty Charms, the first roll is as normal. However, the second roll is either as normal, or versus a target of 14 minus the bonus to the first roll, whichever is worse for the caster.

For instance, Jaina the Mageling wants to make a charm that is greater than her safe threshold, but less than twice her safe threshold. So she would roll 3d+1 vs 15 for the first roll. For her second roll, she rolls either her Effective Skill -1, or 13 (14 minus the bonus of 1 to the first roll), whichever is worse.

A more explicit example. Suppose Bob the Mage has Path of Energy 18, path of Magic 18, and Magery 6 (so pool 18) and he has a +3 Grimoire. Bob would like to create a Charm of Destruction, which is a Greater Create Energy clocking in at 291 (pg 41 of Thaumatology RPM), +15 energy to make it a charm (adding Lesser Control Magic) so he needs 291 + 15 = 306.

With effective skill 21 (+0 charm lab, +3 grimoire, lower of his two paths involved is 18) his Safe Threshold is 75. Using his 18 pool (from Magery 6) he needs to accumulate 288,

288 is over 3 times, but less than 4 times his safe threshold.

So Bob rolls 3d+3 and tries to get a 15 or less to see whether he casts the spell, or if it Critical Failures.

Now, the next step is to check for quirks. Under the normal rules Bob must roll against his effective skill (21) minus the penalty for exceeding safe threshold (so 21 - 3 = 18) as a skill roll. So he gets a quirk on a 17 or 18.

Under the Quick and Quirky rule proposed here, he rolls either vs the 18 as normal, OR, against 14 minus the Safe Threshold penalty, whichever is worse. So 14 - 3 = 11.

So, to avoid critical failure Bob wants to roll a 12 or better. Under the normal system Bob wants to roll 16 or better, while under this proposed rule 11 or better.

This means that quirks will generally be more common than botches, but still requires the same 2 rolls, and no more difficult of calculations.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

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

Here's the highlights for me from September 2017 (And yes, I know I'm a little late - I try to do this at the beginning of the month. but stuff happened.)

Authorial Highlights
  • I submitted the article that needed to be finished (and oh-god-why-didn't-this-end-in-estimated-word-count). The article S. A. Fisher and I were writing was finished, reviewed by our peoples, and submitted. I finished the Designer's Notes for Dungeon Fantasy 19 and got my co-author to add his two cents. I'm not just wanting for him to toss the bio my way to submit it. I dumped the article I was writing Combat II - sometimes it happens and you just got to start over. So that's what I'm doing. I decided to write a sequel to my article "Mind and Body" and get the styles I excised from that article and a few more. Still working on that one. This still leaves Action, Alternate GURPS, and After the End - all of which I have ideas for or partially completed items.
  • The rejiggering of work flow is still an ongoing test as I had to stop and concentrate on one article to the exclusion of all else.
  • My article "Born to Be Wild" came out. Basically, I take Power-Ups 7: Wildcards and adapt a lot of those rules to Monster Hunters as a coherent framework. You can find my Designer's Notes here.
  • I'm doing another thing for GURPS that I can't talk about yet.
  • I'm working on the prelim for a couple of non-GURPS RPG projects. We'll see where this goes. (Note: If folks have DnD 5e books they are willing to sell or give me - I could use them. I'm playing catch-up in this department and could use any assistance I can get for it.)

Blog Highlights
  • The blog revamp might take until November. The guy doing it is having some issues and I'm not really a priority right now (which I totally agree with). It's still happening! Stay tuned.
  • I started cranking out some more blog posts for a healthy back log (shake that healthy back log!) 
  • I've continued plodding along with articles being delivered on Tuesday and Thursday of every week.

Patreon Highlights
  • This month's patron specials were four new wildcard skills I excised from this month's Pyramid issue and more Sorcery spells.
  • I lost patrons, gained them, had others modify their pledges so the new goal, "Set the Balloon People Free!," bounced around a bit. We're back to it again so November it'll be enacted and we'll see what people want to do.
  • The Patreon revamp is finished and I didn't hemorrhage pledges or patrons as much as I feared. Thank you everyone for sticking with me. I won't disappoint you!
  • I got 1 new patrons in September and $5 of additional pledges for Patreon.

Miscellaneous Related News
  • Work on fiction piece continued. Not as fast as I would like - but at least there was some work.
  • The kitten was trapped and tested - it did have FIV. Which sucked. But I ended up getting another one at the Humane Society and Nimbus now has a companion. They bonded pretty fast and within two weeks were cuddling at night and playing during the day. Check my twitter stream for pictures - it's littered with them.
  • Mom continues to convalesce at my sisters and will likely have a surgery to fix her knee soonish.
  • +Emily Smirle's character has been truly awesome and though we miss Mav's Cormac, Leo is pretty fun.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

GURPS101: GURPS, Justice, and the Dungeon Fantasy Way

My buddy +Douglas Cole just tossed up a kickstarter for his 5e adventure "Lost Hall of Tyr." I have been one of the lucky few he's shown the thing to pretty much from the beginning and despite my lack of comments on anything but the most surface of observations he's continued to let me see this thing grow and form. Overall, it's one of the better adventures I've had a chance to read in the last couple of years. While I am working my way through DnD 5e - it's taking me longer than I would like because I'm still working on my other projects at the same time.

So I thought "Self, what could you do to help out Doug?" and the first thing that came to mind was "Don't ever let him handle gasoline" and then I thought "Hey, maybe I can show that his adventure could be Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game material with a few tweaks?" So here they are:

When Gravity Attacks
Using the rules on p. 6 of the Lost Hall just treat this as a ST vs. ST Quick Contest using the listed ST. For control damage find the average roll of the listed die and then add 5 to determine what the listed ST would be.

