Faster Than A Speeding Recap

  • Brian managed to show up, and played his super-speedster Fasttrack.  Fasttrack was originally created for a Silver Age Sentinels game that never got off the ground (I blame Doug and Paul for breaking the system before we even started), and a version of him became Brian’s main character in City of Heroes.  He seemed pleased to finally be able to role-play him….and he roleplayed the heck out of him, much to the amusement of the other players.  They were particularly taken with his rapid stream-of-consciousness speech patterns.
  • Fasttrack showed up in time for a brief confrontation between the Order of St. George (Vatican Special Monster-hunting Squad) and the super-group over the disposition of the Wraith’s (Doug’s) evil brother, The Revenant.  Eventually it was resolved with the Vatican “heavy hitters” Codex and Joan completely destroying The Revenant’s body with holy flame, releasing all the souls that he’d consumed over the years in a spectacular spiritual light show.
  • A call for help from Dr. Kelso at Paradigm labs brought the team to the lab complex, which was on fire.  Fasttrack leapt to evacuating the civilians, while the rest of the team plunged into the lab building where Dr. Kelso was, only to  come under attack by gorillas wearing exoskeletons.
  • The gorillas were led by a silver-back, sans exoskeleton, dragging Dr. Kelso by one ankle.  There we broke for the evening.

When next we resumed, the players were treated to the first genuine villain monologue of the campaign, which they sat still for and even seemed to find amusing.  At least part of the reason they bore it patiently is that last time they interrupted a villain’s monologue (in the Weird West Campaign), they destroyed the Universe before the villain had time to warn them against it.

  • The gorilla leader called himself Ape X, or Apex, was a product of Dr. Kelso’s continued research into nerve regeneration and repair.
  • He had dosed the other gorillas with it, but it took a while to take effect, and Dr. Kelso had managed to get away and call in the team before he was ready.
  • Apex tele-operating the other gorillas via the exoskeletons, using a modification of Redline’s (Mike’s) exoskeleton’s kinesthetic feedback controls.
  • Dr. Kelso was dying, neck broken by an inexpertly wielded tele-operated gorilla, but Apex planned to save her momentarily by putting her in a “Captain Pike” chair, where she’d be less trouble.
  • Attacking Apex failed, since what they saw was just a hologram.  “Didn’t I mention that I’m smarter than you?  I’m pretty sure I did.”
  • Jungle Gal was able to use her Animal Friendship to calm the rampaging gorillas, but before they could pursue Apex he warned them that he had sent some of his gorillas to set the Null Energy Generator project in Lab 57 to go super-critical so if they wanted to prevent the Earth’s atmosphere from being stripped away they should probably attend to that.
  • The team managed to stop the Null Energy Generator explosion through teamwork and the first “Power Play” of the campaign (a Kapow! rule that lets players combine their powers and through comic-book logic create a new power).  They then found that it was all a bluff, and if left alone the destabilized field would have damped itself out instead of destroying the world.  “The villain lied to us!” exclaimed one of the characters.
  • The team (except Jungle Gal) agreed that the remaining gorillas would have to be put down, since the evidence was that gorillas granted super-intelligence through the formula were dangerous.
  • Jungle Gal (Wendy) snuck back into the labs and absconded with the gorillas, using her wealth to charter a plane to some jungle island hide-away where she would reign as Queen of the super-intelligent gorillas… or at least guide their development so they didn’t become evil.   Wendy decided to use this as an opportunity to put Jungle Gal on the back-burner and develop a new character.
  • In other developments, the teleporting villain Technik invited herself on a date with Harbinger (Dan); this seemed to freak Harbinger/Dan out much more than I thought it would, given his character’s attitudes towards other attractive NPCs they’d run into.
  • Beef, the minor villain that Namaste and Jungle Gal had defeated, having been released from jail showed up at Namaste’s yoga studio seeking to study under her and “fix up his Karma and shit.”
  • Police detective George Kim showed up at the base, wanting to know what happened with Revenant.  Redline told him, only to find out that he was unhappy that the Vatican had exceeded its authority in this case by executing Revenant without due process.  The team had let them go ahead because they were dubious about the police and prisons being able to hold Revenant, and were afraid that he’d go on a killing spree as he had apparently done back in the late 19th century.  Kim didn’t blame the team, but explained that while in the past they had to rely heavily on the Order of St. George to track down and capture supernatural monsters they weren’t supposed to go beyond that, at least without a trial, and the police had reliable ways to deal with supervillains once they had been captured: there were power-nullification holding cells (using a bulkier version of the tech in the Wraith’s gloves) and for long-term imprisonment there was the super-max prison, the Oubliette, in a dimension where no super-powers of any kind worked.  Part of this was, by agreement with the players, to establish more firmly that the setting really did permit the heroes to turn over captured villains to the authorities without having to worry about a Arkham Asylum revolving-door situation.

