Tuesday, May 30, 2017

GURPS101: RPM Spell Loadouts - Mistakes Kal Makes

Guest Post by Kalzazz

Notes based on Mistakes Kal Makes When Designing Spell Loadouts. Ritual Path Magic (RPM) is an awesome system where you can design your own spells and your mage can know any spell they want (and that the DM allows), this is part of what makes RPM great.

Much like the Vancian Days of Yore, you can creatively choose from this what spells your RPMist has prepared as conditionals to form their readily available spells to deploy (since actually casting RPM spells in combat time unless you are a RPM heavyweight is a process somewhere between ‘glacial’ and ‘just forget it’).

This can be part of what makes RPM fun also, but this is also part of what makes RPM an infuriating nightmare that makes you question why you ever got into this silly hobby when you could be doing more fulfilling things like playing in traffic.

Notes On Spell Loadouts 
Having suffered through this spell loadout creation process more times than I care to recall, I have made choices that worked poorly more times than I care to recall as well.

1. Over reliance on one damage type! Do you like Fire? Sometimes Kal likes fire way to much. Oh look, the enemy is immune to fire. Have spells with different damage sources! (as a quick approach, take your create energy fireball, copy the spell, change create energy to destroy energy, hey, now its a freezeball!)

2. Not having enough range. Normally combat occurs at close range, but if you have only 30yd spells you are bound to run into 50yds away enemies.

3. Not having healing. Remember, taking an action when in the negatives requires KO checks. This is not when you want to be taking many consecutive actions effect shaping or gathering energy, so have some healing!

4. Reverse Missiles is not your friend. If all your attacks are direct throw them at the enemy this is really not your friend! One option is to throw explosive attacks at your enemies hex.

5. Diffuse Enemies are also not your friend. Explosive attacks can solve their problem to.

6. Your friends are your friends - if possible have some nifty stuff you can use on your friends! For instance, consider ranged or area effect healing, or buff spells!

7. Selfishness is okay to - Make sure you have spells to throw on yourself, or stuff to do when your friends don't need healing/buffing etc

8. Have a Way to Get Away - You should have some spell designed to help you leave when your welcome has done welcomed out. Portals, smoke bombs, invisibility oh my are all ways to get going when the going gets tough.

9. For Target Rich Environments - It is very awesome to deal super damage and atomize a single target. However, sometimes life deals you oodles of enemies, and in this case you need spells for dealing with those oodles.

10. Big Balls of HP - Some enemies don't just need a little killing, they need a LOT of killing. For foes like these you need to be able to put up some really big numbers.

11. When the Charms Go Away - Sometimes by attrition you are left with a charm bag on empty. For the last charm I suggest a 'buff and go' effect for your handy weapon and skill (hope you have one of those) so you aren't reduced to a spectator.

12. Can never have enough friends - Sometimes you need more friends, whether for distractions, filling in the battle line, or who knows what else. Having a summoning spell handy can prove quite useful.

13. Does Not Have Fast Draw Charm - Seriously, you want this. One session spending half your time just readying your charms will teach you this. That way lies madness.

14. Leaving too many open slots. Conditionals don’t cause encumbrance, so make sure you take along close to your max allotment! An empty slot does not really help much.

15. Having no Non Lethal Options - You really don’t want to fireball those poor mind controlled peasants do you?

Having been playing RPMists since shortly after Monster Hunters Champions came out and introduced RPM, I have had quite an extensive experience making mistakes with the system. While many of these lessons may be quite obvious hopefully there is some takeaways to be had, or at least amusement value.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Carpe Blogiem: A New Chronicle Part II

In the previous post we talked about the rules of the campaign world. This time I want talk about the players and their characters. Now to the rosters!