DnD 5e coinage vs. DFRPG coinage
As a general rule of thumb, 1 gold piece is worth about $10 in DFRPG coinage. This isn't exact! Some things cost more (most armor), while others cost less (some hand weapons.

The monsters listed in the adventure are converted as follows

Awakened Tree: Use the stats for crushrooms in Monsters (p. 19).
Bear: Monsters (p. 16).
Bandit: No DFRPG equivalent. Consider using GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 15: Henchman - specifically the Brute template (p. 9).
Boar: No DFRPG equivalent.
Crushing Worm: Use the Frost Snake Monsters (p. 28), but increase it a poison follow-up attack on its bite to 3d instead of chill breath.
Dire Wolf: Monsters (p. 21).
Elk: No DFRPG equivalent.
Goblinoids: Monsters, p. 33.
Mountain Cats Use the stats for obsidian jaguars in Monsters (p. 19), but reduce DR to 1, and remove all traits making it a construct to turn it into a living thing.
Thurs: Use the stats for trolls in Monsters (p. 57).

There are some other critters in there, but they are obvious analogs.

Difficulty Levels
In general, "DC 10" is an average degree of hardness for a roll. Working from there we can assume that about every 1.5 to 2 steps up or down from there translates as a -1 or +1 to rolls for the DFRPG. So a "DC 14" roll would give you a -2 to -3 to rolls. Alternatively, if something makes sense as an opposed roll convert as a above and then add 10 to figure the resulting skill roll. For example, an opposed roll with a DC 8 would result in a DFRPG skill of about 9.

The Adventure Itself
I don't have any advice for converting stuff here - it's all pretty obvious to me in just about every case and fits very nicely in the "world" of the DFRPG - it works perfectly for adventures set in the "North" where the barbarians hail from.

Picking Over the Bones
If I were to ever run the DFRPG it would probably be something of my own making for a "serious campaign" but this adventurer is just perfect as a jumping off point or as a way to do demos that pack in a lot of flavor. Basically, go back the kickstarter, get your copy, and convert it. It's worth the price and GURPS has very few adventures as is - this would be a perfect thing to drop into your game for your players.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

GURPS101 - Art of the Wild Part I

I recently wrote a Pyramid article expanding wildcard skills for GURPS Monster Hunters champions. Not all of them made the cut for one reason or another, but most of the ones I did cut had little to do with actual monster hunting and therefore didn’t have room or make sense within the series...

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

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

Boil and Bubble: Utility Spells for Sorcery Part II

GURPS Thaumatology: Sorcery is one of the newer magic systems for GURPS, but it makes use of one of the oldest of GURPS rules systems: modified advantages. Anyways, this is a follow-up to a previous post - here are a couple more "utility" spells for Sorcery...

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

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

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Melee Academy: Reordering Initiative II

A random stray thought while sleep-deprived over on my private Discord server for my gaming group had me asking if you could reverse the order of initiative in GURPS and what it would ultimately mean. This led to a couple of other thoughts and I've just kind of tossed them all down here. Do note that I've talked about this before: Reordering Initiative.

Reverse Initiative Order
The combat system works normally except that the slowest (i.e., those with the lowest Basic Speed) go first, with the firstest (i.e., those with the highest Basic Speed) being able to interrupt it at any point before their own order in the initiative. This lets them react to things slower combatants do as if they had performed a Wait maneuver.

Initiative Based on Perception
Instead of Basic Speed being based on DX + HT, base it instead on just Perception. So you could say Basic Speed is equal to Perception / 2. Optionally, you could use DX + Perception / 2. A lot of other systems don't just use raw physical speed and agility and physical grit to determine Basic Speed like GURPS does and instead rely on their perceptions or awareness. 

Extra Attacks for High Initiative
One thing some systems like to do is give extra attacks or maneuvers with extra Basic Speed. GURPS flat out makes it so that this is an advantage. One thing GURPS does do is that if everyone has something then it's a feature and thus worth no points. So how can we use that to give combatants more attacks or actions? Well, Rapid Strike is something anyone can do to garner a second attack - what if we reduce the penalty and/or give extra attacks for everyone as long as their Basic Speed is high? So something like "At 5.00 Basic Speed you can use Rapid Strike taking a -6 to your rolls for an extra attack, at 10.00 Basic Speed you can reduce the penalty to -3 for two attacks or get three attacks at -6 to your roll, at 15.00 Basic Speed you reduce the penalty to -1 for two attacks, -3 for three attacks, or get four attacks at -6..." and so on.

Picking Over the Bones
I have no idea how these would work - theoretically, they are sound. If someone uses them in a game please let me know how they played out, what went wrong, what could be tweaked, etc. 

What sort of things have you experimented with in your own games as far as who goes first in combat? Any fails? Any wins? How did they work out? Anything you'd share with your fellow GMs?

Friday, September 29, 2017

Gamemaster's Guidepost: How Much Lore Is Hidden?

When building a campaign setting or starting a new campaign one of the things that you must decide as a GM is what skills are important, what skills exist, and what skills don't exist. For campaigns with magic, psionics, and other "paranormal powers" one of the key jobs a GM has is to decide what powers there are and how they impact the game world. But more importantly, the GM needs to decide how the players can know about such abilities from within the game itself. I've made some mistakes in the past regarding this sort of thing and I've come up with a few guidelines to make it easier on me when I create new settings

The Rule of 12
If you can help it - never have more than 12 Hidden Lore skills (at most 14). Why 12? Because that's the equivalent of buying a Wildcard skill at IQ-1 - the same as twelve Hidden Lore skills with one point in them. Also, at some point your players are to be annoyed at the massive amount of buy-ins to know the inner workings of a campaign.

Where You Can Lump, Lump
From a game-mechanical perspective "zombies" and "ghouls" are not that different. Both are undead, both eat flesh, both are affected by true faith, and so on. No matter how different in game they are, it's the out of game context that you want to follow. This is for two reasons - 1) players will naturally assume that it's out of game contextual vs. in game and 2) it'll help you as the GM in the long run.

