Thursday, August 31, 2017

Gamemaster's Guidepost: My Rules For Spending Points

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

GURPS101: Attribute Synergies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Designer's Notes: Deathtraps


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

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

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

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

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

So here's the relevant bits:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

GURPS101: Dungeon Fantasy Favored Professions

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 21, 2017

Carpe Blogiem: GenCon 50 - Aftermath

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

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

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

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

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

Twitter Stream

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Carpe Blogiem: GenCon 50 - Day 3

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

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

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

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

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

Twitter Stream Photos

Friday, August 18, 2017

Carpe Blogiem: GenCon 50 - Day 2


Ok. First thing's first - I got breakfast this morning at like 9am - I went to bed around 3am. Showered, shaved, and then headed to the Con via Uber. I headed toward the SJGames booth and lo and behold Sean Punch was there. We chatted for quite a while and I kept him company while we discussed a variety of topics.

I did a bit more wandering about and headed over the the Plan B Games and bought a copy of the game "Century." (Note: I don't play a lot of boardgames - I love this game.) Did some more wandering. Found a few more GURPSers - got recognized in the wild again for some of my work on RPM and GURPS (which was awesome - but still weird). Hung out with Sean Punch a bit more before heading out to the hall and sitting down. Then chatted up some wonderful folks about various geek- and fandoms.

I headed back around 1700 hours and got to meet Steven Marsh in person. Wonderful man. Got to meet his wife (Nikki! Woo!) and son too and we must have chatted for an hour or so about geeky things - some GURPS stuff too. Basically [FNORD].

I then headed to buy some souvenirs for +Natiel Leealexander and +Travis Ellis since they couldn't make it where I waited for +Douglas Cole . When then went and got some dinner (fish and chips! With DELICIOUS beer!) gabbed about the con some and wait had happened during the day before parting ways.

I then headed back to the hotel and played a game of Century with a nice young family. We had a blast and they decided to go buy a copy (You paying attention B-Plan Games? That's FOUR I've sold today alone. Send me free stuff.) I got to talking about GURPS and then my campaign and the folks seemed enthralled. They asked for my card and then were off to buy some copies of the new DF boxed set via pre-order. Think I did good there.

Next I went to the pool and worked out some of the soreness of the day before crashing and resting up for Day 3.

Twitter Stream Photos

Carpe Blogiem: GenCon 50 - Day 1

Whew. Lot of stuff happened today. Let's see. I wandered around the GenCon exhibition hall for about 5 hours. I got a chance to talk to numerous folks including Steve Jackson, Michael Stackpoole, Andrew Hackard, and a dozen others. It was pretty damn amazing.

I snagged up a good half-dozen folks I knew were coming to the con so I could bring them to see +Douglas Cole while he was working a booth. What else? I bought a copy of GURPS Cabal (I didn't own a physical one), some dice for my other half, and the "shiniest RPG book ever made."

I caught dinner with Joseph Bravo and Doug at the Munchkin tavern and ordered one of their burgers - it was quite good. The right amount of bacon. So big I had to eat it with a fork. Fries were pretty on point too. I'll probably order that again Saturday when we play the DF game there with +Sean Punch.

Heading back to the hotel I meet up with some awesome folks who showed me how to play Galactic Truckers and a really fun game whose name escapes me at the moment that involved upgrading gems and buying cards for points. I want a copy. It was that nice.

I then went for a swim in the pool with said folks, hung out in the Jacuzzi a bit, then meet some OTHER folks who I chatted with for quite a while about game design and theory before heading back to my room at 0100 hours and passing out around 0200 hours.

Twitter Stream Photos

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Carpe Blogiem: GenCon 50 - Day 0

Whew. I'm in Indianapolis at GenCon 50. Finally. SO MUCH STRESS OVER STUPID THINGS THAT TURNED OUT NOT TO MATTER. But I'm here now and that is all that matters. Some notes from today:

Traveling Man
I got to Norfolk Airport about 1255 hours and I was through the TSA checkpoint by 1310 hours. Seriously. It was fast. But then I left my ID in my hat and got it lost on the conveyer because I'm an idjit. Didn't notice it until I was already at my boarding area so I had to run back down. The TSA guy (Mark Jakosky) spent 25 minutes fishing it out for me. He is my hero. I ran back toward my gate then nd spent about 20 minutes waiting. I was boarded quickly and to my utter surprise and delight I had a row to myself and I was on the aisle. The seatbelt fit just fine (something I was SERIOUSLY worried about). It was awesome. 28 minutes from takeoff I landed in Dulles. Dulles is frakking huge and it needs to be the location of a a movie about the Zombie Apocalypse. Luckily, I stopped and asked for directions and a map and thus did not get lost. I used the automated walkways as respites for myself and then hit one of their trolleys. Also - that needs to be in a Apocalypse too - they are HUGE. High up, and defensible. You could totally live in one or use it as a mobile command center. Yes, people this is where my brain goes when I'm tired. While waiting for my plane to board I got recognized in the wild and talked some game theory with some folks. Was most cool. The plane I rode was tiny. And I was again afraid that the belt wouldn't fasten - it did. About 58 minutes after takeoff and I was in Indianapolis. About an 1 hour later I'd got my baggage and was at my hotel thanks to some excellent shuttle service.

