Posted in Fan Friday, General Writing

Fan Friday – PAX Unplugged – Post Mortem

So I went to PAX Unplugged back in November.  Being my first PAX I was excited, being the first ever PAX Unplugged I had no idea what to expect.  There were a couple other firsts for me there too.  My first time to Philadelphia, and the first time I had gone to a convention with my family in tow.

Let me first say that Philadelphia is a fascinating city with a lot of history.  My family and I went up a day early to do all of the touristy stuff we could.  We visited Founders Hall and saw the Liberty Bell along with a ton of other old buildings and museums.    Our family enjoyed our time there immensely.

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Look the Bell is broken

 

 

The Con itself was an interesting beast.  The convention floor was a decent size, about a third of the size of GenCon’s Dealer Hall.  However, They broke the floor up quite a bit.  Only a third of the space was actual dealers while another third was full of empty tables for you to grab a game and go play, the final third was used for the tournament tables and the main show stage.

Early on the first day, I was a bit underwhelmed… This was a PAX? It was tiny compared to GenCon.  The Dealer space was taken up with a lot of cool vendors selling stuff I’d seen at GenCon along with what they had new since then, and a lot of catch-all board game booths selling every board game under the sun.

I’m a fan of board games, but mainly when I gather 5-6 friends together I’d like to play an RPG instead.   I must say I’ve been spoiled by GenCon, it’s the only gaming con I’ve attended in about fifteen years.(gosh I’m getting old) That being said I’ve gotten used to how they do things:  Register online to run events, then register to attend them.  With Unplugged you can register to run RPG  events ahead of time but you have to wait in a line early in the day to try to get a slot at one of the RPG games. It seemed like a huge hassle for not a sure thing. I may be wrong it might of went smoothly and everyone enjoyed themselves, but how the Enforcer explained the process too me made me just want to steer clear.  Hopefully, they have a better fleshed out RPG running/Playing system next time.  This was their first year, there were some kinks, and I am sure they will learn from them and only get better.

What the Con seemed to be about though was playing board games with friends.  That is where the Con thrived.  The Con had a massive collection of Checkout and Play games, and in the evening the convention hall was full of people at every table playing games.  This is great if you came with a group of friends you could grab a game and start playing.  You could learn a new game or visit an old favorite.  It was neat seeing a lot of people playing games into the wee hours.  However with my wife back at the hotel putting our little one to bed, our exchange student and I were relegated to playing small 2 player games, it seemed rather daunting to try and saddle up to another table with people, especially since most games were already in progress.

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The Line to the Acquisitions Incorporated Live Game

 

Of course, you had the panels, the Acquisitions Incorporated games, the Q&A’s and others which seem to be a staple of the Con.  I was happy to have a chance to meet a few of the Rollplay crew as well as see the Acquisitions Incorporated game live, though the people watching from the comfort of their homes had a much better view.

Overall I would say the Con was a success.  The city alone was such a delight and worth the drive up.  The panels were fun, the dealer hall underwhelming but the atmosphere was great.  I’ll probably attend again, possibly even next year, but I can’t see it becoming a yearly “must go” on my schedule like GenCon.

Posted in General Writing

Blog Update

So my blog has been quiet for the last month.  Let me tell you what has been going on.

I had more Star Trek content planned but the play session got changed last minute which caused me to have to hold the content because some of my players actually read my blog.   And with the crazy holiday times, we haven’t been able to make up that game.  But we will soon and more Star Trek Content will be forthcoming.

