Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Aeon D-Team S01E03 - Winds of Change

Dramatis Personae
  • Alexander (played by +Daniel Dover ): 6’ 4’’, 225 lbs. Tall and muscular with a gleaming smile. He has almost iridescent white hair and faintly golden skin. Exudes a calm, quiet confidence, and moves with the grace of a dancer. Literally inhumanly attractive. He’s strong, fast, durable, indefatigable, and has some matter control powers. Cares about everybody and everything.
  • Eddie (played by +Ignus Pyre): 6’, 180 lbs. Outwardly disheveled looking, but his scruffy furs hide high quality gear underneath. Fairly average looking with reddish brown hair and a bit of stubble. Carries an enormous backpack but doesn’t seem too slowed by it, despite a slight limp, a pulls a trailer behind him made from the rear end of an old ford mustang. Honest, forthright and reliable, but won’t speak too much about his past. He seems to have a sixth sense for monsters and the dark fog.
  • Jacob “Doc” (played by +Asta Kask): 6’, 150 lbs. Kinda lanky with leathery, weathered skin and greying hair, offset by piercing blue eyes. He’s compassionate, responsible, and very careful with his words. Dreams of building a place where metahumans can live unprosecuted. Has some healing powers. Followed by a 45 pound cat, that flies and leaves a rainbow trail behind it. Yes, really.
  • Kurst “Kurt” Vetrson (played by +Antoni Ten Monrós): 6’ 4’’, 110 lbs. Wears layers and layers of clothing, but underneath them he’s anorexically thin and very pale. He always feels slightly cold to the touch, but despite the layers isn’t actually bothered by the cold. Young and usually speaks fairly coarsely. Absolutely hates wendigo. Has ice powers that he doesn’t like to use because they’re not fully under his control. Good with a bow.
  • Dr. Nicodemus "Nick" Faust (played by +Hal Batty): 6’ 4’’, 180 lbs. Tall and lean. Flaming red hair, chalk white skin, and coal black eyes. Also literally inhumanly attractive, and his charms work on men and women alike. Wears a dark charcoal suit with crimson waistcoat and cravat, with a long black overcoat, even in the midst of a blizzard. Has an arrogant smile on his lips, only offset by an intensity to his eyes. Master of magic
  • King the Maine Coon (NPC Ally): a huge Maine Coon cat (almost 50 lbs. and 4.5 ft long) that can fly/hover (leaving a trail of rainbow colored light), go "boneless," shoot lazers from its eyes, ignore a structure's ceilings and floors (but not its walls), and other more interesting abilities. He can haz cheezburger.

A Fight From The Rooftop
All Player Characters
Sentinel Butte, North Dakota, 11° F light snow and heavy winds
January 28th, 37 AB, 3:05 pm
Poole’s Palace

We make our way up to the roof of Poole’s Palace, the smell of blood hitting us as we do. Everyone rolls HT to avoid nausea, Alexander rolls an 18 but spends Karma to make it disappear. Once on the battlements we look out onto a sea of Wendigo, there must be around 30 of the creatures. Quickly we begin to formulate a plan, Eddie makes a roll for precognition, and relays that information to me, while Kurst and Alexander roll Observation as complementary skills to my Tactics. I roll a 13, but spend two Wildcard points to turn it into a three, that’s a success by 30. I beat my opponent’s margin of success by one… Well okay then, it seems my father is actively coordinating the Wendigo, and to be honest, it doesn’t surprise me that he can succeed by 29 on a run of the mill Tactics roll.

The round begins with Kurst, who draws a silver arrow and puts it through the skull of a Wendigo, dropping it. Alexander takes a Wait manoeuvre, for when a Wendigo comes within smashing range. Faust hardcore improvises Great Haste, and casts it on himself, then uses the second action it grants to Wait until a Wendigo gets within 10 yards of him. Eddie takes a shot with his bolt-action rifle, but his target dodges. They begin scaling the walls of the keep, with terrifying speed.

One comes within range of Alexander, triggering his Wait and he makes an All-Out swing, but it dodges out the way. My own Wait triggers next, and a sword materialises in Nick’s hand, I teleport behind the nearest Wendigo and ram my sword through it’s brain, channelling fire down the sword and incinerating it. 

Three creatures get close to Mitchell Poole himself and he spins, putting a bullet into each of their heads, critting twice, and they drop like stones. Jacob fires off his shotgun into a chest, but the Wendigo doesn’t drop. Meanwhile King just looks adorable, apparently this can hypnotise anything that comes close, have I mentioned I hate this cat? Kurst fires off another shot, dispatching another of them with a silver arrow to the skull.

Alexander performs and All-Out Double to grab a Wendigo by the skull, and ram his fist into it, making a splat. It’s at this point I begin to implement my plan, I use Extra Effort to teleport 20 yards out, away from the castle, into the middle of a group of four Wendigo, and without pause, whip around, doing a Whirlwind Attack to their skulls with my sword. I roll three critical successes, and one normal success, and hit each time, again channelling flame through my sword, obliterating them.

