Saturday, February 22, 2014

Session Report: Exploits of the Virtuous Sparrow Episode II

Interlude Crawl Between Episodes I and II:


Crawl for Episode II:


For those of you who haven't read the prior session report, the following is the layout for the session reports for this campaign. Feel free to scroll to whatever interests you (though the mechanics part is really in context to the story, so you might want to at least read the portions that apply to the footnotes if you're just looking to see how it went mechanically)

The Players
The Story
Mechanical Footnotes
End Result
XP Handed Out

The Players
Ashley - Ama'reeha, a Twi'lek Colonist (career) Doctor (specialization) with a major (30 Obligation (from 35 because of addition of a fourth player)

Paul - Xavin, a Human Smuggler (career) Scoundrel (specialization) with a good (17 Obligation) Debt to Teemo the Hutt and a minor (5 Obligation) addiction to gambling (and cheating at said vice).

Sean - Cole Zannah, a Human Hired Gun (career) Mercenary Soldier (specialization) with a large (25 Obligation) bounty on his head from sleeping with a Planetary Governor's daughter and a minor (5 Obligation) addiction to alcohol.

Ben (new) - Nyluk, a Rodian Techniciann (career) Slicer (specialization) with a decent (15 Obligation) Bounty on his head.

The Story (Please note, any bolded numbers in parentheses are mechanical notes I will discuss in the footnotes section)

After receiving a warning from a rodian slicer named Nyluk who was looking to join the group, the crew of the Virtuous Sparrow fled Formos just before the bounty hunters sent by Velman Berikor arrived to capture Cole Zannah (this is touched on in the Interlude crawl above). They flee to the Corellia Sector and set settle down temporarily on the Gus Treta Inner System Market Station. Knowing they need to get out from under the shadow of Cole's bounty, they decide to get in with famed Infochant Liddy Ravora, proprietor of Bell's Cantina (see Episode II crawl). Xavin disappears on a gambling holiday.

On their way back through the Pirates Shadow asteroid field, they are ambushed by Twi'lek pirate Sil Dulana, who wants the rare Tralusian wine they are transporting for himself. He attacks with his freighter while two of his cohorts zip in from either side in TIE Uglies. Cole gets the drop on them though (1) and immediately flips the Sparrow around so Nyluk in the dorsal gun and Ama'reeha in the ventral can get shots off.

After some give and take, one of the asteroids drifts into the Sparrow's path, but Nyluk notices that it has actually been hollowed out and is a cleverly-designed mini space-station. Having already taken heavy damage but causing little (2), the Sparrow spins around again and fights to escape the asteroid field before they can be destroyed. Cole is fairly certain that once free of the field, Dulana will give up the chase and turn back around. He is correct (3).

Having provided Ravora with the wine for her cantina, she tells them she knows of two jobs available that could potentially help the crew out of their predicament. One is a job for a client who wishes to remain anonymous and involves extracting a datapad from a ship downed in the swamps of Talus. The other is a job for Gormo Vesadii Grasso, the Hutt who owns the very space station they are on. The Hutt has been losing credits on what he feels are rigged illegal swoop races (not rigged by him anyway) and he needs it investigated and handled. The crew discusses things over drinks and ultimately they let the flip of a coin make the decision. They are going to infiltrate a swoop race ring.

The first order of business for the trio is to obtain a swoop bike and ascertain when and where the races are held as well as how to get involved in one. Nyluk quickly comes up with the answer to the latter while Ama'reeha asks around about any underground Sabacc games that could end up with swoop bikes in the pot (4). After both obtain their respective information, they head over to the Sabacc game (5).

The plan for the Sabacc game is simple. Cole will play straight up while Nyluk and Ama'reeha cheat their hearts out. Between the three of them, they are sure one of them can get the stakes high enough for Grenzo (one of the players) to put up one of his many swoops. Things start out well enough with the PCs winning hand after hand as the stakes steadily increase. Then, their luck changes (6) and the losing starts. Before long, Cole is knocked out and leaves the back room for the cantina proper. Soon after, Ama'reeha has been ousted (though not caught cheating). She attempts to make nice with one of the other players but fails and begins loitering at the table.

Nyluk wins the following hand, forcing Grenzo to put up a swoop or bow out. The rodian does so and the next hand begins. Nyluk wins the pot easily, but as he goes to collect his winnings, his computerized cheating is discovered and the entire table draws guns on him (7). The owner of Bovo's (where the game takes place) says that Nyluk can leave in one piece, for some unknown reason. He agrees and exits, as does Ama'reeha, who has managed to slip the pink slip for the swoop bike into her pocket (8).

The three immediately race to turn in the pink slip for the bike before word spreads. They get it and have it sent to get refitted and prepped for the race the following day. On their way to where they are staying they're stopped by a Corsec officer and two squads and arrested for disturbing the peace. Nyluk recognizes that this is small potatoes for a Corsec squad and that they are likely corrupt. Ama'reeha and Cole, in the middle of surrendering draw down and prepare to fight.

The battle goes well for the crew of the Sparrow, though the officer is harder to take down than expected (9). Nyluk tosses a grenade into one of the groups, immediately dropping on of the three officers. Ama'reeha and Cole fight as well, though Cole gets fairly injured during the battle. Eventually, damaged but standing, the three emerge victorious. Then, they have an idea. They gather up the weapons and vests and badges from the bodies as well as the datapad from the officer, then take the bodies and sneak it all to the alley behind Bovo's after close.

