August 23, 2016

Aeon Campaign S3E6 - Interrogation

Dramatis Personae
  • The Commander (Doug) - telekinetic super-soldier with a really angry dog (Yukio). The dog is a powerful ally (250-300 points) and very intelligent and very, very aggressive.
  • The Rat Queen (Emily) - brick with super-perception; made of actual rats
  • Zephyr (Merlin) - Real name Murui; Shaolin Kung Fu expert and super-speedster.
  • Eamon Finnegan (Kyle) - smooth talking gravity-master; Ultimate Fighting Lawyer, to borrow a phrase.
  • Ezekiel (Christian) - Techno Master, Genius, Esper, Super Archer.
Erecting a Statue

We had gathered up Arc Light's dissolved remains into a container and transported it back with us. Someone suggests making a statue of him, and certainly we have enough dust. We put his remains in a standard urn, and The Commander goes to give the news to Angela, Arc Light's widow. 

She is weeping over a post card. One of the ones that is from the 1900s, from The Postman. Hundreds of them delivered over the years. I hand over the urn, at her request, and she hands me a second postcard.

It's for me. It has a bunch of letters, numbers, and code. She'll be in touch about the funeral, etc. 

She has never wanted much to do with the super team, and always thought that we'd get him killed. Turns out she was sorta right (technically he got himself killed by grabbing the skull).

August 22, 2016

Dragon Heresy: Sidhe vs the PCs

This one's unusual, because I didn't do it. My Aesir-level playtester +Luke Campbell loves fae and sidhe and all things funky, and he ran a playtest on his desk, taking a notionally high-challenge sidhe - not the rulers, but still powerful - of the Fey and pitting them against four 8th level characters with a typical party makeup. I'll just post his words and you can see how this turns out.

Pre-fight Commentary by Luke

I volunteered to help write up some of the monsters.  Oh whatever did I get myself into?  But it has been a real blast, even if a lot of work.

I've tried to get a set of antagonists and actors in the world that are evocative of real-world beliefs about mythical and legendary creatures with a Norse focus (although with influence from all around Europe).

Recently, I've been working on the upper level fae, what the Norse would have called alfar.  These were powerful beings, almost divine in some ways, hidden spirits of nature that were set apart from and (in some ways) above men.

One question during the design process is figuring out how much of a challenge an encounter with one of these beings would be.  So I took a typical alfar (or fairie, or sidhe, or whatever one might call it) and set it against the archetypal party of a fighter, cleric, thief, and wizard. Then I tweaked the fae's design parameters, and ran it again.  And again.  And again.  Our poor party was caught in a Groundhog day-like cycle.  Sometimes it was a cakewalk.  Sometimes they got curb stomped.

I finally got dialed in on a design I liked, of about the desired challenge rating, which I could use as a base for ever more powerful variants as the fairie nobles and ladies acquired power and mystical connections to their archetype.  I reported back on some of my findings to the playtest group, and Douglas asked me to do another test with some minor rule tweaks.  So I did, and kept careful note of what happened.  In the process, my generic party acquired names, and perhaps a bit of personality, as did their wily foe.

Then I sent my notes to our playtest group - and here they are. A blow-by-blow breakdown of the fight, in all its gory detail.

August 21, 2016

Dragon Heresy Group 1: The Village is Secure

We finished up the clearing of the village from last game. I'm not going to do a full session report, because I'm a bit burned out at the moment. Not in a bad way, but if you've been keeping track of what I've been up to, you'll see that the game last night came at the end of a frantic week.

An awesome week, true. But frantic.

So, what happened in the game?

The Village is Secure

The group picked up at least one PC stronger than we left off last game. We had all 1st level characters, or maybe 1 second level, but mostly 1st level. We had

  1. Sunshine, a Monk. Low DR from Unarmored Defense, uses an axe and martial asskicking
  2. Adaemis the Servitor, Cleric of the Light. He was created before I had full domains so he used the SRD5.1 straight out of the book, and that's fine too. Any domain that can be associated with a Norse god or goddess can probably be shoehorned into the setting. Chain mail (DR 6), spear, shield, and the usual compliment of healing and damaging spells.
  3. Graves Battleborne, a fighter. Chain mail (DR 6) and a glaive. He uses the reach to very good effect, usually. 
  4. Jack Redwald, Ranger. Leather Armor (DR 1), rapier, longbow. Very good tracker, good stealth, perception, Insight, and Animal handling. He and Adaemis made most of the key spotting rolls this game.
  5. Yuri is our Warlock. Quarterstaff, dagger, and studded leather, but who cares when you have Eldritch Blast. More on that later.
  6. Tomas (Tom Rakewell). Rogue/Thief. Rapier, dagger, shortbow. Stealthiest of the group.
So the party started out looting the bodies of the dead Lizardfolk shaman, and they found a key on him. Almost immediately thereafter, they found a locked chest, and the key fit it. There was also a bunch of blacksmithing raw materials. Total loot about 473 gp. 

