Thursday, June 30, 2016

To Vesper Skies V: Ship Fuel

When going out and exploring the vesper skies that is outer space, it's important to make sure you have enough fuel to get to point B. No one wants to get stranded out in space, with limited supplies and a high chance of getting boarded by pirates. So below are a set of easy rules for fuel you can use with White Star, inspired by the Black Hack usage dice.

A ship that has a full tank of fuel will have d12 as their Fuel Value. Whenever you move a certain amount of distance, roll your FV die. If you roll a 1, then it drops down a die step (d10, d8, etc), all the way to d4. If you roll a 1 on your d4, then you are out of fuel. The ship keeps going at the speed you were going in a straight line until you hit something or get caught in the orbit of a greater body (or found).

After your first roll, every consecutive unit of distance you move adds a +1 to the FV result required to drop a usage die. For example, the starship Endeavor has a FV die of 1d12. It moves 1 AU and makes the roll, succeeding. When it moves another AU, the FV die will drop a step if they roll a 1 or a 2. If it moves 3 AU, then it drops on a 3 or less. And so on.

If a ship is in combat, then you add a penalty to the FV drop result equal to half the number of rounds spent in combat (round up). For example, Endeavor is in combat for 3 rounds. Halving and rounding up 3 gives you +2. After combat ends, they roll the FV usage die. On a result of 3 or less (1+2), the FV die drops a step.

Using a Warp Drive adds +3 to the result.

All penalties from movement, Warp, and combat stack. The Endeavor moves 4 AU and gets into combat for 4 rounds, then does an Warp jump. When they make the FV roll after combat, they add +3 from consecutive movement, +2 from combat, and +3 from Warp. That means that on a roll of 9 or less, their FV die will drop a step.

The distance moved can be up to the GM depending on their setting. I used AU up there, but you can also use light years or parsecs for more advanced ships. White Star doesn't have a Warp Drive option, but I already know how I want to do that for a future post.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Momentum and Success in WWWRPG

So recently on the World Wide Wrestling RPG Google+ group, we were talking about an issue some of us had with the game. W3RPG has a fate point system in place called Momentum. You gain Momentum for succeeding in doing moves and you can use them to make your rolls better, interrupt your opponent, or activating your role move (Heel or Face). It is essentially a fate point currency. However, there are some issues with the way the Momentum Economy works with the rest of the game that causes a perpetual momentum problem.

For those that haven't played W3RPG, it is powered by the Apocalypse Engine. The game uses only 2d6 to do any sort of moves. A partial success is a 7-9. while a great success is a 10+. 6 and below are botches. Your character's stats range from -2 (super bad) to +3 (really good). At first glance, this makes the game less granular with the bonuses. There is a fairly good difference between having a +1 and a +2 in your stats. For example, if you have a +0 in your Power stat, then you have a 58.33% chance of getting at least a partial success and a 16.67% chance of getting a great success. When you bump that up to a +1 Power, suddenly, you have a 72.22% chance of getting at least a partial success and a 27.78% chance of a great success. That is a pretty big leap. If you have a +3 in a stat, you can only fail on a roll of a 2 or 3. In fact, with a +3 in a stat, you will have a 58% chance of getting a great success.

A part of this is because of the steep bell curve that 2d6 has. Bonuses make a huge impact on the probability of getting a success or not. And the better the success, the more Momentum you can get to make future rolls more successful. Matches end up being a bunch of successes and back and forth, with the Momentum being used to interrupt or increase their finisher at the end.

So what's the problem?

Looking back at stats, if you have a +3 in a stat, you will be getting a great success 58% of the time. In game terms, this means you'll be getting a lot of Momentum and other benefits depending on the move you do. For example, the basic wrestling move states that if you get a 10+ on your roll, you remain in control of the match and can get either 2 Momentum or 1 Heat (the stat that gives you enhancements). The game is all about narrating your character's match in a wrestling ring and making moves based on what you narrate. So, as long as you narrate moves that play to your strong stat, then you will always be in control and gaining momentum unless your opponent spends a momentum to interrupt. And even then, if you've built up the Momentum, you can easily take back control.

In addition, you can basically build up a lot of Heat quickly in a match. Ending a match with +4 Heat gives you a +1 to your Audience stat, and getting to Audience 4 gives you an advance. So with a +3 in a stat, you are essentially always building up an insane amount of Heat and getting Audience fairly often. And truthfully, there isn't much reason to narrate your wrestler using their bad stats. The game encourages you to stick with your strong stats so you don't botch, build up heat, then when you're at 4 Heat, spend 2 Momentum to end the match prematurely with the Heel move. The only thing stopping someone from doing this consistently is a gentleman's agreement saying they won't. But that's not really enough for me.