Nyluk reprograms the datapad, making it clear it is blackmail being used against the officer by the owner of Bovo's (one of the players in the game) for the officer's dirty dealings. He then hacks his way through the security of the back door while Zannah and Ama'reeha dump the bodies in a dumpster in back. The crew then  heads into the empty cantina, watching out for the patrolling guard due back in four minutes. Ama'reeha spots a safe. While Nyluk hacks into it and Zannah plants vests and badges in a locker, they hear someone approaching. The guard is making his rounds two minutes early (10)! Ama'reeha quickly puts on her best drunk face and exits out the back, pretending to be drunk and moves to intercept the guard while the other two planet the datapad and hack Corsec's security from the bar to leave the breadcrumbs. They escape out the back and Ama'reeha extricates herself from the guard. Lastly, the fake an assault on Ama'reeha in the back alley, making sure someone calls in to Corsec and the bodies get discovered. Then they flee and head for the race.

The race is a success. Cole pilots their new swoop and discovers the gang of racers was cheating by laying traps on the course that appeared to be natural terrain. They recorded the entire thing and bring it back to Bell's Cantina as evidence. They arrive, smiling and happy, only to have Ravora frantically asking them if they have any contraband on board their ship. The crew races to the hangar to see what she's talking about only to find the Sparrow crawling with Corsec agents who have already removed Ama'reeha's crates of spice from the cargo hold. They are approached by a well-dressed Drall who tells them if they had handled his employer's job first, their ship wouldn't currently be locked in the hangar bay pending potential charges. He then says they'd best board a shuttle for Talus immediately to handle things.

Mechanical Footnotes
1 - The group rolled one exceptional initiative roll, putting one of their slots at the top of the order. They decided Sean should take it so he could point the ship in the proper direction to fire on their pursuers.
2 - The dice were just NOT the gang's friends for this fight. Crummy rolls on their end paired with AMAZING rolls on the part of Dulana meant within a couple of rounds the Sparrow was almost totalled.
3 - Cole makes a three difficulty Knowledge: Outer Rim check, which allowed him to know how Dulana's crew normally works.
4 - Nyluk made a Knowledge: Underworld check to obtain information on illegal swoop racing while Ama'reeha went with Streetwise to ask around about local high stakes Sabacc games.
5 - I wasn't expecting this (touch on this more in the End Results section), but in the Suns of Fortune sourcebook (the sourcebook for Corellia), one of the new modular encounters fit the bill perfectly. Modular encounters are encounters present in sourcebooks that can be used to fill out adventures or be dropped in anywhere as needed. In this case, it worked out great.
6 - In the modular encounter, the proprietor and his cronies want to suck in the PCs, so they start by losing. A lot. Then, once the PCs are invested, they start cheating and actively working against them. How this worked out in play was that the difficulty for the appropriate checks were two difficulty dice. Once the cheating on the NPCs' part started however, it was upped to two purple dice and a red die (the proprietor's Skulduggery skill), as well as one black die for each NPC still in the game. I didn't think my players would actually fall for the ruse, but they did.
7 - Ben, Nyluk's player. Rolled AWESOME on his last Computers roll for cheating. Unfortunately, he also rolled a Despair symbol on the red difficulty die, meaning that he was CAUGHT cheating.
8 - While the NPCs are distracted by Nyluk, Ashley had Ama'reeha make a Skulduggery check to palm the pink slip for the swoop.
9 - The officer was a Nemesis level NPC. Something common among these types of NPCs is that they have a talent called Adversary. For each point in Adversary someone has, every skill check made against them increases the difficulty by 1. It doesn't sound like much but it REALLY takes a toll.
10 - I didn't plan the guard coming back early (or this encounter at all, see the End Results section below), but Ben made Nyluk's computer roll to hack the safe's lock and, while he did succeed, he also netted three Threats. I interpreted that to mean the guard was ahead of schedule on his rounds.

End Result
This adventure was interesting for several reasons:

First, it was the first one I ran that I put together myself instead of going with something pre-published.

Second, we have a fairly limited time frame to play and the PCs went off the rails after fighting Corsec. I had zero inkling that they were going to get back at the owner of Borvo's for ousting them for cheating. So, I gave them an option. I said they can choose one of the encounters for me to simply narrate over and have them succeed at it. They can either plant the Corsec stuff at the cantina without playing it out, or they can do the swoop race infiltration without playing it out. They decided they wanted to focus on the vengeance and narrate over the swoop race, so that's what we did. And, as is often the case, the completely unplanned scenario was the best part of the session.

Third (though it ties in with my second point), the entire thrust of this adventure was meant to be the swoop race and infiltrating the ring. We didn't play that out at all, I simply narrated what happened and sent them back to the space station. And that was awesome.

So yeah, there were a few hinks (particularly with the space combat as, for some reason, I can never get the down in ANY Star Wars RPG), but overall everyone had a blast and we can't wait to play again. I've decided, since we play every two weeks, two do up an Interlude crawl on the Saturday way don't play to keep the players jazzed for the game the following week, and then an actual crawl for the next episode that I play for them immediately before the next session. We'll see how that works out.

XP Handed Out
20 (15 for the adventure itself and 5 just for the awesome role playing and ingenuity of the entire group)

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Star Wars Edge of the Empire: Exploits of the Virtuous Sparrow #1


First, SPOILER alert: If you think you might or are about to play in the EotE Core Rules prebuilt adventure Trouble Brewing, you might not want to read this. Following session reports will be based around custom adventures so should wreak no havoc on your spoiler-free lives.