I checked in - there was some mix up at the counter and it sucked greatly but it got fixed. I had less than 30 minutes to clean up, put my stuff out, etc. before I had to rush off to the Diana Jones Awards. I basically tossed my stuff down, took a quick breather, and then rushed to get in my Uber.

Diana Jones Awards
My first time here. It was crazy. An utter madhouse. The food was mediocre, but the company was excellent. I talked to a few publishers, met Ken Hite, and hung around with +Paul Stefko for a bit. I probably should have stayed longer, but after I ate there, saw the award, and did some mingling I was ready to head back to the hotel. Hopefully I'll get some work out of that.

I also managed to meet up with +Edmund Charlton and I bought some books off of him. Overall, a good start. Tomorrow I'll probably go for a swim and then head over to the Con to meet up with +Douglas Cole and others. Thanks again to everyone who got me here and I promise - lots of pictures/video.

Twitter Stream Photos

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

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

Here's the highlights for me from July 2017.

Authorial Highlights
  • I have finished a Pyramid article for Hot Spots and Locations - but it needs some work and perhaps a map. We'll see. I submitted the Deep Space article (hint: it's about space opera and ritual path magic) and the nameless article I mentioned before to Steven. This still leaves Combat, Hot Spots and Locations, Action, Alternate GURPS, and After the End - all of which I have ideas for or partially completed items. I did finish my goal of submitting of three articles submitted last month which I'm pretty proud of.
  • I was mentioned in the GURPS news. Sekrit Project is sekrit.
  • My article "Chi Sorcery" came out. I was pretty happy overall with how it turned out. You can find my Designer's Notes here.

Blog Highlights
  • I trimmed down the blog topics file to a mere 8 entries. DEAR GLOB THAT WAS A LOT. I got rid of about 10 topics for one reason or another and solicited about 6 more from various places. I still plan on writing new posts as the fancy takes me but I've got some breathing room for the sekrit project now.
  • Revamp on the blog continues, but I don't think it'll be ready before September what with me heading to Gen Con 50 and all.
  • As a part of the blog revamp I have went ahead and purchased web hosting and I plan on using wordpress for my new blog engine. They've come a long way with their particular interface and I rather like it from what I've seen.

Patreon Highlights
  • I began looking over my plans on what exactly I wanted to do for my Patreon revamp.
  • I got 4 new patrons in July and $11 of additional pledges for Patreon.
  • I pulled some interesting stuff from my files and current campaign to give to my patrons for August's specials. I think those like ritual path magic or Monster Hunters will enjoy them.

Miscellaneous Related News
  • I continued work on a fiction piece I'd like to self-publish later this year.
  • My ride to Gen Con had to bail at the last minute for reasons way beyond his control so I thought I wasn't going because I simply didn't possess the funds necessary to get there any other way . . . then the amazing community of nerds and creatives decided otherwise. I will be going to Gen Con - I hope to see many lovely people there.
  • My mother has gone to stay with my sister in northern VA for a while. She fractured her pelvic bone (they don't know when it happened even though she recently slipped). On the bright side she's fully cleared of the bacteria that nearly killed her and with her staying with my sister upstate my stress levels have gone way down so I can get some more work done.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Chronicles of Ceteri - A-Team - S00E12 - Given Up for Dead, Part IV

Dramatic Personae
  • Sir Al-Shams mac Lannageal aka Al MacLannageal (played by +Christian Gelacio): Man out of time. The Last Templar Knight. Warrior. Scholar. Sorcerer. Carries the Blood of Solomon and is the benighted grandchild of Brigid.
  • Annalise "Annie" M. Murphy (played by +Ann LS): Exorcist extraordinaire, sorcerer, psychic, twice cursed and twice blessed monster hunter. Ex-Gladius Dei. The Murphy. Talks to God, sometimes He talks back.
  • Dr. Francesco "Frankie" Novella (played by +Troy Loy): Doctor and accidental hero. Surgeon with a shotgun. Unflappable. Logical. Sometimes literal. No sense of humor. Always capable.
  • Nimbus (NPC Ally): Free-willed tulpa that can assume any shape living or unliving. Prefers being an orange cat with white socks or a Model-J Duesenberg. Why? Because. That's why.
  • Ronan Sloane aka The Gunslinger (NPC Ally): Dead man. Dullahan. Master sorcerer and shootist. Monster Hunter.
  • Youko Muramasa (played by +Natiel Leealexander): Master blacksmith and enchanter. Member of one of the Five Families of Kagutsuchi (descendent of the Japanese god of forges and fire).