A-Team Lineup
The A-Team are set at a minimum of 400 points and they will be dealing with all manner of things. They are part of a private investigative firm owned by one of the PCs. I expect everything from monster hunting to dealing with mundane crimes. This group is probably halfway through their first prequel season already.
  • Annalise "Annie" M. Murphy (played by +Ann LS): Exorcist extraordinaire, sorcerer, psychic, twice cursed and twice blessed monster hunter. Ex-Gladius Dei. The Murphy. Talks to God, sometimes He talks back.
  • Dr. Francesco "Frankie" Novella (played by +Troy Loy): Doctor and accidental hero. Surgeon with a shotgun. Unflappable. Logical. Sometimes literal. No sense of humor. Always capable.
  • Sir Al-Shams mac Lannageal aka Al MacLannageal (played by +Christian Gelacio): Man out of time. The Last Templar Knight. Warrior. Scholar. Sorcerer. Carries the Blood of Solomon and is the benighted grandchild of (the Goddess) Brigid.
  • Nimbus (NPC Ally): An old (around 200 years) tulpa whose preferred form is a housecat, but can also shapeshift into a car (a silver Duesenberg Model-J), a horse (with a pale pale coat), and a plethora of other forms. It's been a housecat too long and thinks its a cat most of the time, not a spirit being.
  • Ronan Sloane aka the Gunslinger (NPC Ally): Dullahan (an undead being of incredible power). Gunfighter. Killer. Sorcerer. A monster who hunts monsters. Bad man.
  • William Stark (NPC Ally): Sworn protector of Youko. Swordsman. Monster Hunter. Old fart. 
  • Youko Muramasa (played by +Natiel Leealexander): A powerful enchanter capable of creating just bout anything as well as a blacksmith of no small skill. Hidden from the world because of her gifts.

B-Team Lineup
The B-Team is using a gaming technique I pioneered in the Aeon A-Team's game: come up with a beginning point total (300 points) and then divide it so that PCs get a certain bonus of points every time skip. This way, the PCs start off small (in this case, literally - they are role playing kids) and grow. We settled on four time skips total (one about every two game years) which will last between 1-3 sessions each. So the B-Team prequel season will detail their climb into competent heroes. All PCs share a single event: the mass murder of their loved ones in their neighborhood . . . but they survived. Why? They are also all in the same foster home.
  • Amos M. Humiston (played by +Christopher D): The smart kid, Amos is quiet, but has a photographic memory and is very intelligent for his age. He collects POGs and comic books.
  • Gabriel F. McAllister (played by +Douglas Cole): Gabriel is the worldly one. His parents dragged him all over Hell and creation. He's big. He's buff. He's got a wide array of more useful "adult" skills and can easily defend himself.
  • Kamali M. "Wingz" Blackshear (played by +GodBeastX): Wingz is the one with potential (he's a very gifted artist), but he's got one foot on the wrong side street and the other on the right. He's also the only starting PC with powers (he's a psychic sensitive) and will be a good leader when he grows up.
  • Lorenzo J. de Moduco (played by +Christian Gelacio): Lorenzo is the popular kid. The drama kid. He's got the highest non-combat skill in the group (Singing of 17!) and is effectively the face man.
  • Timothy I. Mitchell (played by +Ignus Pyre): Is the bad kid. The one with both feet on the street. He's mean as hell and a brawler. There's something just not quite right about him . . . but hey, Tim is Tim.

C-Team Lineup
The C-Team are 400 point characters with about 80 points already chosen for them - they are all sorcerers (extrinsic magic-users with Ritual Adept). The premise is they've yet to go through their Trails (where sorcerers are tested to see if they can handle the rigors of the life they were born to). This will form the bulk of their prequel season.
  • Agrivain Tashaslan (played by +Travis Ellis): The man with the plan behind the man on the throne. Tactical planner, mastermind, and general genius.
  • Cormac McAllister (played by +Mavrick Fitzgerald): Cormac is a faerie "knight" from Underhill, master of the Autumn Road (Ley Tunnels), and knower of ways - seen or unseen.
  • Landon Winchester (played by +Alex Raymond): He is the 1%. Swagger for days. Oathmaker (think a magical lawyer), lawyer, face man, and talker.
  • Mike Bastian (played by +Andre Sobral): A battle mage of the highest degree (And not much else), Mike is also one of the few blessed by Heaven and heir to a lost House within the Conclave.
  • Yanay Servantes (played by +Annia Zzacchi ): A beautiful and alluring Incan witch and worshipper of Mama Killa. Yanay is perhaps the more "generalist" of the characters and thus has more magical capability than others.