Second, this will be the layout for the session reports from this campaign. Feel free to scroll to whatever interests you (though the mechanics part is really in context to the story, so you might want to at least read the portions that apply to the footnotes if you're just looking to see how it went mechanically).
The Players
The Story
Mechanical Footnotes
End Result
XP Handed Out

The Players
Ashley - Ama'reeha, a Twi'lek Colonist (career) Doctor (specialization) with a major (35 Obligation) addiction to Glitterstims.

Paul - Xavin, a Human Smuggler (career) Scoundrel (specialization) with a good (25 Obligation) Debt and a minor (5 Obligation) addiction to gambling (and cheating at said vice)

Sean - Cole Zannah, a Human Hired Gun (career) Mercenary Soldier (specialization) with a large (30 Obligation) bounty on his head and a minor (5 Obligation) addiction to alcohol.

The Story (Please note, any bolded numbers in parentheses are mechanical aspects I will discuss in the footnotes section)

After fleeing Tatooine in the Krayt Fang, a YT-2400 freighter (see the Beginner Box adventure, though I switched the Fang from a 1300 to 2400 because my players didn't want to fly in a M.F.-lookalike), Xavin was contacted by Teemo the Hutt and threatened that if he didn't pay for the ship, the smuggler would be hunted to the ends of the galaxy. So, after Xavin got Teemo to change the registration on the ship to be registered as the "Virtuous Sparrow," that is exactly where they went.

After stepping out onto Formos for a breather and to lay low while planning their next move, the group spotted a seedy rodian doing a not-so-great job of shadowing them. While Xavin and Ama'reeha walked down a side alley towards the local cantina, Cole stepped off to the side, switching his blaster carbine to stun and waiting for the rodian.  One shot all but dropped the rodian. It was immediately discovered that the rodian was expecting  a group much like theirs to deliver cargo to his boss. After realizing the group was not, in fact, that of Dash Rendar's, the three companions sent him on his way (after extorting 100 credits in drinking money from him).

Continuing towards the cantina, the group hears noises coming from a trash compacter off to the side of the building. Within they discover J9-B8, a protocol droid that has been torn apart and all but destroyed. Ama'reeha checks the extent of the damage and discovers the droid is irreparably damaged. However, it does tell them that its companion, R4-W9 had a restraining bolt placed on it and was taken away by a group of thugs. Before permanently deactivating, the protocol droid begs them to find its friend. The group does so and once the droid has passed, they promptly have Ama'reeha dismantle it for what parts might still be resellable.

Inside the cantina, the crew sees bustling activity, as well as a holovid announcing an Imperial bounty on Bandin Dobah, an Aqualish pirate to the tune of 10,000 credits (dead or alive). Grumbling murmurs happen throughout the bar and it appears this pirate has been making life difficult for the local smugglers as he's put a chokehold on all good local jobs and intimidated any who stand against him. 

A local information broker, a Devaronian named Snoo, pulls Xavin aside and for 50 credits, gives him information about the Aqualish, as well as stating that there is also a 5,000 credit bounty on him (alive) from Thakba Besadii Diori, a minor Hutt kingpin who wants to keep a good relationship with the spice smugglers of Formos. This is an alternative for those who don't want to be caught up in Imperial red tape. Xavin returns to the crew's table and informs them of this.

Zukata, a rodian girl, enters the cantina and approaches the bar, flashing a smile at Xavin as she passes. Soon after three thugs (two humans and a weequay) walk in. Two of them sit while the third immediately begins hitting on the rodian. Xavin stands and tells the thug to leave her alone. Spir (the thug) starts bragging about how the smuggler doesn't want trouble with him because of his boss. In the middle of his tirade, Xavin punches the man, taking him more by surprise than actually hurting him (1)

At this point, a bar brawl breaks out. Ama'reeha escorts Zukata to a private, curtained booth to keep her safe while Cole takes a shot at Spir, dropping him to the ground. Then, the Weequay thug stands and attacks Cole with a vibroknife, getting a good shot in. At this point, the second human (Daro, obviously the leader) grabs Spir's unconscious form and drags him out of the cantina while the weequay continues to battle the crew. Ama'reeha rushes forward to inject Cole with a stimpack and takes a shot at the weequay herself, knocking him unconscious. Cole punches the unconscious form several times, scoring a critical during which the weequay's head smashes into a barstool, killing him.

As the crew checks that Zukata is ok, she informs them that though she is here to map out routes for the rodian Bounty Hunters Guild, she is also concerned about her brother, Godon Nekatta. He supposedly arrived on Formos several weeks ago looking to cash in on Bandin Dobah's bounty and hasn't been seen since. The crew says that they will keep their eyes peeled as they are now also planning on cashing in on the bounty. This is when Cole notices a Toydarian eavesdropping on them. The alien flashes Cole a toothy grin before fluttering quickly out of the cantina.

The crew follows the Toydarian to see where he is heading. Cole and Xavin easily remain hidden, but the drug-addled doctor would have given herself away excep Cole dragged her into hiding with him (2). They follow the alien to a warehouse and go  inside.

Cole sneaks up to a window to listen in and discovers the Toydarian spilling the beans on them to Daro, who wants payback against the crew but doesn't want to anger the "Big Boss," Dobah. Spir sits sullenly next to him while a group of three thugs and another smuggler are in a far corner. This is when Cole tosses in two stun grenades. Both find their mark (3). The Toydarian, Daro, and Spir all immediately drop to the ground, unconscious. The remaining four race out the back door and flee.