Eddie uses a Power Stunt to add Targeting to his Clairvoyance and projects it out closer to the Wendigo, giving himself a bonus to hit when he shoots for it’s skull, hitting this time but failing to kill it, the critters are damn tough, most of us just pump out an obscene amount of damage, and Kurst uses silver, something all Wendigo are weak to.

Two Wendigo charge Alexander, now defenceless after his All-Out attack last turn, and do… nothing, their claws can’t even scratch his nigh-invulnerable skin. Then they turn on me, also defenceless after my Whirlwind Attack, but considerably less durable than Alexander, and now surrounded by Wendigo, I’m seemingly in trouble. One bites onto my neck and begins to worry at it, while three more grapple me. All is going according to plan.

Mitchell takes another shot, dropping another Wendigo. Jacob takes a Wait for a creature to come in range. Two Wendigo are charging towards Kurst, who draws two arrows, places them in his bow, draws, and fires, dropping both with an arrow each, right between the eyes. Alexander punches one, activating his Super-ST and hitting it for 70 damage, sending it flying off the top of the keep and into a tree with a sickening crunch.

Time for step 2 of the plan. Nicodemus is surrounded by Wendigo latched on from all directions after his reckless attack the previous round. Now he lashes out, Hardcore Improvising an omni-directional wave of fire that sweeps out, burning all the nearby Wendigo… and himself. Almost simultaneously thanks to the earlier casting of Great Haste, he Hardcore Improvises a spell to stop time for everyone but himself and the rest of the team.

I then begin to explain the plan. If Nicodemus was to survive long enough to kill Marlowe before he himself is killed, he’d need to convince Marlowe that he’s already dead. He acted progressively more reckless throughout the course of the battle, letting his rage shine through, until it seemingly overwhelms him, losing control of his magic, and incinerating himself along with any Wendigo nearby. In reality, masked by flame he cast his time stop spell. By the time the spell runs out he’ll be by Eddie’s side, who he reveals projects an aura that precognition or clairvoyance cannot pierce, and area in which he’d be invisible to his father’s scrying.

There’s one slight problem, Eddie is a terrible liar, and this plan hinges on subterfuge. So I make Eddie an offer, I’ll cast a spell on him that’ll subtly change his personality, not turn him into a liar, just make him better at it, should he have to. This is understandably a problem for Eddie, and he, Nick and Alexander debate it backwards and forwards for a while, until we all see a figure approaching. Nicodemus and Alexander both succeed their Expert Skill (Metahuman) rolls and learn that this is Zephyr, a member of the Cavalry, a superhero team from before the Black Swan. He’s a speedster, who’s somehow managing to beat out my time stop by moving extremely quickly (don’t ask me how that works).

I ignore Zephyr’s approach and continue to argue with Eddie, until suddenly my spell ends, everything goes dark for a moment, and we find ourselves sitting down inside the keep, looking at Zephyr. Who explains that he’s not in fact Zephyr, he’s Phaeton, Zephyr’s "good" clone. He talks to Alexander, and says that Alexander’s friend Maria needs his help, she’s trapped in a school surrounded by Wendigo, and needs us to get her out. Meanwhile, Faust is sitting and fuming in a corner, he doesn’t like people interfering in his plans.

His mood isn’t helped by the fact that for some time he’ll have to stick close to Eddie, within his divination-disrupting aura. Eddie is happy about this, Faust is not. Things get even worse when we realise that if I just walk normally I’ll leave a set of footprints, which will be entirely visible, the solution is for King (yes, the flying rainbow cat) to lift me off the ground using the power of sparkles. Time for me to once again express my hatred of this cat.

Vampires in the Gym
All Player Characters
Sentinel Butte, North Dakota, 11° F light snow and heavy winds
January 28th, 37 AB, 5:00pm
North of Poole’s Palace

We eventually reach the school, and it is swarming with Wendigo. Phaeton points out the wall to the room Maria is in. Alexander transmutes a whole load of dirt into silver for use as arrows, then plunges his hands into the ground, and transmutes a thin layer of silver around them, just in case. Then Kurst lays down covering fire, with a hail of silver arrows, killing far more Wendigo than is in any way reasonable, and Alexander goes charging in. He smashes through the wall, Kool-Aid man style, and finds Maria lying there. Carefully he scoops her up, along with a box she points out, and runs back out of the building.

Kurst's arrows have succeeded in driving the Wendigo away, so we then head back into the school and retrieve a generator to take back to Poole’s palace. While the real battle has been taking place, Nicodemus and Phaeton have been having something of a verbal battle, which Phaeton definitely wins. Look, Nick’s just found out his mother is dead, he’s not at his best. He’s also severely injured, after being attacked by Wendigo, and then intentionally trying to incinerate himself, so after I complain profusely, Jacob heals him.

We head back towards Poole’s Palace, while Phaeton boasts about how he not only beat my time stop, he boosted my fire spell to make it more convincing (destroying all the remaining Wendigo, and blackening the outside of the building), got us all back inside, and improved the illusion I had up around the building, so it now included divination and psychic powers. The session ends there.

