Friday, November 9, 2018

SGAM Ryuutama Session 1: Tholo the Peddler

This is the first session of my Ryuutama game for SGAM. The goal of this first week is to try out a RPG I've never played before. I've heard some talk about the game Ryuutama and some of its themes and mechanics. So, I thought I'd give it a try.

A Brief Bit About The Game

Ryuutama is a Japanese TTRPG that is made for beginners in mind, to teach people about Western TTRPGS like D&D. The game itself is labelled as honobono, which is a more pastoral, heart-warming style of game. It has a charm and style that reminds me heavily of Studio Ghibli films as well as the Dragon Quest video games, both of which I'm very fond of. Instead of a focus on dungeon delving and combat, Ryuutama's adventures revolve around travelling, exploration, and meeting new people.  You gain experience by exploring different sections of the map, with more difficult terrains and weather granting more XP. You also gain XP from combat, but you only get it from the toughest encounter of that session. The standard classes of fighter, mage, thief, and cleric are replaced by professions, like merchant and farmer. In addition, there are three Types that dictate how your character approaches obstacles. They are Attack (the fighter), Technical (the skilled), and Magic (the mage). There are only four attributes (Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, and Spirit) and the scores are all even numbers from 4 to 12. They are tied to the different dice you have. So if you have a Strength 6, you roll a d6 for your checks. Skills don't exist. You just roll the correct combination of attributes and meet or beat a Target Number to succeed. So for Perception, you roll Dex+Int. If my Dex is a 4 and my Int is a 6, then I would roll a d4+d6. Rolling snake eyes is a fumble, while rolling either boxcars or the maximum of each dice is a critical check.

What is interesting about this game is that it has a GMNPC called the Dragon (or Ryuutama). In the implied setting, these dragons latch onto travelers and feed off of adventures and stories. The Dragon has some GM moves that can either help the players along, or complicate their lives a bit. As the players go through different sessions, this Dragon actually will level up and gain new abilities (called Benedictions and Reveils). After some time, the dragon will grow enough to fly off and leave an egg for the players. The game is an interesting blend of the different styles of Western TTRPGs. There are aspects of classic OSR style gaming with exploration and hexcrawling being big, but also some characteristics of narrative games and story games with the Dragon GMNPC. What I really like about the game is the implied setting, where people simply just decide to travel the world and see new things. It's a rite of passage in a way and while it can seem like a flimsy way to explain why there are adventurers, I think it works with the theme of the game.

I decided that I would give this game a try. Presented below is the first session of Tholo the Peddler, a merchant that has decided to uproot and travel north of his village of Gretelburg. The dragon I chose is the basic Green Dragon (a Midori-Ryuu) named Bard. This dragon is all about exploration and is the suggested one for beginners. For things like random weather, procedural terrain, and encounters, I use The Perilous Wilds' generators as well as Save Vs Dragon's free hex terrain generator found here. For music, since I was inspired by classic JRPGs I played as a child, I used Dragon Quest's Unknown Lands and Never-Ending Journey for travelling, and Final Fantasy VI's battle music.

Session 1: Northward Ho!

Tholo is a young man of lithe build with tawny skin and white hair. Today, he is embarking on his journey, a rite of passage to the people of Gretelburg. Tholo hopes to get a taste of the adventuring life, even if only for a few weeks. With his pack animals fed and equipment set up, Tholo sets out!
It is April 7th, and it is bright and sunny outside. The weather is clear but unseasonably hot for springtime. Tholo wipes the sweat off his brow and travels through the grasslands along the dirt path with his two pack mules and loyal dog, Uno.

Terrain+Weather Difficulty Class (This is the Target Number to beat with the checks down below): 7. Grasslands are fairly safe, but the heat is making it a bit rough.
Condition Check (this is Tholo's current fatigue level): 8. Tholo is feeling pretty good.
Travel Check (this is to see if an injury or exhaustion happens): 8. Tholo doesn't encounter any hardships.
Direction Check (this is to navigate the wilds): Tholo is travelling the roads, so he doesn't get lost.
Encounter: Yes, Friendly.