Inside the base, the crew finds R4-W9 hooked up to a computer, inactive. They use a tool found on Daro to remove the restraining bolt and reactivate the astromech droid. The droid begins to wail at Xavin when it discovers that its companion is gone, swearing revenge against Dobah. Xavin invites it to join them and it agrees, at least until Dobah is neutralized.

While this conversation is going on, Cole removes anything of interest from their unconscious opponents and bound them. Ama'reeha examines the computer that R4 was hooked up to. She is distracted by information about a glitterstim shipment and doesn't find anything immediately pertinent, but does find some file called "Pass" that is meant to be some sort of radio frequency code intended to transmit from a ship (4).

The crew drags Daro back to their own ship after leaving Spir and the Toydarian to a group of angry fringers and question him violently (5). After one blow he immediately gives up the details as to where Bandin Dobah keeps his base hidden and informs them of a sentry droid patrolling it that requires a ship transponder code to get by without hassle. Cole calls the local constabulary and gives the minor smuggler up for 300 credits.

Once they arrive at Dobah's asteroid, Ama'reeha make runs sensors and finds life forms on the planet, as well as a several ships and the sentry droid. They use the Pass file and the droid lets them enter unaccosted. The Virtuous Sparrow docks with the landing bay and the crew prepares a crate as a ruse. Three guards meet them in the bay and ask to inspect the shipment. As they are opening it, Cole, Xavin, And Ama'reeha open fire and drop them. (6). The ambush works but sets off the alarms in the base.

The crew first heads to the escape pod, where one of the two remaining life forms was discovered by Ama'reeha's sensor use. They want to make sure it isn't Dobah preparing to escape. Instead, they find Godon Nekatta. His ship was damaged as he was coming to take Dobah in, but the Aqualish showed him mercy and offered him a position on his ship instead. The young rodian is obviously torn between loyalty to the pirate who saved him and his duty to his Guild. Xavin talks to him about his sister, Zukata, and begs him to do the right thing (7). Nekatta agrees and waits on the Sparrow, which Xavin is certain to lock down in case the rodian gets any funny ideas.

Then the crew makes their way to the cockpit. They open the door and Cole chucks in a grenade, missing by a mile. Dobah then charges forward with a vibroaxe, doing a great amount of damage to the merc. Xavin and Ama'reeha both attempt to get shots off but fail (8).

Cole attempts to grab Dobah's axe and knee him, but misses and injures himself against the metal haft of the axe instead (9). Xavin hits the Aqualish, as does Ama'reeha, almost dropping him. Then, the pirate raises his axe for the killing blow against the badly wounded Cole. The mercenary dodges out of the way and Dobah hits a sturdy metal pylon, shattering the axe (10). Cole quickly turns things around and drops the pirate with a stun blast from his carbine.

The crew hauls Dobah away, deciding to turn him over to the Hutt after reuniting Nekatta with his sister. They turn Dobah over to the Hutt for 5,000 credits and watch him die in an arena battle. They also sell two of the three crates of glitterstim they found in Dobah's hideout to Diori for a total of 5,000 credits (keeping one to feed Ama'reeha's addiction for awhile). On their way back to Formos, , Teemo contacts Xavin and expects his first payment of 5,000, which the smuggles send him (11).

Formos hails the crew as freedom fighters and heroes, inviting them to stay as long as they would like and welcoming them to the refuge as one of their own. However, the crew of the Virtuous Sparrow has other ideas in mind...

Mechanical Footnotes
1 - EotE talks about what each die type means when interpreting a roll. Basically, a boost die success is attributed to environmental factors, or dumb luck. Since Xavin's only success came from the boost die, I ruled that the only reason he got the punch in is because Spir was taken completely by surprise instead of due to any skill on Xavin's part.
2 -  I allowed a Triumph Sean rolled on his Stealth check to act as allowing his stealth roll to cover them both.
3 - Dual wielding in EotE is pretty cool. Assuming both skills are the same, you up the difficulty of the attack by 1. If you manage to hit, you may spend a Triumph or three Advantage to hit with both weapons, adding your net successes to both. In this instance, Cole hit with a Triumph, enough to activate damage on both stun grenades.
4 - If Ama'reeha had gotten any successes, she would have received the information Daro gives the crew later on in the ship. Since she netted 3 Advantage, however, she did find the Pass file, though had no context with which to understand it until Daro gave them that info as well.
5 - Sean wanted to use violence, so I allowed him to pair Coerce with Brawn instead of the normal Will. Ashley and Paul both had their characters assist, thus adding 2 Boost dice to the roll.
6 - My first use of minions went well, although they didn't get an chance to attack prior to dropping. This is probably the most bookkeeping I've had to mess with in a session. Minion groups base their skills around the total present in the group.
7 - A very successful charm roll assisted by Ashley and Sean.
8 - This is the first time PCs have gone up against a Nemesis and have to face the Adversary talent. Dobah has Adversary of 2, which upgrades the difficulty of ALL attack rolls against him by 2. Factor this in with the fact that they are firing blasters at an opponent engaged with an ally, and that's a total of 2 purple dice and one red added to the difficulty. Basically, EXTREMELY B.A.
9 - Sean netted 2 Threats on his roll, causing him to take 2 Strain.
10 - He rolled a Despair on a difficulty die that had been upgraded by use of a Destiny Point, thus causing something very bad to happen.
11 - Each point of Xavin's Debt Obligation costs 5,000 credits to buy off, I've decided

End Result
This was Ashley and Paul's second very successful session (the first being the Beginner's Box) and Sean's first (he played in the GM Toolkit adventure, which left much to be desired). I wanted to make sure all three of my players had a good feel of how a session SHOULD go, so they would know what to expect from the campaign. Everyone had a great time, Sean got to see what an adventure that played out well looks like, and everyone is excited to come back for Episode 2 in two weeks!