After Action Report (Hal)
I didn’t enjoy this session. It wasn’t fun having my plan interrupted for no reason (seriously, I’d stopped time), and it was equally unfun having all my magic completely outshone ten time over by Phaeton’s, who is mainly a speedster just dabbling in magic, and then being taunted for a while only hours after learning of my mother’s death. But then I didn’t a great job either, Christopher let me know after the session that I’d been talking over the other players a lot. Which is partly due to communications lag, it’s hard to tell when someone’s finished talking, but it’s also to do with me getting carried away. It’s an awful trait in a fellow player, so I’d like to apologise to the other players, it won’t happen again!

After Action Report (Christopher)
There was so much during this game session. Too much really. While I know that Phaeton annoyed the other player characters to the point of daggers being cast in my direction - that was entirely the point. Phaeton is essentially a Mary Sue. He's annoying and he's almost always right. That's basically why he's annoying. It's also why he's a recurring character versus a constant one. There's always that one guy you just want to punch in the face. That's Phaeton. Overall, this was a session where I had to referee a lot because folks were talking over each other. I didn't like that. It was still fun and quite good.

Session Soundtrack
"Fight Test" by the Flaming Lips (opening song)
"Tears in Heaven" by Eric Clapton
"Dog Days Are Over" by Florence + the Machine
"Stand by Me" by Ben E. King
"Winds of Change" by Scorpions (closing song)

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Carpe Blogiem: Why GURPS?

In all the roleplaying games in all the world, you have to roleplay in mine... Someone asked me a while back: "Why GURPS?" Well, there are a couple of reasons I use GURPS pretty much exclusively, but let's ignore me for a bit. Let's assume that you've just stumbled onto my blog:

"What is this GURPS thing you speak of, O Blogger?"
"Welcome, internet wanderer. Sup from the fountain of 3d6 and know the joys of the generic and the universal."
"But I play games with inherent engines. I do not need these things."
"Oh, but you do. You simply do not know you do. Behold. The power of GURPS!"

Or some such, but more seriously. Why use GURPS at all? The other systems are arguably more popular and have a lower point of entry. You want GURPS  when...

...You Want a Campaign Wholly of Your Design
You don't want to use another person's intellectual property, game setting, etc. You want to run or play in something of your own design. Optionally, you want to run or play in a setting that hasn't been adapted over to a role-playing engine. Maybe it's your favorite movie or book. Maybe it's a videogame you think is cool. Maybe you want to put yourself in the shoes of one of your favorite comic book heroes. Whatever the reason, with a little knowhow, time, and patience you can use the GURPS game engine to recreate it.

...You Want More Simulation or More Narrativistic Control
GURPS does a few things remarkably well, one of them is to simulate the real world in a way that doesn't feel...bodgy. It uses the same measurements (or conversions using those measurements) that the real world does and assigns it game stats from there. That is huge. Not many games do that. (This also aids the first point.) You can take just about anything and make it into a gameable construct.

Now, the second point is likely to shock some of you, but it's true. Even the game's line editor had this to say:
"Despite the system's reputation for realism and popularity with simulationists, the numbers are and always have been assessed in the service of drama." ~ Sean "Dr. Kromm" Punch
You can run a badass superhero drama or a cinematic spythriller or any other "fast and loose" game you could think of. GURPS does this well and it does it out of the box. Other various supplements (GURPS Action, GURPS Power-Ups 5: Impulse Buys, etc.) will help you achieve this goal, but it can do it and it can do it well.

...You Want Tactical Combat That Feels Tactical
GURPS can do "theater of the mind" combat just fine, but it can truly shine when you go "tactical." Everything feels intense and like you are in the muck and blood with your character. Now, it can also be overwhelming to the new GM. There is a steep learning curve with GURPS and combat is about 40% of it. 

...You Want an Internally Consistent Game Engine
But the beauty of it is that once you know the basics everything else just sort of falls into place. I had one player once remark that he created a house rule to do something and I replied with "That's how it works in the system." He was a bit baffled for a sec, and then said "Well of course it works like that." And really, all of GURPS could be summed up that way. Once you understand the framework everything else is easy to understand.

...You Want ONE System to Do it All
This is perhaps one of the more salient and important aspect of GURPS. It literally does every genres, mode, or type of game you can think of. That's the entire point of GURPS - its raison d'être - it is the last system you'll likely to ever run because it can run anything you want. Just think about that for a second. You can use a single game engine to run any type of game you can think of. Will it take a little work? Sure, but it saves you time in mastering a new system and grows your mastery in the same action. That's a pretty big deal.

Picking Over the Bones
I could list a dozen other reasons why you should use GURPS but I think my list stands for itself. So if you are new to GURPS or coming back to to it or just saw my post and thought "Huh. Neat." Maybe consider trying it out. Start with GURPS Lite or go ask questions on the GURPS Discord or Steve Jackson Games Forums. (Or leave comments on this post.) There are folks in both places who will help you get started.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Gamemaster's Guidepost: Shut up and Roll!

Player: "Okay, this is a -4 to my roll because of posture, another -2 for attacking a side hex..."
GM: "Shouldn't I be doing this?"
Player: "Oh, I was just helping...okay, and another -4 to range..."
GM: "No. Stop. Just roll."
Player: "But...but the modifiers."
GM: "I know the modifiers - you make the rolls."