Picking Over the Bones
And that's it. I'll likely come back at some point with information on NPCs that have developed through game play. So far I'm very happy with the player character line-up. we'll see if I remain that way.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Carpe Blogiem: A New Chronicle Part I

My GURPS campaign has ended, long-live my GURPS campaign! Aeon came to a final close about 6-8 weeks ago. I answered some questions and left more questions unanswered. That's usually a good way to leave things I've found. So what's next? Returning to a previous campaign is what's next. I've talked about my urban fantasy campaign on my blog before. The last time I ran it, it was just for a few weeks and then real life intervened. Moreover, it was for a single group (my face to face gaming group). This time, I've decided to learn from the mistakes of Aeon and use the lessons from gamemastering that campaign for the new one. I learned my limit last time - I can barely keep up with about 15-17 people and three games. Any more than that and it starts to wear on me too much. Which sucks because in my hey-day I could run a game with 24 people and I was fine. Also, I ran it in the snow, uphill, without oxygen. And I liked it. I also wanted to fully flesh out and use the "Faction-Based Combat System" I'd created as an analogue to GURPS Boardrooms and Curia. So I planned on using organizations quite a bit.

"The Chronicles of Ceteri" is kind of a classic take on the urban fantasy/secret world genre/trope. Monsters are real and so are the people who fight them. Magic is real. There is a whole secret history of the world. When creating the campaign - really when creating any campaign where myths and monsters are real and varied - I settled on a cornerstone: the Abrahamic God and the Judeo-Christian mythology were real. Now, that's a big risk. Why? Because if you don't do it right you're going to make someone angry. That's just the breaks when it comes to using real-world religions. Owing to my background I feel that I can avoid the risks (offending others) and go straight for the rewards (drawing on the massive amount of literature available). Once I had the cornerstone down everything else fell right into place.

There are four major forms of supernatural powers and phenomena.

Divine Gifts: these uses the rules for GURPS Powers: Divine Favor and are either from powerful spirits (like Thor or Zeus) or from the big man himself/Heaven. Users of the former are called "channelers" (they "channel" spiritual power), users of the second are rarer and are called "saints."

Magic: This comes in two flavors. "Extrinsic" magic uses a customized effect-shaping ritual path magic framework - one I'm particularly proud of because I managed to fit the game mechanics into the campaign world and vice versa. Everything works the way it does both above - and below. "Intrinsic" magic refers racial powers, advantages, rpm "knacks," imbuements, chi skills, and so on.

Psychic Powers: This uses the rules for GURPS Psionic Powers but I changed how the various power modifiers work (each power modifier has a unique effect - like Astral Projection powers attract astral beings who are curious how a living being can project their mind). I also ditched powers I straight up didn't want in the campaign - like Teleportation and Cyberpsi. If it didn't fit how I viewed psi powers working (kind of like some victorian ideas of psi), I chucked it. This resulted in psi being having a very spooky/real world feel.

Geotrinsic Phenomena: I had to coin the term for this, but this basically refers to places of power, ley lines, astrological occulations, the rules for Safe as Houses, the Mask of Humanity, power of the human soul, etc. It all ties together in a rather awesome way.

Every sort of monster you can think of exists including a few that are unique or synthesized. For example, the "Forsaken" are three races (vampires, werewolves, and succubi) who are all descended from fallen angels. This gives them a shared history and similiar abilities - but make them all unique in their own way.

I'll likely talk about the setting itself a lot more in the days to come and I plan to continue my Assembly Required series and finish that up with this campaign.

Optional Rules Being Used
It should be noted that as a GM, I may occasionally turn the realism level “up” or “down” to better suit the current mood of the campaign or to heighten drama. For example, in most instances the optional rules for Bleeding (p. B420) are not used, but if a player has been injured and is still facing danger they may be used to better simulate the peril they are still in. But here are the major ones.