XP Handed Out
25 per character (20 for taking care of Dobah and 5 for finding and dealing with the glitterstim shipments)



Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Janus Project - What Is It? (JP Design Journal #1)

The Time Heroes project is moving along well. I've just received the edits for the sample adventure "Alexander of Bebopedonia" which is the last chapter that was off to the editor. Once I've had a chance to make those revisions, it will be time to figure out where art will go and then send everything off to +Jacob Wood for layout work! This will likely take place in early October.

In the meantime, while waiting for edits to come back, I began making revisions to the Janus Project. It is likely this will be GWO's second RPG, once Time Heroes is finished and out. What is the Janus Project, you ask? Why, the topic of today's blog entry!

The Game's History
Once upon a time, in 2012, there was  an online kingdom called RPGGeek. In this kingdom, lords and ladies came from all ends of the kingdom once a year to participate in a gruelling 24-hour marathon. It was a test of wits, and game play, and fortitude. Each participant had 24 hours to pen a game of roles and submit it to be voted upon by all members of the kingdom.

One of lords, called MasterGeek (as well as a few others), requested an additional challenge: Three words that must be included in the game in some aspect or other. The three words chosen by one of the Dukes of RPGGeek were Accessibility, Reactor, and Phase. One of those words was, fairly normal. The other two, however, vexed MasterGeek until finally, they meshed together. The rest of the game rose up around those two words, and thus the Janus Project was born.

Right, so I think I've stretched the attempt at bedtime story-ing the history as far as it will go. The point is, the Janus Project started out as a thrown-together (and not winning, for the curious, for good reason) system to enter in my first RPG contest. While the game as submitted didn't pull any awards, I haven't been able to stop thinking about it.

The Lore
Earth is overpopulated. Has been for as long as anyone alive can remember. Nations don’t fight over moral disagreements anymore, or even political. They fight over food and space for their people to live. Pollution has devastated large portions of the world, lowering even further the available space to inhabit.
We tried for many years to find a way to colonize space. Every attempt failed drastically, ending each time with the deaths of all volunteers. Things were looking bleak.

Then a group of scientists discovered Eden. This wasn’t a new planet, but a dimension that runs perpendicular to our own where magic, instead of technology, evolved. At the place where the two meet is a natural weak spot. However, we found that we couldn’t colonize Eden, at least not in the normal way, without endangering those who already lived there. That’s when the Janus Project began and the creation of the Reactors became necessary…

I figured the best way to give a brief synopsis of the world is by stealing part of the introduction from the 24-hour contest document. However, I should probably expand on that a bit.

Scientists found that biological matter could not pass through weak points, but inanimate matter and radio waves, brain waves, etc. can. When they discovered this, scientists found that if a resident of Eden with compatible brain waves could be found, someone from earth could ride along like a passenger inside their head. At first the scientists merely observed the world they called Eden, but they soon discovered they could communicate with their host. When a scientist's body died while she was touring Eden, she discovered (thanks to her host) that their two personalities could merge into one, becoming one being with the memories of both. This is where everything went wrong.

Some of the less altruistic of Earth found that, by destroying their bodies once their personalities were riding in the mind of an Eden resident, they could overpower their host, thus leaving only the Earth personality intact. In the world of Eden (and then to those of Earth who wanted to prevent this), they became known as Ravagers.

The response of Earth was not overwhelming disgust, but there were groups around the world unwilling to devastate another world simply so humanity could survive. These people made contact with members of Eden, creating the Janus Project. This project consisted of Earth folk willing to sacrifice their physical bodies to merge peacefully with a willing resident of Eden in order to prevent the Ravagers from wiping out a civilization in an attempt to save Earth's.

That's an extremely basic history of the game world. The PCs are Reactors, those of Earth and Eden whose brain waves react favorably to each other, allowing them to merge into one being when the Earth body dies. Reactors are able to switch dominant phases of the personality. When the Eden half of the personality is at the forefront, the Reactor can utilize the magic of Eden. When the Earth half is dominant, she can harness and command the nanites behind the tech of Earth that is able to be transported between the dimensions. Groups of Reactors work together to keep the Ravagers from completely decimating the ecology of Eden.

In the next JP Design Journal entry, I'll be going over the basic game mechanics. The new goal is to get at least one GWO Blog entry posted a week, preferably 2. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Time Heroes - Kickstarter Experiences and Chase Mechanics


Wow, it has been too long since I've done any updating on the blog, and I'm aware I still owe a part two to the Eternal GM topic I started on prior to the Time Heroes Kickstarter, but hey, who know managing a Kickstarter project was such hard work? If you haven't had a chance to see how the Kickstarter has been going, feel free to check it out: Time Heroes Kickstarter Project.

