Thursday, January 26, 2017

Gamemaster's Guidepost: Dealing With Player Turnover

One of the unavoidable truths of running a campaign for any length of time is player turnover. It happens. People have to live their life and sometimes that means they have to be responsible and say "No more games today/for a while/etc." I got to thinking about this as it concerns me since I lost six players in the span of about four months. One moved away, another was removed for behavior, another two got job workload required them to cut nighttime activities, another had trouble with the gaming schedule, and one had to deal with "life stuff." I personally don't hold a grudge against any of them except the one I kicked for behavior. I know these guys and gals didn't jump ship because of me, but rather because of circumstances beyond their control. I know this because I asked for the truth and I got it. Hopefully you (as a GM) are in a similiar situations where you and your players can be honest with one another and part ways amicably. That part is mostly easy. What happens when you go looking for a replacement player (those FNPs - Funny New Players!)? You've likely already got a good group dynamic place. Your players and their characters already fit together in a certain way... except now there is a hole from your player who has gone whence he came?

I've been running RPGs a long time and for many players. That's given me a certain... perspective on adding new players to existing groups. Hard won experience that nearly destroyed my gaming group on two separate occasions. Maybe you can get some benefit from that knowledge:

No Player Is Better Than a Bad Player
This one seems so easy and obvious... but it's not. (This is the same problem players have when looking for a group too.) You (as the GM) have to understand that if you have a good thing going with a group of players then adding a potentially unvetted player to the mix could cause the entire campaign to implode. When in doubt no player is better than a bad or troublesome player. Be completely sure that the person you want to add will fit in and not be disruptive.

Screen Your Players
Don't just randomly add someone to your games. Talk to them. Ask them what they like to do hobby-wise other than gaming. Ask about their music interests. What they like to read or watch on TV. Basically, get to know them. And do it first. Ideally a couple weeks before they would play and on met with them on multiple occasions if possible. Don't even talk about gaming the first time - save that for later; introduce your other players in a second or third meeting. The first time should just be prospective GM and prospective player. Even if you keep it "professional" game-wise understanding a person and how they might act under pressures or influences from others will tell you if they can or can't fit in your campaign.

Be Up Front
Do. Not. Pussyfoot. Around. You put all your cards on the table. All of them.  You explain your players (to the best of your ability) and their particular inclinations. Explain yours. Explain your character creation process (including house rules and system modifications, if any) and why you do things that way. You explain the campaign your running and give examples from fiction and pop culture of the sort of game you have. You take the time to explain this things and repeatedly ask if they have any questions or ideas to add. If they don't you've either got a player who is only working on half a gear (which can be fine for beer and pretzel gaming) or who isn't really interested in the game itself but wants to play (which can be fine too - but can cause problems for some campaigns that become unfixable later).

Do Not Kill the Leaving Player's Character
I am guilty as hell of this in my early days. Don't do it. If you've parted amicably - and I hope that you have - then that presents the possibility of the player returning to your campaign at a later date. So how do you keep the character active with an absent player? Background. Shuffle the character into the background, have them go off and do something important to the campaign, but something that doesn't need the remaining players involved.

Be Involved and Hold Hands
There is a chance you might recruit a new player who has little gaming experience with your chosen system or may be new to gaming completely. In such cases help them make their characters and explain why they want to do specific things for their particular concept. This is a good way to teach a system and if you have good players they will help you do this.

Know Your Existing Player Base and Dynamic
If you have a player who is energetic, one who is shy, and two who are middling then losing the shy or middling players will be much easier then losing the energetic one. Conversely, adding an energetic player player to that same group might prove disastrous (or awesome, it really depends). Basically, know your current players and find a player that will supplement or compliant them - not clash.

Speak Your Mind, Ask for Criticism, & Be Firm
Being a gamemaster is a position of trust. Your players trust that you will be honest with them. That you won't screw over their characters for the sake of screwing over their characters. That you will be as immersed as they are in the world you are collectively creating. That you will be fair. In turn, the GM must be willing to accept honest critique from his players. Are they having fun? Did something particular happen in game they didn't like or ruined their fun? Is there more you can be doing to make things better? The reverse is true too - if a player is being disruptive to the campaign or being hurtful to another player(s) then speak to them. Maybe they aren't aware of their actions. If they are are they acting out? Or just being a jerk? Find out. If the player has soured ask why. If there appears to be no reason (Some players just want to watch the GM's campaign world burn) remove the player immediately. No player is better than a bad player.

Picking Over the Bones
Loosing players isn't always a bad thing. It's often a sad thing and occasionally a mad thing. In the case of the latter it can be a glad thing and in most cases you might gain a comrade from the thing. (See what I did there? ^_^) Basically, picking out a new can be complicated and if the GM isn't paying attention he can really mess things up. This is why I run my gaming group as a pirate democracy. I'm the captain and the players elect me to that position. in this way they have power over me and I in turn have power over them - power they gave me. I guess what it all boils down to is trust. Trust between the players. Trust between the GM and his players. Trust is the key.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Carpe Blogiem: Aeon Team Rosters - Part V

As in the previous posts (see herehere, here, and here) I'm talking about my Aeon campaign and the various teams within it.

State of the V-Team
Newly assembled and ready to kick butt, the V-Team consist of characters from a previous (abaonded) supers campaign. A lot of Aeon is built from that world (and one other) and this team is a big example of that. After the A-Team settled out I gave my face to face group three options for the next group. They ended up choosing to create (or recreate) heroes who are a part of "the Valiants" the first superhero group to sign up for the MAPS program. The Valiants are one of the foremost groups of metahumans on the planet and have been in Aeon-lore right from the beginning (though it's been tweaked here and there). Led by the invulnerable "Artillery" the Valiants decided to field two response teams in 2014. The PCs comprise of the newest team, while Artillery leads the older one. (Yes, there are in-game reasons why this is and it'll be explained with time).