As Tholo travels north, he spots a wagon on the side of the road with two people by it. They seem to be fixing the wagon wheel and having a rough time of it. Tholo lends a hand, helping the couple fix their wagon to get back on the road. Gratefully for the assistance, the couple introduce themselves as Gregori and Priscilla. Both are newlyweds that have decided to leave their professions and become mail carriers. They go between the frontier towns, bring mail and supplies to them. Greg and Priss also sell things occasionally, dabbling in the mercantile arts here and there. Tholo asks where they are going, and Priscilla says they are going north to Hanselboro from Gretelburg to drop off supplies. Tholo offers to travel with them for a time and the couple agree. The trio set off to the north.

Camping Check (this is to see how they rest for the night and regain HP and MP): 8. The trio have a restful night under the stars, enjoying the cured fish and each other's company.

April 8th. The group is still travelling along the prairies. The weather is pretty hot and muggy, and now there's a rainstorm slowing the party down!
DC: 8. Grasslands are hot and visibility is low due to rain and wind
Condition: 9. Tholo is feeling pretty great
Travel: 8. The trio doesn't encounter any issues travelling
Direction: Despite the rain, they are still along the worn roads so don't need to make this check.
Encounter: No

The rains pelt the canvas-covered wagon, but this doesn't stop our intrepid adventurers. Instead, they talk about their lives before going on their journeys, their goals and dreams, and their homes. Gregori was a bricklayer at a town called Rumplestilton. His claim to fame was helping to rebuild an old bridge that led into the town. Priscilla was a fisher-woman at the same town, responsible for bringing in trouts and bass to the dockside mongers. Both ran into each other during the reopening ceremony of the bridge and decided on a whim to go on their journey together. Greg and Priss fell in love, and when they returned, they had a quaint wedding and decided to live out on the frontier as mail carriers.

Tholo is happy for the couple, and their story inspires him to push forward on his journey even longer. He remarks about how his father was an owner of the village's general store, and that's where Tholo got the itch to become a travelling peddler of wares and goods. But first, he wants to go onto his journey to prove to his family and himself that this is a good idea. He's had Uno for a year and the boxer dog is a great companion.

Camping: 9. The rains clear up some, though there is no starry night tonight. Tholo can't sleep well, as the ground is muddy and uncomfortable.

April 9th. The trio approach a forested area. The rains from the previous day have cooled the area off, but now there is a nasty thunderstorm brewing above Tholo and the gang.
DC: 11. Forests are harder to traverse, and the thunderstorm is slowing the party down greatly.
Condition: 2. Tholo is feeling Out of Shape. He gets the [Poisoned:4] Status Effect, which drops his Strength down to a d4.
Travel: 7. Because of his food poisoning, it complicates travelling. He is at Half HP [8 HP].
Direction: 9. The road is less defined here and the rains are making it hard to travel. The trio only go halfway through the hex.

The heavy rain and winds have made it harder for Tholo and his crew to traverse the forest road. The wagon slows down some as Tholo and Priscilla try to keep the canvas from flying off and Gregori tries to keep the pack animals calm. As they travel, they see a bunch of logs and trees have fallen onto the road, blocking their travel! Tholo is suspicious, but before he can check it out, the shrill cries of something terrible ring out. It's an ambush! Four calico konekogoblins jump from the thickets, clubs in hand, and ready to waylay the trio.

Round 1

Greg is first to react. He draws his short sword and strikes at the first cat goblin. He is able to hit the creature, but barely grazes the cat's shoulder. Priss is next, and she barely misses the second konekogoblin. The koneko strike together, but only the second one lands a hit on the beleaguered Tholo. Luckily for our sick protagonist, his armor helps deflect most of the damage. Tholo has one hand over his sick stomach and the other on a dagger. He strikes at the first konekogoblin that Gregori hit and lands a solid hit, knocking out the first cat monster.

Round 2

Gregori goes again, smacking the second koneko with the flat of his blade. Priscilla tries to hit the second one again, and lands a mighty blow on the feline creature, almost knocking it out! The remaining konekogoblins attack, but all miss. The third one missed so terribly that he drops his weapon on the ground! A boon for our heroes! Tholo takes advantage of this and strikes at the second konekogoblin, felling him in one swoop!

Note: the critical fumble combat effect for the koneko was something I added. I felt it made sense for the scenario, but it's not actually a part of the rules.