There was discussion about making hide armor from the lizardfolk skin, since they have DR 3. The group correctly identified the likely reaction of any and all lizardfolk that see such armor, but then, lizardfolk eat people, so I'm not sure there's going to be much "Coexist" going on here. I think they did eventually decide to skin the guy.

There was also some sort of discussion and die roll about what happened when they killed the shaman, and Tom (I think; it might have been Jack) rolled a 1 on History, which is the skill used to get information on humanoid and civilized groups. We decided that he was absolutely certain that all of the lizardfolk and kobolds were spiritually bound to the shaman, and when they killed him, any remaining would just up and die. 

Certain. He must have read it at a scribe-site on EteraNet or something, and EteraNet is thoroughly fact-checked (WodenFact certified) and never wrong. So to quote Lieutenant Gorman from Aliens: "The village is secure!"

August 20, 2016

Flanking giggles

My kids went to bed hard and woke up before 6am feeling like their skill in Charisma (Orneriness) was at least +8. Maybe higher. So Alina and I are both exhausted. She saw this diagram on my computer screen and just got the giggles. So I figured I'd share.

Edited to Add: I should note that this is specific to both a map and if you are using optional facing rules, where an attack from the flank or rear is considered "flanked" regardless of the number of attackers, and attacks from the front simply are not.

Using map, but no facing, the results are different With theater of the mind, different again. It was just the diagram labels, which I was using for a playtest discussion, that were (notionally) funny.

Printing costs for high-quality books (Aug 2016)

I got the first laid-out copy of Dragon Heresy: The Book of Heroes from +Rob Muadib this week. We're still working on it, though work will slow down a bit as he goes back to school. That's not actually a big deal - technically, the layout comes last, after writing and editing and lots of other things.

But I'll tell you what - I've come to the conclusion that having a preliminary layout is all good, no bad. And I'll tell you why. Actually, I'll tell you why in another post. 

This one? This is about printing.

Dragon Heresy is not just going to be a big book, it's likely going to be two big books. While there's editing and tightening that will and must be done, I've got rules, character generation (that's over 100 pages), spell lists (that's another 100 pages in SRD5.1 books), a full setting  with "what's it like to live there, and recent history" for each nation/realm, a sizeable list of magic items, and 100,000 words of monsters - likely 160 pages right there.

SRD-based book that are complete are going to be big. Limited ways around that, because that engine rewards giant lists of things rather than the build-your-own metasystem approach of a HERO or a GURPS or Fate.

But I digress. The layout plunked down on my desk at 370 pages. That will almost certainly compress, and Rob and I are working hard to make that so. 

But 370 pages means that a typical "perfect-bound" hardback is going to be fraught with peril, because the glue won't necessarily keep the pages where they need to be. GURPS books had this problem early on - and SJG being SJG, they replaced every book that had that issue free of charge. I doubt I can afford to do that.

But looking at Dracula Dossier and the Delta Green Agent's Handbook that plunked down on my desk over the last year or so, I don't have to - both have sewn bindings. That means when you open it up, there's a flexible bit in the spine that allows it to remain intact and open fully. 

For a big book, this is both more customer-delighting and will probably save the publisher/RPG company money. If you have a going concern with plenty of cash flow from other products, you have more to think about. If, like me, you don't - at least not yet - you probably can't afford to play the odds that it all goes to plan.

August 18, 2016

GURPS Day Summary Aug 12 - Aug 18, 2016

Thursday is GURPSDay, and below you can find the blog activity from the last seven days.

Over the last week, as of the end of the day on Thursday Central Time, there have been 50 GURPS-Related posts from our list of 61 blogs that have popped up on the radar screen. We picked up a new/old blog - RPG Snob - who has done a lot of good GURPS work before, and is doing more again. 

We're back up to the rate that was our old usual total this week - on the average we should be seeing about one post per week per blog. We're still off that pace, but summer must be ending. 

We saw the release of GURPS Adaptations last week too.

Not every blog posts about GURPS every week, but some are ridiculously prolific! The list is randomized, so different bloggers will be highlighted at the top of the post each week.

As always, if you're interested in having your blog consolidated here, navigate over to The Instructions Page and drop me a line.

August 16, 2016

Locked blades in GURPS

Over at Mailanka's Musing, he throws down a fun post, akin to my Technical Natasha effort, describing the fight between Luke and Vader in The Empire Strikes Back.
It's a good breakdown, and worth the read.