Even in realistic GURPS games (of which I rarely run) there are times when the game can just bog down because a) it's GURPS and b) the players are likely trying to "help" you. This is good and bad. Good, because your players are invested and having them assist you like this means less look-ups for rules which means more time spent playing. Bad, because you're giving away some of your autonomy as the GM to your players. You're no longer solely dictating the die rolls. Your players are bogging down gameplay as much you would looking up rules.

That's where "Shut up and roll" comes in. Lots of people who play RPGs - but especially us GURPSers - think that you must get the rules right. By not just saying "I think it's -2 so let's just go with that for now" you're somehow violating the Gygaxian Convention of 1974. You're not. As any seasoned player or GM will tell you, the point of an RPG is to have fun, not get everything absolutely perfectly "book" right. That's for noobs and people obsessed with the rules (aka rules lawyers). That may sound harsh - but that's what it is. The first you can train up, the second you should just avoid. So when you come to a situation that you as a GM don't know just repeat the following to your player: "Go ahead and roll some dice." Give it an appropriate modifier. Give it an appropriate chance. Go with your gut. Don't waste time by looking for a half-remembered rule or section in the game book. You're the GM and that means you are the guy leading your buddies to the fun, not away from it.

So what do you do when you have players who are trying to help, but are really slowing things down? Be nice. Tell them you appreciate the help, but you got this. They need to trust you that you'll do the right thing. Most of the time they will. Alas, when you're dealing with a rules lawyer this is likely the point where they will turn nasty. There is no way to fix a rules lawyer's behavior - just boot them from your game. You'll thank me later.

Picking Over the Bones
A think a key point here is that you shouldn't be a jerk when talking to your players. Explain the situation to your player(s) tell them why you feel the way you do. Communication and trust - as with many activities in life such as friendship, love, or war - is key in gaming. The players must trust their GM and their GM must trust his players. Establishing a clear way for players to discuss any problems with the GM (and the other way round) is not just suggested, but required for games that you want to continue for more than a few sessions.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Designer's Notes: Impulse Control


FNORD. SO MUCH FNORD. I was lucky enough to be asked to be part of the issue and even more lucky to end up on the cover of the 100th issue of the third iteration of Pyramid. Truly, the Secret Masters have put their blessing upon me. On a personal note, my first article "It's Pure Chemistry!" was published February 2011 in the 28th issue of Pyramid. "Impulse Control" will make my 45th article so far which means I'm putting out about 7.5 articles per year which is just under 3/4 of each yearly issue. Not bad. But I need to do better.

Onto Impulse Control! This article started with material from my Aeon universe. Which was composed of two "action point" like systems from two failed campaigns. Writing it let me turn it into something more cohesive than what I had for my own game and let me rework things I'd had issues with while gaming including addressing concerns some of my players had. That said it's been quite thoroughly playtested by two dozen people and I think it's some of my best work. GURPS Power-Ups 5: Impulse Buys - Appendix A, if you will.

All in all it took me about 60 hours to write, 40 hours to edit, 5 hours worth of research (lots of seeing how other systems did this and adapting my own material), and 80 hours of revision. I spent a further 60 hours looking over the preliminary PDF for any issues and revising. That was not fun, but the finish product turned out great (I think).

A couple of outtakes:

Impulse Point Refresh Rates as Modifiers
Originally, I had an alternative take on Impulse Points using modifiers for refresh rates. This was tossed for two reasons. The first was that adding the cost of the refresh rate to the Impulse Point cost produced skewed results and a possible crock. The second was that in order to make it work it required baking in modifiers to Impulse Points that might not be applicable in every campaign. Since I try to strive for genericness (and PK helped me see the light) I ditched it. Other GMs may decide this works for their campaign. The two new traits can take any of these enhancements.

Cumulative: You can accumulate points over your normal level. This is worth +10% per point over your maximum. For example, if you had two levels of this modifier, you could accumulate two additional points over your maximum and they wouldn’t disappear or bleed away between game sessions (as excess points normally do; see Pyramid #3/100 Pyramid Secrets, p. 6).

Decreased Refresh: Your Impulse Points pool takes longer to refresh than normal. Your decreased refresh rate may not be less than 1 and can be applied to some or all of your Impulse Points. If you regenerate one point per two sessions, this is worth -50% per affected point. If you regenerate 1 point per three sessions, this is worth -60% per point. If you regenerate 1 point per four sessions, this is worth -70% per point. If you regenerate 1 point per five sessions, this is worth -80% per point. This may continue ad infinitum to whatever level the GM feels comfortable with, with each -10% translating to an additional session before refreshing. The GM decides if players who miss game sessions regenerate points or not. It should be noted that if the points can only be used once per campaign, the character may be better off putting them aside as a Potential Advantage (p. B33).

Enhanced Refresh: The GM may allow the purchase of refresh rates faster than two or more per session. If you regenerate 1 point per hour of real time, this costs +350%. If you regenerate 1 point per 30 minutes of real time, this costs +700%. If you regenerate 1 point per 10 minutes of real time, this costs +2,100%. If you regenerate 1 point per 5 minutes of real time, this costs +4,200. Regeneration rates less than five minutes are left up to the GM to determine.