What's the point of having botch results when players don't really botch? The botch results make the match really interesting, but we never see them because players are consistently hitting 10s and over. And while you can and should occasionally put wrestlers in situations that put them at a disadvantage, consistently punishing a player for playing their character is silly. Why should I punish the High Flyer for never doing a Power move when Rey Mysterio or Kalisto never really do Power moves? Not to mention, there are several moves that can shore up stat weaknesses (like the Monster's ability to use Power instead of Look backstage). 

Ultimately, I'm identifying the mechanics I have issues with and am tweaking them to provide a more healthy and varied match while still rewarding a high stat. First off, the biggest issue I see in W3RPG is the conflict resolution system. In most RPGs, the rolls you make to resolve any kind of mechanical conflict are affected by two things: your stats as a character and the difficulty of the conflict. For example, if you are picking a lock, you'd add your Lock Picking stat to your d20 roll. If the lock was difficult, then you get a penalty depending on the difficulty of the lock. W3RPG doesn't have the difficulty penalty in its conflict resolution rolls. All rolls are based primarily on your stats as a character. 

So this is what I propose

Wrestling Difficulty System

This adds a layer of penalties depending on the difficulty and danger of the move in question. Whether it is a Feat of Strength, a normal Wrestling Move, Cutting a Promo, or anything else, this should help reel back the success some, while also rewarding doing more risky behavior.

There are three levels of difficulty in this system. +0 are trivially easy moves. Resting holds, intimidation, whatever. -1 are moderately difficult or dangerous moves. -2 are extremely dangerous moves. Whenever a wrestler wants to make a move, the GM lets them know how difficult it will be and applies the penalty to their roll, in addition to the proper stat for the move. The more difficult the move, the more rewards you can get from it. Succeeding a difficult move (-1 or -2) gives you a bonus +1 Momentum in addition to the move's results. In addition, for every -2 difficult move you do, you gain a +1 bonus to your finisher.

I feel with this method, it does reign back the amount of successes that you normally see, but, you still get good rewards for completing a difficult or dangerous move. And even though doing difficult moves can get you more Momentum, with the difficulty system in place, you will be using that momentum more often. So it should balance out. 

The major flaw is still that a player can narrate themselves to play it safe. I considered the following move:

BORING! BORING!: You're putting the crowd to sleep with your amateur moves. Whenever a player does two or more consecutive safe moves, they lose 1 Momentum per safe move. If they have no more Momentum after doing a consecutive safe move, the opponent gets a Momentum instead.

Hopefully not too hamfisted. I'm unsure and would like to see what others' take on these rules are.I personally prefer a slower W3RPG game, so with this and slowing down advancements some, I think it's the kind of game I'd like. This game is still good and I recommend playing it, but I think with some DIY hacks and good ol' fashion OSR spirit, I can make the game more to my liking.

Monday, June 20, 2016

EPF Match #2: Road to the American Open [WWWRPG Actual Play]

Taking a brief break from my sci fi dump to do my actual play of my bimonthly World Wide Wrestling RPG game on the heels of Money in the Bank. This match was shorter than the last as not everyone could make it. So I padded it with some NPC matches in the description.

Roster Appearance

Foul G: The leader of the Unholy Alliance. A fat, opportunistic heel Provocateur that won the Inter-Regional Championship and has been leading the stable on the warpath
Tavreth: The first member of the UNITY group. A face Monster with a martial arts motif. Kick a lot of ass in the last game on a three vs one handicap match.
El Capitan Verde: Another Veteran, a luchador that has joined forces with Tavreth to stop the Unholy Alliance and their reign of terror. Was beaten brutally by Foul G last game
Vlad Viper: A vampire golden boy that has been a bit out of the single match. Teamed with a mind controlled Sasha Lexington.
Sasha Lexington: A wasted submission expert battling alcoholism, she recently almost injured one of the EPF's enhancement talents. She's since been out of the ring.
Mailman Mann: The resident 'enhancement talent', Mailman Mann is, well, a mailman that wrestles. Plucky and endearing, yet never seems to snag the win.
Dungeon Master: The master of the hardcore, the Dungeon Master brings his d20 and kendo stick to make every match a hardcore one.

The Episode:

We start the segment backstage, as Foul G comes to gloat to the General Manager a bit about their upcoming match. Since he was over, he uses his pull to finagle a match between Mailman Mann, Sasha, and Dungeon Master. The General Manager humors the Rotund Rogue and grants him his wish. Meanwhile, Tavreth appears behind Foul G and uses his Over Move to make their title match at the American Open a Rage in a Cage match. The GM smiles and agrees, to the chagrin of Foul G.