Where You Can't, Don't
If you've got something zany or weird in your campaign and it defies being put in the corner ("Nobody puts the GM's babies in a corner!") then don't. If they are that weird then give them their own skill and be done with it.

Picking Over the Bones
I know this seems like a bit of obvious advice - but for many (including myself a decade ago) it wasn't. I'd have Hidden Lores for all sorts of things that didn't need them and that led to skill bloat in a game engine that already has that problem as is. I hope this helps some poor GM out there struggling with the same issues.

So what standby rules do you have for Hidden Lore?

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

GURPS101: Preparation Required New Modifiers

A real quick "micro-rules" post on Preparation Required from stuff I had in one of my own campaigns.

Intermediate Levels of Preparation Required
If we play with the values we can interpolate different required times with a given value for each one:
  • Preparation Required, 5 seconds (-5%)
  • Preparation Required, 30 seconds (-10%)
  • Preparation Required, 1 minute (-20%)
  • Preparation Required, 10 minutes (-30%)
  • Preparation Required, 30 minutes (-40%)
  • Preparation Required, 1 hour (-50%)
  • Preparation Required, 8 hours (-60%)
  • Preparation Required, 12 hours (-70%)
  • Preparation Required, 24 hours (-80%)
  • Preparation Required, 1 week (-90%)
  • Preparation Required, 1 month (-100%)
  • Preparation Required, 1d month (-110%)

Reccurrent Preparation
Some abilities in fiction require you to prepare them (immediately or otherwise) and then keep "preparing" them at a fixed or variable interval. For such powers simply increase the cost by half (round up) and decide if it's fixed (use half the listed time) or variable (use the Dice+Adds rule to figure out when each preparation period comes due). In all cases, the ability continues, but you are out of commision meditating, chanting, etc. You can still attempt an Active Defenses, but nothing else. If someone scores a hit on you roll Will at -1 per point of penetrating damage. Failure means you lose your concentration, the ability fails, and you cannot access it for a period equal to the original preparation time.

Picking Over the Bones
Both of these have passed muster in my own games, but I'm biased so I may have missed something. Let me know how it works in your own games if you use them. Again, how do you like these little "micro-rules" posts? Silly? More? Less?

Friday, September 22, 2017

Designer's Notes - Born to Be Wild

It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of the GURPS Monster Hunters series. I was one of the first to playtest it before it came out and I've been one of the biggest contributors to the series so far. What can I say, Monster Hunters scratches all the right itches for me. "Born to Be Wild" came about from my desire to merge some of the optional rules from Power-Ups 7: Wildcards into something that champions could use. Many of the skills came from my own campaign (which caused a bit of an issue in the first draft and later fixed in the first PDF proof - Thanks, Steven!). Overall, when I got the final PDF proof this was truly something I could be proud of. Each skill was useful in its own way and the way the skills that were already available to champions were expanded just worked for myself and my reviewers (I hope it works for others!). Moreover, I got to explore some ideas I've been noodling on for a while now (wildcard perks - I'm looking at you).

Anyways, this took me about 40 hours to write. It took me about 30 hours to edit, 20 hours of research (mostly double-checking other GURPS books), and about 60 hours of revision. I spent a further 3 hours look looking over the preliminary PDF for any issues and revising.

A few things I took out (one magic wildcard and a normal wildcard):

You are a genius crafter and creator of the highest order. This skill covers Armoury, Artist, Carpentry, Jeweler, Machinist, Masonry, Mechanic, Metallurgy, and Smith. Make a DX-based roll for Leatherworking or Sewing. Can stand in as Connoisseur to recognize, evaluate, or sell anything you’ve made or could make. You can also make Professional Skill rolls to stand in for specialties that craft, create, or manufacture things (e.g., Professional Skill (Bookbinder)).

This wildcard skill can also be used for Path of Energy or Path of Matter effects when it comes to manufacturing, creating, or repairing things. For example, you could use this skill to conjure a lump of metal or light a forge fire, but not throw a fireball or control a computer.

Wildcard Benefits: Ignore penalties due to TL difference, improvised gear, and so on. Additionally, a successful skill roll lets you scrounge or improvise equipment for other skills that’s good enough to cut -1 per +1 of your full bonus for being improvised (p. B345). (Note: This was basically an expansion of a casting talent from Pyramid #3/66: The Laws of Magic.)
Full Bonus: Add the full bonus to your final margin to determine any additional margin based effects.
Half Bonus: Add half the bonus to the HT rolls of anything you create.

You are a true expert on outdoor survival. This skill replaces Boating, Camouflage, Climbing, Fishing, Hiking, Naturalist, Navigation, Prospecting, Riding, Skating, Skiing, Survival, Swimming, Tracking, and Weather Sense. Also, Area Knowledge in regions previously explored by the user; Observation in wilderness environments; and Traps in any capacity related to classic outdoor threats such as deadfalls, pits, and snares.

Wildcard Benefits: Ignore penalties due to Tech-Level, Familiarity, or Equipment when dealing with survival gear (improvised or otherwise).
Full Bonus: Add your full bonus to resist natural hardships such as eating poison berries by accident, exposure to the elements, etc.; rolls to spot natural hazards or ambushes in the wilderness.
Half Bonus: Add half your bonus to all Active Defense rolls made against natural threats (e.g., rockslides or quicksand).

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

GURPS101: Accessibility Modifiers For Number of Skills

Just a quick post on the number of skills in GURPS by their controlling attributes and then computed into Accessibility modifiers for advantages (GURPS Powers, p. 99). What can you use it for? No idea, but is probably will be useful at some point. This intentionally excludes required specialities for skills as that may fluctuate depending on the genre, TL, etc.