Kickstarter Experience
I've been doing quite a few things to try and spread the word about the Kickstarter project. There hasn't been a crazy rush of backers like I've seen for a few other RPG projects, but there has definitely been an amount I'm pleased with. At this point, I'm extremely confident that we will fund and possibly hit a couple of the stretch goals. Of course, there's still time to hit most, if not all of them, so who knows? Anyway, here are a few of the ways I've tried to spread the word about the Time Heroes KS, for those of you curious or looking for ideas on how to promote your own.

RPG Communities - I'm an active participant over at +RPG Geek (more the main website than the community, though, truth to tell). That made it the perfect place to make an announcement as I'm known, and have friends, there. I also posted on RPG.net and asked +Russell Morrissey to post a link in his news feed for EN World, which he was kind enough to do.

Social Networking - Yup. Google Plus and Facebook is the way to go. I've been making sure my updates get over to both social networking sites and I know several new backers resulted from it. I am also currently running a FB ad (only $25 total) that links to the KS and I've gotten at least one backer off of that. I also used the networks to ask people in the industry like +Fred Hicks if he wouldn't mind giving it a look, and have gotten some great tips from +Steve Russell , who recently finished the successful Lords of Gossamer and Shadow Kickstarter project and +Kevin Mickelson, the man behind the Berserkon Kickstarter. My social networks have been a great way to both boost the signal for my project as well as get advice on running a successful Kickstarter. If I had one recommendation for people new to Kickstarters, it would be: Don't be afraid to approach industry pros. In my experience, they have been extremely friendly and more than happy to help a new RPG Designer get off the ground.

Additionally, I've picked up some great items to offer via the Kickstarter from social networking. +Jacob Poss is offering up his Defenders of Amaranthia Fate Core setting as a stretch goal, which I have gladly accepted. +Amanda Mickelson has just agreed to make some Cthulhu plushies that I can offer as add-ons to any reward level. Both of these items are sure to help boost the funds Time Heroes ultimately raises.

Lastly, having a presence on G+ recently lead to my being approached by +Stacey Chancellor, one of the hosts of Fate Points, and now I'll be a guest on the show June 17, right around the time the Kickstarter hits the one week remaining mark.

Physical Presence - I backed the Berserkon Kickstarter at the Artisan level, so that I could have an artist's table setup there. We made a banner with sample artwork from +Melissa Gay on it and had it manned by kind volunteers the entire weekend of the convention (I had intended on being there more myself, but ended up running back-to-back Time Heroes sessions the entire weekend). 

This gave a couple of boosts to the Kickstarter. First, there was hands-on experience available. I ran about ten sessions of the game over the course of the weekend, and I know several of the people who played turned around and backed the project (a couple even mid-session). This was fantastic in and of itself, but this also gave me the chance to run the game for the likes of +Joanna Gaskell and +Brian Lewis. Even +Bill Cavalier stopped by to visit about the game. What started as simply wanting to be able to run the game to let people see how it plays turned into a surprise chance to boost the signal a bit by running for some gaming celebrities. Trust me, no matter how small the con, if there's one you can get to to promote your project (particularly as it's running), DO IT.




The second boost to the Kickstarter came from the fact that I was able to be interviewed for the local news and for a podcast. I'm not sure that these resulted in anyone backing the project, but it's quite possible (and in either case, was a lot of fun).

Chase Mechanics
The second part of today's blog post is about me (possibly) changing how chases work in Time Heroes.

As they stand now, chases in Time Heroes are resolved just like they would be in Fate Core. However, thinking back on Saturday morning cartoons, I seem to recall chasing happening a lot. Maybe even once or twice an episode. As I thought about this, I decided maybe it would be a good idea to make chases have a more prominent role in the game. From there I decided to add a Chase Stress Track to the Physical and Mental ones.

I think that the stress track itself will be based on Athletics. Yes, Athletics is already used for quite a bit, but I can't think of a better skill to use. I'm debating possibly dropping Athletics as a defense against Fight to balance it out better. So, this means that the Chase track will have its boxes determined the same way Physical and Mental do.

Additionally, chases are more of a "between scenes" situation. When someone can no longer take Chase stress, it merely will determine the way the next scene starts for the players. As an example, in the "Rise of the Plushies" episode, there is a scene where the players are chasing H.P. Lovecraft through city streets as he attempts to reach the field to complete a ritual. No matter how the chase scene turns out, the next scene will take place at the football field. The difference between success and failure will simply be whether they get there before Lovecraft has jumped into the ritual or if they arrive as he's nearly completed it.

With that in mind, I think I will be having the Chase track not involve the ability to take consequences. Also, in all likelihood, I'll probably have the chase be the ultimate chase roll determined by the PC with the lowest Chase track (the speed of the group is determined by the slowest member, after all), with the other PCs able to assist.

The full mechanics haven't been worked out yet, but that's about as far as I've gotten. I may end up also adding a Chase skill to the franchise and use THAT to determine how many "hits" the group can take before they fail, which would require changing the way franchises are built. Anyway, that is a start on how I'd kind of like to envision the new mechanic.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Time Heroes - The Kickstarter Launches!

After months of preparations and waiting, the time has finally come! I've finished the beta draft and the quick-start packet. Sadly, due to separation from the original Time Heroes artist, the quick-start packet is currently artless (though Justin was kind enough to allow me to keep the logo, which is awesome!). However, it still exists, which is ok by me.

Due to this separation, I found myself in a position to find a new illustrator for the project. I was lucky enough to contact none other than the extremely talented +Melissa Gay who has worked on varied projects from the Dresden Files RPG (also Fate-based) to Mermain Adventures. I am certainly extremely excited to have her on board this project and glad that she saw fit to provide me with an image to include in the Kickstarter!

