Friday, December 28, 2012

Christmas Swag - RPGs I'll Never Play

I normally ask for RPGs that I intend on playing at some point.  I think I've just given up and, this time around, asked for games that I want, but would never buy since I don't think I'll ever get around to playing them.

This year, I received Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space, and Mongoose's Traveller: Core Rule Book.

Over the years, I think I've probably played five percent of the RPGs I've own.  That's a wild guess, but it seems about right.  It used to be finding players was the biggest issue.  Now the issue is time.  Life is funny.

Traveller was one of those games I that I was super excited about when I discovered it in 1981 - soon after my discoverer of Dungeons and Dragons.  I ran a few adventures, but the players were far more interested in fantasy, and I think my ability to pull of sci-fi wasn't as great at the time.  My attempts later with Star Frontiers were a much bigger hit.

That didn't stop me from continuing to buy Traveller, Traveller: 2300, MegaTraveller, and Traveller: New Era products.  I'd sit around and make characters, design starships, and populate stellar subsectors.  All my copies disappeared in various moves and book cullings over the years.  Then I found Stars Without Number, which has been filling my sci-fi RPG void very well.

Except . . . SWN is extremely abstract about a lot of things, including world creation and starship building - two of my favorite parts of Traveller.  During play, the abstract system is wonderful for creating scenarios and having a great ship battle in a short amount of time.  But when I'm sitting around, thinking about potential scenario or trying to get a fix on what a shuttle actually looks like and how combat would flow inside, I reach for the detail of Traveller - which just isn't there.

Of course, I make it up as I go along and everything is okay.  But sometime I just want some structure - and Traveller was all about structure.  I picked up a battered copy of the MegaTraveller Referee's Guide to try to stitch ship building in - but it just wasn't flowing well.  This Mongoose edition of the game, while similar, appears to be a much better match.

Reading through the Traveller book has been great fun.  It's very much like Classic, with adjustments that I really like.  I've sat down and made some characters even.  It's great for that.  Actually, I think this version is the best organized I've seen to date.  It makes me even want to run the game.  The big issue for me - the kicker - is lack of advancement.  While I don't really care - DMing advancing or static characters doesn't seem to be a problem - I think the players would mind.  They are so . . . accustomed . . . to gaining levels an/or skills that static characters would probably freak them the hell out and bore them - or frustrate them - to tears.

But part of me says that they maybe NEED that.  Traveller is supposed to take away a big part of meta-gaming by focusing the players on what their character are doing NOW, as opposed to how they should shuffle points or prepare for the next level and worry about that upcoming HP roll.  It gives them a character - one they didn't exactly expect - and says PLAY THIS NOW!

I'd like to see that in action one day in a longer campaign.  How would it change the player's attitudes?  Oh well.  I don't see it happening.  But I will be stealing the ship stuff and grafting it into my SWN game - assuming that I have the LEET SKILLS to do so.

Okay, I've probably talked enough about Traveller.  Now, on to Doctor Who!

I was surprised as hell when I got Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space.  It's a box.  It's a heavy box.  Heavy.  It's crammed packed with shit.  Pretty shit.

There is a quick start guide, a player's book, referee's book, adventure book, and all sorts of extra thick card-stock character sheets, punch-out equipment cards, and little XP token things.  Oh, and there are these awesome Doctor Who dice.  Everything is nice and colorful and very pretty.

Okay, I thought, nice try, guys.  You spat out a pretty looking game designed by the BBC marketing department to increase the reach of the Doctor Who 'brand.'

Then I began to dig into the books, and was surprised there there looks to be an actual game here - a game designed by people who might know what they are doing.

In the beginning of the players book, it tells a story about Rory - one of the characters (well, WAS one,) of the TV show.  The little story involves huge and strange shaped objects going missing all over the universe, and the TARDIS crew trying to track them down.  The shapes were odd - tetrahedrons, octahedrons, dodecahedrons, icosahedrons, an the like.  Turns out a race of giants was stealing these huge objects to play a role playing game.