Round 3

Here I decided to make a morale roll against the konekogoblins' Condition, since they are now outnumbered. They failed their roll and will now run away. This isn't a part of Ryuutama, just something I generally do for combat in my games.

The remaining two konekogoblins realize that these travellers aren't nearly as easy to ambush as others before them. And so they take off, leaving their fallen cat comrades to the trio. Unsure of what to do to the would-be highwaymen, Tholo and Priscilla tie them up. Using the pack animals and their own two hands, the crew are able to move the logs in about an hour. As they set up camp, Tholo looks at the hungry konekogoblins they captured and feels a bit of pity for them. He takes some of his cured fish rations and give them to the two cat monsters.

Negotiation To Befriend the Konekogoblins: DC 9; I rolled a 13!

The konekogoblins are a bit cautious at first as Tholo approaches, but he presents the cured fish to them and unties the monsters. They sniff the fish as they stare at Tholo to judge his intentions, but soon, hunger takes over and they gobble the food down. 

Camping: 7. It's a rough night for the quintet, and they don't quite regain all of their Health and Mental focus for the night.

April 10th. The party is still in the same hex as before, but now it's a clear and beautiful day!
DC: 8. The weather is clear and temperate, so it's just a matter of travelling through the trees.
Condition: 8. Tholo is able to kick the food poisoning and feels a lot better. [Poison; 4] is now cleared.
Travel: 9. There aren't any hitches in their journey to leave the hex.
Direction: 11. Despite the roads being unclear, the trio make it through to the next hex.
Encounter: Yes; Passive

Tholo and his compatriots travel deeper into the forest, making it to a fork in the road. Hanselboro is more to the west from here, while Tholo wants to keep going north, into the heart of the forest. Gregori and Priscilla warn our hero that in the depths of the overgrown forest, few humans reside. Instead, the spirits of the forest as well as monsters dwell there, waiting to prey on travelers like Tholo. Not one to be dissuaded, Tholo appreciates the concern, but knows that he must continue this journey to prove to himself that he can be a travelling merchant. The konekogoblins, inspired by the kind treatment of Tholo and his willingness to go on, decide to stay with Greg and Priss as helping hands. Priscilla is a little hesitant, but Gregori is more than happy to expand their mail carrier business to their first two employees. Tholo waves goodbye to his newfound friends and heads northeast, ever deeper into the forest.

Along the fading road in the afternoon, Tholo spots something on the ground. Footprints! Giant footprints! Whatever made these prints must be huge! Curiousity overtakes fear, and Tholo runs headfirst into the true wilderness of the lands. What has made these prints, and will Tholo survive the perils of the deep woods? We'll find out in the next session!

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Hero Southern Community Solo Session #3: Danger Room Isn't In The Budget

Can you believe that I started this solo game almost a year ago? I can't. I actually have a great deal of solo sessions with my ICONS Superhero Community College in my journal. I'll be taking the next couple of weeks to typing them out and publishing them on the blog. In truth, this was actually my second real session, but like the one before it, this was done over the span of several smaller sessions over the week. This one is more of a role-playing prelude to the main adventure. There is a lot of strong language here, so be advised this write up isn't for all ages. Hopefully everyone enjoys it!

Raul and CJ are dragged to Student Services, after coming to blows during a rescue exercise. There is a long silence as the two are in the waiting area. 

Does CJ say anything to me?: Yes And Twist!

After a good ten minutes of the young men not saying anything, CJ finally breaks the silence.

"This is your fault," CJ mutters to Raul.

"How the hell is this my fault?" 

"You can't take a fucking joke!" CJ's voice gets louder. "You couldn't stand that I beat you and I'm better at this than you or your roach friend!"

Raul stands up, body tense and fists balled, "Are you kidding me? You've been acting like a piece of shit to me since high school. This is just more of your bullshit that I can't just get away from!"

CJ bolts up, ready for round two of their fight. "Well, maybe if you didn't act so full of yourself, I wouldn't have to knock your punk ass down a couple of pegs."

"Both of you, shut up and get into my office! NOW!" an older woman's voice interrupted the two. They both turn to see the school disciplinarian, Lady Mist.

New NPC: Lady Mist. In charge of dealing with infractions. Has the ability to summon and control a harmful fog.

