Monday, December 31, 2012

FtA: The System: Skill Checks and Combat

The last System-based post dealt with the System as it relates to Opposed Rolls and Attribute Checks.  Following up on that, I wanted to run through some scenarios that deal with Skills, and then walk through Combat.

Each player's Skill Level has a Rank between 1 and 5.  When an Attribute Check intersects with a Skill, the Skill Rank is subtracted from the roll.

Marcus is attempting to track a fugitive through the woods.  This is a Wisdom based activity, and Marcus has an 11 in Wisdom.  The fugitive is more interested in getting away than hiding his trail, so the fugitive's Dexterity is used as the opposing roll.  The fugitive is not terribly agile, having a Dexterity of only 6, but he rolls a 2, resulting in a Distance of 4.  Marcus rolls a 9, making his Distance a 2.  Ordinarily, this would result in a Difference of 2 in favor of the fugitive, and a Degree of Minimum Failure for Marcus.  However, Marcus has 3 Ranks in Hunting.  As such his modified roll is a 6, giving him a Distance of 5.  This changes the Difference to 1 in favor of Marcus, and a Degree of Minimum Success for Marcus.  He is able to catch sight of the fugitive at the edge of the treeline.

Skills also allow for the result of a roll to enter into the negative, increasing the likelihood of higher Differences, and thus higher Degrees of Success.

Marcus attempts to take a shortcut to head the fugitive off at the other side of the treeline.  This requires an Intelligence check.  Because Marcus has been focused on the fugitive and not so much on where he is, the GM rules that this will be a more difficult check.  Rather than make this an opposed roll, he decides that there is a Target Number involved.  He sets the Target Number at 12, and rolls a 2, for a Distance of 10.  Marcus is of middling wit, with an Intelligence of 11.  Ordinarily, this would present a problem for Marcus, for even if he rolled a 1, it would result in a tie, forcing him to try again the following round.  However, fortunately for Marcus, he also is skilled in Navigation, possessing 4 Ranks in the Skill.  The fates smile upon him, and he rolls a 2, and then subtracts 4, giving him a modified score of -2, and a Distance of 13.  The Difference is 3 in Marcus' favor, giving him a Degree of Average Success.

Combat works in much the same manner.  Per usual, Strength is used to determine Melee attacks, while Dexterity is used to determine Ranged attacks.

Once the manner of Combat is chosen, the Player rolls an Attribute Check, per usual.  Anyone can attack with any weapon, with no penalty.  However, Players can choose specific weapons, and become Skilled in their use, in which case the rules above apply.  Just as with other Skills, rolls can be modified into the negative.

The recipient of an attack has three choices.  They can Dodge, they can Soak, or they can Parry.

Dodging means exactly that - the player attempts to get out of the way of the attack.  Dodging is a Dexterity based maneuver, and is handled per usual.  Minimum Successes result in half damage, Average Successes result in  no damage, but the loss of the next action, and a Great Success results in no damage, and no loss of action.

Grog, you will recall, has an 18 Strength, and is attacking Marcus with a street sign, a chunk of concrete still attached to its base.  Marcus is quite nimble, however, and has a Dexterity of 15.  Grog rolls a 12, resulting in a Distance of 6.  Marcus rolls a 4, resulting in a Distance of 11 - a Great Success.  Marcus is able to dodge out of the way of Grog's lumbering strike, unscathed.

Soaking means that the player will allow their armor and natural toughness to attempt to mitigate the damage of the attack.  Soaking is a Constitution based defense, but allow the player to modify their roll by their Armor score.  Armor is rated between 1 and 5, with 5 being the equivalent to full body armor.  Minimum Successes result in Half Damage, and the loss of 1 points of Armor Rating.  Average Successes result in no damage, but still the loss of 1 point of Armor Rating.  Great Successes result in no damage, and no loss of Armor Rating.

Marcus strikes back at Grog using a long shank of jagged metal, which he has put 3 Skill Points into.  Unfortunately, he only has a Strength of 9.  He rolls a 4, resulting in a modified roll of 1, giving him a Distance of 8.  Grog steps into the blow, determined not to let Marcus get away.  Grog has a Constitution of 14, and  rolls a 7, giving him a Distance of 7.  However, he has a stop sign hung around his neck, which has an Armor Rating of 2.  His modified roll is a 5, giving him a Distance of 9, resulting in a Difference of 2 - a Minimum Success.  Grog's stop sign is damaged, and now only provides an Armor Rating of 1, and he takes half damage from the attack.