Okay, yeah, it was stupid.  Doctor Who is often stupid.  But it's stupid for a reason, and if you just lay back and relax and go with it, the stupid turns into cool.  And that was cool.  Like bow-ties and fezzes.  And that little story was a nod back in time to the beginning, to Dungeons & Dragons.  The game doesn't even use all those dice.  It just uses the d6.  But they chose to mention the dice anyway.  And that tells me that the designers are MY KIND OF PEOPLE.

I have a lot more to read, but the base game appears very cool.  You can make whichever character you like - a rival Timelord or a street sweeper or Goldie Hawn circa 1968.  The mechanics are basically a 2d6 point by system, like Traveller made love to Champions-lite or something.  It's simple, with various levels of success or failure.  Nothing innovative here - just comfortable.

Actually, the box, the books, the feel . . . it's all comfortable.  Opening it gave me a similar feel to that of opening the old D&D box way back in 1981 - except full color and glossy.  Interesting.  I think they did that on purpose.  AND, this thing is currently cheaper that the Traveller book on Amazon.  Go figure.

Regretfully, I doubt I'll ever find enough people interested in playing it in person.  Even The Boy is all MEH about Doctor Who these days.  He never got over the change from #10 to #11.

So I'm really happy with my Christmas presents.  Maybe I should just make some characters, pull out the Mythic Game Master Emulator, and play these in the wee hours of the night.

- Ark

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Stars Without Number Meat Funnel

It the Redshirts Stars Without Number game, I've been dropping hints and foreshadowing an ancient, hidden menace upon a blacked planet blasted by three novas and bathed in the radiation of their rapidly spinning pulsar remnants.

The players have, understandably, been somewhat reluctant to go take a visit.

I'm not sure who came up with the idea.  Perhaps it was Merwyn.  Perhaps it was me.  But whoever had the idea - it was awesome.  Simply turn the adventure into a Stars Without Number/DCCRPG Funnel Mashup.

Ca-Ching!  Done!

Welcome to the universe of zero level Stars Without Number characters.  They have no class.  They have d4 for hit points.  They only have 4 skills and three pieces of equipment.  And you can't decide on any of it!

I'll be running this next week.  I don't think that all nine of our players will show up for this, but if they did, that would be 9x4=36 ponential corpses to be ripped to shreds in a horrific feeding frenzy of character death.

So, here are the character creation steps:
  1. Create up to 4 characters.
  2. Roll 3d6 straight for: STR, INT, WIS, DEX, CON and CHA.  Note Ability mods as normal.
  3. No Class, prime attributes, attack bonus, or special class ability.
  4. Roll Hit points - 1d4 plus CON bonus.
  5. All saves are at 17.
  6. Roll 2d10 once to determine Occupation, Skills, and Equipment. See tables below.  Skills provide a ZERO level and equipment is AS-IS, no trades.  Additional ammo available from corpses of fallen comrades.  Stop whining.  You are here to die.  Quickly.
  7. Write it all down on the handy dandy sheet (provided below.)
  8. Poof!  You are done.
  9. If a character survives, she/he may be upgraded to 1st level and enter the regular campaign.

Occupation Table
Roll Occupation
2 Priest
3 Journalist
4 Mechanic
5 Corporate Suit
6 Astrophysicist
7 Field Researcher
8 Planetary Scientist
9 Xenobiologist
10 Xenoarchaeologist
11 Infantry
12 Scout
13 Security Analyst
14 Medic
15 Pilot
16 Officer
17 Gunner
18 Combat Engineer
19 Sniper
20 Space Marine

