Friday, September 29, 2017

Gamemaster's Guidepost: How Much Lore Is Hidden?

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

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

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

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

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

So what standby rules do you have for Hidden Lore?

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

GURPS101: Preparation Required New Modifiers

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 22, 2017

Designer's Notes - Born to Be Wild

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

GURPS101: Accessibility Modifiers For Number of Skills

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 15, 2017

Boil and Bubble: Sorcerous Video Game Spells I

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

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

Here's the highlights for me from August 2017.

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

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

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

Friday, September 8, 2017

GURPS101: FP Cost Limited by Margin

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

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

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

A few examples:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Gamemaster's Guidepost: Organizing Your Gaming Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 3, 2017

GURPS101: Alternate Forms as Fake IDs

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

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

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

Boil and Bubble: Utility Spells for Sorcery Part I

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

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

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