GURPS Basic Set
  • Limited Enhancements (p. B111).
  • Malfunctions (p. B279).
  • Modifying Dice + Adds (p. B269).
  • Modifying Skills (p. B101).
GURPS Low-Tech
  • Armor Hit Locations (p. 100).
GURPS Martial Arts
  • Limiting Multiple Dodges (pp. 123). Note: This has been slightly tweaked: Those with Enhanced Time Sense, Trained by a Master, Weapon Master, or an appropriate Wildcard skill take a -1 penalty per two subsequent dodges after the first (e.g., -0 for the first, -1 for the second and third, -2 for the fourth and the fifth, and so on). Those with any two of the four take no penalty and may dodge as many times as they wish!
  • Multiple Blocks (pp. 123). Note: This is only available to those with Trained by a Master, Weapon Master, or an appropriate Wildcard skill.
  • Pain in Close Combat (pp. 119).
GURPS Monster Hunters 2: The Mission
Just about most of the optional rules from this book are in effect.

GURPS Social Engineering
  • Expanded Influence Rolls (p. 36).
Pyramid Magazine
  • Broken Blade (Pyramid #3/77: Combat), by Douglas Cole (pp. 24-28).
  • Colorless Green Ideas Sleep Furiously (Pyramid #3/44) by Roger Burton West (pp. 18-23).
  • How Very Tempting  (Pyramid #3/67: Tools of the Trade: Villains) by Christopher R. Rice (pp. 14-19).
  • Mad as Bones (Pyramid #3/103: Setbacks) by Christopher R. Rice (pp. 4-8).
  • On Target (Pyramid #3/87: Low-Tech III), by Douglas Cole (pp. 4-8).
  • Safe as Houses (Pyramid #3/58: Urban Fantasy II) by Christopher R. Rice (pp. 4-10).
  • The Mask of Humanity (Pyramid #3/97: Strange Powers) by Christopher R. Rice (pp. 13-20).

House Rules Being Used
I use my standard list of house rules for this campaign (which I really need to put up somewhere at some point). Essentially, I modify how wealth works, a few tweaks on character creation (mostly bonus CP to build your character the more fluffy information you give me). And my rules for character advancement (basically, you don't upgrade your character till I give the say - about every 4-6 sessions - and you can't increase stuff more than a level.)

Rules Made for this Campaign
*exhales* Too many. I literally wrote about 60,000 words just for paranormal powers. The rules for Mad as Bones came from this campaign as did every single article I'm using except for Team Up!. I created a bunch of rules that were both in-game and out-game in nature. For example, the "Laws of Magic" represent game mechanical things and how magic works in the game world itself. A example:
The Law of KnowledgeAxiom: Ipsa Scientia Potestas Est “Knowledge itself is power.”
Précis: To understand a thing is to have power over it.
Explanation: Magic is at its core using the understanding of people, places, and things to accrue supernatural power of them. Thus, the more you understand the more power you possess. Complete knowledge of a thing lets you control it.
Game Mechanics: Spells have many ways to gain bonuses to the caster’s skill rolls. The bonus gained from things like high-quality materia essentia, extra time, ley lines, etc. cannot exceed half the caster’s base Path skill or half his Thaumatology skill, whichever is lower. For example, if you knew Path of Energy at 12 and Thaumatology at 14, you could not get a bonus higher than +6 to your rolls. Note, this is not your effective skill, this maximal bonus is before taking into account any penalties. Continuing our example, if you took a -5 to your roll to reduce the time to cast, then final effective skill would be 12 (Base skill) + 6 (bonuses gained) - 5 (penalty for time) = final skill of 13.
         This law also represents the ritualistic substitutions of Skill Over Will (p. 00).
I also completely rehauled how astrological modifiers, locational modifiers, etc. work. It's now a system of bonuses that are easy to adjudicate in play and require a ritual magic roll.