Skills Table
Occupation Skills
Astrophysicist Profession/Astrophysicist, Science, Tech/Astronautic, Vehicle/Space
Combat Engineer Combat/Projectile, Exosuit, Security, Stealth
Corporate Suit Bureaucracy, Business, Leadership, Persuade
Field Researcher Science, Tech/Maltech, Tech/Postech, Tech/Pretech
Gunner Athletics, Combat/Gunnery, Exosuit, Vehicle/Land
Infantry Combat/Projectile, Combat/Unarmed, Exosuit, Gambling
Journalist Bureaucracy, Culture/Criminal, Exosuit, Persuade
Mechanic Exosuit, Gambling, Tech/Astronautic, Tech/Postech
Medic Athletics, Exosuit, Perception, Tech/Medical
Officer Combat/Projectile, Exosuit, Leadership, Tactics
Pilot Combat/Projectile, Culture/Spacer, Vehicle/Grav, Vehicle/Space
Planetary Scientist Profession/Geology, Science, Tech/Postech, Vehicle/Land
Priest Culture/World, Perception, Persuade, Religion
Scout Culture/Traveller, Exosuit, Navigation, Survival
Security Analyst Combat/Unarmed, Perception, Security, Tech/Postech
Sniper Combat/Projectile, Exosuit, Perception, Stealth
Space Marine Combat/Energy, Combat/Primitive, Combat/Unarmed, Exosuit
Xenoarchaeologist Artist/Plastics, Culture/Alien, History, Science
Xenobiologist Bureaucracy, Profession/Xenobiology, Science, Tech/Medical

Equipment Table
Occupation Equipment
Astrophysicist Dataslab, Survey Scanner, Vacc Suit
Combat Engineer Instapanel, Spike Thrower, Vacc Suit
Corporate Suit Dataslab, Portabox, Vacc Suit
Field Researcher Toolkit/Postech, Toolkit/Pretech, Vacc Suit
Gunner Heavy Machine Gun, Metatool, Vacc Suit
Infantry Mag Rifle, Telescoping Pole, Vacc Suit
Journalist Argus Web, Dataslab, Vacc Suit
Mechanic Toolkit/Astronautic, Toolkit/Postech, Vacc Suit
Medic Lazarus Patch, Medkit, Vacc Suit
Officer Binoculars, Mag Pistol, Vacc Suit
Pilot Metatool, Void Carbine, Vacc Suit
Planetary Scientist Dataslab, Survey Scanner, Vacc Suit
Priest Survival Kit, Translator Torc, Vacc Suit
Scout Navcomp, Survival Kit, Vacc Suit
Security Analyst Dataslab, Survey Scanner, Vacc Suit
Sniper Climbing Harness, Sniper Rifle, Vacc Suit
Space Marine Assault Suit, Grenade (x2), Laser Rifle
Xenoarchaeologist Dataslab, Survey Scanner, Vacc Suit
Xenobiologist Dataslab, Bioscanner, Vacc Suit

Character Sheet

This should be fun.  And horrific.  And sad.

Please feel free to use any of this for your own games.

- Ark

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Tired of Christmas Music Already?

Then it's obviously time for GERMAN CLUB MUSIC!

Nachtleben - MURANO meets TOKA feat. Dumbstruke

Morgens immer müde - Laing

Du & Ich - Colina

Party (Ich Will Abgehn) - Die Atzen

Dynamit - Kollegah & Farid Bang

You can danke me later!  (I BLAME YOU, SPOTIFY!)

- Ark

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Redshirts: Jack Frost Roasting Over an Open Fire

Last week was the Stars Without Number Christmas Special.  The Reshirts were back at the Beachhead Asteroid Base for some well deserved R&R, shopping for Christmas presents at the PX or performing maintenance and/or horrific biological experiments in the lab.  In the station's Zócalo, a robotic Santa, reindeer, and elf were amusing soldiers and scientists alike.

The scouts are getting rusty.  I swear.  Come on, a robot Santa, reindeer, and elf?  That has to mean trouble.

Kal Kek and Roswell were in the Zócalo, and Kal Kek was acting kind of grumpy.  The elf came over to cheer him up by pulling out a pistol and shooting him.  Then the Santa open his mouth wide and began spewing a green mist that turned people into glowing eyed yellow zombies.

Merry Christmas!

Robot Santas are mostly evil.  Mostly.
Things went downhill form there.  Battle-stations were called as a Skorpios attack force was bearing down on the asteroid as well.  Their secret base had been compromised, and the enemy had decided to send their presents on Christmas Eve.

Much chaos and battle ensue.  Eventually, the evil robots were blown up, but Roswell the (sort of) good robot was blown up in the process.  Kal Kek grabbed his C3-P0-like head and ran with it like a football back to the ship.