Accessibility Modifier of Skills by Count
The GURPS Basic Set has a grand total of 277 skills. Of those, 146 of them are IQ-based, 93 of the are DX-based, 12 of them are Per-based, 13 of them are HT-based, and 13 of them are Will-based. Using GURPS Powers we get the following then:
  • "Accessibility, Only IQ-based skills" (-20%)
  • "Accessibility, Only DX-based skills" (-25%)
  • "Accessibility, Only Per-based skills" (-40%)
  • "Accessibility, Only HT-based skills" (-40%)
  • "Accessibility, Only Will-based skills" (-40%)

So what if you want to have an Accessibility for two (or more) attributes? Just combine the total number of skills and divide by 277. For example
  • "Accessibility, Only IQ or DX-based skills" (-5%)
  • "Accessibility, Only DX or Per-based skills" (-25%)
You can even group them by "physical skills" (DX and HT skills) and "mental skills" (IQ, Per, and Will).
  • "Accessibility, Only mental skills" (-15%)
  • "Accessibility, Only physical skills" (-25%)

Picking Over the Bones
Note, the skill counts are from the Basic Set alone - I sincerely doubt it'll affect the numbers above. This was a quick post designed to be helpful to GMs building powers. Did you find this useful? Would you like to see more posts like this? Less?

Friday, September 15, 2017

Boil and Bubble: Sorcerous Video Game Spells I

Ohhhhh, yeah. It's that time again. The time for me to scavenge treasures from the past and turn them into Sorcery spells for GURPS. So what's up first? Well, I asked three random folks what spell they'd like to see for Sorcery and these were the things that popped up (and interested me).

Cureja - Final Fantasy
Keywords: Area (Fixed), Obvious.
Full Cost: 138 points.
Casting Roll: IQ.
Range: Line-Of-Sight.
Duration: Instantaneous.

You instantly heal everyone within 4 yard area that you can see 20 HP. You may selectively choose who is healed and only injuries are cured. Disease, toxins, afflictions, etc. are unaffected.

Statistics: Healing (Area Effect, 4 yard, +100%; Injuries Only, -20%; Increased Range, LOS, +40%; Nuisance Effect, Cannot spend FP to increase effect, -10%; Ranged, +40%; Reduced Fatigue Cost 10, +200%; Selective Area, +20%; Sorcery, -15%; Variable, Area, +5%) [14/die].

Gra - Phantasy Star ("Black Hole")
Keywords: Area (Special), Obvious.
Full Cost: 73 points/level.
Casting Roll: IQ.
Range: 100 yards.
Duration: 10 seconds

This conjures a tear in gravity that damages everyone in the a specific area. Consult the table to determine the effects:

Area                Effect
1-yard              1d crushing damage per level which erodes DR like a corrosion                              attack (p. B00) and the below effects.
2-yards             -1 to all Vision rolls per level and any ability that relies on vision                          and the below effects.
4-yards             Target must make roll vs. your level of this spell x 5 or be pulled                            forward. The maximum weight you can affect at level 1 is 5 lbs.                            and it moves at a rate of 5 yards/second. You can affect higher                                weights, but it's slower: 10 lbs at 4 yards/second; 15 lbs. at 3                                  yards/second; 30 lbs. at 2 yards/second, and 50 lbs. at 1                                          yard/second. Higher levels increase the ST of this effect adding 5                          a level. Use the chart on p. B17 to determine your maximum                                  weight and the rate that it travels.

Additionally, you may choose to vary both the damage, Vision penalties, and TK effect if you wish.

Statistics: Crushing Attack 1d (Area Effect, 1 yard, +25%; Cancellation, +10%; Cosmic, Erodes DR, +100%; Increased 1/2D, x10, +15%; Link, +10%; Magical, -10%; No Blunt Trauma, -20%; No Knockback, -10%; Persistent, +40%; Underwater, +20%; Variable, Area, +5%; Variable, +5%) [14.5/die] + Obscure 1 (Vision; Cancellation, +10%; Extended, All, +100%; Link, +10%; Magical, -10%; Ranged, +50%; Variable, Area, +5%; Variable, +5%) [5.4/level] + Telekinesis 5 (Area Effect, 4 yards, +100%; Attraction, Ranged, -20%; Based on IQ, +20%; Cancellation, +10%; Dissipation, -50%; Increased Range, x10, +30%; Link, +10%; Persistent, +40%; Requires IQ Roll, -10%; Sorcery, -15%; Variable, Area, +5%; Variable, +5%; Visible, -20%) [51.25/level].

Kabuff - Dragon Quest
Keywords: Area (Fixed), Buffing, Obvious.
Full Cost: 64 points.
Casting Roll: IQ.
Range: 100 yards.
Duration: 3 minutes

Everyone within a 4 yard area gains a +1 to Active Defenses, +1 to HT rolls to survive death or KO, and DR 4 with the Force Field enhancement (p. B00).

Statistics: Affliction 1 (Area Effect, 4 yard, +100%; Defense Package, +530%; Selective Area, +20%; Sorcery, -15%) [14/die]. Notes: "Defense Package" is Damage Resistance 4 (Force Field, +20%; Magical, -10%) [22], Defense Meta-Trait (Magical, -10%) [27], Hard to Kill 1 (Magical, -10%) [2], and Hard to Subdue 1 (Magical, -10%) [2].

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

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

Here's the highlights for me from August 2017.

Authorial Highlights
  • I had to backburner projects for Combat and Hot Spots and Locations for another article I needed to work on right now. I shifted an article from one theme to another which freed up space in my Thaumatology queue for something that S. A. Fisher and I are writing (FANTASTIC stuff! Seriously, it's really neat). This still leaves Action, Alternate GURPS, and After the End - all of which I have ideas for or partially completed items. I didn't get the one article submission in I wanted, but lots of stuff came up and really - GENCON.
  • I rejiggered my workflow for a while (though it didn't last long enough for me to see if it's an improvement). We'll see.
  • My article "Deathtraps" came out. It's essentially the traps I didn't want to put into the DFRPG: Traps book because they were a bit too complex or just too kill-y. You can find my Designer's Notes here.