The PCs have decided to go see "The Mick" - a crime boss who is running a high-end gambling establishment. The Mick is rumored to be aware of the supernatural and takes chyrs (the coin of the Conclave) as well as relics, spells, etc. and offers the same to those who are "in the know."

Gambling Your Life Away
Al MacLannageal, Annie Murphy, & Dr. Frankie Novella
The Shadowed Heights
Friday, October 29th, 1999, 11:00 pm

320 Washington St, Brighton, MA 02135

Leaving Youko in a food coma back at the Heights, the rest of the PCs decide to go ahead and see the Mick and try to get Youko's sword back. Since Casanova told them it was "upper scale" Al, Frankie, and Ronan dress to the nines in swanky suits, while Annie dresses in a silver sequin "mermaid" dress and has some of the brownies put her hair up. If looks could kill she'd be a tactical nuke.

Once there, the PCs immediately start playing cards with Frankie and Al being confederates and helps to bolster Ronan's already stupidly high skill. Annie uses her Sex Appeal to distract the other players. The first round of poker results in doubling their money ($15,000 to start with) and successive rounds result in multiple royal flushes with different suits as Ronan cumulatively doubles the spending money Annie gave him over the course of a couple of hours until finally a large man with a thuggish face and close-cropped hair whispers to the dealer and offers the PCs access to "the backroom." They accept and head back there.

Once in the back, the PCs win several more hands and win more cash - but win even bigger in the form of a "Grail" (a lesser version of the real thing) and supposedly the Ring of Solomon himself. Of course, Ronan bet Annie once to get this since she gave him full leeway in betting. A little annoyed, she agreed and the pot was increased. Eventually, the thuggish man comes in, sits down, and introduces himself as Michael Parrino - the owner of the establishment. The other backroom players leave and Parrino offers the PCs their choice of cash, spells, relics, or other supernatural doohickeys in exchange for what they had just one. Al picks out a few items from a cart that's rolled in getting some lesser things along with an odd sword and Youko's weapon. The betting is pretty intense and Parrino is a great player, but he loses to Ronan even though he's trying to cheat.

All the veins in the large man's head pop-out as he gets angry, but then calmly asks how the PCs knew about this place. Annie flat out decides to tell him it was Casanova as both parties realize they've been manipulated by the incubus. Parrino into possibly killing Annie and her group (unlikely) or Annie killing Parrino (more likely). Parrino asks them to leave, but before they can Ronan steals the item allowing him to cheat (a magical bolo tie made of turquoise, silver, and shaped like a coyote head). Annie asks Parrino if he really wants to do that and after he calms down a bit both he and Annie agree to a short-term mutual non aggression pact as Annie decides to hunt down the bastard that part her and her friends in danger.

Having a hunch, the PCs head to Casanova's nightclub to ask him about his little "tip" and realize he's not there. After ransacking the place a bit they find his books in a secret compartment extremely well-hidden (Al-Shams magical eye for the win). Going over them, the PCs realize he's made several new succubi in the last few months and has tried to increase his capital by setting up a gambling hall and doing pornographic movies using his stable of girls. They smell a rat and decide something is up and want to go find him or at least visit his other places of "business" and safehouses.

After Action Reports/Game Notes
I was REALLY set up for the PCs to start a fight and get some combat on . . . but they didn't. Because reasons. That kind of threw me for a loop. Instead, they just used Ronan to get what they wanted since he's a card sharp and while they worked well, they may have gotten the ire of some rich folks in the process. We'll see. +Pk Levine's poker rules - "Straight to the Flush" from Pyramid #3/59: Conspiracies worked beautifully and I'd happily use them again if needed.

I'm really digging the 10- to 15-minute talk at the end of the game where the PCs discuss what they want to do next - I'm probably going to do this for all applicable teams from now on.