While escaping from the zombie gas, Dr. Ramapudi followed Newt, through the station's air ducts.  Newt was the eight year old psychic girl that the scouts had rescued in an earlier episode from an crazed interplannar entity that had inhabited her body for 600 years.  Well, Newt, being a bit untrusting, had stockpiled rifles and grenades in the air ducts, just in case something like this happened.

Eventually, the party made it back to the ship, where they found out that the Reprieve had been undergoing maintenance and had it's engines dismantled.  Having no other craft that could mount a defense versus the Skorpios attack fleet, they hopped in the Molten Rain mech suit assault shuttle and blasted off.

The plan was simple.  Everyone was to get in their mech suits and be shot out of the mech suit rail gun at the oncoming Skorpios Cruiser that was making an attack run on the Beachhead Base.  At the end, "Profit" was somehow to be gained, but plan for everything in-between was somewhat hazy.

The Skorpios Cruiser was actually an old, run-down ship constructive with run-down, primitive parts at the Lost colony of Ukraine, so luckily, it didn't have much defense against seven human size projectiles shot at it.  The scouts didn't have much defense against being shot at a cruiser, either.  Kal Kek ented up penetrating a armored turret with his head.

The scouts began to dig through the ship like miners, using the mechs' urban assault abilities to turn the cruiser's bulkhead's into Swiss cheese.  They plugged Roswell's C3-P0 head into a computer conduit in a maintenance tunnel to begin the cyber assault.  Roswell took over a pack of maintenance bots that launched an assault on the bridge while the party split up in an attempt to take over engineering, nullify the angry grav tank muscling it's was through the maintenance shafts, and eliminate the threat of unattended cafeterias.

Admiral Beringer looses eye in attack.
Despite the fact that the party split up, or maybe because of it, the Skorpios lost most of their control of the ship and decided to self destruct.  Roswell narrowly prevented the cruiser from blowing up, but the Skorpios crew sabotaged the craft, detonating as many munitions and hydrogen tanks as possible before they evacuated.

The guns on the asteroid base mopped up the stream of evacuees and the scouts took control of the devastated, burnt out hulk.  Regretfully, the resident psychic was killed in a munitions explosion.  Attempts to revive him by The Boy using an untested nanotech revitalization system proved to have horrific results, turning the dead body into an ever expanding ball of gray goo that was eventually isolated by Aquila scientists.

As a reward for saving the day, Admiral Beringer cancelled the scheduled court-martial of the group for horrendous crimes to humanity that they had perpetrated on previous missions.  Merry Christmas, Redshirts, Merry Christmas.

- Ark

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Top Games

Dice Bomb by ~j-burgess
Gnome Stew's and Frothsof's mention of the Top Seven meme got me thinking about my Top Seven's.  FAvorites are one thing, but ones I have actually played are another - and as a mostly DM, the playing list is of more interest.  I've stuck my toes in a lot of rpg pies since 1981, but where have I double dipped the most?  It's hard to quantify - I'll just have to guess.  I really just haven't played with very much consistency.

The Top Seven RPGs I've Played
  1. D&D 4e
  2. AD&D
  3. Champions 4e
  4. AD&D 2e
  5. Holmes D&D (or Molday Basic - they kind of blur)
  6. Gama World 1e
  7. Shadowrun (maybe tied with Risus)

That one in first place is kind of odd, but I guess it is true. I blame my participation in the RPGA for that. ;p

GMing is much easier, since I do it a lot more:

The Top Seven RPGs I've Run
  1. AD&D
  2. RoleMaster
  3. D&D 4e
  4. Stars Without Number
  5. GURPS Space
  6. Twilight: 2000
  7. Fantasy HERO

Funny how this doesn't represent what my Top Seven Favorites are. :)

- Ark

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Doctor Who in the Desert

I tend to get strange emails from all over the place referencing the blog.  Typically, it's people wanting me to review stuff - which I don't do because I am lazy - or people wanting me to buy male enhancement products - which I don't do because I am lazy.

Recently, I received a message about my post Doctor Who in Arabic from Jon at BroaDWcast, asking about the doctor Who shows I watched back when I lived in Saudi Arabia.  The site is a guide to foreign airdates and worldwide transmissions of Doctor Who.