One thing that came up in the comments was the frequency of blade-to-blade pushing. This is, I believe, referred to as corps-a-corps in fencing and GURPS. 

It's what happens when you get grip-to-grip, in close combat. Lacking something on your blade to bind the other, or an actual grapple, this tends to not last long, and end with no small amount of blood.

In the various Star Wars movies, though, it goes beyond that. Combatants will frequently stand blade-locked, saber-to-saber. Usually snarling. It does make for dramatic cinema, of course. All that straining. It shows up over and over, too. It was in The Phantom Menace, with an iconic scene of Maul catching both of his Jedi foe's lightsabers on his staff-saber, and holding them there. It was in Empire, as Luke strains against Vader and Vader contemptuously shoves him away. It was in The Force Awakens. It was all over the place in The Clone Wars and even in Rebels.

We do this all the time, by the way, in Hwarang Kumtoogi, the variant of Korean sword-sport that is practiced in Hwa Rang Do. It's very close-in work, and used to deny the advantage of reach and proper form for a strike. 

What it's not, at least when done correctly, is an all-out strain-fest. It's probing pushes and bumps, looking for a break in rhythm Hwarang Kumtoogi allows dropping to the knees to do leg strikes, so that's how this usually ends.

But in Star Wars it seems more than that. It seems so much more that I would suggest it's something perhaps even unique to Star Wars, to lightsabers, or just as a mechanical way of representing something that's somewhat iconic to the Star Wars lightsaber fighting method.

It's a grapple

Specifically, it's usually initiated after a grappling parry, but can also be forced by the combatant. It binds the blades in place without the need for an actual grip, due perhaps to the interaction between the blades themselves. (Blah, blah squishy physics, blah.)

But by simulating it as a grapple, you get two key side-effects. 

  • It becomes largely a contest of strength, or control points, which are derived from Trained Strength.
  • It simulates why people don't just back up or disengage - they cannot.

This was just a though inspired by Daniel's post. But treating this blade bind as a grapple that you can pull off with either a dedicated attack or the grappling equivalent of an aggressive parry would pretty fairly simulate the movies, and make good use of the GURPS rules without invoking lost fingers and limbs through actual grapples, which in a light-saber context, as well as with Telekinetic force users, might be pretty stupid.

August 15, 2016

Aeon Campaign S3E5 - The wrong damn rec room

Dramatis Personae
  • The Commander (Doug) - telekinetic super-soldier with a really angry dog (Yukio). The dog is a powerful ally (250-300 points) and very intelligent and very, very aggressive.
  • Arc Light (Christian) - battlsuited gadgeteer with electrical powers
  • The Rat Queen (Emily) - brick with super-perception; made of actual rats
  • Zephyr (Merlin) - Real name Murui; Shaolin Kung Fu expert and super-speedster.
  • Eamon Finnegan (Kyle) - smooth talking gravity-master; Ultimate Fighting Lawyer, to borrow a phrase.
  • Billy Waugh (Shawn Fisher) - A special operative and guide provided by General Legend. Special guest star!
I love it when a plan comes together

Once again, we left off with The Commander needing to make a plan. This came together offline during the weekend, and to sum up, we have:
  • Arc Light - hacks the planet and gets a link into the comm station. 
  • Zephyr - back up to Arc Light, perimeter defense for that part of the mission.
  • Rat Queen, The Commander, Billy - initial perimeter recon. Goal is zero residual presence, no detection. If you have to choose between breaking contact and not looking in a particular window, break contact.
  • Eamon - scan base for underground surprises.
We re-convene near the Comm shed.

What Comm shed? Oh: that comm shed.

With Arc Light hopefully all in they face with the communications in and out, we put a contact team in the barracks (I'd say Billy, Ian, and . . . who's the next sneakiest? Not the guy in the battlesuit, I suspect) and down the guards there.

When that's done, which whittles down the opposition by half or more, we then all converge on our scientist quarry. Ideally, we have a noisy group that will be the hammer, and the quiet group that's the anvil, and drive him into our waiting clutches.

Then we throw down a monster diversion - remotely firing up DA CHOPPA as if we expect to exfil using the CH47, for example - but we actually sneak out through the floor, using Eamon and TRQ to literally make a hole. At that point, The Commander and Billy can play rear guard, Zephyr and Arc Light keep our mysterious scientist nice an quiet. We emerge farther down the mountainside and Eamon floats us down. Billy takes point then and we disappear into the jungle, and then get back to the USA.

So that's where we are, now we see what monkey wrenches are thrown in.

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