Blog Highlights
  • Hurricane Irma has impacted the revamping of the blog (my designer lives there) and instead of a September deadline it's looking more like October. 
  • I got to play around with the Wordpress.org interface and I'm finding it almost superior to Blogspot on ease of use. We'll see.
  • I've continued plodding along with articles being delivered on Tuesday and Thursday of every week.

Patreon Highlights
  • The Patreon revamp is finished and I didn't hemorrhage pledges or patrons as much as I feared. Thank you everyone for sticking with me. I won't disappoint you!
  • I got 1 new patrons in July and $6 of additional pledges for Patreon.
  • This month's patreon specials consisted off a new Sorcery spells and a way to treat fake IDs using Alternate Forms.
  • We reached a new goal! "Set the Balloon People Free!": Patrons will get the option to release one previous special or current special to all patrons and all non-patrons once every other month or release that month's $1 special to everyone. This kicks in next month so y'all figure what you want.
Miscellaneous Related News
  • I continued work on a fiction piece I'd like to self-publish later this year.
  • GenCon was amazing in every way shape or form. I'm going back next year - this time under my own steam. Being able to meet people in person and talk with other industry folks just blew me away.
  • There is a kitten who is trying to get adopted by me. I'm worried it might have FIV, but I'm probably going to trap it and take it to the vet to get checked. If he's FIV-free...he's coming in the house and will be trained like I trained Nimbus. That way my kitteh boy has a companion.
  • Mom continues to convalesce at my sisters and will likely have a surgery to fix her knee soonish.
  • +Emily Smirle joined my C-Team after +Mavrick Fitzgerald had to bow out. Sad that Mav is gone but hey, WE GOT EM!

Friday, September 8, 2017

GURPS101: FP Cost Limited by Margin

So one of my players and I got to talking about how you might design an ability where the FP cost were variable depending on how well you rolled to activate it. This got me to thinking - how the heck could I do something like this? I eventually came up with a conclusion that wasn't uber clunky and thought I'd share.

To do what is needed you'll want the following three modifiers:
  • Reduced Fatigue Cost (+20%/level) (p. B108)
  • Limited by Margin (varies) (Pyramid #3/9: Space Opera, p. 16)
  • Optionally, Costs Fatigue and/or Requires (Attribute) Roll for traits that lack those two things (p. B111 and GURPS Powers, p. 112)

Now, with a bit of mathamagic you just combine these modifiers in a workable way to get the result you wish. First, if the ability doesn't have a activation roll and it's meant to be an active ability add Requires (Attribute) Roll. If it doesn't require FP to use add whatever level of desired amount you wish with Costs Fatigue - I wouldn't go over 10. Next, add Reduced Fatigue Cost modified by whatever level of Limited by Margin you wish. Do note that this can increase the cost of abilities that do note natively require FP.

A few examples:

Burning Innate Attack  4d (Costs Fatigue, 2 FP, -10%; Reduced Fatigue Cost 2 (Limited by Margin, Full-power at 2+, -10%), +36%) [26]

Healing (Reduced Fatigue Cost 10 (Limited by Margin, Full-power at 10+, -50%), +100%) [60]

Picking Over the Bones
The idea is sound, but due to some oddness with Costs Fatigue you can get an ability that is worth more character points than not having it. I think one way may be to simply treat "Reduced Fatigue Cost" as worth +5% when combined with "Costs Fatigue." That seems sooooo much fairer to me. In that case, that innate attack might look like this:

Burning Innate Attack  4d (Costs Fatigue, 2 FP, -10%; Reduced Fatigue Cost 2 (Limited by Margin, Full-power at 2+, -10%), +9%) [20]

I think that is much fairer in price even though it amounts to what is effectively a feature for the ability.

What do you think? Silly? Stupid? Did I go to far? Not far enough?

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Gamemaster's Guidepost: Organizing Your Gaming Notes

Any gamemaster (or writer) worth his salt always has more ideas than he has time. These ideas may be half-baked, over-cooked, or perfect and fully formed like Athena on paper from your Zeus-like noggin. It's just a hazard of the mindset - too much stuff floating in our heads and too much "what if" thinking - if you're like me anyways. So what do you do when the Best Plot Ever (TM) comes into your head while you are showering or driving? I've got a few ideas, tips, and tricks and I thought I'd share.

Getting It All Down
Making notes is an art form. There is a process to it. A flow. It's different for each person because each person thinks and learns differently so you'll need to tweak the process. At a minimum I suggest the following:
  • A catchy title to sum up the note.
  • Three to five sentences to encapsulate the idea.
  • Keywords related to the note.
  • Anything else related such as a diagram, math, etc.
Bad notes are worse than no notes and can lead to lots of frustration when trying to remember that brilliant idea. Take your time when making notes. Be precise. Use simple, clear language that you can understand later on and never abbreviate things. If you can't get it down immediately a few quick notes are fine, but then go back over and write it all down so you can use it later.