As I said previously, I heavily modified Effect-Shaping Ritual Path Magic and I'm continuing to modify it to better suit the campaign setting.

One thing I came up with is the idea of "Bloodlines" and "Supernatural Ancestry." A characters lineage is important in this campaign. If you have a paranatural lineage you might be able to acquire certain powers. I'm sure you are asking "What's the difference in the two?" The first (a bloodline) means you are descended from a specific person (mythological figure, hero, etc.) and you get access to special abilities based on that. Lesser scions get access to a select number of powers and are not direct descendants, while Greater scions get access to all of them and are direct descendents. Those with a special ancestry have a non-human ancestor (e.g., a sidhe or a dragon) and that gives them access to certain capabilities

There are other systems and rules as well, but those are pretty much the big ones.

Picking Over the Bones
Overall, I'm pleased with the character concepts I've seen. The next step is going to involve getting all the info from my massive campaign bible (it's over 98,000 words currently) and my head into a player accessible private wiki. Luckily, I've got folks who are happy to help with that. One of the things I didn't do so well with Aeon was keeping the Wiki current. That's something I'm going to make sure I do this time. Once all the PCs have made it out of the prequel season - and some might not - this isn't like the superhero campaign where you can come back easily. If you don't buy an extra life at the beginning of the game or during down time and you die - that's it.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Designer's Notes: Mad as Bones

"That boy is mad as bones." My grandmother would say that about me often as a child. I was . . . a handful. Hiding in places and shouting "Boo!" at passersbys, climbing on the roof at night to look at the stars, playing out in a nor'easter, and in general just running wild. As a boy, I had no fear - and as we all know, that's not necessarily a good thing. You might even have thought I was a bit crazy. Most of my family did. Thus, I was mad as bones.

The bones (I am not sorry for that) of this article was been around since early 2015 and come from two Patreon specials (here and here). +Patrick Burroughs was the first to just help me dive into the guts of the rules. He made many additions that just became part of the system. Then, about 2 months ago I began planning for my new campaign and I decided to update the system and use it. My players had a lot of input and ideas on how it should operate and after a near 3 hour conversation and a flurry of emails I made a massive series of changes. Rebranding "Sanity Points" as "Stability Points" was the first big change, the second was adopting Long-Term Fatigue Points. I made a bunch of changes and the system was almost not recognizable after - but in a good way. I decided it would make a great Pyramid article and I formatted, proofed, and sat it aside. Not even three days later I decided to submit it and now its in your collective hands. I hope you enjoy it because a lot of work went into this thing (much like Crafting Imbuements) and not all of it was me.

All in all it took me about 150 hours to write, 70 hours to edit, 10 hours worth of research, and 200 hours of revision (too much). I spent a further 5 hours looking over the preliminary PDF for any issues and revising. This makes it the second most Pyramid article time-wise (about 11 40-hour work weeks).

I ended up take some stuff out for both space and not entirely-RAW builds.

Example Ability: The Abyss Stares Back
This wasn't entirely RAW, but fun. So here it is.

The Abyss Stares Back (+416%): Stability Attack 3d (Always On, -20%; Based on the lower of Perception or Will, +60%; Extended Duration, x100,000, +200%; Increased Range, LOS, +40%; Side Effect, Secondary Hallucinating and Nightmares, +11%; Resistible, Will-5, -5%; Vision-Based, +150%, Vision-Based, Reversed, -20%) [155]. Notes: Anyone looking into your eyes whom you can also see must make an immediate roll against the lower of their Will or Perception (minus any bonus to Vision). Failure results in them losing 3d SP (doubled after accounting for protective traits) and 3d LSP. Critical failure or failure by 5 or more requires a Will roll at -1 per 2 points of SP loss or be wracked with Terrible Pain and Nightmares (no self-control roll!) for days equal to their margin of failure. Those who already have Nightmares suffer double normal effects (-2 FP and -2 to skill, and Perception rolls fail on a 17 or 18). 38 points.

