Saturday, March 29, 2014

Tabletop and Boardgame Learning Expo

When Tiffany Franzoni, the owner of my previous FLGS, told me over a year ago that she wanted to create an "event to bring an audience together that normally doesn't play table top games with those that do," I thought she was kind of nuts.  Of course, I thought she was nuts when she quit her day job to run the FLGS full time.  But you know, I tend to gravitate toward crazy people, so I smiled and nodded and told her I thought it was a good idea.  Heck, I even pitched in on her Kickstarter.

Well, over 180 people agreed and kickstarted the Tabletop and Boardgame Learning Expo too.  Oh, and Steve Jackson said he'd show up.  Yeah, THAT Steve Jackson.

It gets complicated after that.  But basically, this little get-together with the non-game-playing-community and the weirdo gamers turned into a full blown convention.  I just came back from the first full day and my head is still swimming.

I have no real idea how many people were there.  A fuck-ton, I think is the scientific term.  I was really worried that it would end up being kind of uncomfortable, with a bunch of non-gamers around.  In my mind, I saw picket lines, people hurling Molotov cocktails, civil disobedience, plague, etc. This is Texas after all, where one of the local churches told its parishioners to not frequent the Tiffany's game store, since, you know, ungodly things were happening there.  But no, the EXPO turned out to be a bunch of people having fun and learning.

Steve Jackson and his peeps were there, demoing many of their games.  I even got to play GURPS.  I've never been a player in a GURPS game before.  EVER.  Until now.  It was a very simplified game designed for the complete novice to RPGs, but it was really fun.  We came away with an appreciation for Chupacabra: Survive the Night and Cthulhu Dice, which, somehow, I had avoided playing all these years.

I got to play the tongue-tied, gushing fan boy with Steve Jackson while The Boy snagged a signature from him.  Oh, and there was SWAG.  (and yeah, that looks a lot like Finn and Jake Munchkin, no?)

There was a lot going on - so much is a blur.  There were lots more games and game designers and such.  Jeff Dee was there with his Caveman stuff.  I did get to talk with Rick Loomis of Flying Buffalo as well.  Groovy guy.  Oh, and Matt Finch was there.  Yes - THAT Matt Finch.  And the dude STILL remembers my son's name after all of this time.  He ran us through a VERY simplified version of S&W, designed for complete newbies - and it was awesome.

And yeah, that IS a feather in his cap.

It's not even Sunday yet, but I declare the Tabletop and Boardgame Learning Expo an overwhelming success.  Tiffany of the FLGS has done an amazing job pulling a gaming con out of thin air.  Well, not just a con, but outreach program to a skeptical public as well.

- Ark

Friday, March 21, 2014

Peanuts and Dragons: Karl the Brown

I'd like to thank everyone for their input on Peanut Characters as a D&D Party. After a lot of drawing and fiddling around, I think I've got the first party member down.

Karl the Brown
1st level Cleric
Patron Deity: Grief
HP: 1

STR: 7
DEX: 4
INT: 6
WIS: 5
CON: 8
CHR: 5

Saving Throws: None

- Ark

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Nina Harper, Space Veterinarian

There are three ladies and three gentleman players in our sci-fi group at them moment, and if you've been paying attention, at least one of the ladies likes to draw.  Right now she's playing Nina Harper in Distant Atmospheres.

Nina is the group's veterinarian.  That's incredibly important in a universe where the only starships are gigantic, Cthulhu-like space squid that can warp time and space.

The campaign has stared on a rebellions, backwater world that is being blockaded by the UN Space Forces.  No known functional starships exist on the planet, yet the first thing that happens is that the thugs who recently took over the government attempt to kidnap Nina.

Wonder what that's about? :)

- Ark

Touché, Pussy Cat!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Peanut Characters as a D&D Party

One of the first things I remember drawing as a kid was Snoopy.  My sister and I would draw the whole Peanuts gang over and over again.  Well, actually, we would trace them and make adjustments to their faces where needed.  The recent Peanuts cartoon announcement on FOX got me thinking about the strip again, and how the angst ridden life of Charlie Brown made my life seem less crappy in comparison.

So - I was just thinking - I'd like to draw them again.  But as a D&D party.  However, that's as far as I've got in the thought process.  Exactly WHO should be included in the party (of five or so,) and what roles they should take - I'm not sure.

Crowd-sourcing to the rescue.  So - what do YOU think should be the party make-up?  Who fits into what character class?  Let me know in the comments.  I'll paste something together from your answers and draw the group.

Thanks for your input in advance . . . :)

- Ark

Lumpy Bun

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Distant Atmospheres – A GURPS Sci-Fi Campaign

A Watcher.  Watching.
We are preparing for an upcoming sci-fi game.  I've given the players brief hints about the setting and history, but I finally took some time to type it up and draw a little related picture.  They've already done up their characters and it looks like it will be fun.  

The Boy made a genetically enhanced attack dog that can talk.  It's a German Shepard.  It's name is Commander.  