Raul and CJ sit down in front of Mist's desk. Mist directs their attention to her television and plays the events of their fight.

"Now, you both are aware that fighting on school grounds is a serious offense, right?" she says sternly.

"He started it!" Raul yells. "This asshole has been tormenting me since we got here."

Mist stops CJ before he can get a word it. "Using your powers on school grounds against another student is illegal and a serious infraction. The punishment is suspension and if you do it again, you are permanently expelled from the campus."

She turns off the TV and leans back in her chair, "Not only that, but you'll be put in the superhero databanks as ineligible for other schools for at least four years. Meaning neither of you will be accepted to any academy or superhero team in the country. Is that what you both want?"

Raul and CJ begrudgingly look at each other and say in unison, "No ma'am..."

"Good," Lady Mist stands up and opens the door.

"So... so we're not suspended?" CJ asks, confused.

"Not today, no. This is your first day, and no one got seriously injured. Mark my words though, if I see either of you in this office again, you'll both be suspended for two weeks. Do I make myself clear?"

"Yes, ma'am," the boys say together again.

"Good. Now get out."

The two young men leave her office and glare at each other in silence, before splitting off on their own way.

*                    *                    *

The next day, Raul made sure to come in on time. After almost getting suspended from HSC, his parents came down hard on him. The pressure is on to not screw up.

How does the school react to yesterday's fight?: I drew Air, which means Chaotic but Friendly.

Everyone seems to have mixed feelings about Raul's outburst from yesterday. However, most people seem to side with him over CJ about the whole ordeal. Still, Raul is embarrassed over the fight and tries hard to keep to himself some.

He sits down next to his new friends from yesterday. Melvin won't stop talking about their mission from yesterday to Alex. Jordan seems to be on her phone, half listening while browsing Facebook. CJ walks in, just barely on time, and sits away from Raul. They both exchange dirty looks, but it is too early in the morning to be getting into fights.

I draw a card for the next adventure. Seal Rural Obstacle. The Element is Earth and the Rune is Authority and Power

The bell rings and Mr. Arms walks into the classroom.

"Sorry for being late class," he began, looking a bit disheveled. "We've been setting up a special exercise for the class today. After yesterday's quiz, I graded your actions and concluded that you all need to work on your teamwork." His eyes briefly gaze towards Raul and CJ before returning to the rest of the class.

"A lot of you have interesting control over your powers, but you need to learn to work with and rely on your team. Therefore, we are skipping the written portion of today's lesson and moving straight to another training exercise."

The class groans a bit, as many are still tired from yesterday's exercise. As Mr. Arms tries to calm down the class, a woman walks into the room. 

Who is this NPC?: Vector, an Indian woman with the ability to create wormholes and transport people. She looks to be in her late 40's and has her hair tied up in a bun.

"Good morning class," Vector begins. "Today, we are all going on a special field trip that will push your limits of communication and teamwork. If you're going to be working with the bigger academies or the larger superhuman community, you need to learn how to work together. Lone wolves don't last long in this business."

"Tell that to Black Hood, lady," CJ smirked at the perceived cleverness of his outburst. Black Hood was a hero from the 80's in Miami that took on the drug lords of that time.

"Ah yes the Black Hood," Vector took off her glasses to clean them off a bit. "As I recall, his sidekick was Sparrow, right?"

The classroom grew quiet and things got uncomfortable.

"Yeah, it was Sparrow. A young man, about your age, Mr. Jacobs. I forget, what happened to him?" Vector mused.

CJ shifted in his seat, "He was... gunned down by the mob."

Vector shook her head, "That's not all, Mr. Jacobs. What else did they do?"

"Lady, everyone knows what he did! Why are you asking these stupid questions?" CJ started getting upset.

"Because, that's the fate of a superhero that goes in half-cocked without support. Do you want your head mailed to your teammates? Or to your mother?" Vector finished cleaning her lens.

CJ muttered something incomprehensible, ceding the argument.

Mr. Arms tries to put the class back on the rails. "Now class, follow Mrs. Vector to your training session. It will be a fun one."

Vector flicks her wrist and a blueish purple portal swirls into existence. The class is a bit hesitant to enter, but one after another, each student goes through.