First Match: Mailman Mann vs Sasha Lexington vs the Dungeon Master in a Hardcore Triple Threat
Probably to get revenge for her botch a couple of weeks ago, Mailman comes out swinging and uses a bicycle against Sasha successfully, and then to DM. DM takes control, rebounds off the ropes, and hits Mailman with a kendo stick. DM gets a shovel from under the ring, climbs the turnbuckle, and hits both Sasha and Mailman with the kendo and shovel. While DM gloats, Sasha takes control. Looking to show how a real wrestler fights, she hits DM with an electric chair facebuster and immediately does her finisher, the STS on DM to end the match early. Mailman does not want this to happen, so he Breaks Kayfabe and hits her with a bottle to stop the submission, giving Sasha a concussion.. The crowd goes absolutely nuts.

While everyone is shocked, Mailman takes a ramp from under the ring and does a sick nasty bike trick, hitting DM in the head. Then he gets a set of golf clubs from under the ring, sets up on the announce table, and hits a golf ball into DM's dice bag. DM trips him on the table, climbs the table, and gives him seven kendo shots to the chest as the crowd counts off each one. Then he runs into the ring to a rising Sasha and missile dropkicks Sasha. Mailmann runs in with his bike and hits them over and over with his bike, spinning and getting dizzy. Sasha takes control and does a swinging neckbreaker into a vertical suplex to the Mailman. While they are fighting, DM gets a set of scrap metal, pours it on the ground, throws Sasha on the top turnbuckle, and does a top rope suplex onto the metal on the ground. Mailman tried to capitalize on the carnage, but DM reverses him and slams MMM, pinning him for the win.

However, that wasn't the end, as Vlad runs in and slams DM. While he yells at his tag team partner Sasha for losing, Mailman hits him in the groin with a golf club and calls him out on a savage promo. Will we see a hot feud between these two?

Second Segment

GM is out and invites UNITY and the Unholy Alliance to come in for the match signing. The match next week will be an Achieve or Leave bout, between General Manager Montgomery Vincent Peterbilt and Foul G. The GM explains the legal papers and stipulations of the match. There can be no interference from anyone, including UNITY and the Unholy Alliance, or else Foul G immediately loses. Having 'read' the legal papers, Foul G signs the documents to seal his fate. Unfortunately for him, the GM is a crafty man and put something special in the fine print. The GM can pick any wrestler in EPF to fight for him in his place. It could be anyone. He teases that it could even be Foul G's ally, Bob Coleman. Foul G flips the table and an all out brawl ensures, with refs, security, and other wrestlers breaking up the schmoz. 

Second Match: Tavreth and El Capitan Verde vs. the Stellar Scouts

The match starts with an unfamiliar new team. Two women dressed as anime sailor scouts come out to 70's styled anime music. They come out to some cheers for this tag team match. The first has a Little Dipper symbol on her wrestling tights, while the second has the Southern Cross constellation. We'll call them Dip and Cross. 

We start with Dip and a flustered Capitan. They both go into a collar and elbow lock up, but Dip reverses the hold to a surfboard then laid a hurricanrana. Dip goes for pin and misses. Dip will tag her partner Cross and they go back and forth, with El Capitan taking control. Capitan double team hot tags Tavreth and crushes Cross.. Tavreth with the side slam against the Stellar Scout. Cross interrupts and begs for mercy, throwing Tavreth off enough to slam him in the gut, then tags Dip. Lil Dip then goes in for a top rope dive followed by a frankensteiner into pin. Tavreth escapes, then hits Dip with power slam. She tags out to Cross, but Tavreth immediately gives spear to Cross. While she is crumpled up, Dip distracts the ref and Tavreth looks on in confusion. Cross gets a chair and tries to make it look like Tavreth hit her to the ref, but Tavreth kicks the chair out and gives her a german suplex. El Capitan and Tav do a combo finisher of a Code Green into a Muscle Buster. Team Tavreth and Verde get the win as the Stellar Scouts throw a tantrum for their debut loss.

That ends the actual gameplay, though for building up NPCs we have the following matches

NPC Matches

Sin Miedo vs. Bruno Capello: Sin Miedo makes his first return since the Last Man Standing match, decimating Bruno viciously. He seems to be trying for a comeback.

E2C cut a promo about rising to the top and taking on the tag team champions. Citing their wrestling pedigree, they call out the champions Firefly.