All in all it was a highly satisfactory set of sessions.

Introducing New Players to D&D via Stonehell

Last night we brought my wife’s college roommate and her two kids, ages 14 and 9, to our Sunday night Bumblers gathering, and introduced them to D&D.  None of them had ever played RPGs before, so I decided that a straight-on dungeon delve was the ticket.  The kids were enthusiastic to try, the mom was at least willing.   We rolled up characters, using my D&Desque homebrew rules, before the game started and they created Hippolyta the Fighter (mom), Dorian the Fighter (14 year-old daughter), and Little Father Muffler (9 year-old son).  My wife Elyssa also rolled a new character, Ranger Joe-Bob.  Yeah, I don’t bother trying to encourage campaign-world compatible names, not for this sort of thing anyway.  Doug and Dan were the only other regulars, what with it being Valentine’s day, and they brought Tomato the Fairy Witch and Hurlon the Dwarven Thief.

For a dungeon, I used Michael Curtis’ Stonehell, the same one I’ve been using with the other set of kids.  (I’m using the free version, though the link it to the more polished and complete version you can purchase from Lulu.) It’s a good beginner’s dungeon with a variety of things to encounter, architectural features, and old-fashioned traps.   I’ve found that I like to beef it up a bit, adding stuff so that almost every room has something interesting to investigate or fight; a lot of the rooms are empty, particularly right around the entrance, presumably so you can more easily tailor it to your taste this way.  There are probably arguments to be made along the lines of naturalism and discouraging too much caution (by making it boring to search exhaustively)  for having a fair bit of empty space, but since it violates the King Kong principle (get to the f*ing monkey), the heck with it… players go into the dungeon to encounter stuff, so let’s have them encounter stuff.

An example: in the Feast Hall I put a niche behind one of the rotting tapestries.  In the niche are a swarm of carnivorous moths; they won’t do any actual damage, but will painfully bite exposed flesh (similar to the bit of a horsefly). They are thickly gathered on a small leather bag that’s been coated with a waxy substance.   After Joe-Bob the ranger found the niche and got badly bitten for his troubles, Father Muffler (the 9-year old boy) came up with the idea of luring the moths away from the bag with the light of his lantern; this worked and they retrieved the bag with no further problems… though they did end up abandoning the lantern; fortunately they had a spare.  In the bag they found a necklace of amber beads, each containing an insect inclusion.  Tomato cast Detect Magic, and found that it was indeed magical, and after some hemming and hawing about whether they should try it out and if so, who should take the risk, Tomato draped it over her(him?)self as a kind of sash.  Nothing bad happened immediately,  and later on in a random encounter with some fire beetles they discovered that it allowed the wearer to control insects.  It also dealt Tomato a 1 HP stinging wound after Tomato had made the beetles fight until there was one left, when Father Muffler smashed the last beetle.  The party speculated that this was some kind of feedback effect.  SPOILER (Doug don’t read): [spoiler name=”Spoiler”]actually, it just deals 1HP sting damage whenever the spell wears off, after one ten-minute turn; otherwise it has no charges or limit on times it can be used[/spoiler].