Commander Shepard.  Yup. ;)

Distant Atmospheres is a science fiction game set in the late 24th century.  After receiving a dire warning about impending galactic doom from alien refugees, Humanity began to prepare to flee their homeworld.  As time progressed, however, Humanity chose not to flee, but to explore, settle, and dig in to their interstellar neighborhood.  Nowadays, no one really thinks about the warning of doom – except the occasional religious zealot and odd historian.  Space looks fine - just fine.

The Century of Contact (2001-2100)
The Heralds contact Earth, announcing the Tribulation and gifting the Starseed to Humanity.  Most of the century is used to debate whether to trust the Heralds and initiate Exodus.  The OSA is given the mandate to research the Starseed on Jupiter.
The Century of Exploration (2101-2200)
After Crestrider spacecraft are developed, the OSA initiates plans for the Exodus, exploring nearby star systems and attempting to chart an escape route outside the Milky Way.  As research outposts become colonies and the peaceful, primitive aliens know as the Associates are discovered, the idea of Exodus becomes less popular.
The Century of Colonization (2201-2300)
Midas 2212, an asteroid made almost entirely of gold, is discovered near Sol.  In order to avoid warring over the find, the United Nations claims control over Midas 2212.  Power shifts to the UN, while countries, corporations, and non-profit groups begin to stake claims via the OSA throughout interstellar space.  Exodus is officially written out of the OSA’s charter, in favor of subsidized exploration and colonization.
The Century of Conflict (2301-Present Time)
Colonization continues successfully, and the increased wealth and technological advances bring about unheard of prosperity for humanity.  However, in the middle of the century, mantis-like aliens called the Watchers attack human settlements, conquering them and holding them.  War rages for years until the Empathy Interface is developed, eliminating the need for Rigging and allowing Reachers to be much more maneuverable and deadly in combat.  A Peach Treaty is signed, but the remaining decades prove tense, as the Watchers appear to not be interested in peace.


Associates – Small, fuzzy, arboreal aliens that resemble bush babies, but are intelligent and tool-using.
Crestriders – Reachers who have been altered to travel through space.
Desecrators – Genocidal aliens located towards the center of the Milky Way galaxy, per the Heralds.
Exodus – A plan mentioned by the Heralds to evacuate the Milky Way Galaxy to escape the Tribulation.
Heralds – Aliens that contacted humanity, warning them of the Tribulation and giving them the Starseed.
Makers – The hypothetical ancient alien race that originally developed the Reachers.
Martyrs – An alien race of bepedal, crab-like creatures.  Most of the race was enslaved by the Watchers.
OSA – The UNOOSA, or United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, shorten colloquially to OSA.  A group established by the United Nations in 1958 to help promote peaceful uses of outer space.
Reachers – Giant, squid-shaped intelligent aliens that manipulate space-time.  It is believed that they did not naturally evolve – but instead were created by the mysterious Makers during the distant past.  With manual augmentation, they can be formed into Crestriders.
Rigging – The process of lobotomizing a Reacher and rewiring it’s central nervous system to completely control it.  Such Reacheers are called Rigged Crestriders.
Starseed – A small, dense genetic package used to grow Reachers.
Tribulation – A time of chaos and destruction to be brought on by the Desecrators.
Watchers – Ten foot tall mantis-like aliens with no ability to empathize with aliens and a abnormal interest in horrific genetic experiments.

Earth is the birthplace of humanity and the most populous planet in Human Space, with 14 billion inhabitants.  After years of mismanagement of the biosphere, Earth is finally returning to a healthy state – thanks in part to atmospheric scrubbers, weather control satellites, and bioplastics.
Many languages have disappeared over the centuries.  The core languages spoken on Earth are now Arabic, English, Hindi, Malay, Mandarin, Russian, and Spanish.  Most people know at least one of these, even if it is not their home language.