Light Bulbs Love To Turn On At the Worst Times
They really do. In the shower? YUP. While driving? OH, YES. While having a dream where you see yourself standing in a sort of sun-god robes on a pyramid with a thousand naked women screaming and throwing little pickles at you? No? That just me then? Ok, let's move on. Ahem. Anyways, the thing here is that the idea shows up when you least expect it - much like the Spanish Inquisition. So what can you do as a young vibrant stud of a GM (or writer)? I like to use the following methods:

  • Get a crayon (you can use a grease pencil, but crayon is better) in a bright color (e.g., red) or black - you can always bet on black, Wesley said so - and keep it in the shower, bath, pool, etc. Got an idea? Make quick notes on what it is so you don't lose the thought and then go back and fill them out later as noted above.
  • Get a voice recorder (or Voice Recorder app - they are VERY common. I like Tape-A-Talk , those EverVoice looks useful for Evernote users) and actually use it. Voice notes can be extremely helpful, the only issue is transcribing it later on.
  • Keep a pocket notepad, pencil and/or pen on you at all times. Again, this is low-tech. You can use note-taking apps on your smartphone or tablet to do the same thing - I like Evernote, but Google Keep and Microsoft OneNote do the same things.
  • Keep detailed notes on your computer (back up often!) or in a notebook (make copies!) so you can access them later. Keep them on your phone if you can using any of the above mentioned apps. Basically, have them with you when you need them. This is one of the things that smartphone has fundamentally changed for me. Access to all my notes right when I need them? Heck yes.
  • Keep post-it-notes or similiar in multiple rooms of the house you frequent often to make quick notes when you need them.

Picking Over the Bones
I'm sure there are things out there I'm missing - but these are my go-to-practices regardless of what I'm writing. It could be for my games, for Pyramid, for this blog, fiction - whatever. It pretty much works for anything.

What things do you like to do? What are your best practices? What software, devices, etc. do you use to keep your ideas?

Sunday, September 3, 2017

GURPS101: Alternate Forms as Fake IDs

One of the more interesting ideas I had lately was treating Alternate Identity as if it were an Alternate Form. I figure I'd go through the basics of the concept and see if it's worth developing further...

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Boil and Bubble: Utility Spells for Sorcery Part I

GURPS Thaumatology: Sorcery is one of those magic systems that looks simple on the outside, but hides a deep well within. Since at its core it basically is what makes GURPS great - the ability to modify a trait to suit the needs of the designer...

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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Gamemaster's Guidepost: My Rules For Spending Points

Some people let you spend willy nilly. Some (like myself) will only let you spend points at certain times. Some are point nazis ("Ve must spenct zee hours and zee points! SCHNELL"). However you you do them is all gravy with me. But this is how I do it for pretty much every single game I run:

So my general rules for advancement - regardless of campaign, genre, or point total (though I rigorously enforce #2 in games with points over 1,000):
  1. The character points gained per session for the first 3-5 sessions are between 3% and 10% of points of average or beginning point total, with a variance of about 50%. After that it drops to 1/5th that rate. If you want slow advancement using the lower range, faster, use the upper. About 5%-6% usually suits just about any game. So a a 200-point game you might see 10-12 points for the first 3-5 sessions, and then 5-10 points from there on. This isn't absolute as I like to write specific rules for point gains for given settings based on the setting rules, its background, etc. Also note, a lot of this assumes some sort of point economy like Impulse Buys. When that's out of the picture I'd probably cut the initial points by half again, but I rarely do that so I usually ignore that part.
  2. No character may upgrade until say so is given. Period. I do this because it's weird as hell to suddenly be better at Guns/TL8 (Pistol) and the time elapsed in the campaign could be less than 10 minutes between sessions.
  3. Character points gained can only increase skill, attribute, or advantage by a level at a time. In some campaigns, skills can be bought up to attribute instead of a level at a time when initially bought.
  4. Disadvantages can only be bought off at one trait (a level if applicable) at a time. Doing otherwise is probably ok for some things - otherwise your character is just changing to quick to be recognizable as what he or she started as.
  5. The first three gaming sessions you may spend points freely on things you character would have, but both you and I have forgotten. For example, if you're from a fishing village and don't have Fishing. (You may also shift points around a bit, but that's a whole other thing.)
  6. If I offer to allow you to buy a attribute, advantage, skill, etc during game you may immediately spend points to do so and treat whatever as if you had it. This is usually the result of a critical success (almost always a natural 3 or 4), being impressive or awesome in some way that just stops the game (I like to encourage this), or when I allow quick learning under pressure to come in ("You're traveling in the jungle with a professional guide who is showing you the ropes, spend a point if you like.")
  7. You can earn extra points by acting in genre, working with your teammates, or in general just being awesome roleplaying. Again, I like to encourage these things so I bribe players to "Do the right thing."
  8. Probably other stuff I'm forgetting specific to certian genres.

Picking Over the Bones
I know not all GMs have rules like this - in my case it makes it so that the PCs don't inflate themselves in one area and ignore others. When you can only purchase stuff in a specific way you end up become more balanced a character and that always works out in the end.

What sort of rules do you have for spending points as a GM? Anything special? Anything your fellow GMs can use?

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

GURPS101: Attribute Synergies

Another of my "micro-rules" this time expanding on the idea of Complementary Rolls (GURPS Action 2: Exploits, p. 5; GURPS: Social Engineering, p. 21, 31, 48), but using attributes instead.

How It Works
Attribute synergy uses the same rules as complementary skills rolls - make a roll and give a +1 to another roll if you succeed, -1 if you fail, -2 if you critical fail, or +2 if you critically succeed. Any roll can benefit from attribute synergy from another attribute except when rolling that attribute itself. For example, you could use DX to enhance a damage roll, but not ST since damage is based on ST. Most of the time this should be obvious to both the GM and player, but if not using the following.

  • ST cannot be used for damage rolls, anything involving lifting, or "brute force" skills  (e.g., Forced Entry), weapon skills (e.g., Axe/Mace), or unarmed combat skills (e.g., Brawling).
  • DX cannot be used for rolls to keep your balance, movement, active defenses, etc. It also cannot be used for any DX-based skill or skills related to nimbleness or agility (e.g., Surgery or Mechanic to do fine work).
  • IQ cannot be used reaction rolls or any IQ-based skill.
  • HT cannot be used for rolls related to physical toughness (e.g., death checks or rolls for mortal wounds) or HT-based skills.
  • Will cannot be used for any Will-based skill or rolls related to mental toughness or concentration.
  • Per cannot be used for any Per-based skill or rolls related to perspicacity or awareness.