The new players were a bit confused and tentative at first, but started to get the hang of it as we went along.  I did all the rolling for them (usually I let the players roll for everything except searches and the like where they’re not supposed to know whether they’ve failed or there was nothing to find) and just told them the results.  They had the fairly typical fear that they were “doing it wrong,” but the experienced players really encouraged them to go with the flow.  One thing that I do, which I think helps new players get the hang of the role-playing aspect of it, is encourage them to roll on a random table of motivations: once each for their primary drive and primary aversion.  So, for instance, Father Muffler happened to roll that his primary drive was Religion, and that his aversion was also Religion, so he decided that the was a fanatic about his faith and opposed to other faiths.  Dorian rolled that her primary drive was Knowledge, and her aversion was Danger.  This made for (imo) for a rather interesting character, though I think she was particularly concerned that she wasn’t “playing well” because she was avoiding the fighting that the others were doing (with great enthusiasm on some of their parts.  Elyssa in particular loves hacking away at things as a Fighter).  After the game we all reassured her that as long as she was having fun, playing true to the character’s personality rather than optimally for the party’s goals was playing well.  At least by my group’s standards.  Certainly Doug never lets optimum party strategy or groupthink get in the way of his characters’ outrageous personalities, and as long as he manages to be entertaining about it that’s one of the fun things about playing with Doug.

The evening ended with the poison-gas fish-fountain claiming all three of the new players (everyone had to make a save, they were the only ones who failed).  It was getting late, so we ended there, but we’re going to play again tonight, probably with just the kids and Elyssa…the mom appreciated it as a new experience, but wasn’t as taken with the whole thing.  As they were heading out the door to go visit the museums they have planned for the day, the 9 year-old was busy trying to come up with a name for his next priest…

Out-RAGE-e-ous Accents

Here’s a comment I left on an RPG Blog II post about Dwarves with Scottish Accents:

eh, it’s amusing and it passes the test for character accents: it’s easy enough for amateurs to produce recognizably. It matters not at all whether it’s authentic, only that the audience can recognize it. The fact that people know it’s inauthentic may actually be a feature: people who are much too self-conscious to attempt an accent where they might be judged against the real world seem to be comfortable with doing the over-the-top parody accents: och aye Scottish, oh I say English, ve haff vays German, I shall taunt you a second time French, bork-bork-bork Swedish, keel moose and squirrel Russian, arrr me hearties Pirate, fur shur rilly Valley Girl…

I know our group does a lot of silly voices, for which we mostly have Rachel and her Sister Theresa to blame.  I know that in addition to the ones I mentioned above Doug sometimes does Monty Burns: eeeexcellent, complete with finger steepling gestures, and a kind of well, shoot iffen that don’t beat all Hick. What ones am I missing?  There are a bunch of bad celebrity voices that I do, but I’m not sure whether they count….

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Quick Thoughts on Risus

We tried Risus for the first time last Sunday, for another round of the episodic space horror game I run when the mood hits me.  Even though Risus is officially a humorous game (Risus being Latin for laughter), it’s still a reasonably good fit.  Humor and horror have a good deal in common as far as RPGs go: they both de-emphasize realism and tactical play in favor of evoking certain emotional responses, and are well-served by games with simple resolution that emphasize description over game mechanics.

I think the experiment was largely successful, but there are some things that I want to do differently when we resume the game in two weeks.  In particular, I want to encourage the players to be more assertive over the applicability of their Cliches.    There was a bit too much “mother may I?” in our session, with the players asking whether their Cliches cover certain actions they want to take, and too much peering at the super-simple character sheets as if an appropriate Cliche would suddenly jump out at them.  Does Deep-Space Scoutship Captain cover firing a pistol?  It does if you say so, Captain.

As GM I think I need to be more generous with setting target numbers according to the Cliche being used.  I’m used to setting a target and then everybody just sees if they can beat it, but Risus doesn’t exactly work that way.  Making a tricky pistol shot should probably be something like TN 10 for Deep-Space Scoutship Captain, and only 7 for Gold-Medallist Pistol Champion.