I’m venturing into D&D5E.  Yes, I’m like the last holdout whose never played the latest edition of the hobbies staple.  I month or so ago a cousin of mine who lives close by, asked me if I played D&D.  He’d apparently gotten into watching Critical Roll and thought this whole Role-playing thing sounded cool, and he wanted to give it a try.   Initially, I was going to run him through some Numenera instead.  I already had committed to Star Trek so I didn’t think I had the time to learn a new system and make up two separate campaigns for two systems that require quite a bit of prep.  Numenera rules I know like the back my hand and can come up with ideas quite easily and run with minimal work.   Then, however, something caught my eye.  I started watching Roll20 Presents: Tomb of Annihilation. A hex crawl adventure in the Jungles of Chult.  As a teenager looking at a map of Faerun I was always interested in what lies inside the unexplored (then) Island of Chult.  Dinosaurs lost civilizations, and ancient Mysteries all sounded like a great place to adventure.  My GM at the time just told me. “You’ll die in 5 minutes” and that was that.   I never got to go.  Now, however, Chris Perkins has written this wonderful adventure that expands on the mysteries of Chult and fleshes the place out into a full and interesting campaign.  Adam Koebel and his gang at Roll20 create interesting characters and have great fun in their delve into the danger field jungle, and they sell me on learning 5E and taking my cousin and a few others though dino-filled land in search of a way to stop the death curse.  We had our first Session last Thursday and so far everyone is having a blast.  Even if the DM had to take pity on a player and prevent a session 1 player death.  ( Seriously we had 3 death saves roll in the first session for 2 separate characters. None above a 10, and one and actual 1)

 

Another thing I did over the last month was, attend PAX Unplugged in Philadelphia.  I’ll have more on my thoughts on this Convention later in the week.

 

On the life front the Company I work for Decided to offload the division I work for, so they sold it.  I get to keep my job with the new company, saints be praised, but the whole transition has been a massive ordeal.   I actually start at that new company the day this post goes live.    This transition has sapped my desire to sit at a computer in write when I get home.  Instead, I’ve been watching TV, relaxing, and playing a bit of Star Realms with our Exchange Student.  But alas I need to get back to writing and my commitment to this blog.  My apologies readers I will try to be more consistent.

Posted in Gaming Advice, Star Trek Adventures

Star Trek Adventures: My First Taste of Space Combat

Last night I had the opportunity to run Space Combat in my Star Trek Adventures game.  I was running the scenario A Vulture Among the Stars by Fred Love that was in Issue 2 of Modiphia.   Combat called for a single Ferengi Marauder against my player’s Intrepid Class ship.

I had 4 players at the table that night so that meant it was 4 crew turns against the 5 of the Marauder (it’s scale) a round.  This is where I come to my first recommendation in running space battles.  Since the Initiative is ‘popcorn-like,’ jumping from one side to the next unless momentum/threat is spent, I recommend having markers for each player and each enemy initiative slot.  Something you can flip over to denote that person/slot has acted this round. I found a shorted the enemy an initiative or 2 because I forgot the players spent momentum to keep the initiative a time or two.  Having a clear indication of who has and hasn’t gone each round would have helped.  Especially when determination can be spent to take a second turn in the same round or the commanding officer can direct others.

Tip #2 versatile is going to generate the players momentum and you threat so go ahead and use both before you roll damage.  Phasers have Versatile 2… meaning every Effect rolled grants you 2 Momentum/Threat.  Due to the Momentum Limit, you might as well spend it before you roll damage to gain extra dice on the attack roll and extra damage.  Be sure to leave 1 behind for a reroll of that damage dice if necessary.

One of the cool parts of the scenario is that it’s not just a pitched battle.  The players had 4 lifeboats to worry about as well as a pending warp core breach on wrecked vessel.  All of this put some urgency on the players and gave me great things to do with my threat tokens and complications rolled.  So, try to have either a cool location with your fight with environmental hazards that add an unknown element or outside factors that the players need to worry about.   It will add a lot.

One of the things that is mentioned in the book that I think really worked well to keep the feel of Star Trek, was not hiding what the enemy was doing. There wasn’t a PC sensor operator at my table last night, but every time I had the Marauder do something I had the Sensor Operator(me) say to the table “Captain they are moving into attack formation.  Captain, it appears they’re recharging their shields.  Captain, we are being scanned.” And so forth. It pulled the players from all the dice I was rolling back into their characters and to the scene.

There is a bit of bookkeeping in space combat.  Power management will be a factor in longer engagements.  It may be a good idea to have a visual representation of that rather than having to erase a number over and over.   We used poker chips for Power it worked well.  However, in this instance the combat went quickly it was over in 3 full rounds The Marauder fled the field after suffering 3 breaches.