Parrying is a maneuver only available when using melee weapons, and even then, the Player must be Skilled in the use of that weapon in order to use the maneuver.  It is a Strength based maneuver, and any Skill points put into the use of that weapon are applied.  In the event of a Minimum Success, the defender takes half damage, while an Average Success indicates no damage.  A Great Success results in no damage, and the defender is allowed a counterattack, and the victim of that counterattack may only Soak the damage.

Grog gives a yell, enraged by the sight of his own blood, swings the street sign over his head before bringing it down in a crushing attack.  He rolls a 17, resulting in a Distance of 1.  Marcus raises the metal shard above his head in an attempt to divert the blow, and rolls a 4, and with the 3 points he put into the weapon's use, he has a modified roll of 1.  His Strength is a 14, resulting in a Distance of 13, and a Difference of 12 in his favor, a Degree of Great Success.  The pole meets the blade and skitters down its length before crashing to the ground beside Marcus, who is able to use the momentum to swing at Grog's exposed side.  He rolls a 4, applies his 3 Skill points for a Modified roll of 1, and with his Strength of 9, he has a Distance of 8.  Grog rolls a 12, though, and his stop sign's remaining Armor Rating of 1 gives him a Modified Roll of 11, resulting in a Distance of 3 compared to his Constitution of 14.   The end result is a Difference of 5, in Marcus' favor, an Average Success.  Grog's stop sign bears the brunt of the blow, but Marcus still draws blood.  Grog suffers half damage, and the stop sign is now useless as armor.

Three Days Remain!

No, this isn't a Mayan Apocalypse thing, there are only three days left in the Morrow Project Kickstarter!  One of the original post-apocalyptic RPGs,

I played this a few times when I was but a lad.  I'm not sure how much was the setting and how much was the GM, but it played like a cross between Gamma World, Twilight 2000 and Paranoia.  Even though my group only played it a handful of sessions before moving on, I've always held it in high regard.

Well, as I said above, they've got a Kickstarter on for a fourth edition of the game, and I've had the badge displayed prominently here on the blog for awhile now, but with only three days left, I figured I'd give it a final push.  It's fully funded at this point, and has hit the first two stretch goals, and the third is definitely doable with a strong push in the last few days, so if you haven't already, get on board!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

FtA: The System

Awhile ago, I mentioned that a mechanic I had been playing with as a mini-game within a module seemed to be more robust than I had anticipated, and it might work as a core mechanic for From the Ashes. Having toyed with it for a bit, I figured I'd throw it out there to gauge reactions.

The system has been built around the idea of opposed rolls, but can be adapted to meet what would typically be unopposed checks as well.  It's based on three key ideas - Distance, Difference and Degree.

The process is as follows: each party involved would roll a d20, and compare the result to their appropriate Attribute Score.  The Distance is the number rolled, subtracted from the Attribute Score.  The greater the Distance, the greater the Success, as compared to their own capabilities.  The Difference is the lower Distance subtracted from the higher Distance.  The greater the Difference, the greater the Success, as compared to the opponent's Success.  The Degree is the in-game, non-mechanical measure of that Difference, so a Difference of 1 or 2 results in a minimal Degree of Success, while a Difference of 10 creates an exceptional Degree of Success.

So let's say that Avery, with a Strength of 9, and Grog, with a Strength of 18, are arm wrestling.  Grog the man-mountain rolls a 16, while Avery the noodle armed choirboy rolls a 2.  Grog's Distance is 2, while Avery's is a 7.  Grog's effort is not his best, while Avery puts forth a herculean effort, and manages to defeat his much stronger opponent.  The Difference is five, which is an Average Degree of Success - after some hard work, Avery is able to beat Grog at arm wrestling.

If, however, Grog had rolled a 17, while Avery rolled a 1, Grog's Distance would be 1, while Avery's would be 8, so there would be a greater Difference of 7.  Perhaps Grog's elbow slipped in a puddle of beer, thus creating a more decisive victory for Avery.

If one party rolls above their attribute, they automatically lose, and the the winner's Distance alone is used to determine the Degree of Success.  Without an opponent's Distance to offset their own Distance in determining the Degree, an Exceptional Degree of Success is much more likely.

This time around, Grog rolls a 3, while Avery rolls a 12.  Avery fails his roll, and Grog's Distance of 15 is used to determine the Degree of Success.  With a Degree of 15, poor Avery doesn't stand a chance.  Grog slams Avery's arm to the table with a resounding, "THUNK".  Avery thinks his arm might be broken.