Odd, yeah?

Well, turns out they have a heap of information there about when and where the good Doctor has been broadcast around the word over the last umpty-ump decades.  A lot.  I think part of it has to do with a search for the lost Doctor Who episodes.  A while back, BBC deleted a heck of a lot of archival material - which included many old episodes.  There is a hope that may someone, somewhere, stashed some tapes in a cupboard or something.

Anyway, Jon took my vague memories, tracked them back to a particular television station out of Qatar, and even had an episode list of what I most likely saw.  FROM 1978 and 1979.  WOW.

I do hope I gave him helpful information as well.  The episodes were in black and white, dubbed over in Arabic, and subbed in English, which was weird - so who knows, maybe that will be useful? :)

Anyway, it was pretty fun exercise - and help me straighten out some fuzzy memories.

So let this be a lesson - if you have any odd things you've done or strange memories that no one else has - jot them down in a blog post.  You never know when or how they might be useful.

- Ark

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Gamer Gifts

Last year, I got the the gaming crew each a copy of the Swords and Wizardry Whitebox Rules.  That went over well, with it actually being used to spread the gospel of the OSR to uninitiated gamers.

This year, I didn't have so much money - especially since the regular gaming crew is up to ten people now.  So I went the less expensive route of hand crafting some presents.

I made hand painted dice and handed them out in tonight's gaming session.

These are Redshirt Dice.  See the little red shirts?  The Star Trek Emblem is a six.  The red shirt is a one.  Each player got a pair, so when they roll double red shirts, they fail their skill check hard.  Yay!

Adelaide made some awesome dice bags for us too.  Everyone got a very different type.  I didn't get a photo of them all, but I got a picture of the most important one - mine.  I have named it THE SPACE BAG.

It is sooo big, I can fit a sixteenth of my dice in it.  It's perfect for the Redshirts game. :)


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Florence and the TPK

DCCRPG Funnel in Action

We had our second DCC game on Saturday.  If you'll remember, I had an arrangement with the our DM in which I was playing a gaggle of potential initiates into a witch's coven - the survivor being granted membership into that select group.

Well, good old Florence had leveled up from Zero to One in the middle of the dungeon, and by the grace of another unlucky party member with a grimoire, learned all of her 1st level spells while stumbling around in the dark reading it.  Somewhere she had found a Vampirella outfit, and the rest was history.

After the dungeon, Florence had some questions for the witch's coven in town.  I was most interested in the immortal entity that was sealed up in the dungeon, and if it would make a good patron.

Come to find out, the witch's coven was just a bunch of emo goth girls who knew nothing about magic.


They were completely freaked that Florence could now light cigarettes without a lighter, kill people with a cloud of red gas, and rip herself into 7 ultra-dimensional copies at will.  So, Florence decided that she would become the new coven leader, and with the help of Bob the Butcher (he co-party demonic cleric,) taught the coven nonsensical and  embarrassing rituals involving running around naked in a corn field during the equinoxes and solstices and that to retain their imaginary witchcraft power that they had to remain virgins forever and ever.

Okay, yeah, that one is going to come back and haunt me - but is was hilarious.

After shaking down the mayor of the town for everything he had, the party left.  Florence grabbed one of the coven members, a beggar girl named Clarissa, to be her personal lackey.  I mean, retainer.  Adminstrative assistant.  Um . . . horse watcher.

So,   the party made their way across country, following Bob the Butcher, who was following a black ram with red glowing eyes, who was being led by his demonic deity, to somewhere where Bob had to do something.  You know - standard adventure.  Will the Ranger, Kyrus the Smack-downer, and Florence the Well-Groomed were just along for the ride.

After a dungeon crawl where I'm sure the party pissed off every underground faction possible, including any potential allies, things came to a head in a room with a glowing electrical ball on a pedestal and a vast amount of angry hooded mages.

We were having our assess handed to us as the hooded goons broke though our lines and began dealing heavy damage.  I was sure the electric ball was important.  I suggested to the Boy that he pick it up and throw it at the mages.

Even if it did no damage, well, it should have been good for some battlefield chaos.