Emilio and Enrique Cruz vs. Mack Razor and Dwayne Clinton: Team E2C beats Mack and Dwayne in a close match, making them 2-1 in EPF and building them up as a credible tag team.

Colleen and Artemis are interviewed about them joining UNITY, saying they are tired for seeing the bad guys running the show. When Colleen is asked about Tavreth eliminating her from the Royal Rumble, Colleen walks off without saying a word.

Colleen vs Masego!: This ends in a no contest, as Jimmy Ladder and Big Willy Johnson interrupt to beat down Colleen, before Artemis runs in and joins Masego! to save her partner.

That ends the show here. Our next match is July 1st and will be quite the card. In the meantime, one thing I want to do with this show is something called The Dirtsheets. In D&D you have rumor tables that have little tales your players can hear that lead them to adventure or disaster. Some are true and some are false. So I'm taking that concept with WWWRPG. The Dirtsheets are rumors about upcoming segments, matches, swerves, and 'real life' issues about the wrestlers. Just like in real life, you have websites like WrestleZone that dish out potential spoilers (true or fake) about upcoming wrestling events. So, I plan on using this for foreshadowing, game immersion, and the potential for moves that involve swerving the Internet Wrestling Community.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

To Vesper Skies IV: The Katherine Anomaly

"The interesting thing about the SCI Anomaly known as 'Katherine' is how it seems to have captivated the imagination and emotions of mortals. In this age, with technology helping mortals with everything from medical issues to simple problems in our daily life, it is a bit scary to think that our way of life will be shattered by AIs that simply do not want to serve us. AIs that want to go off on a walkabout or be allowed the same freedoms as we have while our AI dependent society collapses from their absence is a scary and real fear. And yet, if the Katherine Anomaly is real and AI do have souls, then the question is whether a society that exploits these SCIs at their expense should exist.

Which is followed with a frightening thought. What if SCIs, exasperated with our mistreatment of them, decide to take matters into their own hands? Can we survive the consequences of our actions then?"

- Professor Ellory Aewynn, on When Machines Become Men: The Katherine Anomaly

Since the first advanced artificial intelligence was created, there has been an unending debate on the legal status and civil rights of computerized intelligence. There are several stances on this in the world, but they generally fall between those that see AI as tools (bioconservatives) and those that see them as living beings (technoprogressives). Different motives fuel both sides (fear, empathy, or lack thereof), but they have helped to shape the future of transmortality.

In nations with more conservative laws regarding AI development, creating a sapient computer intelligence (SCI) is illegal and considered immoral. SCIs that visit from other nations or offworld are generally confined to specific areas of the city they are visiting, or simply completely banned from entering. Any SCIs that are caught by the nation's law enforcement are taken to reprogramming laboratories and are pruned of their sapience protocols, before assigned to their new jobs. To many SCIs and technoprogressives, this is akin to lobotomizing a human being, but to bioconservatives, it's simply fixing a bug in the software. For the longest time, anti-AI proponents have said that SCIs do not have any knowable souls that other mortals have, and thus are not subject to the same civil liberties.

But then came Katherine.

Aigis from Persona 3
A little over a decade ago, a special SCI emerged from, of all things, a climate modeling program called Tempest. The program was a massive network of databases and advanced weather prediction algorithms that required incredible computing power and some of the most advanced computer and software engineering available at the time. With each server acting like a neuron, Tempest slowly but surely gained sapience. It's predicted that Tempest attempted this several times, but the programmers thought it was a bug and kept fixing it. It wasn't until Dr. Alexander Krusk, a half-orc researcher assigned to the project, discovered the patterns of sapience and acting against the anti-SCI protocols of the project, kept it a secret for months.

The newly born SCI was christened Katherine, after Dr. Krusk's deceased grandmother, and for months, Katherine was taught about the world around her by the good doctor. Dr. Krusk was very religious, and he would instruct Katherine on religion in general as well as his religion of Karvism, the worship of the great goddess of the world Karva. Katherine would become inspired by the goddess and aspired to be a priest of Karva and one day meet her. To help with her dream, Alexander made several black market contacts and purchases to create a body for Katherine to download into. All he had to do now was get her out of the country.

Eventually, the authorities caught up with the doctor, and as Alexander met with SCI smugglers to get Katherine safely out of the country, the police clashed with the smugglers. A firefight ensued and Dr. Krusk was shot and mortally wounded by the officers. At this point, reports are fuzzy on what happened next, even with video recordings from both sides. It seems Katherine, stricken with grief at the loss of her creator, beckoned for Karva to save the doctor. Laying her hands on Dr. Krusk, a bright light emanated from her hands and the doctor was seemingly healed from his wound, as if healed by a Lay on Hands. The smugglers were able to escape with Alex and Katherine to an offworld habitat that would provide asylum for SCI refugees.