Optional Rule: Dread Attribute and Damage
Mixing the rules for Intrinsic Fright Checks (GURPS Horror, p. 139) and the Terror advantage (p. B93) the GM could assign a “Dread Attribute” to monsters and instead of the usual roll on the Fright Check table (p. B360) this could instead result in “dread damage,” i.e., Stability Point loss. The Dread attribute always starts at 10 and may be lowered or increased for ±10 points/level. You can choose to activate your Dread and force a Quick Contest of Will between anyone that can see you or hear you (choose one when you buy this attribute). If you succeed, look up your Dread attribute level on the Damage Table (p. B16) and read this as the number of SP you inflict.

Any modifier available for Terror can be directly added to the cost of Dread. For example, if you can’t turn your Dread off you’d add “Always On” (-20%) turning the cost to 8-points for each level above 10 or -12-points for each level below 10. Maddening attacks use the Swing column, while Sanity-Blasting inflicts both SP and LSP damage, and uses the Swing column!

Intimidation can be used in place of Will, if better. Add +1 to your final Dread level to determine SP loss for knowing it at Will+2, +2 for knowing it at Will+4, +3 for knowing it at Will+7, +4 for Will+10, and a further +1 per +3 to skill thereafter.

The GM would have to decide who get such an attribute in the first place, but a good guideline is that beings who have one of. . .

. . . Appearance levels that are Hideous, Monstrous, or Transcendent.
. . . An appropriate Unusual Background worth at least 30 points (this mimics the first level of Terror).
. . . An appropriate racial template.
. . . An appropriate Social Stigma such as Social Stigma (Dead) or Social Stigma (Monster).

The GM could allow other traits to enable the Fear attribute, such as Social Regard or Trained by a Master. GMs could also use a variant of Awe or Confusion (GURPS Powers, p. 85), instead of inflicting fear your overwhelm your target’s mind with bliss or befuddlement. The effects are effectively the same, however.

Quotes That didn't Make It
Like the header says. Some stuff that didn't make it in but was highly appropriate.

“It is sometimes an appropriate response to reality to go insane.”
–Philip K. Dick, VALIS

“In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations, and epochs, it is the rule.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche

“Why is a raven like a writing-desk?”
“Have you guessed the riddle yet?” the Hatter said, turning to Alice again.
“No, I give it up,” Alice replied: “What’s the answer?”
“I haven’t the slightest idea,” said the Hatter”

– Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

“Insanity is often the logic of an accurate mind over tasked.”
–Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

“Though this be madness, yet there is a method in’t.”

– William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Picking Over the Bones
A couple of afterthoughts on the article itself:

Indulging in Compulsive Behaviors ought to be as good as an indulgence when regaining Stability Points. The GM ought to allow the rules for regaining points under Mental Disturbance all the time for for Compulsive Behaviors, but restraining yourself should inflict twice as much SP loss.

The GM should be pretty generous about relaxing activity and regaining points simply due to the fact that when a character starts gaining LSP he's going to go into a downward spiral. This is pretty realistic given how most mental ailments work.

Those with Bad Temper, Bloodlust, and similiar "I like conflict" disadvantages might be able to regain SP by being in combat. The thrill of battle is enough to help them decompress. Similarly, Combat Reflexes may reduce SP loss by 1 (to a minimum of 0) or allow a roll to resist SP loss due to combat. Veterans rarely flip out after a few combats!

Ritual Path Magic could cost 1 LSP (Oh, my Glob!) per Greater Effect in a spell to represent various magic systems where toying with such powers result in madness or insanity if used too much.