Higher Rates of Refresh
Impulse Control cuts the rates of regeneration at 5 minutes, but the original document had higher levels. Here there are:

1 point per 2 minutes of real time per level is worth 600 points (120 levels of Impulse Points spent over 4 hours) 

1 point per 1 minute of real time per level is worth 1,200 points (240 levels of  Impulse Points spent over 4 hours)

1 point per 30 seconds of real time per level is worth 2,400 points (480 levels of  Impulse Points spent over 4 hours)

1 point per 15 seconds of real time per level is worth 4,800 points (960 levels of  Impulse Points spent over 4 hours)

1 point per 8 seconds of real time per level is worth 9,000 points (1,800 levels of  Impulse Points spent over 4 hours)

1 point per 4 seconds of real time per level is worth 18,000 points (3,600 levels of  Impulse Points spent over 4 hours)

1 point per 2 seconds of real time per level is worth 36,000 points (7,200 levels of  Impulse Points spent over 4 hours)

1 point per 1 second of real time per level is worth 72,000 points (14,400 levels of  Impulse Points spent over 4 hours)

1 point infinitely per level is worth 144,000 points (28,800 levels of  Impulse Points spent over 4 hours)

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Gamemaster's Guidepost: What's Love Got To Do With It?

"Ewan: Love is a many splendored thing, Love lifts us up where we belong, All you need is love!
Nicole: Please, don't start that again."

- Elephant Love Medley, Moulin Rouge (2001)

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs."
- King James Bible, 1 Corinthians 13:4-5

The dashing knight who fights the dragon for the woman he loves. The villainous mob boss who wants to take over the city so no one ever feels the sorrow he feels at the loss of his wife by rampant unchecked thuggery. The parent who works his way through scores of mobsters to get his kidnapped child back. If education is the great equalizer than love is the great motivator. A man will tear down all that he holds dear for his loved ones. He'll climb any mountain and go on any journey. A man can be forged and remade anew by the fires of his passion... for good or ill. Some of the greatest atrocities ever committed were done out of love. Love for a person. Love for a family. Love for a belief. Love for an ideology.

Love can bring out the best in us...and it can bring out the worst. Ask yourself: what would you do for those you love? How far would you go? Would you lie for them? Would you steal for them? Would you die for them? Would you kill for them...? What is the line that you don't think you could cross? 

These are important questions either player or GM should ask himself when he's coming up with a character or NPC's personality. Those five little questions can bring an ridiculous amount of depth to a character. But how to represent this in a GURPS mechanical way? There area few ways - depending on how that love is presented. Do note that love in this instance doesn't mean just romantic love or sexual love. It could be familial love, the love friends share for one another, the love of a belief or religion, or the love of a country or particular race. They are all equally powerful motivators and they can all be good or bad. For example, the love a patriot has for his country could be turned upside down if the leaders of that country do ever more terrible things in the name of "national security" or "safety."

Abilities with Limitations
Fiction has a host of abilities that are attributed to a person's innate connection with those they love. These abilities either cannot be used without the loved one being present or can only be used on/for the loved one. The difference here is subtle, but marked. The former could be any sort of ability, while the latter is usually defensive in nature. Build the ability as normal and then add the appropriate modifier:

A single loved one: -80%
A tiny group (2 - 5 or less) of loved ones: -70%
A small group (e.g., close friends, teammates): -60%
A large group (e.g., a particular nation): -50%
A huge group (e.g., a particular race): -40%

Another way to represent this sort of fixation or derangement is with Delusion ("X loves me!"). Such a trait could be worth any number of points - the higher the value the more the reaction penalty.

The very definition of "Will you kill for them?" For fanatics of religions, causes or countries this is fairly easy: They'll do anything to ensue the idea they are devoted to is not marred or hurt and care very little for themselves. This doesn't meant you couldn't be fanatic toward a single person or a group of people! "Fanaticism (Family)" or "Fanaticism (Specific Person)" might represent unwavering loyalty so extreme that they will literally die for the those they care about.

It can also represent a very dangerous codependency and/or self-reinforcing bad habits or issues or even an obession. Sam and Dean Winchester of Supernatural likely have this trait: their loyalty and love of one another goes beyond a "mere" Sense of Duty.

Higher Purpose
Like any other Higher Purpose, "true love" can drive you further, make you more, and be a strength when times are bleak. Mechanically, this results in a bonus to rolls. See Pyramid #3/31: Monster Hunters (p. 33) for more details on what you get a bonus too.

Just about any protagonist of any romance story are likely to have this trait.

Sense of Duty
The essence of "Will you die for them?" Having a sense of duty towards others means you'll always put them before yourself - even if it means you might suffer (or possibly die) in the process. The most common of the "love" disadvantages, Sense of Duty allows you to create a game mechanical reason why a character may act the way he does toward another.

This can lead to very interesting roleplaying opportunities if the character's spouse or loved one(s) are dead already... As can devotion toward an abstract idea like "Art" or "Beauty."