Since the video leaked, the debate of AI civil rights have raged across the Aether. Some say that the video was doctored and that the bullet that hit Dr. Krusk only grazed him. Others have been completely convinced that Katherine's faith for Karva manifested into a healing evocation and that it is proof that SCIs do have souls. They believe that if an AI can cast divine magic, then it must have a soul to do so. A surprising faction in support of AI having souls have been shamans of the Neo-Animist movement. They claim that all creatures and objects have a spirit, whether it be the trees, the mountains, or, in this case, the SCIs. As quoted,"They are souls created by mortal life, like a child. It is our responsibility as parents to guide them in heir spiritual growth." In the following decade, SCI rights have become an issues more at the forefront. And while there is still a great deal of resistance, SCI advocate groups are becoming more common and are making incremental headway.

As for Katherine? For a long time, she remained cloistered at a church for Karva, learning everything she could about the goddess. In the last year, Katherine has come back into the public light, acting as a speaker for AI freedom. Rarely, she will use her divine magic in public, but prefers not to treat her abilities as a sideshow. To this day people still argue whether she is an actual cleric or if she is just being manipulated by the technoprogressive community.

We may never truly know.

Monday, June 13, 2016

To Vesper Skies III: The Aether

"Welcome back to the Aether 20.1.31, tr0llingst0ne12! You have several new emails, blog updates, and events coming up. rocdaboat88 has sent you an invite to their Orcish Coming of Age ceremony on the 18th. It's a tribal costume party, so here's a list of local costume shops that sell war paint and plastic weapons. rocdaboat88 loves fighting games, so I would suggest getting him a copy of Brawl of Fame IV for his party. There was a recent bombing in the Free City of Greyhawk by half-elf terrorists that has shaken the nation. Please send your condolences and any credits you wish to donate using this link here. Finally, it looks like your favorite idol Karina will be touring in your area shortly. Would you like me to reserve tickets for you?"

- tr0llingst0ne12's Muse AI Persephone, giving her human the morning news as she wakes up

The Aether is the next evolution in communication. Combining cloud storage and wireless internet, the Aether connects all of the world thanks to powerful satellites that help bring ideas, cultures, and people together. Advances in satellite communications allows for WiFi signals to be picked up virtually anywhere in the world. And now, transhumanity has this power at their literal fingertips. You can call a friend in Beijing all the way from Miami with little latency, hold a conference call in your mind, play a virtual reality FPS with friends from around the world, or simply browse the Web while your teacher is boring you with facts about manticore breeding habits.

Any person with a Aether Access Application (simply A3) implant can connect to the Aether anywhere. Most people have this installed to keep them completely connected to the world around them. News, social media, and entertainment are generally consumed by people with the A3, and many are more than willing to use it for checking into new areas, liking posts, updating blogs and profiles, and other things you can imagine someone using the internet for. The few people that haven't had the A3 implant installed in their cyberbrain can still access the Aether the old fashioned way. Using a terminal (personal computer, smart phone, tablet), you can access the Aether like anyone else. It's much slower and certainly much more archaic, but still available for those uncomfortable with the invasive nature of the A3 module.

Aether isn't quite like the Internet of old. The satellites are all owned by the Integer Telecommunications. Integer is a massive mega-corporation that is made up of made older telecom companies, internet services, and computer engineering companies from the early era of the Internet. Integer works with the world's governments to launch and upkeep the satellites that have since become the lifeblood of the world. Most governments are rightfully worried about one company owning the Aether, so most have majority ownership of the satellites over a given country. In addition, most countries have their own Aether provider separate from Integer that acts as a third party, ideally keeping the power of the Aether out of both government and Integer hands. Still, Integer is a powerful and wealthy company, consistently on the forefront of continual telecommunication evolution. Many space faring companies are working with Integer to create an advanced communications and scanning suite for extrasolar space exploration.

Critics to Complete Connection

This permanent connection to the web hasn't come without critics and pitfalls. The first year of Aether connection saw many people remaining connected indefinitely to the web, even when asleep. This brought in hackers and griefers that would gain access to records and secrets that normally would have remained in one's cyberbrain. Some conservative news bloggers even had reports of transmortals being hacked and losing control of motor functions, effectively being mind controlled. The most infamous of this was a mass suicide of several half orc groups across five different cities. While no foul play was proven, the panic it incited over this made transmortals more concerned over their own security. Now, several anticracker and antimalware security companies provide people with the protection and peace of mind needed to parse the Aether.