Like all new teams I've NPCs I've put together to interact with the PCs - but I've no idea if they will take a liking to them. PCs are fickle beasts after all.

You'll be able to read about the V-Team's current exploits from this page.

Scale: National and limited global (the V-Team works out of New York City as a part of the MAPS program, but also for AEGIS on dangerous field ops).
Basic Campaign Concept (season 1 to present): PCs protect the city they've grown to love while trying to live a normal life at the same time.
Point Range: 1,000 points to 3,400 points.

The V-Team consists of 4 players and 6 NPCs.

Alicia I. Milam aka Howler (NPC): The youngest member of the team - Howler is a 16 year old orphan with a chip on her shoulder. Recruited by Sigyn after they found the angry teen beating up pimps and drug dealers in Newark. Alicia or Leece, has a singlur metahuman ability, one which makes her incredibly dangerous. She has perfect physical coordination - she could throw a penny into a penny-sized hole thirty feet away or juggle chainsaws - all without difficulty. She looks up to both Sigyn and Ciera as the mother/older sister she never had.

Ciera A. Maeweather aka Weather Girl (Played by +Christian Gelacio): Ciera Maeweather grew up in Haiti with her rather large extended family. This was partly due to the fact that she and her siblings exhibited their abilities early on (and before the TAP) and partly because her father owned an estate on the south side of the island. She moved to the States in her teens and became fast friends with Sigyn. When AEGIS formed the Valiants they tapped her to be one of the inaugural members. She's also the News Channel 4 meteorologist and a widely known celebrity. Her powers allow her to manipulate the weather in all its forms as well as earthquakes and tsunamis. Like Sigyn, she's an "open" hero and is the second in command.

Caitlin Baker aka Crystal (NPC): Caitlin was discovered by AEGIS during the A-Team episode "Mirror, Mirror" and has several children by the Alchemist (her beau). She has the ability to manipulate, control, turn into, and create glass. While this doesn't sound particularly flashy when you live in a big city nearly everything is made of glass. Caitlin is considered a reserve member of Sigyn's team at the moment due to the fact that she's pregnant. When active she's considered one of the hardest hitters (her crystalline form is extremely tough and akin to a Prince Rupert's Drop with the "tail" being within her) and is a D-Scale metahuman.

Janos K. "John" Memonovic aka Doctor Mnemonic (Played by +Troy Loy): Janos Memonovic (better known by his moniker "Dr. Mnemonic") is old. He's been around since the latter part of the 19th century and was a part of the original Marauders team. He's not an open hero and hides his identity with a "steampunk" costume and set-up. His primary abilities are increased intelligence (the longer he works on a problem the smarter he gets) and memory (he can memorize others movements, books, etc.). Due to his age he is also highly skilled at a multitude of tasks (including medicine which he excels at) and is a highly capable combatant.

Kisping Locke aka Burnout (NPC): The youngest of the Locke children, Kisping or Kisp possessed fire powers like his older sister, and like his older brother was a Savant-class metahuman (those possessing technical knowhow or increased intelligence/task aptitude). This all changed when the Mirror (under the influence of the then "Dreamweaver" and now "Sandman") mimicked his powers it somehow drained them. The Mirror, also mimicking the Artillery's powers (strength, endurance, and other "archetype" powers) and driven mad by the sight of his hated foe, literally ripped Kisp limb from limb. Somehow surviving, Kisp was on life support for months even accounting for his Scion healing factor. When he came out of it he wasn't himself anymore. The cheerful happy-go-lucky young man was gone and a cynical, misanthropic bastard took his place. Despite all he's been through Kisp still considers himself part of the Valiants and usually works Ops for the field teams (often with the help of the Ratpack, see below) by running drones, surveillance, hacking, etc.

Lucian A. de Keye aka Warlock (NPC): Lucian (or Lu as he prefers to be called) is both a metahuman and a sorceror. The latter is due to the nature of his metahuman power: he can control darkness. This is often viewed as a "villainous" power - much like Blackout (a rogue metahuman with similiar abilities). He therefore tries not to use it often and instead makes use of numerous spells he's learned from various books of magic and those he could convince to teach him. Because of this he's one of the more versatile members of the Valiants. This doesn't mean he won't use his "umbrakinesis" - it's been the turning point in many fights because most foes forget he can even do it. He does use shadows to create swords, armor, and other constructs when need be. Lucian is in a relationship with Sigyn.

Riki-Tiki-Tavi (NPC): An Ivory Labs "Doolittler" (an altered animal like Yukio from B-Team), Riki-Tiki-Tavi or "Tiki" is a semi-sapient mongoose with obsession for anything sweet - but especially cookies. His bite is extremely dangerous and induces a hemolytic toxin that ceases a body's ability to clot. Moreover he's fast, can track a target over miles, and heals extremely rapidly. Tiki is rarely far from Sigyn's side and often provides a distraction for her in combat thanks to his rapid reflexes. He's a prototype of the Doolittle program for enhancing the intelligence of animals. It just happened to work quite well.

Shara Al-Hadid aka Velocity (NPC): Shara was born in Malian, Iran to a large and loving family. Exposed to waste from the joint Iran-Russian project (code-named "Tunuvat Atar" by Iran - though the Russians called it "Zhar-Ptitsa") she developed powers. Shara has the ability to control the speed of herself and objects (but not others). Anything that she propels can break the sound barrier. Shara is typical of most metahumans in that she possesses a singular (if powerful) ability.