The devotion that Agent Coulson displays toward those under his command in Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. could be considered a Sense of Duty.

Special Rapport
Special Rapport is essentially Empathy (p. B51), but only for a single person. It also includes the ability to know if they are in trouble or pain and never requires a roll. Basically, it's your classic "They need me! I can feel it." It's often combined with various disadvantages as presented here or enhanced with Higher Purpose.

Prince Charming and Snow White from Once Upon a Time have this trait - likely with a secondary ability to find one another, no matter what.

When love turns bad or is not reciprocated things can get ugly....fast. The implications of this are better left up to the imagination of GMs and players alike, but obsessions are often not "good"... Short-term delusions might include getting someone to go on a date with you or sleep with them, while long-term delusions might be to get the object of your affection to love you back, be in a relationship with you, marry you, etc.

Any number of quirks may be appropriate. For example, "Doesn't cheat on spouse" or "Overly Romantic" are appropriate. As are "Loves his family" or "A father to those under his command." 

Resistant to Influence Rolls/Indomitable
Being steadfast and true usually means either a high Will (to resist Influence skills and mental powers) or having a bonus from Resistant. GURPS Social Engineering (p. 77) suggests that Indomitable is effectively "Immunity to Influence Skills." This could be further broken down as follows:

Common: All Influence Skills. 15 points.
Occasional: One particular Influence skill (e.g., Sex Appeal or Fast-Talk). 10 points.
Rare: One particular Influence skill used in a particular way (e.g., sexual seduction via Sex Appeal or Fast-Talk rolls for specious Intimidation). 5 points.

Marriage Vows, Monogamy, and Chastity are all considered -5-point Vows. As is "Never betrays family" or "Devout (name of religion)." Vow is a great way to represent a character's love for a particular thing. 

Picking Over the Bones
I'm of the firm belief that campaigns should feature love in some way, this doesn't need to be outright detailed sexual escapades. In fact, unless all of your players are comfortable with that subject you should just "fade to black..." Trust me. It'll work out better for you in the end. That said, PC and NPC interaction that leads to affirmation of love or loyalty can be powerful tools. As I said before, love is the great motivator and a GM could spend endless sessions building that motivation up before even getting to the meat of his campaign. I've started as many campaigns with "Ok, your [X] has been kidnapped/taken/killed. What do you do?" as I have "Well, remember that NPC your character feel in love with and the relationship you've built up over ten sessions? Guess what, they betrayed you. Only did it to get closer to you to find out [X]." It's why love works - it's better than hate as a way to prompt others to action. Nothing can fill the fire in a belly like love of a thing lost, betrayal of that love, or passion for another.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Designer's Notes: Necro-Psi

I've done a lot of work creating new powers for GURPS Psionic Powers one of my biggest regrets was not getting credit on that book (I playtested it - but got no credit). I think my love for the system PK put together as much as my regret in not earning that credit has driven me to producing new and varied content for Psionic Powers. A lot of the material on my blog and in my articles are due to this.

I'd been thinking about Necro-Psi for a good long time. It finally crystallized on a night in late November when I decided that I wanted to have everything written up in case Steven put up another Psionics issue of Pyramid. It flowed pretty rapidly and I got close to 4,000 words done in about an hour making it one of the fastest articles I've ever written. The rest was added (especially the section on Obscure) after a couple of forums posts and conversations with peers, friends, and players in my current game. Revision took even less time because I knew what I wanted and only needed to make sure all the builds functioned as intended.

All in all it took me about 6 hours to write, 40 hours to edit, 0 hours worth of research (all from my head pretty much), and 20 hours of revision. I spent a further hour looking over the preliminary PDF for any issues.

As always, I try to have odds and ends taken from the article for your use, dear reader. So here is an ability I thought too obvious that I culledfor space.

Skill: Reap (Will/Hard).

This ability causes a target to die. It does this by negatively charging the natural psychic energy within the subject. This in turn begins to shut down the target's bodily functions. This only works on living subjects. You must touch your subject and succeed in a roll of your skill vs. the lower of the target's Will or HT (add their DR to this roll). Failure means the subject begins to die. Treat this as a Heart Attack (p. B429) that takes a minute to fully set in.

Statistics: Affliction (Based on HT or Will, +40%; Cancellation, +10%; Heart Attack, +300%; Melee Attack, Reach C, Cannot Parry, -35%; Necrokinesis, -10%; No Signature, +20%; Onset, 1 minute, -10%; Requires Will vs. Will roll, -15%) [40/level]. Additional levels increase Affliction a level at a time for 40 points.

Dust to Dust
Prerequisites: Reap-10; Cannot exceed Reap. 

You do 3d toxic damage on a successful roll per level. If this is enough to kill the target in one hit (more than 2xHP) the subject simply dies instead. Optionally, you may choose to do 1d+2 toxic damage. If the subject is reduced to 0 HP or less from a single hit they simply die. In either case the subject turns to dust if they die.