The PCs straight up took the Mick for a ride. Introducing this character to the campaign as a whole has been a waiting game for me and the A-Team just got luck it was them. Michael "Mick" Parrino is a criminal with a plan to take over the Boston area crime and he's doing it from the top down. Scary smart, unafraid of death, and with his fingers in all the pies he may be one of the more dangerous personages in the Ceteri campaign setting.

Natiel had to miss a game, but since I had at least 60% of the rest of the group I continued it.

Session Soundtrack
"Street Fighting Man" by the Rolling Stones (opening song)
"Queen of Hearts" by Juice Newton (gambling scene)
"Way Down We Go" by Kaleo
"Gambler" by Kenny Rogers (leaving the gambling hall)
"Renegade" by Styx (closing song with Casanova on the run)

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Gamemaster's Guidepost: No Such Thing as a Free Lunch

Free lunches? I don't believe in them, well, when it comes to free stuff in a roleplaying game anyways. Now, I'm not talking about one woe for every weal - I'm talking about taking disadvantages and then weaseling out of actually playing them or suffering for them in some way. First, it's just bad roleplaying and second it's cheating. That's right. Cheating. They took those points and used them to increase their capabilities in some way, but don't want deal with how they were disadvantages in play.

There are a couple of ways you can handle this and I've thankfully only had to use them sparingly in my own campaigns.

"You Fall Onto Five Death Checks"
I think the idea of the antagonistic GM is awful. I'm a firm proponent of GMs and players working together. But sometimes when you play with antagonistic players (and I definitely don't think you should) you have to take action. I've a very simple rule: if a player isn't playing his disadvantages and refuse to take cues from the GM then I simply give him a -1 to his rolls per -5-points his disadvantages would be worth in a given situation. Bam! The points suddenly matter.

Sneaking Disadvantageous Effects Into NPC Interaction
Say you've got a player who took Bad Temper, but isn't playing it out - what do you do? Well, make NPCs react to them as if they were playing it out. Since they didn't do their job as a gamer do it for them and don't give them a choice on how the interaction plays out. Seems a bit harsh, but it does two things: 1) it lets the player "earn" those points for disadvantages and 2) it can create a feedback loop of reinforcement. Eventually, the player will get the idea or he'll just not take disadvantages for his character.

Picking Over the Bones
Now, you're reading this and thinking "Man! Those are terrible to do players!" And you're right. You never get hostile with a player if it's possible and if they get antagonistic I suggest you dump them and try to play without them.

Sometimes this isn't possible or you want to give them a chance. In the long run, players that you can rehabilitate will be rehabilitated and players that Want To Watch Your World Burn will still start the fire every time. I've long since lost patience for hostile players so my automatic reaction is just to kick them from the game - but not everyone can do that for various reasons.

How do you handle things like this in your game? What tricks and tips do you have? What sort of situations have you dealt with before in such circumstances.?

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Boil and Bubble: Detailed Ritual Path Magic Grimoires

A spellbook. A book of shadows. A grimoire. These are all names for the same thing: a formula for casting a spell. GURPS Thaumatology: Ritual Path Magic has rules for grimoires to use with the eponymous system, but that has a few assumptions built in from the book it originally appeared in (GURPS Monster Hunters 1: Champions). So what would a more detailed ruleset for grimoires look like? Well, wonder no further! I’ve got you covered...

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

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

The Hurt Locker: Spirit Phone

In Pyramid #3/82: Magical Creations I wrote “The Hunter’s Reliquary” which gave Monster Hunters champions a new tool in their arsenal: relics. I didn’t have enough space for all relics, so here’s another one of the leftovers...

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

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

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Gamemaster's Guidepost: Slow Lane Sessions

They happen to everyone eventually. The game you're running or playing in bogs down. Whether this is because the players (or GM) don't know what to do next or the players (or GM) runs on a "tangent" (non-gaming related talk at the table) or something else. It happens. It's not something you can really stop or prevent from happening, but it is something you can prepare for and thus minimize the effects. Here's a list of some of my favorite tactics to escape a bogged down game.

"Two Goons With Guns Jump Out At You!"
So the players (or the GM and some of the players) are debating on what to do next and it's turned into a 3 hour debate (a 3 hour debate) and you keep rolling your eyes and trying to interject and . . . you are ignored. What do you do? Well, if you're a GM the best thing is to just toss in something unexpected at the players to get their attention. Start a combat. Bring in a screaming NPC who begs for help. Do something to draw the attention to the game.

I Wanna Do Something Crazy
If you're a player the best thing you can do is to be impulsive. Normally, I'd say "No, never do this. It's bad gaming etiquette," but in this case (and used sparingly) it can help get the game going again. Basically, as one of my player's characters would say "I wanna do something crazy!" Be in the moment. Do whatever you think is right at the time and do not analyze it. Pretend you're wearing Nike's and Just Do It.