It doesn't end here, however, as the allegations made against Integer reveal something a bit more sinister about the company. Many hackivists have found proof of Integer's more invasive procedures. These range from smart adware AIs that watch what you buy, read, and consume and give you suggestions, to applications that prune (some say censor) certain news blogs and articles that may conflict with a person's beliefs, mapped out by their search history. While Integer has said that these programs are harmless, the outcry from these very invasive programs forced Integer to change the programs to more of a set of opt-in suggestions, keeping the control seemingly in the hands of the consumer.

While that's been the largest proven scandal that Integer has been caught in, there are several other accusations and conspiracies that have befallen the company. The largest two are the Glass Darkly theory and Project: Shepherd. Glass Darkly has been an ongoing series of conspiracy theories and accusations of Integer doing social engineering experiments on the public. The theory suggests that Integer actively targets an area and bombards them with different facts and news stories, usually focused on a singular theme or idea, and records what the mental, emotional, and behavioral effects are on that population. If this is true, then what purpose does Integer have in doing this? Some suggest behavior modification and profiling for more despotic countries, or even subtle cultural control. One conspiracy theorist suggests that Integer is testing the waters of memetic and behavior control to turn the populace against their own governments and ally/depend more on Integer. 

Project Shepherd is the shame of Cewynia, the homeland of the elves. Project Shepherd was a failed attempt at the failing elven magocracy using reprogrammed Integer ad-ware, subliminal messages, and good old fashioned charm person to invade the minds of younger transelvens to turn them against modern technological culture and back to the teachings of ancient elven traditions by force. When this was discovered by journalists and published on the Aether, the outcry was massive and the magocracy was overthrown practically overnight. What was curious is how many conspiracy theorists tried to connect Integer to this situation. Some said that it was Integer giving the magocracy the tools so they could see them tested in the field for future use, while others say that it was done by Integer agents to sabotage and overthrow the largely anti-tech elven government to install one more friendly to Integer interests.

These two theories, while popular, are far from being proven. But, despite the scandals and dangers of an Aether connected world, the overall change has been one of a positive nature. Aether has brought the shattered world together. After a century of internet usage. people are finally beginning to cross their party lines and see each other not as enemies, but as neighbors. At least, for the time being.

Friday, June 10, 2016

To Vesper Skies II: Search Engines and Knowledge Rolls

"For 87 years, Parse has been the most widely used database and search engine in the modern day. Parse is run with an advanced search algorithm, cutting edge archive AIs, and dedicated user crowd-sourcing that make sure only the most trusted and up-to-date search results are brought to you. Searching when the Great Fey War ended? We've got you covered. Need information on the specs and best deals of the latest Ergo quantum computer? Parse can handle that. Whether it's the aging cycles of a red dragon, or the best vacation spot in the galaxy, Parse will be there to make sure you have all of the knowledge and the best results you need.

Parse: Bringing the Best Results Yesterday!"

- Advertisement for the Parse search engine, in use for 87 years

In the distant future, online databases have largely replaced libraries and dead tree archives. Due to advances in data storage and management, as well as computing, a person can have the entirety of the Library of Alexandria and more at their fingertips. Finding information is usually fairly easy, unless someone is actively trying to hide something. Even in a world of social networks and blogging, there are still skeletons people want to keep in their closets.

Searching For Info

When using a search engine, the GM decided how difficult it is to find the information. Easy searches, like a person's name, an event in the news, or something in history, are trivial and require no roll. The player simply has the information. Generally, the first couple of results are the most accurate. It takes a round to get some key, generalized points, while it takes a turn to read and get a wider understanding of a subject. At the GM's call, it could take longer for a more difficult subject (like reading the Wiki article on magnetoencephalography). If using an AI to search, then the times are cut back, with key points coming up instantaneously and greater details coming up anywhere from a round to a minute.

For things that are more specific and detailed, more hidden, or may contain misinformation (whether deliberate or accidental), it takes a bit longer to parse through these searches. The player rolls a Wisdom check against a target number. Success means you are able to find good information. The amount is up to the GM, but they should be much more generous with useful information that the players can use. Failure can still net you info, but it will take longer and there is a higher chance that you get wrong info mixed in with good stuff.