The Boy had Will the Ranger pick it up.  Well . .  that is not exactly what happened.  Will touched the electric ball and he turned to dust.

Yeah.  Oops.

I kept on blowing Florence's spell casting rolls.  That's harsh in DCC.  One success would have turned the battle, but nope.  It was not going to happen.  Bob was knocked to 0 hp, leaving Florence, Kyrus, and a room full of hooded goons.

So, Florence did the math - screeched - and fell down on the floor in her finest imitation of a possum.  Kyrus then was knocked down to zero and went splat.

Florence remained motionless while the hooded cultists moved all of the bodies (and charred dust) to an altar called the 'Altar of Life,' or somesuch thing.  There were dead bodies in voting booths and it got kind of confusing, but Florence slunk off of the altar before the bolts hit here dead friends and somehow moved their minds into the minds of the dead bodies in voting booths.

In the confusion, she hastily donned an ornamental hood and tried to blend in with everyone.  I got a distinct Sandahl Bergman sneaking into the Serpent Temple vibe.  But that's about where we left off - with everyone else rolling up new characters - new stats, new professions, new bodies - everything - but the same names and memories.

So, it was a TPK - minus one. Sort of.   Maybe Florence pretended to be dead well enough to appease the Gods of Death.  Maybe?  Just a little?  Pleeeeeaaasse?


- Ark

Friday, December 7, 2012

Redshirt: Dressed to Kill

Petty Officer 2nd Class Owlicious
This week's Stars Without Number adventure took the scouts their old stomping grounds, the 1950s planet of Tunguska.  They were just on a refueling mission, but they happened to notice a very high tech ship on the surface, and went off to investigate.

Crazy-Ass Tim and Adelaide's record of the adventure is at From the Ashes.  I recommend reading it, since it's good, and I won't be going over the particulars here.  Go ahead, I'll wait.

While I'm waiting, I'll point out the picture to the left.  The party was invited to a fancy dinner during the adventure.  Adelaide found a dress she wanted her character to wear online, so had the ship's clothes printer spit it out.  The original dress is over on Crazy-Ass Tim's page, so go over there if you haven't done so.  This is just my attempt at drawing a truly stunning dress.

Actually, all of the players went found clothes on their phones or laptops.  No, I don't have one of those phones.  I am happy with my decision to NOT have one of those phones.  But you know, it certainly adds an amazing dynamic to a tabletop game.

During the game, Adelaide even went and dug up pictures of what she thought the high tech spaceship looked like.  Heck.  They were perfect.  And while taking a gander, I saw a name on the web page that was sooo much better than the name I had created for the main NPC, that I changed it then and there.

Now, we've used people's phones to pull up a name we couldn't remember, or a picture of something I'm describing that someone just can't quite get.  but it does seem to be growing into a bigger part of our lives, even around my table, a place which normally has had, at it's height, a mechanical pencil for its technological apex.

The use of gaming technology on Wednesday culminated in a completely spontaneous full length  Bollywood dance routine by Crazy-Ass Tim's character Dr. Ramapudi and a blonde administrative assistant named Yvonne that he had become smitten with - including a dance track on the laptop and holographic backup dancers in the star ship.

It reminded my a heck of a lot of the Bollywood movie Marigold.  Yes, you probably don't have enough Bollywood in your life.  Marigold is a fine entry point for the uninitiated to start.

I'm still reeling from the fact that in my gritty, character chewing  horror show of a sci-fi game that a romantic music and dance production spring up out of thin air.  But really, I guess I shouldn't expect anything less. :)

I don't have to do anything to keep them amused at all.  In fact, they amuse me far more.

- Ark

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Redshirts Christmas

After last night's Redshirts game, I was wondering exactly what time it was.  In the game, I mean.  We've had nine sessions in two months, and I was estimating that it had been about a year in game.  Looking at my notes, and slapping them into excel, I saw that I was wrong.  It has only been ten months.  In fact, the crew of frozen Popsicles was due to be back at their base on Christmas Eve.

Now, I've done holidays inside of RPGs before.  My favorite has usually been Halloween in D&D.  That's no-brainer right there, especially if you use zombies.