A tie means the challenge is at an impasse, and continues on to the next round, with each player taking a +1 penalty to their roll from the strain of continued challenge.  This puts a greater burden upon whichever has the lower score, as it should be in sustained challenges.

Grog rolls a 16, while Avery rolls a 7.  Both of their Distances are 2, so they roll again, this time with a +1 modifier to their roll.  This time Avery rolls an 8, while Grog rolls another 16.  Including the modifier, Avery did not roll below his score, and so he loses the challenge.

For rolls that would not typically be considered to be opposed, the GM sets a Target Number.  The Player makes their roll, corresponding to the appropriate Attribute, while the GM makes the opposing roll.  The Target Number represents the objective level of challenge of the task, while the die roll factors in the random events that can occur. The easier the task, the lower the Target Number.

While Grog is very strong, no-one has ever accused him of being terribly agile.  Faced with a chasm, he decides to leap across, although his Dexterity is only a 10.  The GM determines that the chasm is not terribly wide, and assigns it a Target Number of 6.  Grog rolls a 7, while the GM rolls a 2.  Grog's Distance is 3, while the GM's Distance is 4, resulting in a Difference of 1, in the GM's favor.  Perhaps a strong gust of wind catches Grog as he jumps, or he does not gauge the distance correctly, but either way, he does not make it across.  A Degree of 1 indicates a Minimal Failure, so perhaps he stumbles as he lands, and loses a turn as he recovers his balance.

I have to look at probabilities and such to develop a table that would standardize the Degrees, for right now I'm winging it a bit, but it seems to me that this could be a workable system.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Les Miserables Extravaganza!

I am hitting a mental wall on another post I've been working on for the last week or so, so I'm going to step away from it for a moment and talk about something completely unrelated - how incredibly excited I am for the Les Miserables movie coming out in less than one week!

What's Les Miserables, you say?  Really?  I can't imagine that anyone is actually saying this, but on the off chance you are, it was a book by Victor Hugo that was made into a musical that took the world by storm a couple of decades ago, that is getting remade into a movie, starring Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman, Amanda Seyfried, Anne Hathaway, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter, yeah, pretty much everybody.

It's the tale of the lives of a group of people, with the French Revolution as the backdrop.  It's an emotional rollercoaster - there's love, there's loss, there's life, there's death, and everything in between.  Lots of stories say that, but in this case, it is actually true.

It's also a great story to do one of those alignment chart thingies to:

I don't know that I agree with Valjean being cast as Lawful Good, I don't think there is a Lawful Good character to be found in the book (which I think might kinda be the point).  But aside from that quibble, the chart speaks the truth!

It's worth noting that Javert is one of the greatest villains ever created.  Proof of this can be found in the fact that people can't agree on whether he's a villain at all!  That's when you know you've done Lawful Evil right!

Here's some Trailers:

And, most recently, a complete rendering of "One More Day" has been released into the wild.  Get it while you can!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Operation: Mindcrime - the RPG

I've had an idea percolating in my brain for the last week or so.  I think it started with Edgar J's posts about how his DCC RPG adventure was based on songs by the Doors, heated up as I continue to play in Ark's Redshirts Stars Without Number game, and came to a boil yesterday as I was listening to Queensr├┐che's Operation: Mindcrime.  I'm going to pitch this to my group, although I have a suspicion many of them are probably unfamiliar with the album...

I Remember Now...

It's 1984, and the Cold War is in full swing.  In America, it's a time of greed, paranoia and murder, awash in neon lights.  Big Business, Big Government, Big Media, Big Religion - monolithic organizations are everywhere, and the distinction between them blurs more and more each day.  Urban desperation grows as domestic spending plummets, the money being funneled into foreign wars to protect interests that seem to have less and less to do with the common man.  The rich sit in their towers of steel and glass, their cocaine-fueled orgies keeping them blissfully unaware of apathetic to the plight of those below.  Crack is just starting to hit the streets, hollowing out the ghettos.  The AIDS virus is spreading like wildfire but few know and even fewer care, terrorism is still something that happens in other parts of the world, and the threat of nuclear annihilation hangs over the country like a palpable shadow.  Marvin Gaye and John Lennon are dead, while Reagan and Thacher live, despite the best efforts of would-be assassins.  Smoking is allowed in public buildings, but if someone offers you drugs, you Just Say No.