Which brings me to my last point.  Space combat is vicious.  With good momentum spends you can easily Breach with just about every shot.  The Marauder breached the Intrepid class vessel twice missing it’s third phaser blast altogether.  While there was a bit of flipping through charts and descriptions to find out what each breach meant the end result was great.  Describing the hit; the players shaking about in their chairs; the consoles sparking; my players really enjoyed it.

I do have to say hats off to Fred Love the writer of the scenario it worked quite well.  Also, Captain Brasha became an instant favorite villain of my table.  They wanted her to escape so she can be a reoccurring menace to them, and boy do I have plans. 😊

 

 

 

Posted in Adventures, GM Prep, Role-playing Sessions, Star Trek Adventures

Unintended Side Effects: First Attempt at a Star Trek Adventures Adventure

A few people in my gaming group or huge Star Trek fans, my wife included, so with our Achtung! Cthulhu game wrapping up, they tasked me with running Modiphius’ new Star Trek Adventures.  Our group had playtested the system and liked it a lot.  To be honest I don’t think the rules mattered that much; any excuse for my players to act like they were in Star Fleet was enough.   Three seconds into the sessions and it was already like “Yes Captain” and “set phasers to stun.”  But alas this blog post isn’t actually about the game itself but my attempt at creating an adventure for it.  You see I while the available adventures are quite good I had a few of my own ideas.  What follows was the mission I used for the Maiden Voyage of the USS Schrödinger.

“Unintended Side Effects”

The Setup:

The new colony on Fenris IV hasn’t checked in in 10 months.  They never asked for their usual 6 months resupply.  Head out there and conduct a wellness check on the colony, render what aid you can.

(if you are someone playing in a Star Trek Adventures game you may want to stop reading this blog now, but instead, share a link to this blog with your GM so they can mine my adventure for ideas that they may want to use in their future adventures)

What has happened:

Six months ago an alien lifeform known as the Record Keeper crashed into the planet near the colony by accident.  It was injured by another race in a nearby system.  It tried to land on Fenris IV when it detected power and an advanced civilization.  It had trouble entering the atmosphere and crashed.

The being soon created an avatar for itself and observed the populous.  They caught glimpses of it and thought it was a monster.  The Record Keeper started creating a neural field around the colony so that he can penetrate their brain waves and make them think he was one of them.  Something he has done on hundreds of worlds.  Soon, however, the populous of the colony started getting sick.

The Record Keeper discovered that its own blood the runoff from the crash was poisoning the water and killing all in the area.  Unable to halt his lifeblood from flowing into the water and unable to move his vessel the Record Keeper did the only thing he knew.  He created synthetic vessels for the biological lifeforms.  He infiltrated the colony as a doctor and cured the sick by placing their heads inside a synthetic body.  Thus preserving their life.  The neural field, of course, made it so no one was the wiser.   Over the next 4 months, most of the colony was replaced.  However, supplies are scarce so the synthetic bodies were only what the Record Keeper had on hand or was able to replicate.

The Record Keeper

Is an anthropologist. It records species culture and knowledge and takes it back to its homeworld (The Core) every millennium.  It was on its way back when it got attacked.   It is dying it knows that and has resigned itself that fate.  In fact, it has cut off the colony’s communication with the outside universe in order to make sure no others get harmed unintentionally.   However, if a way out does present itself (like a starship with enough computer power to hold itself and all its knowledge) it will revert back to its original mission and do whatever it takes (without harming others) to get its knowledge back to The Core.

So that is the basis for the situation.  Here are my bullet points for prep:

Mission Briefing

  • Colony on Fenris IV hasn’t checked in 10 months
  • They never asked for their usual 6-month resupply
  • Please Deliver the usual supplies to the colony and do a wellness check on them

Initial Scans of Planet

  • A lot of life forms present on the planet.
  • A lot fewer lifeforms per area inside the colony area
  • Only 2 Human Lifeforms present

Landing

  • Flora around the area is wilting no animal noises
  • Small metal towers – non-federation standard around area
  • Entering area Requires a Daring + Command Check difficulty 2

Raving Lunatic (seen outside of town)- Kabel Belleros  18 years old.