I don't think I've ever done Christmas in Space before, though, and definitely not in Stars Without Number.  I'm not exactly sure what I should do.  Something horrific, of course.  Cthulhu Claus.  Yeah.  I like the sound of that.  Well, maybe that wouldn't the the best Christmas present for the players, but it would be one heck of a present for me.  Ho ho ho.

I supposed, at the very least, the characters should exchange gifts.  I'll let them mull that over in their minds. Great - not only do they need to really go shopping, they have to go virtually shopping as well! ;)

So has anyone else put Christmas into their games?  Anything good come out of it?  Anything horrible?

Here is the timeline, for what it is worth:

2/2/3200 The Reprieve blasts out of Perimeter Station Nine.
2/7/3200 Arrival at Three Sisters system.
2/9/3200 Exploration of the Biotonics Ark 3 begins.
2/15/3200 Arrival at Ukraine system.
2/19/3200 Alpha Team captures a Ukrainian Patrol Boat.
2/25/3200 Escape to Three Sisters system.
2/28/3200 Beginning of the construction of Beachhead Base.
6/11/3200 Completion of Beachhead Base.
6/28/3200 Arrival at Banyan system.
7/1/3200 Alpha Team delivers gun printer to the Brambles.
7/2/3200 Lifter pyramid explored.
8/2/3200 Arrival at Tunguska system.
8/3/3200 Submerged Jump Portal discovered in ocean.
9/4/3200 Ship building activities complete.
10/3/3200 Arrival at Thomas Jefferson.
10/4/3200 Alpha Team encounters Warchou and Berserkers.
10/24/3200 The court-martial and execution of Lt. O'Brien.
11/21/3200 Arrival at Levant system.
11/24/3200 Alpha Team acquires the Molten Rain.
12/8/3200 Refueling stop at Tunguska reveals mystery ship.
12/9/3200 Alpha Team meets Charles Shuttleworth.
12/24/3200 Arrival at Beachhead Base on Christmas Eve.

Ho ho ho!

- Ark

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Void Quadrant

For those keeping track of the Redshirts Stars Without Number campaign at home, here is a handy-dandy star map to let you know from which direction the next horrible mutant plague of xenophobic xenomorphs will come from and kill all of the PCs.

Hmm, I might have given away too much with that sentence. :)

- Ark


Oh yes, a key . . .

Black - Explored Space (inasmuch as space can be explored in SWN)
Purple - 'Hunch' Space (big bags of guesses from old charts, here-say, and psychic divination)
Dark Blue - The righteous Aquila Union
Orange - The Ptolemy Wilds, controlled by the Alliance of Independent Systems
Red - The foul fungal Skorpios Empire
White - The El Dorado Archipelago, a sort of close cluster in the El Dorado Sector
Yellow - A horrible, horrible place filled with genocidal machines and dog-bear things with horns.
Light Blue - The New Mandate, a place quite unknown to the PCs, that sounds pretty well organized.

Okay, that's about it.

- Ark :)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Better Mental Health Through DCCRPG

Finally, after a year and a half of waiting, I got to play DCC RPG.  Well, I actually played it back in June of 2011 with Harely Stroh, but that was a mid level beta test one shot.  This time, on Saturday, I got to play THE FUNNEL.

I really don't get people that don't like the idea of the funnel.  That's okay.  I don't have to understand a point of view for it to be perfectly valid.  But the funnel was one of the things that drew me to the game.  Actually, DCC was one of the first games I wanted to PLAY in a long, long time.  Maybe since 1981.  Now, of course, when I say 'play,' I meant, be a players, as opposed to being the DM.  I'd DM anything - at least once.  Heck, I'd DM a game about players taking on the persona of rebellious dust bunnies if it meant that I could chase them with a Dyson vacuum cleaner.

But playing - yeah - the funnel, the dice, and the spell rules really sold it to me.  DCC takes the good parts of D&D and Rolemaster and smooshed them together.  Yeah, I said Rolemaster.  That was my game of choice for a couple of years there after ditching D&D.  Oh, the glorious critical hit and fumble tables . . .