Unlike Complementary Rolls, Attribute Synergy rolls do take any relevant penalties (e.g., Vision penalties when rolling Perception) thus making them a riskier proposition.

Example 1: Ani wants to use her high Perception roll to enhance her damage roll since her ST is not so high. The GM agrees that this should be possible, but gives her a -2 to her roll because of the Vision penalty for not having sufficient light. Succeeding her Perception roll she adds +1 to her damage roll. If she had failed she'd take -1 instead.

Example 2: Shaw wants to use his sheer force of Will to socially coerce the bartender using his Fast-Talk skill. Failing his roll he instead rollings Fast-Talk at a -1 - if he had critically failed he'd take a -2 instead.

Picking Over the Bones
I have no idea if this would actually work in game play. The idea is fairly solid - but it could impact game sessions causing them to slow down as every player ekes out the best possible bonus. One thing that came to mind writing this was the idea that you could take a penalty to your roll to increase the bonus your complementary or attribute synergy roll gives. I'd think each -2 or -4 to your roll would give you a +1 should you succeed, but that might be too low. My gut says at least a -5 per +1 as that's likely less easy to abuse.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Designer's Notes: Deathtraps


My second Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game Pyramid article is out and it's a bit of a follow-up to my book Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game: Traps. I did my best to keep most of the traps in the book to be somewhat fair. I didn't even both with the article. It was a roster of deathtraps. That was the whole freaking point. Now, I'm not a killer GM or even an antagonistic one - but such dungeon setting pieces have their place. What I tried to do was make them balanced even if they weren't exactly fair. I think I succeeded, but I won't know until play reports trickle in.

I didn't have any leftover bits and bobs for this one as I wrote it short and adapted some pieces from Traps. Anyways, this took me 30 hours to write. It took me about 20 hours to edit, 2 hours of research (mostly double-checking other GURPS books), and about 7.5 hours of revision. I spent a further 0.5 hours look looking over the preliminary PDF for any issues and revising.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Carpe Blogiem: Open Call To Players, the Call Strikes Back

Ok, so I found out today I've got an open spot in my current GURPS campaign for my Tuesday group (C-Team). The game will be nominally from 6pm EST to 10pm EST, but there is a (high) chance that I'll be switching to Sundays from 2-4pm EST to 6-8pm EST. I'm looking for someone who can reliably be there, is friendly, and can do a bit of roleplaying. System mastery is a plus, but not required. I'm also looking to build a queue of potential players in case something happens to my regulars (or I decided to do another game). If you're interested, email me.

So here's the relevant bits:

  • The genre is supernatural horror/urban fantasy: monsters are real and so is magic.
  • The mode is mildly cinematic, with results skewing toward the PCs. It's a realistic world with somewhat larger than life PCs.
  • The austerity is mid to high: actions have consequences.
  • Point totals may vary, but you'll start with 400 points plus a package of traits. Everyone is a sorcerer (we'll be using a highly modified variation of Ritual Path Magic you'll need to learn).
  • Players are expected to deliver a fairly long character history (at least 500 words).
  • Players are expected to work together in a team environment. There is no PVP, no stealing from other players, etc. This rule will be enforced ruthlessly.
  • Heroic types are encouraged, but not required. Make sure your concept cares about SOMETHING other than himself (or phat lootz).
  • Play will be over Roll20 and Hangouts so webcam/mic are required.

I'm also looking to build a roster of players interested in one-shots so even if these times don't work now, apply away for that instead.

I'm closing this down by Friday and I'll have chosen the next player by Sunday - assuming I get enough folks who are interested.

Edit: I got 30 emails for this already. I'm shutting it down now. Thanks everyone!

Campaign Backdrop
The everyday plodding along of life hides something fantastic and terrifying. Beyond the veneer of mundane existence lies the world of the ceteri. A world full of wonder. A world full of fear. A world of impossible possibilities. This is the world that the Conclave has been hiding for millennia. The world that any logical, sane person would say is the result of too many bad movies, too many drugs, or too much drink. Or maybe they’ve just gone mad. This is the world of vampires and werewolves, of angels and demons, where Heaven and Hell are around every corner. Where ancient inhuman beings vie for power. Where sorcerers use magic to change the world around them. Where psychics send their souls outward to play in the aether. Where miracles happen to the devout.

The Conclave protects and polices this world, but they can’t be everywhere at once. Humanity has spread out to far and too fast and with them the various supernatural beings that follow them around for food, reproduction, or play. Thousands of years ago a sorcerer named Simon Magus separated the world of man and the world of monsters and set about his followers to watching over the wall he’d made. This was the beginning of the Conclave. Many who were not pleased by what Simon Magus had done went on to form a core part of the nascent Christian faith. Centuries later, Merlin would be born and he would lead the Conclave into a golden era with his friend Arthur forming the first custos (iconically represented in folklore as the Knights of the Round Table – who would later on become the Templar Knights, then the Venatori, and the modern Freemasons). These custos were warriors of rare ability and wielded powers both mundane and paranormal against the various supernatural forces that preyed on humanity.

For centuries, the various factions schemed against one another and were held in check by the Conclave. Eventually, the Conclave grew bloated with its power and prestige and concerned only with advanced itself and not carrying out its sacred mission of protecting mankind. The Conclave was “destroyed” in the late 16th century and those that remained fled to the New World to escape the madness of the Old World. The new Conclave rose up stronger than before and separated itself from the Houses (as it had been) to be a singular group welcome to all ceteri.