Now, the past couple of days have been pretty busy (in a good way). My fiancee, +Ashley Ishmael graduated from RN school yesterday and today she and I set a date for our wedding (September 28th of this year) so we went to my parents' for a bit of a celebration. I realized that I had all the pins set up for the Time Heroes Kickstarter, I just needed to roll the ball down the lane and I could make the celebration (pardon the switching of sports metaphors) a hat trick.

So, without further ado, I present to you the link to the Time Heroes Kickstarter, the very first (but hopefully not last) RPG project from GeekWorld Online:

Time Heroes Kickstarter Page

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Eternal GM - New Game Master Advice Part One

Yesterday we were so busy getting everything ready for ToddlerGeek's 3rd birthday party (today) that I forgot to publish this week's Eternal GM article. So, it's a day late. This week's topic? Being a new GM. I will be discussing suggestions that I think will help new GMs transition into their role in a (I hope) more comfortable fashion than I was able to.

I've been a game master from the moment I discovered RPGs. Being a writer (in my head, anyway), it was a more or less natural transition for me. That being said, there were still plenty of bumps in the road that I had to work to overcome along the way, just as any GM does. I'm hoping that this article will help those of you sitting on the fence (and those who requested this topic) make the decision to dive into the role of the game master.

This is a topic that is going to be covered in a future episode of Play on Target as well (this summer sometime, probably), but due to the requests I decided it was worth doing an article about. I am planning on splitting this article into two parts. In this week's article I will be focusing on helping those interested in game mastering but unsure where to start. Next week, I'll be discussing common mistakes I've seen (and made) in new GMs and how they might be resolved. *Note - the second and third section do contradict each other. One might work for some people, another for others. A lot can depend on the group.

Be Comfortable With the Genre

This is always one of my recommendations to newer GMs. You're trying something you've never done before, whether you're already a role player or not. It's a lot more work logistically than being a player and you may well be learning a completely new system. There is no reason you need to make your life any more difficult than necessary. Look for a game that will be a good fit for you genre-wise. 
Think of the types of books you like to read or movies you like to watch. Then find a game that falls under the same heading and run that (or even a game based on an existing property you love). If you're a huge Star Wars fan, make your first GM experience a Star Wars game. If you exclusively read science fiction, then that's what you should run your first time as game master, even if that's not what your group is used to. The goal with this is you'll have less to worry about in the playing it by ear portion if you're already familiar with the setting and/or tropes of the genre than if you're diving into completely unfamiliar territory.

Run a System Your Players Know...

GMing is an extremely daunting task, particularly the first few times you act in that capacity. If you're with a close group of friends who you're comfortable with, why not run a game they all know well? That way, when you have a hiccup, you'll have people to turn to for advice. As long as you don't have any extreme rules lawyers in your group and are comfortable being told how things work (or, preferably, where to find info you need), then this can be a successful way to get used to GMing. You'll have people around you who can help you get used to the rules, which means one less weight you'll have solely on your shoulders while you get used to the ins and outs of GMing in general.

...But Really, Don't

I've run into very few groups that don't have a rules lawyer/know-it-all in them. These players can be intimidating in general. Taking into account that you're trying to to step into the driver's seat (so to speak) for the first time, this intimidation factor of having someone who likes letting people know he's better versed in the system than they are can increase tenfold. 
The easiest way to resolve this issue is simply to make sure you are running a system that absolutely no one at your table is already familiar with. This works particularly well if you're following the first piece of advice from this article and making sure you are running a game in a setting/genre you are already familiar with. This puts more onto your shoulders right off the bat as you are the "expert" in the system, so anything you can do to make your prep work easier is extremely beneficial.

Get Your Players to Help

This one is pretty cut and dry. There are a lot of things generally left up to the GM that you can enlist your players' assistance with. Here is a brief list of duties that you can pass of to your players that will lighten your in-game stress a bit as well as keeping players involved in the game at every turn:
  • Initiative - Hand this one off to a player at the beginning of combat. Let her take note of who has what initiative and make sure everyone knows when it's their turn to go. This person can also generally keep track of status effects and how long they last.
  • Mapping - This one goes way back, but there was a time when players actually had to map out where they were exploring. Use a map that works with dry erase markers and instead of drawing the map out for them, show them where to start and have them draw it out as they explore. This will save you running around the table every time they enter a new area you didn't want to already have drawn out for them.
  • Combatants - This often works better if someone isn't involved in a conflict overly much (for whatever reason), or the combat is large-scale. Let the players control the friendly NPCs in such conflicts. One less thing you have to worry about when you're controlling all the "monsters." 