You're a good citizen, you believe in the American Dream, but when you look around, all you see are people and organizations perverting that dream, taking advantage of the weaknesses of others.  It's gotten to the point where even someone like you can see that something is wrong, that the system is broken, that there needs to be Change.

But what kind of an impact can one person have on an entire system?  The thought haunts your dreams at night.  Who are you?  Are you perpetuating the system by participating in it?  Even if you chose not to participate, what could you realistically do?  Do you even have any choice at all, or are you just playing out the part you were destined to perform from the day you were born?

Revolution Calling

Doctor X has the answer.  The figurehead for a mysterious organization known as the Underground, he preaches a gospel of change.  All he needs are some dedicated operatives, and he can bring an end to the insanity.  He can make you certain of things again, make the world make sense again.  All you need to do is join the cause.  Through a series of injections and indoctrination techniques, you're able to leave the questions behind.  You can rest at night again.  Things make sense for the first time in a long time, and you leave your life, your job, your friends and your family behind to join the cause.


Doctor X's treatments have turned you into something more than human.  You're an Operative now, one of many, a part of a Movement, dedicated to a single purpose: Change.  You have been Chosen, and you have a duty - carry out the orders passed along from high above in the Underground, no questions asked.  Deliver a package, kill a man, it's all the same.  They call, you answer.

As time passes, though, the doubts are starting to creep back in, the edges of your certainty curling before the flame of your misgivings.  You can't help but think that you've lost something along the way.  Days, weeks spent in a chair by the window in your run down apartment, waiting for the phone call that will activate you, give you purpose again. Is this the best you could have done?

Then the phone rings, the voice whispers, "Mindcrime", and all the questions are washed away.

Breaking the Silence

There are whispers of operatives that have gone rogue, went crazy - Fallen.  Occasionally you wonder, is it the treatment that broke them, or a fundamental flaw within themselves?  Do you have that flaw within yourself?  Will you Fall?  You find yourself thinking of these things even while on Missions, when you should be filled with Purpose.  You seek out ways to alleviate your stress between Missions.  Maybe it's booze, maybe it's something harder.  Maybe it's just human contact. 

Regardless, you feel a void within yourself, where once you were filled, and you seek out something, anything to make the hurt go away.

Waiting for 22

As the Fallen continue to multiply, the Underground realizes that they must change their ways of doing things.  Lone Wolves can only be kept on leashes for so long before they turn on their masters, and so they shift to a cell-based system.  One day there was a knock at the door, and an unfamiliar face shuffled inside.  Then another, and another after that.  You recognized them immediately, not because you'd met them before, but rather because of the Look - the same Look that you see in the mirror every single day.

Now you spend your nights, all of you, staring at the same phone.  It has a speaker attached to it now, but its purpose is the same.  When They call, you answer, and you're given your Mission.

Eyes of a Stranger

You're starting to feel uneasy.  It's getting harder and harder for you to make it through the day.  The doubts are multiplying, and you're asking questions not only about yourself, but about the Underground.  You ask, but silently, to yourself, always to yourself.  You wonder - who is Doctor X?  What is the Underground, and whose interests do you serve, really?  Are you creating Change?  And if so, what is that change creating?  You think that maybe, some of the others might be thinking the same thing, but you don't dare ask them, because what if it's just you?  Have you Fallen?  Are the haunted looks in their eyes signs that they're just as desperate as you, or are they waiting for someone to reveal themselves?  What if they're only here to root out the Fallen before they Fall?

Every morning, you see yourself in the mirror, and you recognize less and less of yourself, and you wonder - how long until I'm gone completely?  How long until the Me that I remember is gone?


From a system perspective, to make things easier, I'm thinking of running it using Sine Nomine's Stars Without Numbers ruleset.  Obviously, no psychics, you're either a warrior or a specialist, and no Tech above Level 3.  Further, some of the Background packages won't make sense in this setting either, but I think there's enough in there to make this work.  I may write up a few new backgrounds to fit the game more solidly into the setting, but for now the only things I'm adding are two Attributes and a Skill.

Attribute - Purpose.  This represents your level of indoctrination.  The higher your score, the greater your devotion to the Underground, and the more willing you are to do what is asked of you, without question.  Your Purpose is what gets you up in the morning, keeps you going during the day and allows you and your party to work together.  Your natural inclination is to be alone, to work alone, but your Purpose unites you. 