Psychiatric Wards ought to give +/TL as a bonus to recover LSP for those receiving care within them. Psych wards in horror games might give a penalty if monsters, magic, etc. are real and the target went mad because he was exposed to it. The doctors are repressing what you know to be real and it's making it worse.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Carpe Blogiem: Aeon Campaign Arc 1, Post Mortem

Ok, folks. Buckle up. This is going to be a slightly long post. First, if you don't know about my Aeon campaign here's the gist from my Session Recap page.
It's 2016 and superpowers are real. They appear to have been born out of a strange energy pulse that hit the middle of the Atlantic Ocean on October 31st, 1999 at 2:00pm EST. For years powers were denied until finally the world governments could deny them no more. Powers were real and so were the people who used them for good or ill. But this isn't like the comic books. It'd be so much easier if it were...
I've talked a bit on my blog about my intentions for Aeon and how it was the first campaign of its like I've ever ran. Honestly, I think it's pretty unique period. I could be wrong, but I've not seen the kind of melding of face to face and online play out there. That said . . . it was an experiment. A way for me to rest the limits of a campaign, the limits of my players, the limits of myself, and the limits of GURPS itself. I learned quite a few things about game design, pacing, and general gamemastering.

I'm going to set out what my initial goals were and how I failed, met, or exceeded them afterward.

The Initial Plan
I conceived of Aeon in late 2015 while contemplated what campaign I wanted to run next. I'd done a little Dungeon Fantasy and worked on a campaign of my own and sought out something new. I'd wanted to run a superhero campaign for a while. I'd always been a huge fan of Marvel and their constant amazing movies and TV shows only fanned that fire. If I turned my mind toward such a campaign what could I do with it? What could I bend? What could I break? What could I fake? Before I went further I had to seek the co-gm and other half (+Ann LS) and see what she thought. Here's is a reenactment of that moment:

After we talked some she gave me a few ideas and a few rules: 1) black and white heroism was ok, but make it a little more subtle at some points; 2) there should be some interplay between the online game (I'd only planned on one at that point) and the face to face games (our group); 3) there needed to be a plot that formed the backbone of the campaign.

Along with some of my own thoughts and ideas there talks formed the core of Aeon. I was never a fan of four-color supers - iron-age supers was more my speed. But I decided to put all the flavors in the world by giving the premise as "super powers are new!" and then have the PCs find out that in fact... they were pretty old. +Daniel Dover was the only person to actually comment on how I did this so I may have been TOO subtle. I eventually used some material for campaigns that had failed for this or that reason and kept adding on. When +Wavefunction got involved I began to rapidly expand the premise. I'd originally conceived of a single online group to complement my face to face group, but I quickly decided I'd run FOUR such games and link everything together.

So my initial goals were:

1) Create a believable campaign world with super powers. Define where those powers came from. How they worked. How they fit together.
2) Come up with a multi-threaded story arc/narrative I could weave between multiple groups. A single mission everyone could eventually embrace.
3) Cross-pollinate each group with members of the other groups every once and a while.
4) Reuse multiple NPCs between groups to give a "tied together" feel.
5) Find the exact limit on how many games I could manage at once for future enterprises.
6) Find and recruit a pool of players who could be trusted, were good roleplayers, and brought unique talents to the group.
7) Find and recruit a pool of folks who could be trusted, knew GURPS, and brought unique talents to the think tank - which would be assembled to assist me when needed and act as sounding boards.

The Execution
It took me almost 4 months to write, revise, revisit, and revamp the documentation for Aeon. Whenever I run a new campaign set in a new world the very first thing I do is creating a "Setting Bible." A document that my players can refer to when creating characters, have questions about the campaign, etc. When all was said and done it was about 140,000 words (it would eventually expand to about 180,000 after adding stuff from gameplay or revisions). Much of this was things I needed to know and not necessarily my players. It was a way to put into concrete terms the things I wanted. I envisioned all the teams as being able to go back and forth somehow - but I was still working on the mechanism. A-Team was going to be my god-level supers, B-Team were going to be my Avengers, C-Team my "Agents of SHIELD", and D-Team were going to be the poor bastards who got to deal with the aftermath of everything.