*                    *                    *

Raul steps out of the other end, feeling a bit queasy from the wormhole. 'That's not something I want to do again,' he thinks to himself. He squints his eyes at the bright sun in the sky. Curiously, it was higher in the sky than it should be. 'Isn't it morning? Why does it look like noon?'

The heat and humidity kicked in, feeling even hotter than South Florida. As Raul's eyes adjusted, his mouth dropped in shock. Around him, he could see wild buffalo grazing across a wide expanse of grass. Far away, Raul could make out a pride of lions sunbathing. And in the distance lay a huge mountain range that Raul has only ever seen in books and as default computer wallpapers at school.

"Mrs. Vector," Melvin was the first to speak up. "Where on Earth are we?"

Vector smiled and spoke. "Everyone, welcome to Tanzania! And that there," she points to the mountain range dramatically, "is Mt. Kilimanjaro!"

Raul couldn't believe they are halfway across the world. He turns to Alex and Jordan, both equally stunned.

"This can't be real," Jordan whispers. "It... it has to be some kind of illusion. Or VR..."

Alex nods, "Yeah, or like, holograms or something..."

"No way this school has money for a danger room," CJ interjects. Raul scowls but he couldn't disagree. He could feel the hot air and smell the wildlife around him.

"This is the real deal guys," Raul concludes. "We're going straight into the fire."

Vector snaps to get the students back on track. "Today, we will be splitting you all into teams of two. Team A will be the 'superheroes' while Team B will be the 'supervillains'. Team B will be attempting to break an' evil fire demon' from its prison in the volcano up there."

She motions towards Mt Kilimanjaro, then back towards the students. "Team A, it is your job to go up there and stop the ritual before it's too late. You will be on a time limit, so you will need to work together to act quickly to stop the villains."

Raul swallows in fear. "This is the second day and we're already going up a volcano?" he whispers.

"Take it easy, I'm sure the volcano is dormant or whatever," Alex jokes, but Raul could hear the worry in his voice.

Vector puts her hands on her hips. "Now, we'll divvy you up into your teams. Everyone will have two hours to prepare, then it's go time!"

Do I get put on the Hero team or Villain?: rolled Evens for Hero team
Is CJ on my team?: No But

Once again, Raul is spared from having to work with CJ. However, it looks like CJ is the team leader for the villains. In addition, it looks as though Melvin got drafted to the villains' side. He waves despondently at Raul, sad he can't help his new friend out. Still, Raul knows that he has to make up for yesterday. He walks to his team and prepares for his next exercise.

To Be Continued...

Friday, April 20, 2018

Upcoming Solo Sessions

One of the great things about solo gaming is that it gives you a good excuse to try other RPGs. If you're like me, you probably have like 60+ games on your shelf or drive that will never get played. Especially if all your players want to do is play D&D. So now I can try things like Traveller, ICONS, Fate, and more in different settings that Ive always wanted to try.

In the last month, I've done a lot of offline solo gaming that I want to write up on the blog and share. Below are some pictures of RPG hauls and actual gameplay. I've used Untold Adventures Await for the GM, which has had its pros and cons. In the future, I plan on trying out the Lone Wolf Adventure Game starter that I got from my FLGS, as well as continuing my fantasy Mythras campaign that I started almost a year ago.

Playing through a Gamma World-inspired Fate Core game
I've continued the ICONS RPG in my private journal

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Back Into the Solo Saddle

It's been quite a long couple of months of silence. The usual holidays, work, and personal stuff seemed to keep me from posting or gaming much. Now that things seem to be slowing down some for me, I feel I can get back into the swing of things.

What I want to do most is to continue doing solo RPGs. I really enjoy them when I'm doing them. The biggest problem for me is getting started. It seems like pulling teeth to try and sit down and roll dice for a solo adventure. Some of it is the mental energy required to be both the PC and the GM. Some of it is my inherent inability to focus. Especially when I'm at my computer, surrounded by social media and video games. Some of it is lack a time. Good perfect storm of stuff to stop me from soloing. Which is a shame because I really do like doing it.

But no more. I want to try something to help push me to solo RPGs more. So I want to take a page from my exercise routine and have myself accountable to people that may want to read my AARs. I want to try and get at least one Solo Session Report in a week and post it to the GooglePlus community. In this way, it'll keep me motivated to do more solo gaming. Maybe even do things like posting  resources and my own little oracle I like to use. That's mostly what this blog is about. Using the community to help me push through and enjoy solo roleplaying more.