Attribute - Sanity.  Doctor X's treatment works, but at the cost of the mental health of the subject.  The treatments are sandpaper, working the wood of the subject's mind to get it to conform.  Every time a subject is forced to do something that runs counter to their nature, they lose a bit of who they were.    The Sanity attribute is rolled with 1d12+2, rather than 3d6 - the Underground doesn't pick people they can't control - only those who are already unstable are chosen.

These attribute scores should never be shared by the players with each other, nor should the results of any rolls associated with these attributes - these should be between the player and the GM.  None of the party should ever be truly sure of where the loyalties of their compatriots lie.

Mechanically, the Purpose attribute should always be rolled before Sanity, and the Purpose modifier subtracted from the Sanity Score.  So if you have a -1 modifier to your Purpose attribute, add it to your Sanity Score.  Conversely, your Sanity modifier is always applied to Purpose checks.  

Skill - Relationship - Yeah, I know it's not technically a skill, but it fits within the context of what I'm going for.  Your relationship is the grasping hands and last few breaths of a drowning man.  It's what you use to remind yourself that you're human.  A friend, a family member or a lover, your relationships act as a bulwark between you and Doctor X's treatment, a tenuous link between who you are and who you were.  Your skill level reflects the intensity of this relationship, for good or for ill (not all relationships are necessarily good ones).  Your score in the relationship can be used to modify a Sanity or Purpose check once per hour.  This skill cannot be chosen as an initial skill for any character, it must be developed as progress.  Further, the skill can be lost, and the loss of that relationship can be deadly.  A loss of access to a relationship results in a permanent loss of 1d3 Sanity points.

"Mindcrime" is the keyword, implanted in every member of the Underground.  When the PC is activated, they should make a Purpose check.  Again, to reiterate, the result of the check should not be shared with other PCs.  How you proceed on your mission should be determined by how you roll.  If you pass the check, your goal is the success of the mission.  If you fail the check, the choice is yours - do you carry on with the mission, or do you try and undermine it, somehow?  Either way, you must keep up appearances, for fear that the other members of your party will turn you in to your superiors.

Any Purpose check that succeeds by 5 or more points results in a loss of 1 Sanity point.  This is permanent.  For example, if the difficulty of the Purpose check is 10, and a 3 is rolled, the character loses 1 point of Sanity.

If a character's Sanity level reaches zero, they snap.  How that happens is up to the player, but it should be consistent with the character's background, and how they have been played up until that point.  It need not be an instantaneous action, they may continue to try and hide within the group, but it should be increasingly obvious to the rest of the party that something is wrong.

The Mission

Murder, infiltration, robbery, assassination, you do what you're told, in the name of a better tomorrow.  But who's better tomorrow will end up being shaped?  That should always be ambiguous.  You don't know your superiors, you can't trust the members of your cell, you can't even trust yourself.  

The main themes of the game are Identity and Change.  Here is a list of questions that should be asked as the game progresses:

  • What is the nature of the organization you're working for?  
  • It promises Change, but what type of change?  
  • Can it accomplish that Change?  
  • As bad as things are, is change inherently good?  
  • Who are you?  
  • Are you the master of your own destiny, or have you turned it over to the Underground?  
  • Will you ever break free of your conditioning, and even if you do, will there be anything left of your old self?  
  • At the end of it all, will you be sane enough for anyone to believe what you've got to say?

Why Am I Here, and For How Long?

The Underground recruits all types of people, from all walks of life.  Police Officers, ex-military, office managers, receptionists, artists, doctors, scientists, accountants, priests, the homeless, there is room for everyone in the Underground, and they all serve a purpose.  

Sample characters:

Nikki - A heroin addict and would-be political radical frustrated with contemporary society, he was manipulated into joining a supposed secret organization dedicated to revolution.  He will beat, rob or kill anyone, if they only ask nicely, and promise him a full needle when he's done..  

Sister Mary - At the age of 16, she ran away from home, and ended up working live S&M shows in Times Square, until she was taken in by Father William, an associate of Doctor X.  A member of the Our Lady of Pain Cloister, she does the bidding of the Underground.  She's quick with a knife, but she knows that violence isn't the only way to get a job done - sometimes a caress can wound just as deeply as a blade.

Joe Palumbo - Until recently, he was Officer Palumbo, but he had a temper, and a bad habit of beating the suspects.  Folks looked the other way when it was junkies that he was smacking around, but when he put the hurt on a suspected child murderer who also happened to be the heir apparent to the Lockwood fortune, he was kicked off the force, and Lockwood went free.  It didn't take much convincing to get him to sign up.