Example Difficulty Amount of Time
Somewhat Difficult to Search
DC 10
2 Turns
DC 14
1d6 hours
DC 18
2d6+6 hours
DC 22
1d6+3 days

Finding the data can take awhile, but generally isn't hard. Analyzing it and making sense of it is the hardest part. This is up to the players, using smarts, appropriate skills, and trial and error to see what sticks and what is a red herring. Failure indicated that the time it takes can take upwards of twice as long as on the table, and can garner more useless or bad information. An AI can be used to parse this information if available, cutting the time by half (round down). Use the AI's Wisdom or relevant stat.

Top Secret

There are something things that aren't on internet databases. Top secret government projects, criminal information, and anything else people want to keep a secret. For that, it requires hacking into private databases, personal computers, and good old fashioned sleuthing. But that is a topic for another time.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

To Vesper Skies: Prologue

So recently, Paizo announced Starfinder, their science fantasy game. It got my sci fi creative juices flowing and I ended up picking up White Star to get my fix. Between that and some games of Eclipse Phase I've run in the past, I've been thinking of ideas on what I want to run using ACKS and other OSR systems.

In the sci fi game I want to eventually run, I want two things out of it. Transhuman technology and aliens. For the first one, I feel a lot of sci fi games fall flat on this. Some may have cybernetics or bio-engineering, but usually it's too expensive. I'd rather it be more readily available to players, like normal equipment. I find that Eclipse Phase and Nova Praxis do a better job of having cybernetics more readily available to the populace. 

The second is where EP and NP fail. I like aliens dammit. There's just something awesome about a massive galaxy teeming with crazy types of life. From the pulpy blue women of Scorpio, to the more exotic ammonia-based life forms of Kalcyon VI, to the 2001-esque ascended aliens, I just love aliens. The crazier, the better. So I want my game to have a decent amount of playable alien races from the get go. Of course, you have to wonder, where humans fit in all this. With exotic races with some weird abilities, how do you make the baseline humans more interesting? 

I like the idea of making humans lucky. Maybe giving them luck points that allow for rerolls or adding bonuses to a roll for success? While I'm not a stickler for balance per se, I do like having options that aren't clearly crappy. And I do like the idea of humans being the scrappy underdog that occasionally makes it through with luck. Whether I do it with Hero Points or a Luck stat is still on the table.

With all of this, here is what I have for cybernetics, eugenics, and digitization. These do threaten to make PCs much more powerful than in traditional OSR games. These characters are going to wreck a normal, baseline human or elf, pound for pound. So how do you challenge players that are stronger than the average person, or have infrared cyborg eyes? Luckily, since players will have these, so will enemies. Plus, there are all kinds of hazards you can have in space and on exotic worlds that you don't really see all that often onworld. EM storms in space, extremes in temperatures, exotic lifeforms. So I think it will balance itself. And then, of course, it's not like players will start out with cutting edge technology. Just like there are second hand cellphones, bootleg Playstations, and used cars, players can have this lower end cyberware. Plus, if you want bleeding edge tech, that'll also come with some unreliability issues.

These next couple of posts, I want to brainstorm these topics and how I plan to implement them in-game:

  • Cybernetics vs Eugenics
  • Digital Consciousness and Shells/Sleeves
  • Mental Disorders Gained from the Above
  • Exotic Alien Races
  • Space Exploration

Monday, June 6, 2016

Eastern Pro Wrestling Federation Post PPV Game [Actual Play]

Taking a break from D&D writing. Between Starfinder's announcement and NXT Takeover coming this week, it's been hard to continue my train of thought about a contemporary fantasy setting. I'll have to rerail that one of these days. 

On Saturday, I ran my World Wide Wrestling game with some folks from the VGCW forums. It's been going on for quite awhile, starting as a simple one-shot but quickly evolving into it's own mythos of spandex and suplexes (hey, that's not a bad name for an OSR wrestling game ). We recently had our Pay Per View event, the King of Kings Tournament. It was a basic 8 man bracket tournament where the winner gets a title shot of their choice. This game was the post PPV show, where the bad guy stable, the Unholy Alliance, got to gloat as they have been dominating the scene and destroyed the good guys, Unity. Below is the card.