So the first solo session I want to have will be using Untold Adventures Await as the oracle, with ICONS being the main game I want to use. I plan on continuing the Superhero Community College game I did a while back. After that, I want to continue a sci fi M-Space solo game I'm almost done with, and maybe even give Ironsworn a try. 

I'm also down to try any advice anyone wants to give me. There are a lot of prominent posters on the Lone Wolf and I can always use the help!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

A Simple Set of Agency Rules

Mission Start!
Between the M-Space campaign I'm running on Wednesdays and the hours I've sunk into XCOM 2: War of the Chosen, I've come up with a simple set of rules for my players to run their Scout agency. This is for sending out fire teams of explorers and troubleshooters to do some side missions while your team does the cool adventuring. Great for frontier exploration campaigns, but you can tweak them to be for scientific research, surveying, and even war and trade. Made with M-Space and Mythras in mind, but I want to make one for Traveller/Cepheus Engine.

The link is here. Tell me what you think.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Space Governments Musing

In its most simplistic explanation, a government and its effectiveness in maintaining security and loyalty over its citizens is dependent upon transportation and communication. As all have improved, it's been possible for nations to grow larger, keep their holdings, and maintain their borders. Once you get into space, however, geopolitical borders and control go out the window. This is especially true the slower you make transportation and communication between two star systems. If everything is done with wormholes (or any relatively short hyperdrives) and instant ansibles, then it's a lot easier to have sector-spanning star empires. It's easier to get military ships to defend your planets from pirates or enemy alien attacks. You can send supply aid quickly in case of a natural disaster. Or, you can stop those damn space Yankees from revolting and throwing your supplies of space tea into the space Boston Harbor.

But, the slower things are, the harder it is to maintain security, loyalty, and control. So, if you have something like Traveller's jump drive, it's going to be more difficult to set up the big grand empire. In a setting where travelling to a star can take a week or more
per parsec, you would need a less centralized government to keep your outworlders happy about their independence, but planetary governors to keep them loyal to your government. A standard unitary sphere couldn't work like that. So what kind of governments could you see in such a setting? Luckily, a lot of this can be seen in settings like the Third Imperium of Traveller, as well as several of the 50's to 70's sci fi that inspired it and many modern takes on the space opera genre.

A note here. I'm no political scientist. I'm just a cook that has an interest in sci fi cultures and politics. So these are just rudimentary explanations done with the intent to provide interesting ideas for sci fi games within the constraints of a slower FTL drive. They aren't meant as a treatise on why one is better than the other.

Anarchist Communes

This is one I see a lot in transhumanist RPGs and literature, such as Eclipse Phase and The Culture series. Essentially, due to the vast distances and time that transportation and communication must cross, enforcing control over a planet is difficult. So these planets have to make due on their own in a lot of cases. Now, this really can only work if either there are a lot of resources available on the planet, or they have advanced mining and nanofabrication machines that can literally print what they need. If you are lacking either of those, then the colony is entirely dependent on either their patron, trade, or neighbors. Still, it's an interesting culture to see in space, and one that can be pretty alien to many of your players.

Feudal Empire

Whether it's Dune or Traveller's Third Imperium, a feudal space empire dominated by houses is another possible government that one could see across the vast gulfs of space. One could see it as a fairly decentralized monarchy, with each planet owned by a house of nobility. There would be a great deal of tradition and honor laws to keep people loyal to the capital world, and the capital world would have to have a large space fleet to keep a good military presence. Basically replace tithes and levies with taxes and militia prospects and you've essentially got a cool and interesting space empire.

Republic Confederation/Federation

With this, much like Star Wars's Galactic Senate, you have a union of worlds that want to retain some independent government over their planet and holdings, but still have an overarching government that runs things between the members. Stuff like trade and economics, social and civil rights, law and order, military, and foreign policy. The overarching government is the federal government, while the individual worlds would be the world government. People in America are fairly familiar with the federation, while a confederation is more decentralized. This puts more power into the world government and they are more likely to be different governments from each other than in a federation. Unlike the feudal system, where the members are all subordinate to the capital, the federation/confederacy members are generally equal (at least on paper). People in these federations would be united against a major threat. Think something like the Klingons and Romulans, or the Zerg in Starcraft. Because of the remote distances and transportation times, sticking together against enemy empires is a good reason to form a federation.