Thou Shalt Have No Table-Talk
Some GMs find comfort in a strict policy of "If it's not related to the game we're not talking about it." I personally like to give everyone plenty of time to chat and catch for 15 to 60 minutes and then enforce this rule as much as possible. Most players will respect it, but some will balk at the restraints and do their best to circumvent it. When that happens give them a warning and make sure everyone knows what happens when the rule is violated. If they persist then enforce it. If they keep on - boot them.

The GM is usually elected by the players to run the game and therefore he is the collective will of the group. If they can't respect that then they likely aren't worth playing with.

Picking Over the Bones
I could probably go on forever with a post topic like this - I've had a lot of players to practice on - good and bad. When you've been running roleplaying games 1-2 times a week for 24 years you pick things up. It's just inevitable. You make a lot of mistakes and if you're smart you learn how to not make them again. (If you have good players you probably won't have to make as many.)

What sort of things do you do in your games? What best practices do you use to get back in the fast lane? What tips do you have for your fellow GMs?

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Chronicles of Ceteri - A-Team - S00E11 - Given Up for Dead, Part III

Dramatic Personae
  • Sir Al-Shams mac Lannageal aka Al MacLannageal (played by +Christian Gelacio): Man out of time. The Last Templar Knight. Warrior. Scholar. Sorcerer. Carries the Blood of Solomon and is the benighted grandchild of Brigid.
  • Annalise "Annie" M. Murphy (played by +Ann LS): Exorcist extraordinaire, sorcerer, psychic, twice cursed and twice blessed monster hunter. Ex-Gladius Dei. The Murphy. Talks to God, sometimes He talks back.
  • Dr. Francesco "Frankie" Novella (played by +Troy Loy): Doctor and accidental hero. Surgeon with a shotgun. Unflappable. Logical. Sometimes literal. No sense of humor. Always capable.
  • Nimbus (NPC Ally): Free-willed tulpa that can assume any shape living or unliving. Prefers being an orange cat with white socks or a Model-J Duesenberg. Why? Because. That's why.
  • Ronan Sloane aka The Gunslinger (NPC Ally): Dead man. Dullahan. Master sorcerer and shootist. Monster Hunter.
  • Youko Muramasa (played by +Natiel Leealexander): Master blacksmith and enchanter. Member of one of the Five Families of Kagutsuchi (descendent of the Japanese god of forges and fire).

The PCs have gained a new ally - a Japanese blacksmith with the ability to forge magical items. Annie has agreed to protect her since Youko's oathbound bodyguard has called in a tessera (a supernaturally enforced "marker" or favor) to do so. With the rest of her fianna having shown up at the house, the PCs wait for a call from Casanova to find the location of the man who has her sword.

War Councils and Fried Chicken
Al MacLannageal, Annie Murphy, Dr. Frankie Novella, & Youko Muramasa
The Shadowed Heights
Friday, October 29th, 1999, 9:00 pm
7 Cathaoir Road, Murphy Island, Boston, MA 02171

The PCs eat and talk about what they are going to do to get back Youko's sword when Casanova calls. An hour or so later, Casanova calls Annie and informs her that he bet the sword to a guy who works for "the Mick" - a small-time mobster living in South End. Frankie, Youko, and Ronan want to go in and just kick butt, but it's Annie that decides they should be diplomatic first - no need to make enemies when they don't have to. In fact, she, Youko, and Ronan know how to play cards at a professional level and decide to try to stake something (money or relics) to try and get Youko's sword back.

The PCs then begin to plan the possible outcomes and chat as they continue to get to know one another.

After Action Reports/Game Notes
This session was a lot of back and forth between the player characters and I mostly just listened in or played NPCs when they were included in the conversation. Due to massive traffic a third of the group arrived late again so we started about 90 minutes past the scheduled time. Then I got a headache from hell so intense that I literally had to blindfold myself because the light hurt me. I tried to run for about 20 minutes - but it wasn't working so I called the game off and the players meandered home somewhat disappointed. To make up for this I plan on running the casino bit online on Wednesday using the excellent rules from +Pk Levine's "Straight to the Flush." Which should be great fun.

Session Soundtrack
"The Skyw Boat Song (Outlander Theme)" by Kathryn Jones and Raya Yarbough (opening song)
"Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen
"Paper Doll" by Fleetwood Mac
"Suppertime" by Ella Fitzgerald (while eating)
"I Guess I'll Have To Change My Plan" by Frank Sinatra (closing song)