  • “The forest Monster has infiltrated the community”
  • Claims they have all been taken over
  • Flash in the sky 6 months ago.  The earth shook.
  • “Don’t go! It will change you too.”
  • “My own mother’s a thing now” “It’s not her I swear it. It’s not her.”
  • Insight + Command to calm him down. (people started getting sick. But then the Doctor showed up.  And the sick got well overnight)

Hexiped Attack

  • Dog size feathered hexapeds growl at the group. They look gaunt and hungry, feathers wet smelly and carnivorous.
  • Fear and hunger dominate thoughts.
  • Xenobiology – they are sick desperate a significant show of aggression may scare them off.

The Colony

  • The crops are all wilted or dead.  The tree bark looks slimy and is falling off. (If failed test Daring Command upon entering everything looks great. Healthy plants a field full of crops normal happy people)
  • The Structures are all intact and you see people moving about.
  • People harvesting fields with dead crops
  • Insight + Security 1 (IF PASSED Daring Check) – the people have an odd shape they aren’t human.

The Colonist

  • Look like bulky cobbled together robots to those that passed the Daring + Command Check Otherwise they appear perfectly normal.
  • Colonists have metallic facsimiles of faces some have a bit of articulation while some do not.
  • They are all wearing poncho like clothing covering their bulk.
  • They are friendly to the crew.  Thanking them for checking up on them but no need.  They are self-sufficient now.  Though they should see if the doctor has need of medicine.  The doctor is such a great guy saved many of the colony members who got sick.
  • Doctor out collecting herbs and medicine’s should be back before nightfall.

Meanwhile on Ship

  • Once the time for gossip to spread has occurred.   Normal shipboard functions stop working correctly (replicators, holodeck transporters)
  • Reason + (Security or Engineering)
  • Ships computer becomes overwhelmed with incoming data.
  • Something is writing itself into the computers AI.
  • Data coming from the planet.
  • Data coming in through sensor arrays
  • Sensors cutoffs inoperable.
  • This overflow of incoming data makes communication with the away team rather difficult.  Checks required.

The Doctor

  • Herbert Hemingway (Record Keeper)
  • No thoughts you can read.
  • Looks like a well-designed robot. Arms legs notable socket in the back of the head.
  • Non-violent
  • Tries to bluff but if confronted admits truth… first 3 bullet points below

The Truth

  • The Hausairans* attacked him when he was leaving the system. Managed to get to warp. But was injured. It Located a power supply on Fenris IV but entry into the atmosphere was unstable. Crashed nearby.  Tried to observe colony before approach. Locals who saw him thought he was a monster.  Then he realized the waste leaking from the crash site was making the land and the people sick. He did what he had to do to save the souls of intelligent biological life.
  • Borrowed much of synthetic body design from the Botrex* design.
  • Waste killing people is his blood. He is the ship that crashed
  • He is uploading himself to the ship in order to commandeer it.  He must return his knowledge to The Core.
  • Plans on putting crew in suspended animation for the journey
  • Extended task to retain control of ship work 5 magnitude 3 resistance 1. (2 threat to increase resistance) (2 threat to release knockout gas on ship)

*The Hausairans and the Botrex are two alien races I intend to introduce in future voyages.

 

This idea; A colony replaced by a benevolent alien who accidentally was killing them, was originally the plot of a Numenera adventure I was working on (I still may write that up for a future CypherCaster) but the plot seemed to fit a Trek adventure quite well as well.  What was cool about this adventure is I didn’t have to write up an outcome.  I just had to present the problem.  I had no idea what the players would do.