Dr. Adam Peterson - Angered by the unwillingness of the pharmaceutical companies to fund research into a groundbreaking cure for the disease that killed his wife, he began looking into the whys and wherefores, and found that the problem was even larger than he had thought.  The government, the companies, they were all in it together, and the media kept the story quiet.  Now he works from the inside, gathering information for the Underground, making sure they know what's going on, and when.

Dogman - Nobody ever pays attention to Dogman.  Dogman lives on a heating grate at the foot of the Billings Building.  Every day, he watches the rich and powerful go in and out, laughing and clapping each other on the back as they celebrate their success.  Nobody knows that Dogman has a photographic memory.  Nobody except the Underground.  Now he collects license plate numbers and faces, and every once in awhile, he does a little more for them.  If the cops ever found his stash of trophies, he'd be in big trouble.

But nobody ever pays attention to Dogman.

John van Meeter - John had a family.  He had a good job.  He had a home, and a dog, and he was happy.  But the company he worked for was testing drugs on the unsuspecting populations of third world countries, and they got caught.  He lost his job, and his wife, and his kids, and his home and his dog, and now John doesn't have anything. 

Having nothing to lose makes him a perfect candidate for the Underground.

Spreading the Disease

Further resources to aid in getting the "feel" of the setting:


Music Videos from Operation: Mindcrime - straight from the source

Revolution Calling

Operation Mindcrime

The Mission

Suite Sister Mary

I Don't Believe In Love

Eyes of a Stranger

Pink Floyd's the Wall - Ever wondered what a descent into madness looks like?  I think it's safe to say that Operation: Mindcrime owes quite a bit to the Wall.  It's thematically similar, and there are passages from the album that seem to be lifted almost whole cloth.  You can't have one without the other, so if you're not familiar with both, familiarize yourself.

Wall Street - the greed and excess of the 80s, encapsulated in two hours.

Cobra - pure Stallone cheese, but it's got the gritty 80s vibe down pat, and the cult is pretty creepy, what with the axes and all.

Falling Down - Not 80s, but a good look at how a normal, average citizen becomes fed up with society

Basic Instinct - Another one technically not in the 80s, but close enough


Just about anything by Bret Easton Ellis - yes yes, American Psycho, but there are other works that are more relevant here - Less Than Zero and the Rules of Attraction in particular.  If you're the tl;dr type, there have been movies made of all three, but I'd recommend the books over the movies.

The Punisher MAX - an adults only version of the Punisher, written by Garth Ennis.  Not the Marvel Knights version (although that is great, just not relevant), the series after that.  Two story arcs in particular stand out - In the Beginning is a tale of obsession and murder, while The Slavers shows the depths of depravity capable of those with power.

The Manchurian Candidate, by Richard Condon - The 1962 movie is worth watching, if only to see sweet old Angela Lansbury portray one of the most terrifying female villains of all time, but I'm putting it here because the book is much more of a psychological thriller.  Sergeant Shaw is a bit of a jerk even before he's turned, and never fights too hard against his programming, but it's an interesting look at brainwashing from the inside.

The Atrocity Exhibition, by JG Ballard - Years ahead of its time, if you don't know, now you know.


Queensryche - Operation: Mindcrime - obviously.

Pink Floyd  - The Wall - Yep, again.  The album is different from the movie, and they're both more than worthy.

Joy Division - Closer - released two months after Ian Curtis' suicide, the album was influenced by the Atrocity Exhibition, listed above, and is every bit as nihilistic as you might imagine. 

Dead Kennedys - Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables - it has a little more sardonic humor than I'm shooting for here, but the message is there, and it's potent.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

SWN Session Report: Sci-Fi Makeover Edition

I ended up last night's session 350 xp points shy of ascending to a Level Four Specialist.  My griping was rewarded by Ark saying, "Okay, you do the writeup for the session, and I'll top you off."

So here we go.  The following description is based on notes taken in session by Adelaide, and relayed after the fact.

Waking up yet again from their frozen slumber, the Redshirt Brigade bravely puked their guts out, while they received their new orders - to go to a planet and take over a ship.  Through some sort of consensus that did not involve the majority of interested parties, their newly acquired ship was named, "Molten Rain".  Because the crew had also acquired an AI on their last mission, another AI was sent by homebase because they didn't trust the newly acquired AI.