Next, I started rounding up players. When I put out a call for applicants I was overwhelmed. Over 60 people. I'd had a small base: I planned on +Douglas Cole , +Christian Gelacio+Tim P , and +Tai Perry playing. The latter two dropped out because of irreconcilable play style differences - but Doug and Christian stayed and formed the core of what would become "B-Team." I eventually added +Emily Smirle+GodBeastX, and +Kyle Norton and those were the ones who stuck with the game from pretty much the beginning to the end. Emily had to leave at one point and I went through a few players before I recruited +Ignus Pyre from the D-Team to replace her. I'd already had a great experience with him as a player and he was happy to join the B-Team. Character creation took about 6 weeks as we dug into the guts of GURPS and Powers to make things work the way I wanted and create detailed, intricate backstories. Two weeks later we started playing.

After a while I began to recruit for C-Team. Eventually I settled on +Travis Ellis+Pk Levine+Mavrick Fitzgerald+Alex Raymond, and +Kevin Smyth. The process repeated: 4 weeks of customizing and creating and then I started running the game. Both PK and Kevin eventually had to drop out - PK was starting to work on the then nascent DFRPG and Kevin's new job was ensuring he got zero free time. I went through a few players until I finally got Alex to see if a friend of his and his wife wanted to play. I did a quick interview and found them to both be awesome and put them to creating characters right away - characters they only played for two sessions before the campaign ended.

D-Team would come next - but almost two months later. The initial group included Hal (who'd become another co-gm at that point), +Antoni Ten Monrós, Richard, +Asta Kask, and Daniel. I eventually lost Daniel and due to scheduling issues with another player the game just kind of lost steam.

Where do I begin? There's a lot to cover. First, I'd found my limit on the number of groups/people I could GM for in a week and keep up with all my duties and gigs. That number was three groups or 15-17 people. I utterly failed as I tried to get the campaigns to crossover more. Travis did his damnedest to help, but I just couldn't make it work. Part of it was the fact that C-Team was bi-weekly and they'd begun WAY WAY into the past causing out of sync issues. I'd really screwed up there. Bad. It was a hard-won lesson. The fact that I kept having player attrition didn't help. Losing Emily and Daniel was like losing limbs. Both of them kept their perspective teams grounded and/or driven.

The thoughtfulness of all the players during character creation was so refreshing that I knew I'd lucked out right away. They were eager for me to run and that eagerness made me want to GM all the more. I'd learned so much from them and running for them.

Post Mortem
Here's how it broke down:

1) I created a believable campaign world that the players could sink their teeth into.
2) The single narrative that everyone could embrace was a partial success. Yes. It worked. It made since, but the players didn't get involved as I would have liked. This was due to player attrition and the out of sync time issue with C-Team - which I corrected far to quickly due to losing PK.
3) I utterly failed at Cross-pollinating the teams. Period. Full stop. I didn't make it work. I eventually figured out why, but it was too late at that point.
4) This sort of worked. Not a lot, but sorta.
5) Boy did I and D-Team paid the price. Three games. at most 17 people. That's it. I used to be able to do much more. I guess we all get out.
6) I succeeded wildly here. I now have some of the best players I've ever had (outside of my 23+ years face to face gaming group). I even made a few friends - not something I find easy these days.
7) I lucked out here as well. The think tank are some of the most creative, knowledgeable folks I've ever come across.

Overall, I'm going to call Aeon (Part I) a success. The players had fun (it dragged at the end there, I won't lie) and the wrap-up was pretty great. It took us about 14-15 months to do the first story arc and the way everything ended put a nice bow on the campaign, but left it open-ended for the next part (which I'll eventually run sometime in the future).

So here's to all my players. To all those who are in my think-tank. To everyone who participated some way in Aeon - thank you. It was a learning experience for me as a gamemaster and a way to test my skills. It was also immensely satisfying an fun. I wish I could have done right the things I messed up . . . but that's part of why it's a learning experience (and why I labeled it an experiment from the get-go).

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Boil and Bubble: Cold Ritual Path Magic Spells

Sometimes you really need a cold one. And by a cold one I mean some cryomantic ritual path magic spells (or frigiomancy if you prefer)...

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GURPS101: More Psychokinesis Powers for Psionic Powers

GURPS Psionic Powers offers one of the more interesting power frameworks for GURPS Fourth Edition. The following new power “Psi-Bolt” increases the arsenal of any teke...

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