Crazy-Ass Tim ran the game for me, the Boy, Merwyn, and Kaye.  Not content to leave things alone, I had bargained for a slightly different character setup than the standard.  I decided that my characters were all potential initiates into a coven of witches, and the survivor of the first adventure would be the wannabe-witch that was allowed into the gaggle of evocatrixes.  I really wanted to play a wizard class, and the opportunity to cackle madly when casting black magic was too good of an opportunity to miss.

The roster of coven abecedarians was as follows:

  • Petunia the wimpy, clumsy, unlucky Urchin, who had never seen plants growing before,
  • Florence the Healer, build like a brick shithouse with a Stamina of 18,
  • Carly the Minstrel, who bets you think she wrote a song about you, but she didn't, and
  • Sorcha the idiot Alchemist, I mean, like, doesn't know salt from pepper.

Initially, the Covenettes refused to do anything brave at all, three of them standing around and whispering to one another in a field of corn while Petunia gathered up as many ears as possible because this was here first time seeing food before.  They hung back in back and tried to avoid any danger at all.

Then upon entering the dungeon, Petunia, Carly, and Sorcha fell into a pit and died, accidentally killing a few other players in the process, as detailed in Crazy-Ass Tim's blog.


Body count was HIGH in the game.  The four of us players ran through well over 30 characters before the end of the dungeon.  Each time we were getting low, we'd find a cage full of PCs ready to refresh our ranks, just like in Left4Dead 2.

Florence found some other Covenette buddies in a cage too, including:

  • Chardonnay the Gravedigger,
  • Seville the razor wielding Barber (I mean, BEAUTY TECHNICIAN), and
  • Heidi the frail Teutonic Woods(wo)man.

Seville killed most of the rest of the party withe a beautiful fumble on a oil flask lob.  Have you ever noticed that little 'G' on the '1' side of a GameScience d20?  I saw that a lot.  Anyway, her hands were burnt beyond recognition, but she survived for a good long while.  Until Seville's leg was cut off with a giant scissor trap.


Everyone else also had wonderful deaths too, whether from horrible curses, being charred by flame spitting monsters, or being granted special 'wishes' by a lunatic madman demigod.

I mean, Kaye, really.  What did you expect when you said 'okay, I have my character wish to be raised from a level zero nobody to a level one INSERT CLASS HERE.  You actually said 'INSERT CLASS HERE.'

Eventually, I only had one character left - the Venerable Florence the Healer/Witch Wannabe - and the party had to do this big complex ritual - in three separate rooms at the same time.  I love that we had to split the party in order to complete the adventure.  Well, I figured that if she was going to go out in a blaze of glory, Florence might as well put on a Vampirella outfit and head up the demonic ritual with all the gusto she could muster.

The monsters let loose from that ritual finished off all of the 'extra' characters.  And then, to get out of the dungeon, there was a single SAVE OR DIE roll for each character.


Like I mentioned in the title, I really do think that the Funnel is a kind of mentally beneficial.  It's Flooding, or Exposure Therapy.  Players tend to have a lot of anxieties about their character's dying.  Mine - I had them huddling in back at the beginning, afraid to do anythign lest they breathed wrong.  and in the end, Florence was there screaming on an altar in a skimpy bathing suit while the the forces of hell swirled about her nubile flesh.

I think it also helps the DM.  Each time when I run a game, any game, I am extremely anxious about the first kill.  I mean, it's like a first kiss on a date.  You grope around, copping a feel here and there, rolling a d20 over and over again trying to hit.  With the first kiss completed - you know where you stand and can continue on confidently.  The first kill in a campaign is the same - you know you can kill the PCs, and the player didn't run off crying home to mommy and threaten to never play again.

Um, did I just equate killing PCs to heavy petting?

Yeah . . . I did.

Anyway, yes, DCC is a great game.  Crazy-Ass Tim pulled off a really good session, and it was one of the most memorable ever.  Everyone was very happy.

And now that we have put so much work into our 1st level characters, we REALLY want them to live. :)

- Ark

Monday, December 3, 2012


Again and again I keep finding that planning a sketch invites dissatisfaction, and only when I am creating by the seat of my pants with my emotions unbound that I make something I like.  That's also true with DMing.

- Ark