Refusal to mourn the death by Orc-blade of a child in a dungeon

For after the first character, there is another

Stonehell claimed its first victim in the kids’ game last night, as Charlie’s character Revenge fell to a mighty critical by an orc.  The dice weren’t particularly kind to him on his new character, either, which he promptly dubbed Expendable 1401, though really it’s pretty much average:

Expendable 1401: Human Fighter Str 8  Int 12  Wis 11 Con 7  Dex 12  Cha 11  Siz 14 Lk 9

King, Oxy-lock’s war dog also succumbed in that fight, though an impressive miracle from Horatia (Grace) brought him back (about a 1 in 1440 chance, if I calculated the odds right).  This cheesed Charlie off a bit, but it wasn’t as if Grace saved her miracle for the dog…

It was a fun session, with a lot of Orc and rat bashing thanks to a pair of random encounters right outside the orc’s watch-post in the Contested Corridors area.  Things might have gone much worse if the party hadn’t managed to break the Orc’s morale with some threats in Orcish conveniently backed by a lucky Smite from Horatia and her false god.  They retreated to the surface with a great sense of satisfaction, and then spent the last ten or so minutes of the session giving Charlie’s new character a hard time because of the suspicious and weaselly way he chose to answer their questions about why he was on the island and whether he was Good.  I’m not entirely sure what that was about; I’m not a big fan of D&D alignment but I’m using it in this game for continuity with Mac’s  game, and Charlie made his character Lawful/Good so he had no reason to be evasive.

I was a little concerned that I let the gore level rise a bit too high, but the kids really seemed to get a kick out of it, and Mac thought it was ok when I asked, since I didn’t dwell on the descriptions.  I more or less took my cue from her and her rather gruesome bluff against the Orcs (“Look! Your bowels are coming out!”).  While I’m not trying to teach any moral lessons, and in the context of the game killing Orcs is jolly good fun, my personal preference is not to make combat too sanitary.  I think I achieved a reasonable balance, but as I said I had some qualms.

Thinking of the Children

I’m going to be running a game for my friend Mac and her three children (ages 7 through 12) in the near future.  She’s been playing D&D with them for a few months now, and I’ve been a player for some of the sessions.  When I mentioned that even though I sometimes had a hankering to run the kind of dungeon-crawlish games that she runs, none of my regular players was into them,  she suggested that I should run for them sometimes.  Among other things, she’d like them to have experience with GMs other than her, so they don’t become one of “those kind” of players who insist that there’s only one right way to play, coincidentally the way their first GM ran things.

I’m not quite sure what I want to run, though.  Mac has been running what she calls D&D pretty much the same way, in the same setting, for almost 27 years now, but with house rules so extensive that it scarcely seems like D&D sometimes (e.g. rolling 3d6 lower than Dex to hit, armor doing damage reduction only, magic via a spell-point system, clerics using a different seemingly ad-hoc system, etc).  That’s what the kids and I have been playing, but I wouldn’t be able to run it even if I wanted to since so much of it seems to exist only in her head.  I gave the two elder children their own copies of one of the retro-clones for Christmas (Basic Fantasy Roleplaying Game, not to be confused with the Chaosium Basic Roleplaying) and the younger of the two has actually been using it, more or less, to create dungeons and play with his friends.  He’s already added a new Body Builder class to the game though I’m not sure anybody he’s played with has yet met its rather stringent stat requirements….

So my first thought was to run that, since the rules are sort of familiar to them, and I would rather spend my time playing the game than explaining the difference between the rules they have (or their mom uses) and the rules I’m using.  My second thought, though, is to use Tunnels & Trolls, since I’d kind of like to try GMing that…. but I know that there’s some stuff about it (particularly the very abstract combat) that may be just too different from what they’re used to.  Mac basically uses a blow-by-blow accounting of combat, with turns lasting a couple of seconds, if that.  So my third thoughts have to do with either swiping a couple of things I really like from T&T and putting it into BFRPG, or vice-versa.  One thing I always get hung up on is that I don’t really like the magic system in the retro-clones.  Magic as ammo loads just doesn’t thrill me, unless you go full out Vance with it as depicted in the Dying Earth… but then you have to tweak both the spells and the MU’s combat capabilities anyway.  And Mac hates Vancean magic almost as much as she hates point-buy systems where you can design a character that’s practically a super-hero from the outset.