So what did my player end up doing?  Well with the away team set to blow up their shuttle in order to destroy the rest of the Record Keepers body, and the Record Keeper close to taking over the USS Schrödinger, the Captain was able to convince it to stand down by offering to mind meld with It. Yes, the Vulcan Captain went all Star Trek 2/3 on the situation and melded with the Record Keeper transferring its katra into himself.   The doctor warned the captain that this could kill him.  The roll was very very difficult but with a few momentum spends and he was able to succeed with 6 successes.  So now a  millennia worth of information is locked away in the captain’s brain….. Ohh there will be consequences 🙂 (and a season long arc for the Captian has been established)

Posted in Gaming Advice, Set Piece

Set Piece: Fly You Fools

The castle is being over-run; the King has been Usurped and the town is crawling with the enemy; Imperial troops have entered the base, or the undead have broken through the walls.  It is time to use discretion, the better of Valor, and live to fight another day.  In an RPG getting players to flee overmatched fights is hard to do, but when presented with an overwhelming force they may decide it’s time to fall back.   In this Set Piece, I will discuss how to run a fun encounter where the heroes are on the back foot.

Scene:

The Players are forced to flee overwhelming odds.  This kind of idea requires some setup.  As a GM you can spell out the scene.  The army arrives and your forces are falling there is no way you alone can stem the tide.  This scene could follow an epic Hold the Line type fight that failed or could just be the result of events the players had no hand in.   Try not to be rail-roady; if the players wish to fight to the end you should let them. Just don’t let up on them.  This should lead to a captured or imprisoned set-piece or maybe just player death.

Mood:

The mood could be utter chaos and fear or it could be composure in the face of adversity it really depends on how the players play things.  Do they give orders? Do they calm the hysterical? Or do they find a shadow to sneak in towards a hidden way out of the city?  Take your cues from them.  Show the effect they are having on the people around them with their fearless demeanor, or show the chaos and death occurring as they run away.  If they choose the latter route you don’t have to punish them.  Maybe show others trying to lead and get swarmed by the fearful mob, or cut down by a defector or the enemy.   Sometimes making whatever decision they choose seems like the right decision after-the-fact makes for a more enjoyable role-playing experience. Continue reading “Set Piece: Fly You Fools”

Posted in RPGaDay 2017

RPGaDay 2017 Day 7: Stranded in Space

What was your most Impactful RPG Session?

This a tough questions because memories fade.  What was impactful for me years ago may not seem all that impactful anymore.  However, something that happened 3 sessions ago may still resinate with me.  Well with GenCon approaching this year I still remember the best session I had last year:

Last year at GenCon I played in my first LARP game.  It was sci-fi themed.  Basically a group of us, just over a dozen I think, ended up on a starship stranded in space.  Rescue was weeks out and life support wouldn’t last near that long.  A classic Sci-fi scenario.

I’d never LARPed before but going in I decided I was going to give it my all.  I embraced my character and played it full tilt. I was a guy with something to live for.  Not a heroic or brave guy, but someone who had a family back home I supported and a very sick kid who needed my help.

As tensions rose on the ship and the inevitable was discovered, (most of us had to die so at least 2 of us could live) I didn’t take things well.   As everyone resigned themselves to their fate I was the decerning voice.  I was not one of the ones chosen to live.  A couple people were more important, the fate of worlds rested in their hands.  What did I care for worlds though; my world, my family, rested in my hands.  Inevitably the decision was stolen from me by the actions of a few of the crew and I had to accept my fate.

It was an intense role-playing session but a hell of a lot of fun.  A few of us from the game gathered at a bar afterward and drank till the wee hours of the morning, decompressing and reveling in the shared experience.

 

Posted in RPGaDay 2017

RPGaDay 2017 Day 5: The Artistic Loop

Which RPG Cover best Captures the Spirit of the Game?

Cover

Well, I would have to say that has to be the cover for Tales from the Loop.  With the beautiful art from Simon Stålenhag.  This is kind of a cheat because Simon Stålenhag’s art is what inspired the RPG in the first place, his art IS the Spirit of the Game.

Regardless the cover is a beautiful piece that conveys the idea of wonder and adventure from the eyes of children, in a setting of futuristic past.  The art throughout the book is great and you can read more on my impressions of the actual game in my Fan Friday Post.