Sigyn A. “Ginny” Locke aka Valkyrie (Played by +Ann LS): Sigyn (See-gin) is an "open" hero who has metahuman abilities (she's a pyro- and chronokinetic), magic, and a battlesuit (which her brother Kisping designed for her). Her battlesuit is strong enough to take on most "bricks" and gives her a huge edge in most fights. Her fire powers (light powers?) are mostly "standard" fare, but she is capable of projectile a bolt of superheated plasma so hot it can melt stone. Her temporal abilities (and it should be noted she's one of FIVE individuals with such authorized powers) allow her to temporarily speed herself, "read" the time stream (a form of retro- and precognition), and rewind time. Theoretically, the latter ability should have sent her on a one way ticket to Scarlet Bay (what Guantanamo Bay become) to live out her life in a chemically induced coma or possibly killed. But her ability is limited to at most ten minutes and she's passed numerous ethics evaluations by mind readers, psychologists, and even precogs. After the death of her brother, Harley, she became the heir (a position she never really wanted) to the Locke family fortune (Locke Industries is a billion dollar a year company and employs millions). Ginny struggles with the task of being a hero, having a normal life, and heading up Locke Industries as its Chief Operating Officer. She leads one of the Valiants response teams (Artillery leads the other) and is one of the first and preeminent heroes of the city.

Sophia O. Saki aka Silkworm (Played by +Natiel Leealexander): Sophia is one of three siblings ("Weaver" and "Material Girl") who all have the ability to control fabric to one degree or another. Sophia's shtick is being able to manipulate it, specifically, being able to manipulate cloth in such a way as to form extra limbs she can use to manipulate or attack people with. Given her "limbs" are over 10 yards long and strong enough to lift over 14 tons that makes her highly capable. She can also transform fabric slightly, and can't create fabric at all. Her costume comes with six 30 ft "streamers" of cloth that wrap around her when not in use giving the impression that she's wearing a VERY thick sweater.

The Ratpack (NPCs): The Ratpack consists of a five Ivory Labs-enhanced rodents (they are about a pound each and a foot long and resemble common brown rats). Borrowing traits from multiple rodents and other animals, the Ratpack was meant to serve as the assassins, spies, and infiltration experts of the Doolittle program. Unfortunately, the rodents developed a conscience and couldn't be made to kill. When Ivory Labs tried to destroy them and start over they escaped and found Sigyn who lead a raid on the place. Recognizing their intelligence and personhood (despite their outward appearance) she let them stay in Locke Tower. They grew obsessed with Frank Sinatra movies and took the names and mannerisms of the Ratpack. "Frank" is the squad leader and is strangely charismatic (for a rodent). Dean is the heavy weapons expert and he's big (20" long). Sammy is the computer intrusion specialist. Petey is the explosives and demo expert and is a bit of a pyromaniac. Joey is the comms and cryptography expert and is quiet and shy (and borderline autistic). Together they are a formidable force the equal of any special ops team.

Picking Over the Bones
My players decided early on that they wanted multiple team members already established going into the campaign. This was to shore of an absences of players and to enable a player to rapidly take over another character if something happened to their main character. It's sort of like troupe play where each player has multiple characters, but only as a contingency. The roster might change between now and actual play, but so far this is what I got.

I might detail up the second response team for the Valiants later on. So far (really quick) the team consists of: The Artillery (super strong, fast, capable of flight, invulnerable - he can take direct fire from tanks and tactical bombs with no damage, and capable of emitting energy blasts from his eyes that can melt tanks), Delight (emits a field that causes pleasure and makes others susceptible to her commands), and Omniray (technopath with a battlesuit), Sabre (emits energy blades). I'll probably add more to that later to round the team out some.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Carpe Blogiem: Aeon Team Rosters - Part IV

As in the previous posts (see here, here, and here) I'm talking about my Aeon campaign and the various teams within it.

State of the C-Team
C-Team has been a bit bumpy. Loss of PK (who was the team lead) and the speeding up of the timeline for them caused a LOT of dissonance. I also had to adjust the scope due to player dissatisfaction (...I hesitate to use the word "dissatisfaction" because that's not accurate). As +Travis Ellis said to me "Stop treating C-Team as a weird side project. We want to get more involved in the main stuff!" Which...was going to happen, but I was planning on doing some other tuff first. I chucked the idea and adjusted fast. The disappearance of PK's character (assumed dead) and the shocking survival (SHOCKING I SAY!) of the "Subway Team" caused a speed up of almost 18 game sessions worth of plot in only 3 sessions. I did it. But it was messy. The current C-Team - now the third iteration of "The Marauders" have as a result of their survival of the kyberic fusion bomb gained metahuman capabilities. Or in +Kevin Smyth's - allowed him better control over his powers. Trained up and equipped, the Director is using them as the scalpel to the Cavalry's broadsword. AEGIS wants Blue Skies down and with the C-Team's apparent demise they can't use the normal pressure tactics they do (hurting innocents, family members, and loved ones to distract or impair). Worst yet for Blue Skies they don't know who is actually attacking them. All they know is someone keeps interfering and slowly diminishing their influence and power. Since both A-, B-, and C-Teams have taken extra measures to keep themselves hidden in their actions it's gotta be spooky as hell to the Blue Skies boys. No one knows who the enemy is so everyone is the enemy.

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

Scale: Global (the C-Team works out of New York City for AEGIS running ops around the world)
Basic Campaign Concept (season 3 to present): PCs are working to unravel a conspiracy and bring down a corporate giant.
Point Range: 500 points to 1,000 points.