Free World Alliance

Similar to the federations and confederations, an alliance is a cooperative union of planets that remain very independent and under control over their own populace, but have banded together for mutual defense or economic trade. Unlike the federation, this one is much looser and laws (usually called treaties or accords) are decided on by the members. This can be mutually beneficial, or it can lie more in the realms of realpolitik, with each trying to get the most from their relationship with the least give. An alliance is great because the worlds can be completely different governments and cultures from each other but still be together. So players can go to a monarchy one adventure and deal with social intrigue and nobles, and the next, they can deal with someone tampering with the bureaucracy of a republic's elections. Worlds would unite either for resource trading or to go against a common, but less powerful enemy. Like pirates and raiders, or other free worlds looking to exploit them. Maybe even a budding galactic empire looking to grow quickly.

Trade Empire/Cartel Plutocracy/Kleptocracy

This is a set I like. You can have a group of worlds united under several different companies, corporations, and conglomerates. Each planet is a client state under a specific corp rather than a government agency. Perhaps the government of the capital world prefers the private sector to fund colonial and trade efforts. Or, perhaps you can go full cyberpunk and the government is bought out by the different corporations at the expense of the citizens. Or maybe they simply are the government, with CEOs also holding government positions and social mobility being very limited or non-existent. Or perhaps the government retains control, but focuses less on claiming holdings for themselves and more on setting up trade agreements for either mutual or personal benefit. These could be balanced for the benefit of both parties, focused on the benefit of one, or the detriment of the other. Think Venice or Portugal during the Age of Discovery, or England and America during the 1800s with their aggressive trades with China. You can actually go a lot of ways with this beyond the usually evil megacorps you see in cyberpunk. The groups of corps in similar industries could form a cartel that controls the price of their exports. It'd have to be something not readily available or some sort of service or luxury (or even drugs). If you really want to make them the bad guys, you can have them form a kleptocracy, where they steal from their own people to supplement their own expenses. These worlds can be great for games of traders, political intrigue or, for the kleptocracy, rebels trying to overthrow their government.

That's all I have. I'm actually using a lot of these ideas for my current sci fi game that I'm running on Wednesdays. I like being able to add different types of planets and governments to make them feel like the players are entire a different world. I've actually had a lot of fun making the Trade Empires and Cartels in my game. What are some other empires and governments one could see in a sci fi setting of slower FTL ?

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Blow the Bridge

I've been chatting with a friend of mine about table-top gaming and how to avoid railroads but still have a semi-structured and cohesive plot for a campaign. It can be cool to want to run an epic adventure module with friends, especially some of the adventure paths like Age of Worms or Rise of the Runelords. As much as I like sandbox gaming with a bold group of players, sometimes I do long for a more structured adventure path that still takes into account the actions of the players. So to answer my friend, I remember something told to me by my lead cook.

One of the things his old boss talked about was called "blowing the bridge". Basically, the bridge is some goal or task that needs to get done. It doesn't matter how the bridge is blown, as long as it's blown up by the time he gets back. In this case, the bridge could be cleaning the kitchen, or getting through some prep quickly, or pushing through a rough service. He doesn't care if someone takes a lot of smoke breaks, eats on the job, or imbibes in their chefly vice (nose candy is fairly popular in the food industry), as long as ultimately the job gets done correctly and by the deadline. 

Now, say what you will about the philosophy in terms of physical and mental health of a chef (and believe me, we are not mentally healthy in the slightest), the idea is something that has stuck with me when I design my campaigns. For me, when I have some scenario in mind for the players to run through, I segment the goal of the players as the proverbial 'bridge'. I try not to throw too many limitations on their methods, though I am a believe that limitations breed innovation. But in general, I don't care how the players blow the bridge, as long as they go and accomplish their goal. Now, depending on the method of blowing the bridge, it can lead to some serious fallout and consequences. Which for me is great, since the players are literally doing my adventure hook creation job for me. So with that, even in a more structured adventure path/module/fox hunt style of game, you can still have the freedom of player ingenuity and cleverness take the forefront to tacking a problem.