Statistics: Using Abilities at Default to trade Affliction for an Innate Attack: Toxic Attack 3d (Based on HT or Will, +40%; Melee Attack, Reach C, Cannot Parry, -35%; Necrokinesis, -10%; Requires Will vs. Will roll, -15%; Symptom, Disadvantage (Fragile (Unnatural)), 1/3 HP +150%) [28]. Since this is worth 70% of the base ability, this roll is at -6. There is no penalty for different abilities. The higher level of this technique adds a "super" form of Fragile (equivalent to Terminal Illness at -100 points) as Symptom. This cost becomes  27 points, but halves the damage so that it because it does 1d+2.

Prerequisites: Reap-8; Cannot exceed Reap. Reap 2+. 

You can use your ability at range. Doing so halves your level (thus requiring you have at least two levels of Reap or by taking a further -7 on your roll). You take -1 penalty per yard you are away from your subject, though by accepting a further -5 penalty you can take normal range penalties (p. B550).

Statistics: Swap out  "Melee Attack, Reach C" (-35%) and "Requires Will vs. Will roll" (-15%) for Malediction 1 (+100%). Halving the level reduces the penalty, resulting in a -8 to the roll (rounded up).

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Carpe Blogeim: A Patron Reviews Patreon

Guest Post by Blake Chapman

(Note: Blake is one of my Patreon patrons but he sent me this of his own accord without prompting from me. Since he doesn't have a blog I asked if I could put this on my blog and he cleaned it up and consented. Thanks, Blake!)

Christoper R. Rice recently released his specials for Patreon backers, and I was delighted that my first month of pledging netted three nice specials, including a surprising, and quite welcome, peek into his Aeon campaign universe. Let's start there.

The Extramundane Observer (FEB Surprise #1)
This in-universe publication was a fun little read, and helps gives a sense of just what's going through the minds of people in the Aeon universe. Some more specific thoughts on the columns you'll find inside:

Naming Our Fears
Here's a pair of in-universe classifications for powers, one by type, one by strength, along with the background for each. I like the names given the various Power types, and would definitely like to make use of them at some point. They're nicely evocative of the talents a character may have,

The threat chart scales pretty quickly for mundane opponents, and becomes "send an army" in short order. It's kind of hard to picture what that response would look like, and I wonder how meaningful it is if the powered individual can avoid letting that force get concentrated on them. Alternatively, I may be suffering a failure of imagination here.

There's a follow-up discussing whether or not it's really useful to know such things about empowered individuals. The analogy of powers as being like a car when you know nothing about cars is simply brilliant, and it's a concept that would work very well in a wide variety of scenarios. Knowing what something could do isn't the same as knowing what it actually can do, and that plays so nicely into horror, dungeon delves, and more.

Return of the Workhouse
This is a nice snippet in the Aeon universe, and neatly sets up a number of plot points for the interested person/player/character to follow up on. Themes of community, oppression, and exploitation all arise, and it's well worth pondering if you're running a similar setting.

From The Tap: Interview with Elena Pushkov
Another nice little window into the Aeon universe, this time spotlighting one of the people who've found themselves with a useful and potentially disruptive power. Elena seems seems nervous, a little unbalanced, or both, and the implications that has are interesting. And she could be a fun wildcard to throw into a scenario.

Cho No!
This anti-metahuman politician is set up to be all kinds of trouble for player characters, and the scary part is that they may have to wonder if he has a point. The appearance of superhuman powers among humans adds a huge number of new variables and uncertainties to the world, and old ways of predicting what's dangerous are no longer completely valid.

Letters to the Editor/Classifieds
All of these are entertaining, though they raise questions about just what sort of publication Extramundane Observer is that these got published. (It's one of those flyers the crazy guy on the street passes out -CRR) I really can't say more, since the fun is in reading them for yourself!

Boil and Bubble: Mahotsukai Ritual Path Magic (FEB Special #2)
Hmm! This Japanese themed, spirit, pain, and undeath oriented variant of ritual path magic is interesting, though I'd need to delve deeper into the mythology around them to make proper use of it. Overall, it looks solid and helps aspect Ritual Path Magic toward the kind of magic they practice. Even if you don't use it, it's still a good example of adjusting RPM for flavor and setting.

I also like the chance of annoying local spirits of various kinds. It should be a nice way to spice up a mage's life.

GURPS101: More Telepathy Powers (FEB Special #1)
Christopher has a gift for making powers that I can look at and immediately think of ways to use them. After just a few minutes of looking over Mind Chains and its techniques, astral spiders, the ghost of a chained prisoner, and psionic traps all come to mind...

All in all, I'm quite pleased with what I received this month, and look forward to seeing what the Raven will be writing about next time. I don't know what it will be, but I expect it to be just as shiny as these.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Boil and Bubble: Mahotsukai Ritual Path Magic

Japanese sorcery or mahō (which means “evil spirit rites”) has a long and sordid history in Japan. Those who could bend the elements to their command (Earth, Fire, Water, Metal, and Wood) were called mahōtsukai or “magic bearers” and were feared and distrusted by most of the populous...

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

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

GURPS101: More Telepathy Powers for Psionic Powers II

GURPS Psionic Powers offers one of the more interesting power frameworks for GURPS Fourth Edition. The following new power “Mind Chains” increases the arsenal of any telepath...