Yeah, I didn't quite get that one either, but I wasn't there for it, so I'm sure there was more to it.  Whatever - New PC!  WOOHOO!

As they finished puking, they pulled up to the planet, just in time to see the ship cruising around the surface, with a gorgeous woman in tow, water skiing along behind.

The ship looked like this:

The woman looked like this:

Owlicious scanned the girl, and determined that not only was she human, she had a chip in her head, much like the chips recently acquired by the group. There was much hacking, as they first tried to hack the woman, then the ship.  They managed to piss off the AI controlling the ship, which hacked the Molten Rain (is it stuck in your head yet?).  As it turns out, though, this was a good thing, since the asshole AI from the last session had stowed away on the ship, hoping to twirl its moustache, stroke its cat and take over the world.

After an epic hacking war, the rogue AI was shoved into a thumbdrive, jettisoned, and then blown up for good measure.

Having shown their prowess, the party was invited to the ship for dinner.  There was much anxiety and fussing over what everyone would wear, never having been invited to a dinner party before.  The outfits that were finally settled upon were as follows:

Kal Kek: 
Dr. Ramesh Ramapudi:
Gustav Adler: 


AI Jericho:

Yes, it was a very fancy dinner party.  The party was greeted by Yvonne, the woman shown above who had  been water skiing.  It turned out that she was the Pepper Potts to the owner of the ship's Tony Stark.  Being a knockout was just a bonus.

They were lead to a dining area where she sat down and began to sing, "Fly Me to the Moon".  Professor Ramapudi, realizing that he knew that song, sat down next to her and began to sing along, before segueing into a rousing rendition of Tunak Tunak Tun.

In a stunning coincidence, it turned out that Yvonne was very familiar with the song, and summoned holographic images of herself and Professor Ramapudi, and the dining area became the set of a Bollywood movie for a moment, as dozens of Ramapudis and Yvonnes danced and sang together (but never kissed!).

Needless to say, Professor Ramapudi was smitten.

Dinner was served as the host, Charles Shuttleworth (of the Asgard Shuttleworths, naturally) entered.  As it turned out, he was a really nice guy, not even seeming to mind as Professor Ramapudi played footsie under the table with his Gal Friday.  Conversation was made, and both AIs decided they liked him more than they liked the government they were (supposedly) working for, and decided to submit resumes with his HR department.  "Doc" Davies woke up at that point and shuffled in, joining the party.  

After a delightful evening, Yvonne showed everyone to their rooms, then showed Professor Ramapudi to her room.  Nudge nudge, wink wink, knowwhatimean, knowwhatimean?  A nod's as good as a wink to a blind bat, eh squire?

"Doc" Davies and Owlicious got tanked on margaritas, the AIs wandered the hallways of the ship looking for the HR Department, and everyone else had a restful night's sleep.  Unfortunately, they were awoken by Lt. Five, who had a message from their commander, wanting to know their status.  Lies were told, promises made, and commanders were gotten off of collective backs.  

That unpleasantness taken care of, the decision was made that, rather than assault this really nice guy and steal his ship, they would try and negotiate with him, to see if he would sell them a ship or two.  Or perhaps a neutron bomb or something.  The group found Mr. Shuttleworth and went on a tour of the ship, which was full of super high tech goodies, which he passed out like candy at Halloween.  Over lunch, the conversation was lively - he disclosed the secret to making psychics - good breeding stock, and conception in hyperspace.  The party stored that piece of knowledge, then prodded him for more information.  He had a fondness for miniaturized sharks and whales that he grew himself, much like he had grown the ship upon what they sailed.  Naturally the party's collective ears perked up.  Finally, the topic of trade is broached.  As it turns out, Shuttleworth's tech was far beyond anything the party could offer to trade with him, with one, small, exception.

He wanted people.

Specifically, he wanted more psychics.  

Thinking back to the vast numbers of Redshirts on ice back at homebase, and the lack of regard for humanity that such an arrangement implied, they told Shuttleworth that it was very likely that their masters would have no problem trading a few thousand psychics for a level ship battleship.

Thus reintroducing the slave trade to the future.  Yay!

As it turns out though, while temporarily enslaving soldiers in ice before sending them out on random, arbitrary reasons is well within the Aquila Union's comfort zone, letting other parties do it with their people is out of bounds.  The commander was iffy on the whole deal, but promised to run it up the flag pole to see who would salute.

Meanwhile, Professor Ramapudi bid farewell to the beautiful Yvonne, as the Redshirts went back into storage........