Run a "Beginner" Box

I put beginner in parentheses above because (as you'll see) not all box sets ideal for beginner GMs are labelled "beginner" on the box itself. These are box sets that include everything you need to play the game, simple (or simplified) rules, and generally make sure people new to the role playing hobby aren't completely overwhelmed. There are a lot of these in the market these days, some better than others. Below are a few that I feel are of note.
  • Dragon Age (Set 1+) - This set works great for beginners for several reasons. It's familiar to a large subset of people who may be new to tabletop RPGs as the source material is a video game RPG. It's a simple system that doesn't take much to learn and each set adds new things to the system. For those unfamiliar with the setting, it's still a solid fantasy RPG for those familiar with the genre. Genre: Fantasy
  • Star Wars Beginner Box - This one has some pluses and minuses to it. It is Star Wars, which many role players will be widely familiar with. It comes with everything necessary to play, from the special dice required for the game to a group of prebuilt characters and adventures. The system is simplified from the full version. This last, however, is also the downside, in that you can't (as of this writing) simply take the characters that you've played through the beginner box with and port them over to the full game without alteration. Genre: Space Opera
  • D&D Gamma World Role Playing Game - This most recent iteration of Gamma World (by Wizards of the Coast) is probably the best (in my opinion) entry point into 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons for those who are interested. Even without taking that into account, it's a good standalone system. Again, everything needed to play is there: maps, rules, tokens, etc. It's a pared-down version of an already new-to-RPGs-friendly system. Genre: Post-Apocalyptic (and Comedic, though not absolutely necessary)
  • Pathfinder Beginner Box - This one is one of the most oft-spoken of when Beginner boxes are brought up in conversation. It comes with prebuilt characters, a map, nice quality tokens (nice quality everything really), simplified rules, and characters can be easily ported over to the full game once the beginner adventure path has been completed. The really nice thing about this is for those GMs not wanting to get into adventure/campaign design, there are a ton of adventure paths available to run players through that are extremely well-written. Genre: Fantasy
Next week I'll be back with part two, in which I will discuss common mistakes I've seen (and made myself) and recommendations of how to address them.

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Eternal GM - Atmosphere in RPGs

Not much has changed in the last week in the GWO world. The Time Heroes Kickstarter hasn't advanced too much, though I have started on the Eras supplement and have seen a rough sketch of the Quick-Start Packet's cover. However, I do have the second article in "the Eternal GM" for you. I hope you enjoy and remember, at the end I will briefly mention a game that I feel does a great job of addressing the topic (and why).

Capturing Atmosphere

This week's topic is regarding a situation I see come up many times at the table. Unfortunately, it's also a situation that doesn't have a clear-cut solution (at least not a good one). That being said, there are things a GM can do to help evoke the atmosphere of a particular game. As always, there are certainly more than I will be discussing here, but these are what I use at my own table. I should note that the article will revolve heavily around horror because (in my mind) it's one of the most difficult atmosphere's to successfully get into at the table.

Know Your Players

For me, this is the biggest way to succeed with an atmospheric game (or really, any game). Unfortunately, it's an "all or nothing" scenario. You need to know your players for an atmosphere-heavy game to have any chance of succeeding. As GM, you should know your players' attitudes and how adjustable they are. For example, if you're trying to run a Call of Cthulhu adventure (seriously), but you know your group can't go more than five minutes between silly comments, you're going to need to find a way around that (or play a different game).

You need to weigh how much you and your players want to make a game work against whether or not the game is up your group's alley. Every game is not for every group, and that's okay. Just make sure you and your players are aware of this when playing an atmospheric game that's outside of the normal comfort zone.

Of course, if you're just starting out with a new group or running a one shot at a con, the preceding paragraph does you little to no good. Which brings us to:

Pacing, Pacing, Pacing

When running a game in which atmosphere plays a large part, pacing is everything. If you're running an action-adventure game, moving too slowly can make things feel boring for everyone. On the flip side, moving too quickly in a horror game won't give anyone a chance to feel the suspense.

The real trick is to make the pacing fit the atmosphere you're going for without feeling contrived or clunky. If the pacing doesn't feel natural it's going to jar the players out of their immersion just as much as the wrong pacing entirely.

Let's take horror as an example. You want to have periods of time where the PCs aren't directly facing whatever horrible force they're going up against. Heck, depending on the type of horror, you may want to make sure they don't have an idea of what it is (or think it's one thing only to find it's something else) until the third act.  However, you also want to make sure they know there's something, and that the something is a present danger. It doesn't matter if this is achieved through sightings, or gut feelings players get, or even finding evidence it has been there; all that matters is that the characters find pieces here and there that let them know they could be beset at any moment.

The point is this, really: think of good books or films that embody the atmosphere you are attempting to evoke and pattern your games after them. Even the biggest action-fest has a break where the characters have a breather between beat-downs.

Props

If you're playing a comedic action game and in a fight against the evil Clown Lord Bo-Zo you pull out a bat-shaped balloon and start smacking a character in the head with it, it'll be obvious they're in a silly world. Yeah, that one's a bit over the top. Here's a better example of atmosphere-related props: 

You're playing call of Cthulhu, the game is set in the 1920s. You tell the PCs that a telegram has been slipped under their door. When they pick it up, you then slide a piece of yellowed telegram-style paper under the GM screen (or across the table) towards them. Anything you can do, whether it's a physical prop, background music (to an extent), or document will help pull them deeper into the world you're trying to create for them.

As I write this, I find that it's a topic that may well deserve to be broken down with articles for various genres. I may well do that down the road, but hopefully this particular entry has given you some insight into how I, at least, try to pull the players into the overall atmosphere of the game we are playing.

What Is the Most Atmospheric RPG?

Dread. Please remember, this is based purely on my experience and your views might well differ from mine. I have yet to run a game that captures the intended atmosphere better than +Epidiah Ravachol and +nat barmore's game of horror. Evoking the atmosphere of the game is built right into the mechanics. There are no abilities, no dice, no skills. There are only answers to questions and a Jenga tower. It takes the most sweat-inducing game I know and applies to to a RPG. If you make the tower fall, no matter how or when, you're written out of the story somehow. It has instilled the kind of stress tales of the macabre should into my players better than any other RPG I have run.


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