The C-Team consists of 5 players and 1 NPC.

Gunther Magnison (NPC): Gunther is big, strong, damn near invulnerable (he has I-Class invulnerability meaning if it doesn't do 17d of damage or more he ignores it), and hates relish. That's right. He hates relish. To the point that he will fall into a berserker rage if it's in his presence. Gunther isn't the sharpest tool in the shed (in fact, he's functionally retarded and on the autistic spectrum), but he can take direction is incredibly loyal. He's not technically an AEGIS agent, but is employed by them as a "specialist." He's a powered metahuman, but has so far disallowed anyone to study his abilities - including the doctor's at Riker's Island.

Marsh Langston (played by +Mavrick Fitzgerald): Marsh has been through hell in the last few sessions. His father betrayed him and used him in the worst possible way all for a profit and forced him to betray his fellow agents. Then Marsh found out that Mikhail was his half brother courtesy of Langston Sr. sowing some wild oats during the end of the Cold War. Marsh is incredibly gifted at social engineering, espionage, computers, and is whiz-bang in a multitude of scientific fields. Nominally, he's Tyler's right hand. After the incident at Nataapwpa he developed the ability to cast illusions of pure kyberic energy.

Miguel Drasil (played by +Andre Troche ): Miguel can best be described as "the ultimate team player." It's essentially his superpower (he took Teamwork! at IQ+6) and it has paid off BIG TIME even though it's only been one session. With bonuses for Teamwork! and Mastermind! (thanks to Tyler) the time can overcome most obstacles. Andre (Miguel's player) is a genuinely nice guy and fit in so smoothly with the rest of the team that there was little awkwardness when he joined. Miguel's powerset involves memory allowing him to recall facts with ease and copy other people's movements or actions giving him "eidetic reflexes." He can also rapidly memorize data allowing him to temporarily gain skills or other learnable traits.

Mikhail Kovalenko (played by +Alex Raymond): Mikhail is a one-man army. Seriously. Give him the right weapons and he can take on twenty times his number. (Mikhail was built that way very purposefully.) He's an ex-STAR2S (Special Tactical Assault and Rapid Response Squad) agent and it shows in his training. He can use any weapon at hand or anything at hand as a weapon. He can drive anything (and I mean anything) and is a helluva a soldier. He's a mediocre spy, something his mother chides him on constantly. As the campaign has progressed he's added fixer (he always knows a guy) and comedy relief to his repertoire. After the incident at Nataapwpa he developed the ability to assume an astral form and perceive the astral plane.

Niklos Xanthopoulos (played by +Kevin Smyth): First, Kevin's portrayal of a misanthropic antisocial medical genius that somehow works with a group of PCs is amazing. I've seen little like it in all my years roleplaying or GMing. I didn't think it was possible honestly. Niklos himself is a rare genius who will end up being one of those people who come along once every hundred years and change everything. OOPS. Did I write that down where Kevin could read it? Ah well. Niklos is the team medic, anthropologist, psychologist, and social scientist. He's so good he's literally driven people mad when they've tried to treat him (something he despises). Because Niklos is Niklos, he used PR-DNK-94 (the then incarnation of Blue Skies power-granting formula) on himself. Also because he's Niklos he lucked out and actually got permanent metahuman abilities (this was a completely random roll with a 4 or less on 3d resulting in permanent ability and few side effects.) He gained the ability to duplicate himself (up to six Niklii at a time including himself) and very limited precognition. After the incident at Nataapwpa he further refined his powers reducing many of the side effects they produced. It was also revealed that he is in fact a chronokinetic - a time manipulator. Normally, in Aeon chronokinetics are either killed or put into chemical comas. They are simply too dangerous. There are a hand full that are allowed to exist - albeit constantly monitored - and Niklos is one of them due to his proven loyalty, mindfulness of his abilities, and the fact that he hasn't shown the ability to actually travel time...yet.

Tyler J. Moody aka AGENT VERACITY (played by +Travis Ellis): Tyler had to assume the mantle of team leader after the death of Marlowe and has done reasonably well (so far). He found out that his own father was not who he thought he was (he was known as "Rook" and headed up his own special STAR2S team to hunt down and hopefully kill Marlowe) and is very conflicted about it. His parent's death weighs heavily on him and though he tries to soldier on he occasionally has moments where it shows. Tyler is an incredibly gifted spy, infiltrator, saboteur, and team leader. His unique brain chemistry allows him to assume roles and effectively rewire his brain in the process. His role as "Agent Veracity" the kooky crazy agent who goes through people's garbage was in fact - a role. One he played very well.  After the incident at Nataapwpa he developed (activated a latent?) the ability to manipulate information and data. This literally allows him to rewrite what people know in his area and make him hard to remember. He can also divine information by getting small tidbits and putting it together with intuitive leaps.

State of the D-Team
Losing Daniel was like losing an arm. I'd built part of the plot around his character and while he was on hiatus I couldn't put that plot on freeze too. So I continued it. I had his character drop into a coma and disappear off with Maria so she could help him recover. What's wrong with him? Stay tuned to find out. The PCs pivoted rather quickly and I'm grateful as hell for that. So far, D-Team remains steady as it ever was and I'm still waiting to see how things unfold.

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

Scale: National (the team is operating out of the postapocalyptic world of Aeon).
Basic Campaign Concept (season 1 to present): PCs are trying to get an old stranger to New York in an effort to prevent a second apocalypse after one of them had a vision.
Point Range: 600 points to 1,600 points.

The D-Team consists of 4 players and 1 NPC.