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

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

Carpe Bloggiem: SURPRISE!

For all $5 Patrons or higher a special treat this month: a look into the world of Aeon and how they classify powers and the threats those powers present. This 17-page document is an in-game magazine offering "in world" articles and exposition of how the campaign world works.

I want to note that from now on I'll be doing a "surprise" in the form of new bonus material, "bundles" of material from past specials or blog entries (e.g., "All Psychic Vampirism Powers" or "Fey Creatures for DF"), and other more tantalizing offers. How do you get this new? Simply be a subscriber. The higher your pledge level the more a chance you get a surprise when it comes on. Note, all Benefactors ($20 or more) automatically receive surprise material. The bonus content's pledge level for access will be randomly decided each month by the roll of a 1d6 with a roll of 1 equating to the $10 or higher level and a 6 equating to ALL patrons (even non-pledging ones!). 

Finally, the more you spread the word or pledge, the more bonus material opens up. Every five pledges or increasing of pledges (totalling $20 or more) from this point on (53 as of 2/4/17) will add one to the die roll, increasing the chance that the content is free for all. Optionally, more content will be added. Loss of patreons or pledges likewise reduces this amount - so convince your buddies (and yourself!) to stick around or pledge!

(Bonus material will never affect Patreon Specials or other rewards which already rely on set goals to determine their content or amount. This extra material is meant to give a reward to those who spread the word or remain faithful pledges.)

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

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

Carpe Blogiem: Aeon Handouts I

So one of the things that I enjoy doing as a GM is creating handouts. Now, before the Digital Age this involved painstakingly hand drawn creations (possibly "aged" with coffee or tea) and it often consumed my time as much as actually planning the game did. Well, these days you can create even more fantastic handouts in digital form with a little bit of imagination and some work. Today's post is a sample of a 17 page document of an in-game magazine - the Extramundane Observer. The purpose of this handout is to essentially give leads and possible plots to all Aeon players, while also providing exposition that doesn't eat up valuable play time.

Now, like most GMs I couldn't have done this without help. So I'd like to formally thank +Scott Rochat+Kyle Norton+Mavrick Fitzgerald , +Troy Loy, and +Jason Packer for putting together material I could use.

Go here to get a sample of the document or become a Patreon patron for the whole thing.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Designer's Notes: The Monstrous Monstroum

Being one of those who was in on the Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game was a huge honor - the system itself is rather amazing and Sean Punch did a wonderful job streamlining GURPS into this lean, mean, gaming machine. When I was asked to contribute to Welcome to Dungeon Fantasy I knew what I wanted to do immediately: monsters. I began work as fast as I could and started pulling critters from my files (including one from my blog) and assembled them. Luckily, most were in the proper formatting and this let me tweak them and work on their stats more.

It took me about 30 hours to write, 30 hours to edit, 0 hours worth of research (it was from my head pretty much), and 50 hours of revision. There must have been another 2-3 hours or so of looking over the semi-final PDF as well.

Normally, I'd have leftovers, but I've always intended "The Monstrous Monstroum" to be the first in a series and the 30-40 monsters that didn't make the cut are going to go into other potential supplements as I can fit them in. That said, I DID have some monster suffixes I had to leave out, here's one of them.

Hivers are monsters that are mystically linked to one another via a magical "soul-link." When hiver monsters are close together they gain a bonus to their IQ, Perception, and Will attributes and skill rolls. This bonus depends on the total number of creatures nearby and the density of the creatures in a hex. Increase IQ, Perception,and Will by (Total number of creatures in one hex / 10) x (Total number of hexes of creatures nearby / 10); round to the nearest whole number. Only count beings within the creature's base Will/3 yards for this purpose. A maximum amount of three SM 0 creatures can fit per hex. For larger or smaller beings look up the inverse of the creature's SM and add one on the Size/Speed Range Table (p. B550) in the size column and read over to the Linear Measurement column and use that as a multiplier (for SM +1 beings) or divisor (for SM -1 beings) for the number of beings that can fit in a single hex. For example, five SM-1 doomchildren can fit in a single hex. If there are 15 total (5 per hex) within 3 yards of one another they gain a +2 to IQ, Perception, and Will rolls.

They also gain one of the following abilities (see below):

1-2 - They can share offensive effects (treat as above). They can also channel maledictions, spells, psionics, and similiar abilities through one another meaning that they treat the origin point of the effect for the purposes of range and efficiency from the closest member f the hive.

3-4 - They can share beneficial supernatural effects amongst themselves as long as they are within base Will/3 yards. Divide the effectiveness of such effects by the bonus the beings receive to their IQ, Perception, and Will. Examples of such effects include healing spells, spells that increase attributes (e.g., Might), and so on. Innate or racial abilities are also shared in this way. Examples include Obscure, Mind Shield, Regeneration, and so on.

5 - They can share defensive effects (treat as above). This means that beings with innate DR can increase the overall DR of the entire hive!

6 - They can two such effects (reroll this if rolled again).

Finally, they gain Telesend, Mind Link (all members of hive), and Special Rapport (all members of hive).