And finally, my fourth thoughts are to go ahead and finish the retro homebrew that I was working on, which would finally give me an old-school inspired system that really fits the way I’d like to play as well as players who will be happy to play it….  as usual with me when I start a project I ping-pong back and forth, unable to settle on any one option. I have a couple of weeks, at least, before we’d first play, so I don’t have to decide tonight, but I should decide soon and start working on a dungeon for them.

Tw-0n (key->green): an Elves & Espers Character

Concept: A Hazmat Transport & Disposal Droid

Agility d4
Smarts d4
Spirit d6
Strength d6
Vigor d10

Pace 6, Parry 4, Toughness 7, Charisma -1

Edges: AB: Super, Power Points +5 (x2), Take the Hit (+2 to Soak rolls)
Hindrances: Distinctive Appearance (Waste Disposal Droid), Clueless (-2 to Common Knowledge), Quirk: No Sense of Time
Powers: Ageless(1), Absorption (Magic 4, transference +?), Absorption(Fire/Heat 4), Armor +4 (4), Attack: Wrench (Melee, Heavy Weapon) (4)

Doug’s write-up:

Twonky Green- Hazardous Materials Transport and Disposal droid.

Twonky was a magical residue transport droid deep in the heart of the New Ark City power generation station.  Unfortunately, during the time when Gax was first starting to lose his grip on the city, minor mistakes were beginning to be made, but the aura of infallibility was still being maintained.  One of those mistakes was a change of classification of TW-0N(Key-Green)from automaton to living creature when its transport permit was being renewed at the Department of Moving Vehicles. Normally, this wouldn’t have caused much fuss, except that living creatures aren’t allowed to work inside the power generation area due to the extreme toxicity of the environment, and Twonky was flagged for immediate removal. Repeated visits to the Department of Moving Vehicles to demonstrate his non-living status failed to change their minds, since, as non-security droids, they were forbidden from injuring a living being, which, of course, included changing status from living to not living. The one upside is that living being status has kept him from being “upgraded” and having his idiosyncrasies, errors, bit shifts and buffer overruns put back to normal.

This situation left Twonky without a real purpose.  He was unable to find work in the living being world. Who would hire something that was bathed in ultra-magic for centuries?  So after wandering the arcology for days, months, or years being bored and occasionally making off with full garbage cans, he ended up in the remains of the Broken Spire.  While not nearly as magically charged as his previous job, at least the nice glow reminded him of home.  So he decided that he would make the cleanup of the Broken Spire his new purpose.

It’s been centuries since Twonky started.  The decay of the Spire itself isn’t helping any, but there are a few patches of the Spire that are now almost clean. It’s possibly that he may even finish a whole disk before the tower collapses.

Hey. It’s a job.

I see Twonky as being somewhat irritating to most living beings. Not intentionally, but Twonky tends to take the _long_ view of things.  Time has less meaning to him.  He’s been around thousands of years already. He doesn’t sleep, so there’s no concept of “tomorrow.”  He’s in the middle of his multi-millennia day, and when he eventually turns of, that’s it.

Note

Twonky was generated with Necessary Evil super-powers, which is not generally an option for Elves & Espers characters (except for Trooper’s powered armor).  Doug tried not to be abusive, but the actual stats may be subject to change if it appears to be too much.  Mostly the NE versions of things are helpful for perma powers like Twonky’s Absorbtion…the core version of Super Powers have short durations that make things like immunity to radiation impossible except for brief periods.  I’ll probably be discussing this with Doug some more, but I didn’t want to hold up the game, particularly over something that wasn’t likely to come up during the session.  One thing I’ll probably disallow outright is Twonky’s wrench counting as a Heavy Weapon.