Charles E. C. Moody aka "Eddie" (Played by +Ignus Pyre): Eddie has an extremely storied background and Richard put a lot of work into it. Charles himself was a member of STARRS and ran his own team to combat dangerous threats - including the god-like Marlowe. After he derailed too many of Marlowe's plans Marlowe had him (and his wife) killed - or so he thought. Eddie's death participated a Dark Fog event which pulled him through time and into the future. Maybe it's due to luck or maybe it's due to planning, but Eddie is keenly suited to the future thanks to his skills, perspicacity, and sheer stubbornness. Eddie also has a moral compass that always points true north and is the heart of the team. He's a good man and does things for others without expecting compensation.
           He's also a metahuman with ESP abilities. including the capability of sensing Dark Fog and Dark Fog creatures when they get to close, the ability to detect lies so fine-tuned he could not even Marlowe could lie to him, remote viewing (which is VERY painful for him to use), blisteringly painful visions, and is himself invisible to similiar divinatory abilities. (a gift he passed onto his son)

Jacob Edward Reed aka "Doc" (Played by +Asta Kask): A survivor of the Black Swan and eking by somehow. Jacob Edward Reed (direct descendent of Walter Reed) would be a miracle in any timeline - he is a healer - that is, he possesses metahuman powers to heal others of wounds (including himself, which is part of the reason why he has survived so long). With practice and time he can theoretically restore any caliber of wound as long as the target is still alive. (or even recently dead)
          Jacob himself is a kind man of middling years who takes his Hippocratic Oath as seriously as he can given the situations he finds himself in. Knowing that metahuman powers are frowned upon he often disguises his healing of a subject with an injection of saline solution ("med-sins from the Old World") to keep his powers secret. Like Eddie he's got a well-grounded moral compass, unlike Eddie his morals extend from his deep faith and his hope to build a better tomorrow and refuge for those with powers like his.

King (NPC): King is a maine coon cat - a rather large one. He possesses human level intellect, but is still a cat. He also seemingly possessed "cat meme" powers. This is something that drives Nick insane because logically he shouldn't have those abilities...but he does somehow. Lazer eyez, flight that leaves a rainbow trail, deadly belly rubs - it's all there. And kind of terrifying. King is also quite useful in a fight and utterly loyal to Jacob (who he "owns").

Kurst Vetrson (Played by +Antoni Ten Monrós): Kurst is a freak of nature. A half-human, half-wendigo (cold-adapted vampires in Aeon) child of a mere 16 years. His youth is counterbalanced by his deep knowledge of the wilderness and expert archery skills. He's suspicious of others, but his gruff exterior hides the compassion that somehow still beats within his heart after all he's been through. Kurst possesses the ability to manipulate the cold and ice - power he isn't always in control of. He does his best by the others and Eddie looks upon him as a son of sorts - an affection which Kurst returns in his own way.

Nicodemus J. Faust aka "Nick" (Played by +Hal Batty): Nicodemus is a terrible person. No. Seriously. He's kind of a monster, but his father (Marlowe) made him that way and his wife redeemed him for a time. Until his father murdered her and his children anyways. From that point on Nicodemus has spent every waking moment trying to find a way to get revenge. Nick is a sorceror of the highest caliber and also possess metahuman abilities that allow him to influence others (subtly or otherwise). But his true ability comes from his knowledge. Nick is a polymath, polyhistor, and an otherwise expert or just about everything. He's a masterful manipulator, planner, trickster, and is generally the smartest man in the room. He knows how to get others to do what he wants without them noticing and he does it well. He is, in short, a magnificent bastard. Hal plays him brilliantly and like Niklos the character somehow works even though the concept usually doesn't really play well for a group.

Picking Over the Bones
These two teams should have been separated more time-wise. It was a mistake on my part. I only took three months between starting them up and I really should have did about 4-6. Still. I'm rather happy overall with how things have turned out. C-Team is converging with B-Team and the D-Team remains a place I can tell stories that link to past events (which are happening in other games). D-Team will be the last of the times to converge with the others - if at all. It's my way of showing the repercussions of what's happening in "modern day" Aeon.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Carpe Blogiem: Aeon Team Rosters - Part III

The current ongoings of my Aeon teams. But first, some notes for the overview of all teams.