You are part of this Conclave and you're trying to not only survive, but thrive.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

GURPS101: Dungeon Fantasy Favored Professions

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy has a nifty notation for it's non-human races: "Marginal Professions" and "Favored Professions." Basically, "this is going to be hard due to your race" or "this is going to be easier due to your race." Now, if we go old skool races had an impact on your character class - why? Because reasons. Because a given race could become unbalanced with a given class. Additionally, some races (as well as high attributes) allowed you to gain a bonus to XP. Both ideas have merit, but how to do something like that in a point-based system like GURPS?

As it turns out, it's pretty easy. For GMs looking for such a feel simply use the following:

  • Favored Professions: As long as you are mostly performing the duties of your template (if you have more than one) during a game session and it's one of your listed favored professions you get a bonus +1 character point at the end of any game sessions above and beyond whatever you'd normally get. For example, if your character is a knight and you do most of the fighting when combat comes up, you get a bonus character point at the end of the session.
  • Marginal Profession: As above, but you lose 1 bonus character point awarded during the game (minimum of 1 character point per session). This loss affects your character no matter what, though if you've got another profession and use it almost entirely the GM may waive this penalty.
  • What About Humans? Humans don't have either a Favored or Marginal Profession so the GM can either ignore these rules for them or allow them to purchase a 10-point Unusual Background that allows them to pick one Favored Profession.and gain the benefits listed above.

Picking Over the Bones
I'm a fan of these little "micro" rules add ons since they are easy to institute and fun to use. A bit of under-the-hood action: this is just an application of using Impulse Buys with "Cosmic, Allows for permanent gains in specific circumstances." (+100%). Note that I'd never allow the modifier on most Impulse Buys without lots of GM oversight.

Overall, this micro-rule enforces stereotypes and compels certain races to certain niches, which the GM may or may not want. Be careful before using it!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Carpe Blogiem: GenCon 50 - Aftermath

Man. Coming back home I was out of it. I feel like I slept for a week yesterday. Today I'm a bit more rested, but still tired. I spent most of today unpacking and catching up on some stuff from home. My cat seems to have missed me, and basically hasn't left my side since I got in.

Thoughts On GenCon 50
The con was packed. I don't think I've ever seen that many people in one place in my life. There were nerds of all stripes, flavors, and colors there. Despite that many people in one place - almost everyone I enteracted with were flat out nice. On Friday I was about trashed around 1700 hours and had to find a place to sit. A nice older couple with their teen daughter gabbed at me and when I went to get up for a drink the daughter took my money and ran off to get it for me. Wherever I went people helped me, bought me stuff, and in general was just incredibly nice. I learned to play a lot of games and got to run a few myself. I bought Century by Plan-B Games and loved it so much I blabbed about it to anyone who would listen. (Hey, Plan-B Games, I tallied like 10 boxes bought after I prodded gamers. Send me free stuff!)

  • The DFRPG game with +Sean Punch was flat out amazing. I wish we could have played all night. 
  • Plan-B Games demo booth was awesome.
  • Fantasy Flight Games was ALSO awesome.
  • The Steve Jackson Games demos were fun - I really enjoyed the DFRPG and Munchkin Shakespeare demos. Both were pretty good.
  • Mercedes Lackey was awesome.
  • The Diana Jones Awards was pretty darn cool and I should have mingled more.

I've probably missed some other stuff. But twas nice.

Closing Thoughts 
I've already decided that I'm going back next year. For sure. I've set myself up with a budget I need to meet so I can go back. I want to go back that much. Meeting people in the industry was fun. It did make me realize I need to diversify and do it quickly. The more markets I'm in the better. I'm hoping I get some callbacks from folks - we'll see. For now, I need to get everything back together at home and then start back to work. Breaks over and I feel freaking great. Batteries are fully charged and I'm back to battle-ready status.

Twitter Stream

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Carpe Blogiem: GenCon 50 - Day 3

I'm writing this from home because Day 3 was just CRAZY and then the trip home was me mostly hallucinating from lack of sleep until I finally got home and passed out for 10 hours before waking up, eating, and passing out for another 12. So here is what happened Saturday August 19th, 2017 at GENCON 50.

Late Nights and Early Mornings
I literally did not sleep from Friday 6am until when I got home on Sunday. I planned to go to sleep - I'm pretty sure I wrote that I went to sleep...but I did not sleep. I played games with other crazies at the hotel and ended up at the convention center again by someone who drove. (I meet so so many great people just by coming up and saying "Hi!" - said people if you are reading comment below!)

Breakfast was pretty outstanding and I'd happily stay at the hotel I was at again. I headed to GenCon for a few hours to play a few pickup games, looky loo at the exhibit hall, and just to wander a bit.

Dungeon Fantasy RPG Game With Sean Punch
I had to Uber to the Munchkin Tavern (Tavern on South) because I was just so tired and everything was hurting. By the time I arrived I was looking at a glucose of 67. Heading to the back room on the second floor I was the last time arrive with +Joseph Bravo, +Douglas Cole, and +Guilherme P. de Freitas being there first. We ordered some appetizers and I'm ashamed to admit I nommed the hell out of them before ordering a burger and fries and scarfing that too. We choose our characters (I ended up with the catgirl swashbuckler because honestly the bard wasn't the type I liked to play so that was a bit of a disappointment). I was very pleased to find that +Sean Punch and I have VERY similiar GMing styles and the game was just fun. I roleplayed being a cat to the hilt I think and you can look at my twitter stream to see how the hijinks ensued.

Late Night With Sean Punch
After the game ended around 1845 Doug and Gui had to run and that left Joe, Sean, and myself. Sean used his Line Editor powers to get us a good table outside on the second floor balcony and we just gabbed at one another for hours swapping stories, talking gaming some, but mostly getting to know one another better. Something I'm really glad I stuck around for even if it did cost me a few more hours of sleep.

Twitter Stream Photos

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