Monday, December 3, 2012

Fumetti Modules?

I've been thinking about fumetti lately, or rather photonovels.  They've fallen out of favor lately, in all likelihood because of their association with pornography, but some of the old pulp fumettis were really great.  I remember my father taking trips overseas when I was a kid, and bringing some home.  I was fascinated by the merging of a comic book layout with B-Movie sensibility.

Recently, this has gotten me to thinking - has this sort of visual styling ever been applied to RPG modules?  My recent trips into the wilderness have  got me thinking that maybe it's possible?  Certainly from a setting perspective, why not include a photo of a location that resembles the area that you're describing?  While it's true that people look better in outfits that have been drawn than put on, it seems to me as though this could be done.  With the capabilities that Photoshop brings, how hard is it to make your pictures fit the story you're trying to tell?

I may be crazy here, but it seems to me it could work?  Maybe not on an ongoing basis, but at least as a one-off?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Comedy of Errors

I ran my first DCC RPG game, taking the group on a trip through the meat funnel.  I've played a bit of DCC RPG, but this was my first time running it, and I think it went fairly well.  The party certainly took the "You're no hero" bit on the back cover seriously.

Things started off innocently enough, a farmer came running into town, looking a bit scorched, talking about an earthquake having opened a crevasse in his cornfield, and how it was spewing forth flame spitting little creatures.  The village elders drew lots, and the 16 party members became the official militia.

They set off to the farm, and encountered a pair of the little jerks fornicating in the cornfield.  They slew them, but lost 2 of their own in the process.

It had begun.

Honestly, they were more deadly to themselves than the monsters.  Two particular instances proved deadlier than any demon of the depths I could conjure.

1.  Pitpocalypse

The party were crawling through a tunnel with an extremely low ceiling, when they encountered a giant white tunneling worm.  It saw them and dove downwards, creating a gap they had to cross.  The lead party member tied a rope to his ankle, and they crossed, one by one.  Agility check to make it.  If you fail, a luck check to grab the rope before you fall, but then the person on both sides of the gap needed to make a Strength check to keep from getting pulled in by the weight.  All was going swimmingly, until the very last person, Sorcia, the wannabe Witch.  She failed the Agility check but passed her Luck check.  Petunia, the urchin who had collected vast quantities of corn from the field and was presumably distracted by her newfound fortune, failed her Strength check, and was yanked into the pit as well.  The lead character with the rope tied around his ankle, had his leg jerked from beneath him and fell forward, taking enough damage to kill him, presumably as he smacked his face into the ground, driving his nose into his brain and sending the body sliding back through the rest of the group taking them with him as he slid into the pit.  This set off a chain reaction, as one party member after the next tumbled into the pit.  Altogether, almost a full third of the party was lost in what became known as, Pitpocalypse.

2.  Piqued Oil

Again, the party's fault more than mine.  Faced with an overwhelming force of Imps, they decided to break out a flask of oil and go for an area attack.  The PC wanted to take it from another PC, light it and throw it.  I said that was too many actions for one round, so he got clever.  Making use of his multiple PCs, he comes up with the idea, "One PC takes it from another, hands it to another PC who lights it, who hands it to another who throws it."  One action each, voila!  While I grumbled, I couldn't argue the logic, and so the flask was passed, lit and thrown.  And they fumbled. Checking the table, it seemed that the weapon was faulty.  There was a crack in the flask, and as it had been passed around the party, it had left a trail of oil behind it.  When it was lit, a conflagration enveloped the party, and even more died a horrible, flamey death.

Other choice quotes from the evening:

  • The book contained secrets not meant for the eyes of a baker...
  • What's a gongfarmer?
  • Okay, so what's nightsoil?
  • I take the helmet off of the dead orphan
  • We've all had our fun eating human flesh, but now it's time to move on
  • C'mon, of course I can sneak!  Haven't you heard the expression, "Silent as a barber"?
  • I make sure to have my Vampirella outfit on when I perform the ritual
There were plenty of memorable moments as they banished the evil god.  There was poor Omar, the gangsta baker who ended up a hissing, light-sensitive, lizard tailed, crab clawed creature before finally being put out of his misery, there was the barber named Seville, the very manly Florence, with her buzz cut and rat tail haircut, Kaye's Dire Halfling, ah yes, memories...

They've all hit level one, except for Kaye, so much of the hilarity of zero level adventuring is gone, now we get to the serious stuff.

More on this group as it develops...