The State of the Aeon Campaign

  • I finished up part of the technology file for Aeon itself. It clocked in at around 10k worth of words. Sigh. I don't miss this part of speculative settings. At all.
  • I took a six week break from running. Four weeks was to bypass the mess of the holidays and the other two were because of some health reasons of my own (I'm fine now). I should have just tried to run because I ended up losing some players - though the loss of most of them was because of their own personal issues.
  • I lost +Emily Smirle as a active player onB-Team because the times we were playing were messing with her sleep schedule. She's still part of the project and I plan on bringing her as a guest player on at least one of the teams. She's awesome I miss hanging out with her. :-(
  • I lost +Daniel Dover as an active player on D-Team (for now). Hopefully mid-summer brings him back. Daniel's a great guy and I'm genuinely fond of him and how his mind operates. That doesn't even much what a great player he is.
  • I lost +Pk Levine as an active player on C-Team. :-( His work load is kind of crazy and he can't commit to a stable timeslot on his own games, much less mine. It sucks, but hey, we get the Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game this year because of it.
  • I lost the replacement player for Emily in B-Team FOUR times due to various issues. It's like the Defense Against the Dark Arts teaching position. There is a curse on it. I cannot get a replacement player (and hey, Em is irreplaceable anyways). So for now I'm keeping both B- and D-Teams at four players. I think the last D-Team session went far more smoothly because of this.
  • I gained an excellent replacement player for C-Team, +Andre Troche . Dude's a natural fit with the group in my opinion and his superpower is basically "I'm the ultimate team player," which rocks.
  • I started a "think tank" of people interested in the Aeon project, but where were unable to play. I'm really glad I did this because it has enabled me to get a lot done world-wise I might not have otherwise done. They've been a massive help in getting the Aeon wiki up and running and I don't think I could have gotten it at its current state without them.
  • I put out a call for three guest players, lost one, ended up with two. One has a fully finished character background and character and the other is still working on it. I'll likely pull for another one in, but that's going to wait a while.
  • A-Team "ended". 12 game sessions and three seasons later and my players felt it was time for something else. I agreed. We might come back to it later, but for now the new cast of characters will be the "V-Team" (V is for Valiants). More on that later
  • Setting bible for Aeon reached a ludacris 77k words. Most of that is handling high point totals, character traits, rules to smooth power use, new powers, new Sorcery spells, chi skills as powers, etc. I'll start in on the world-building part once I finish the tech available (glob help me. I'm almost done).
  • The converging of games has begun for the B- and C-Teams. They're already working on the same problem from different angles. I hope that in the next 4-8 weeks they've got Blue Skies wrapped up in a nice bow so that we can get to the main plot. Crossing over games was not as easy as I thought at first - there are some problems I've smoothed out thanks to players saying "Hey, this doesn't work." and me responding with "You're right. Let's fix it." I'm rather decent at the player's checkerboard (what I call weaving plots for players in a way that it seems like they made the choice on their own), but now I'm I'm playing on STAR TREK checkerboards. One action by a PC here directly affects a PC there. I've had to keep more notes on this and I've worked up a more comprehensive "murder board" to keep track of the information in a useful way.
  • I started a Discord server just for my players, myself, and those involved in the Aeon project. So far it's been quite useful and we've devolved a couple of times into non-Aeon topics, bu that happens.

State of the B-Team
The B-Team opened up Season 4 with two-fisted action and all barrels blazing. they want to take Blue Skies out after seeing the future that the giant company helps create firsthand. To do this Director Legend aka "The General" has transferred part of the Cavalry (the PCs) over to an AEGIS taskforce designed to undermine, counter, and dismantle the Blue Skies Defense Contracting LLC. The players have been whittling away hard at Blue Skies and stuff that happened months ago is finally starting to take effect. Last game they figured out half the board of (unnamed) directors and infiltrated (via the Commander's SEAL allies) three different branches - including one they didn't even know about. Then they lost contact with one. When the game ended they were going to go kick in a door because here comes the Cavalry to the rescue...

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

Scale: National and limited global (the B-Team works out of New York City for AEGIS running ops around the world currently)
Basic Campaign Concept (season 3 to present): Metahumans working with AEGIS to deal with the growing threat of the ominous Blue Skies corporation.
Point Range: 900 points to 1,800 points.

The B-Team consists of 4 players and

Eamon Finnegan  (played by +Kyle Norton): Kyle has continued to make Eamon Finnegan one of the more interesting characters in Aeon. He's got strict morals, but he's happy to split legal hairs. He's powerful as hell and can literally crush you like a bug, but doesn't want to do more damage than necessary. He's a hero. It shows. Also, having a lawyer on your hero team is like a hidden layer of chocolate. You don't know you need it until you bite into it. Seriously. Legal skills are like money - they are their own superpower.

Ezekiel Le Strange aka Technomancer (played by +Christian Gelacio): Chris's previous character was destroyed via interaction with a crystal skull during the early part of Season 3. Chris made another character and decided to sort of fill the same roles he'd done before (blaster and gadgeteer) but in different ways. Technomancer is more metahuman-y than Arc Light and is the current example of a "trion" (a metahuman with three power foci) with ESP, Hyper-Intelligence, and Technopathy as his powers. He's also a helluva of an archer (on par with Hawkeye or Green Arrow) and makes use of his gadgeteering skills to deliver unique and special payloads to foes. The other members of the team are a bit wary of him after he created Ultron (not really) and unleashed a fusion-powered chainsaw ('cause obvious reasons). Still, he's been dang useful to the team and works well with everyone.

Galatea aka "Natalie" (NPC): The physical manifestation of Eamon and Ezekiel's powers. Galatea is a working Kyberic Refractor with sentient thought. This allows her to mimic any power she can see and detect Kyberic signatures with ease. As a synthetic being akin to an android (hell, she is one) she has a hard time understanding people, but was given a very strict "morality matrix" thanks to the combined efforts of the B-Team and especially Eamon. Galatea works very hard at pleasing everyone and this is likely to cause problems later.

Ian Owari aka The Commander (played by +Douglas Cole): Doug has continued playing his role as team leader and hero to the hilt. After the end of Season 3 and presenting him with an awful choice: what his character's heart felt or what the world needed. He choose his heart. Did he just destroy the world? Doug (not the Commander) certainly thinks he might have. Stay tuned and see if he's right.

Kei Toyotomi aka Onyx (NPC): Sister to Katana, Onyx is a powerful terrakinetic and a master of Akijutsu and other samurai martial arts. Nominally, she's a brick, but is also a shaper who can mix it up with the best of them. Her and Galatea have become close in the last few months.

Murui Ao aka Zephyr (played by +GodBeastX): Zephyr has grown considerably as a character in the last few sessions. His twin (aka Phaton) ended up staying in the future helping Maria, while he went back to the present. Zephyr ended up nearly killing himself via a failed roll when performing a slam and it was both entertaining and eye opening. Glad he took Injury Tolerance (Damage Reduction; Collisions only).

Pontikia Paroni aka The Rat Queen (played by +Emily Smirle; guest PC/NPC): Still my favorite character concept of the B-Team, the Rat Queen has been shifted into the background but is still very much part of the team. She more or less leads the second Cavalry team that protects the Bronx now.

