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.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Styles of Aliens

So in the last post I talked about aliens and how many I wanted and such. I think the important part about aliens is how strange should we make them. There are all kinds of alien types out in science fiction, some made to be more familiar to us humans and some meant to be mind boggling strange. In M-Space, they have a Strangeness meter about them that shows how different an alien is from the baseline of an Earthling. It goes from 1 to 100, where 1 is practically a human, 50 is some where in the middle, and 100 is really really strange. I've actually used that in many of my games since, including Stars Without Number and Cepheus Engine. It's a really handy tool to gauge your aliens. So I made up a little silly scale for people to use when making their aliens, based mostly on Hollywood special effects

Stage One: Big Ears/Ridged Foreheads (BERF)
Strangeness: 1-25
SFX: Makeup and a mask

This is a common one to see in a lot of media. It's familiar to the players since the aliens look so much like humans, and easy on the budget both for Hollywood and the GM. Sometimes it's something really low key, like different markings on the skin, or something more like pointed ears or antennae on the forehead. I've always liked blue aliens, so the Andorrans were always pretty cool to me. Star Trek is big on this obviously, as are many of the aliens from Stargate, Eldar from WH40K, and some of the aliens from Defiance.

Stage Two: Actor in a Rubber Suit (ARS)
Strangeness: 26-50
SFX: Rubber Suit, Some Prosthetics and Make Up, A little CGI

This is the sweet spot for me in terms of xeno sophonts. The ARS still have a mostly humanoid body, but are different looking enough to make them feel alien. Most of the Mass Effect aliens are like this, as are some of the Star Wars aliens.

Stage Three: Complex Alien Puppetry (CAP)
Strangeness: 51-75
SFX: Complex Puppets, Some CGI, Stop Animation, two or more people operating it

The CAP is where things get pretty strange for the aliens. This is where you get quadrupeds (or hexapeds or more [or less]), strange alien limbs and heads, and other unusual, but recognizable shapes. A lot of the original trilogy Star Wars aliens are like this, as are some of the Xenomorph from Aliens, and Farscape. God I loved Farscape. While not strictly alien, many of the monsters in Ray Harryhausen's Dynamation films could also be under this.

Stage Four: Undeterminable Sapient Lifeform (USL)
Strangeness: 76-100
SFX: CGI, Film Tricks, Animation

This is the weird stuff. USLs are aliens that don't look like anything we as humans would identify as life. Clouds of intelligent plasma, sapient suns, living techno-organic metals, creatures of living energy, or shadow monsters can definitely fit the bill. What's important is that the alien is truly alien, Some good examples are The Blob from the original 50's movie, the shapeshifter alien from John Carpenter's The Thing, the Shadow Aliens and Sun Alien from Doctor Who, the C'Tan from WH40K, and the ELS from Gundam 00 Awakening of Trailblazer.

This post marks the 30th and last post in my 30 Days of Blogging Till I'm 30. It's was an interesting and fun thing to do, though I'm kinda glad it's over now. So now I'm going to take a break and enjoy my 30th birthday tomorrow.