United Nations
While there are still some 100 countries (down by half from three centuries before,) Earth is governed by the United Nations.  The United Nations has evolved over the years into a tricameral system of power-sharing between the people, the countries, and the corporations, as so:
Parliament – The house of the people.  There are 500 representatives – each one representing 28 million people.  On certain issues, the parliament calls for direct voting by its constituents, which is normally done on the fly instantaneously.  Worldwide votes happen once a week, usually, though many do not vote on matters that do not affect their daily lives.
League of Nations – There are roughly 100 seats – with each seat being held by an officially designated country.  Each seat has a vote weighted by the number of people in that country.  This has caused some countries to unify together, so as to have more legislative power.  The current powerhouse countries are:
·         Anzac – the union between Australia and New Zealand
·         Argentina –  the Spanish-speaking economic stronghold of South America
·         Brazil – the most powerful country in South America
·         China – not communist anymore, China is a managed by a board of corporations
·         Europe – no longer just an economic bloc, Europe is a cohesive cultural entity
·         Greater Congo – forged during the Central Africa wars of the early 2100s
·         India – virtually the same nation as 300 years before.
·         Pacific League – a union of Eastern Pacific states including Japan, Korea, Malaysia Vietnam, and the Philippines
·         Persian Republic – an attempt at a secular government stretching from Turkey and Egypt to Pakistan
·         Russia – Officially the Eurasian Commonwealth, this is just the core of Russia with its reclaimed Soviet Empire in tow
·         United States – the central part of the failed North American Union when Canada and Mexico seceded
Economic Council – The council was formed during the Enterprise Revolt after lobbyists were banned from the United Nations Parliament and League of Nations.  Originally granted status as an advisory board, the Economic Council was altered to become an additional house in the legislative branch of the UN.
The current companies sitting on the eleven member grand council are:
·         Andarta Defense Combine – A European defense technology company.
·         Biotonics – An interstellar conglomerate specializing in genetic technologies.  The company owns most of Mars.
·         Bogati Commodities – A Russian corporation that deals in commodities.
·         Corvodyne – Formed from the United Nations Alien Technology Experimentation Group after privatization.  Specializes in Reacher ranching and augmentation.
·         Doppler Communications – A communication and transportation company for data, passenger, and freight.
·         Exitation – An American energy company, building fission, fusion, and anti-matter reactors.
·         Fukurokuju Industries – A microelectronics and quantum technology company from Japan.
·         Gaṇēśa Mēḍikala – A corporation out of India specializing in health care and cybernetic implants.
·         PanPac Zaibatsu – The largest minifac manufacturing firm on Earth, based out of Japan and Korea.
·         Qǐng Ài – A Chinese robotics and artificial intelligence company.
·         Santa Montaña – The largest Agricultural production company in human space, located in Argentina.
The United Nations also have Executive and Judicial Branches; those are formed by appointees from the Parliament and the League of Nations.  There are several special administrative units in the United Nations – the most powerful being the Office of Space Affairs, a function of the Executive Branch. 

Office of Space Affairs
The United Nations Office of Space Affairs manages all off-world activities in Human Space.  It is headed by the OSA Director General, who oversees these departments:
·         United Nations Colonization Services – This organization issues colonial charters and acts as the go-between for colonial governments and the United Nations.  Colonial Services is a huge bureaucracy, with branches on every colony – be it planets, moon, or station.
·         United Nations Space Forces – This is the military arm of the OSA, comprising both Navy and Army branches.  Given the distance some commanders operate from earth, they are given a lot of room for judgment calls.
·         United Nations Exploration Bureau – The Exploration Bureau makes sure that maps and charts of human space are accurate, investigates unexplored areas, and has specialists trained in first contact scenarios.
·         United Nations Space Transportation Authority – The STA is in charge of ensuring safe and timely travel in human space.  They manage spacecraft safety inspection, oversee Reacher breeding and augmentation, and operate fueling-station way-points.  A lone STA inspector carries a lot of clout on the frontier, as they are backed up by the Navy.

·         United Nations Attaché Corp - The Attaché Corp acts as ambassadors to the various non-human sophonts in interstellar space.   For the most part, the OSA prefers that citizens do not contact aliens on their own, preferring them to go through the UNAC to avoid problems and misunderstandings.

- Ark

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Reachers

The D&D Blog Hop last month was interesting.  it helped me think over my gaming career.  But it's time to move on.  Our GURPS Horror Noir game reached a pause point after the group brought down a vampire in Transylvania, and we are off to new skies.

New skies.  New atmospheres.  Distant atmospheres.

So, we'll be kicking off the GURPS sci-fi campaign Distant Atmospheres soon.  The idea is to try to take everything I like about Traveller, Star Frontiers, 2300AD, Stars Without Number, Mass Effect, Lexx, Ghost In the Shell, and Revelation Space, pop in all into a GURPS blender, and see what happens.

In the Distant Atmospheres universe, humans are three centuries into exploring and colonizing their local neighborhood of space.  While they have a high level of technology, going faster than light is beyond their abilities.  That's where the Reachers come in.

The Reachers are intelligent creatures that can bend the fabric of space time enough to break off a piece and move it around, simulating faster than light travel without actually moving themselves anywhere.  It's clear that the Reachers did not evolve this way, but were manufactured by some species long ago whom they do not remember.

Luckily for humans, the Reachers enjoy interstellar travel, can shift around their internal organs to create livable compartments, and they can grow to huge proportions.  They can't actually travel in space in their 'natural' state, but humans have learned to augment the Reachers to survive in a vacuum and exceed the speed of light, and perform various feats of heavy lifting and hauling.

To the Reachers, this is all just good fun.  They also create such a powerful magnetic field around their body that any human inside a Reacher ship is subjected to a constant MRI in which the Reacher can read their every single thought.  It's really, really hard to bluff a Reacher in a card game.  Well, unless you are wearing a tin-foil hat.

Originally I thought that the Reachers might look like space whales or something, but after a few drawing they became more squid like.  The savvy player might be reminded of Cthullu, or some other non-euclidean nightmare.  And to those accusations, this GM can only shrug and grin.

- Ark