Saya Toyotomi aka Katana (NPC): The Commander's waifu. She's also a dangerous metahuman with the ability to manipulate space, relocate her senses elsewhere, is a capable magic user, and has some kind of magical sword and armor. Katana pretended not to understand anything but Okinawan, but turns out ot be conversant in multiple languages. She prefers to work with her sister on the Cavalry's "home team" and likes to play housewife (something she's remarkably good at) when not working to secure the city.

Tracy Billingham aka One Helluva Secretary (NPC):
Tracy is a metahuman with an unusual power. She can duplicate herself up to twenty times (including herself), but not while anyone is physical present and observing her. If an observer sees her in this duplicated state she collapse into a single being. Combined with her above average intellect and natural fastidiousness and she makes an amazing secretary. Her abilities allow her to take care of all the paperwork for the B-Team in its entirety, apply for more grant money by navigating the bureaucratic nightmare of federal funding, act as a comms operator for team members, and keep their offices perfectly organized. The PCs bought her as a mutual ally and she's as much part of the team as anyone else.

Yukio aka The Dog of NIMH aka The Wonder Dog aka The Dog of War Because Two Or More Would Be Too Much (NPC): Yukio is often the heavy hitter of the team and happily goes into combat or danger as his master dictates. Yukio has been a pivotal figure in several situations and the team has come to rely on him and his capabilities.

Picking Over The Bones
The B-Team remains one of the strongest teams I have,, at least partly owing to the fact that it's been ran the longest - almost a year now - and has 40 sessions under its belt. They gone through a bit losing two of the original characters on the team, but have come out of it in one piece. They're laser focused on dismantling Blue Skies and have been putting all their energies on that. in true comic book fashion, I've taken to separating the team by PCs and NPC, with the former doing "active" foreground stuff and the latter doing "active" background stuff. This allows for the Cavalry to continue day to day operations in the MAPS program to protect the Bronx and whittle away at Blue Skies. It also allows them to pull in people they may need when going on a big op. B-Team is quickly closing the gap with C-Team and hopefully in a few weeks I'll be at a good point to start swapping players (temporarily) between teams.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Gamemaster's Guidepost: Fairy Rings

Guest Post by Anders Starmark

Fairy rings are rings of mushrooms that grow outward, leaving a circle of dark green or dead grass behind them. They can appear wherever the terrain is relatively flat and unobstructed – grasslands are ideal. They are a powerful help for magicians, but can cause bad luck for anyone else.

A fairy ring grows outward at a rate of 9 inches per year, meaning it takes 4 years to grow a yard in diameter. Each yard’s diameter gives it a Circle Strength of 3, so a 3-yard circle has a Circle Strength of 9. Fairy rings rarely grow larger than 10 yards.

Magic Uses
In standard GURPS magic a fairy ring is a wild mana area. Any success is a critical success, any failure is a critical failure. If a campaign uses Incantation Magic, Path Magic, or Ritual Path Magic a fairy ring counts as a sacred space, negating the -5 penalty for casting without such a space and giving a net +1 bonus per 6 points in Circle Strength. If a campaign uses Sorcery, magic cast within a fairy ring costs no energy. Fairy rings of dead grass grant their bonuses to necromancy effects only.

Trapping Magical Creatures
Magical creatures (GM’s decision, but elementals, demons and the undead definitely count) find it difficult to exit a fairy ring. To do so, they must overcome the ring’s Circle Strength in a regular Contest vs. the ring’s ST. Each attempt takes 1 minute and if the attempt fails, the creature must wait one hour before it can try again. This makes fairy rings a major boon to summoners, who can summon creatures to question them without risking attack. Note that the creatures have no difficulty entering a ring, so if such a being is ignorant of this property, the ring can be used as a trap. Fairy rings of dead grass can be used to trap undead only.

Destroying the Ring
Destroying a fairy ring is not difficult - no special equipment is necessary (although magical creatures within the ring cannot do so). However, anyone who destroys a Fairy Ring will suffer from the Unluckiness disadvantage for a year and a day. If they already have Unluckiness, increase it to Cursed. If they are already Cursed... then their condition doesn't get worser. Although such a person probably has enough to worry about anyway."

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Carpe Blogiem: 2016 - A Year In Review

Like my last three years in review. Here are how things went for me in 2016:

The Good (What I did well or that went well)
  • I was published in Pyramid a bit this year: #3/87: Low-Tech III (5/5 stars), #3/89: Alternate Dungeons II (4.5/5 stars), #3/90: After the End (5/5 stars), #3/91 Pyramid: Thaumatology IV (5/5 stars), Pyramid #3/93: Cops and Lawyers (5/5 stars), Pyramid #3/95: Overland Adventures (5/5 stars), ##3/97 Pyramid: Strange Powers (4.5/5 stars), and #3/98 Pyramid: Welcome to Dungeon Fantasy (5/5 stars). I didn't land any cover issues this year. As of right now I've been published in Pyramid 43 times (twice in Issue #3/46). I was published eight times this year, losing out in February, June, August, and October. Eventually I'll get the "all year" mark. It's yet another goal to strive for.
  • I'm still working on the current wishlist, but all issues are done except for Humor, Epic, Deep Space, Hot Spots and Locations, and Action. I've got another 6 that are have no listed home, but are good to go.
  • My Patreon has been doing extremely well considering what it is - I've reached the point where I make (on average) about the same as writing for Pyramid. I also started doing non-game design writing for a tech firm and that's been helping considerably. Currently, I'm writing for three different places steadily plus my other freelancing.
  • I was selected to preview and write about the Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game (see the Kickstarter here!). The other list of names included Phil Masters, David L. Pulver, Matt Riggsby, and Peter Dell'Orto. That is heady company.
  • My mastery of the English language continued to improve and I've been working myself up to some of the more arcane rules.
  • Nimbus remains a source of delight and amusement. I've been teaching him tricks (for treats!) and he's mastered some pretty interesting things. We're still working on "selfie", but I think he did rather well.
  • Home life is still pretty decent, I wish there were more that could be done, but we have a roof over our heads, bills are paid, and food on the table. That's not something you can complain about.
  • I got to put some long dormant indexing skills to use for +Douglas Cole for his Dungeon Grappling project. It turned out quite well I think.
  • Mental Health: As of this writing I've gone over six months without having a breakthrough incident or losing my temper. I was put on new medication for and that has helped immensely. I can add panic-anxiety disorder officially to my list of "WHY WAS I MADE THIS WAY?!" Still, more good than bad.
  • My Dungeon Fantasy book finally was published! GO BUY IT. DOO EET.
  • My GURPS supers campaign began on January 11th, 2016 as planned. It grew from one online group and my face to face group to THREE online groups and my face to face group. I've started a wiki, a think tank, and a bunch of other Aeon-related initiatives. You can read the session recaps here. It's been a lot of work tying all the games and characters together, but if I can see it to completion it will be a heck of an accomplishment. I plan to have it wrapped up by the end of the year. I plan on putting out a little something special later on.
  • I ended up in my new quarters (a small 264 sq. ft. efficiency). They're attached to my mother's home and I've become quite comfortable here. I really can't think my mother enough for having them built for me. Given my physical issues I can never live alone, but she's made it so that I can have my privacy. I need to finish up a few more things (mostly hang shelves and TVs and the like).
  • I'm going to GENCON 2017!!!! First con ever out of the state. So excited. More on this later.

The Bad (What I could have done better or had no control over)
  • I had to downsize the total time I am involved on the Steve Jackson Games forums due to lack of time (yay paying work!) and a few personal concerns. I haven't been back yet in any capacity other than announcing new blog posts and as of right now I'm not sure if I will be.
  • I didn't publish anything in the fiction market in 2016. Really not pleased with myself about this. I should have tried harder. Here's hoping 2017 does the trick.
  • I've still continued to blog at a steady rate of about 2 posts per week. I really should try to do more, but I've been extremely busy to such a degree that it almost seems impossible to squeeze out more than that.
  • Physical Health: My weight continues to seesaw and the doctors think that could be due to a number of reasons - mostly that my metabolic rate is constantly in flux. I've managed to keep up with the dietary requirements for my diabetes and polycythemia and I recently received my first non-PICC line phlebotomy.  My doctor has been steadily working on my case. My overall pain has increased and the scar tissue on my leg throbs something awful.
  • I had one or two private project contracts this year for GURPS, but I've kept it down below 5,000 words - I don't want projects that are bigger at the moment. I still feel terrible about the last one I took on that failed (though that may be worked into a GURPS supplement anyways).

The Ugly (I don’t know how to categorize this or too early to tell)
  • Still haven't done NaNoWriMo. Id on't think I will be. Not for a while at least. No time.
  • I'm still deciding on full adventures for GURPS. I've not done any yet, but released a few mini encounters and such.
  • The ending of Aeon is a bit up in the air and I've got it marked down to a possible few scenarios. Likely, I'll let the players decide which and go from there. 
  • Dungeon Grappling indexing was a warm-up to Doug's "Dragon Hersey" indexing. Both books are around 450 pages. It's a massive project and I begin working on it at the end of the month. It should occupy most of my time for a good long while. I'm putting this here because I've never indexed a project this large. Even with Doug's coddling and assurances I feel almost like I've bitten off more than I can chew. I'll do it regardless. But I remain apprehensive.
  • I've decided to get into the DnD 5e scene. A friend of mine has loaned me the books to read to make sure I want to do this so I'm not out of money. Still reading the PHB, but so far...I like it. It's really quite good and I feel a bit silly for not reading it sooner.

Like my previous years, there was more good than bad and it was overall a good year. Like 2015, 2016 was not the year of "Some Day" as I had hoped. I want 2017 to be that year. I'm making it a priority to be so. 2016 didn't slow down as much as I would have liked, but I kept up and I seized every opportunity that came to me. In 2017 I will continue to seize those opportunities as they appear and make my own way.

So for 2017 I've set the following goals for myself:

  • Publish fiction that's at least 5,000 words long either via self-publishing or through a company.
  • Finish the Aeon campaign up
  • Propose and (hopefully) write another GURPS supplement or two.
  • Write and publish at least eight Pyramid articles.
  • Maintain my obligations for freelancing.
  • Continue to deliver Patreon content to all patrons.
  • Continue to blog at least twice per week.
  • Finish up any outstanding projects on my quarters.
  • Begin outlining or writing a proposal for DnD 5e.
  • Get to GENCON 2017 and have fun!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Boil and Bubble: Rituale Romanum Path/Book Magic

Path/Book magic is one of those more interesting magic systems in GURPS and like most interesting things it’s hard to design more material for. The original designer wasn’t looking for anything but spells created by authorial or GM fiat. Unfortunately, since the original parameters were known to the original designer it makes designing new stuff nothing but guesswork. Regardless of that, I do like Path/Book magic. One day I’ll sit down and create a design system to create spells for Path/Book magic (but it not this day)...

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

The Hurt Locker: The Iugum Mark-7 Crossbow

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 one of the leftovers...

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