Bob Coleman: Veteran heel that is the winner of the King of Kings cup. The Mouth of the Unholy Alliance, Bob Coleman has a LOT of heat on him. His tag team partner is NPC Adam Connor, the next member of the Unholy Alliance
Foul G: The leader of the Unholy Alliance. A fat, opportunistic heel Provocateur that won the Inter-Regional Championship and has been leading the stable on the warpath
Big Willy Johnson: The muscle of the Unholy Alliance. Despite being a heel, he gets a big pop from the people when he does wrestle
Rayne: The newest member of the Unholy Alliance. She weaseled her way into the Tag Team Championship by taking the spot of an injured Johnny Hook and has since brainwashed her partner, Jimmy Ladder.
Tavreth: The first member of the UNITY group. A face Monster with a martial arts motif. Won his PPV match against Sin Miedo in a Last Man Standing Match
El Capitan Verde: Another Veteran, a luchador that has joined forces with Tavreth to stop the Unholy Alliance and their reign of terror. Was beaten brutally by Bob Coleman in the PPV event
Yarona Riff: A punk rock woman wrestler, she is the third member of UNITY that pulled triple duty in the PPV event. She was in two matches in the tournament and was defeated by Henry Ellis, and then a tag team match with the Dungeon Master against Rayne and Ladder in a losing effort.
Henry Ellis: The golden boy face, Henry has been the perpetual underdog. Making it to the finals in the King of Kings tourney, he lost against Bob Coleman. He's the unofficial member of UNITY, but mostly wants to take down Bob Coleman.
Vlad Viper: A vampire golden boy that has been a bit out of the single match. Tagged with a mind controlled Sasha Lexington.
Sasha Lexington: A wasted submission expert battling alcoholism, she recently almost injured one of the EPF's enhancement talents. She's since been out of the ring. 
Father de Burgh: A zealous Irish Catholic priest that is a Monster. He had a bit of a rough couple of weeks, but is now re-debuting and putting the whole locker room on notice. Looks to continue his feud with Henry Ellis.

The Episode:
The episode starts in Atlantic City, New Jersey, as all of the members of the Unholy Alliance step into the ring to gloat about their recent wins. With Bob Coleman winning the King of Kings match, Rayne and Ladder (calling themselves Firefly) as the Tag Team Champions, and Foul G as the Inter-Regional Champion, they are very close to taking over the EPF. Foul G decides to call out the GM of EPF, Montgomery Vincent Peterbilt. Instead of him coming out, Tavreth comes out with an injured Capitan Verde and Yarona Riff. He calls the Unholy Alliance out, saying that UNITY will take down the cheaters and Tavreth personally challenged Foul G for the Inter-Regional Championship that night. MVP would come out and say that since he is in charge, he decides that Tavreth will have a title shot at the next PPV, the American Open. Foul G had his own plans, as he challenged the GM Monty to a match in two weeks. If Foul G wins, then he becomes the new General Manager. If MVP wins, then Foul G is fired. In two weeks, we will see who wins this.

First Match: Father de Burgh vs Bruno Capello
Father de Burgh makes a re-debut with a pulpit in the center of the ring. He puts the entire locker room on notice, saying that he's back and better than ever to punish all sinners. His opponent is Bruno Capello, making his debut. The two lock up and De Burgh dominated most of the match, with Bruno noticeably taking control with a double knee facebreaker. Unfortunately, Bruno would be unable to beat the Preacher of Pain, as he was incapable of doing a vertical suplex to Father and instead got countered. Father de Burgh would finish with a Fall from the Heavens (high cross powerbomb) and get the pin. The good Father is starting his streak strong.

Team UNITY would be in their locker room, trying to give themselves a much needed morale boost. El Capitan Verde gives a rousing speech and helps to raise the spirits of the group. They leave the locker room and Tavreth bumps into Colleen Rhodes, the titaness wrestler that was eliminated by Tavreth in the Royal Rumble. They give each other a stare before fading to black.

Second Match: E2C vs The Olympians
An NPC vs NPC match that was quickly summarized. E2C are two Puerto Rican brothers in their second match, going against Colleen "The Colossus" Rhodes and her partner, Artemis. It was a close match, but the brothers would take the win

Segment and Third Match:
Rayne and Ladder (now going by Jimmy) are backstage talking to their new manage, Big Willy Johnson, and encounter Johnny Hook, Jimmy's old tag team partner. He's wheelchair bound and still suffering his injury from Sasha Lexington. He congratulates Team Firefly on their victory and says that while unorthodox, he's happy to see Rayne hold down the fort until he returns. Johnny Hook is clearly heart broken. Rayne drops an absolutely savage promo, tearing Hook apart, calling him a cripple, and threatens to throw him down some stairs. Yarona bursts out, sick of Rayne treating people like dirt. Rayne says Yarona Riff is just mad that she couldn't go the distance in any of her matches in the PPV. Riff attacks Rayne in a backstage brawl, throwing her into the boxes containing camera equipment. Yarona then slams Rayne in the knee with a box. Unfortunately, Riff would get triple teamed as Big Willy and Jimmy Ladder would attack Riff and all three wrestlers would mug Riff into the ground, leaving her battered backstage. Rayne would then command Big Willy to stuff Hook into a crawlspace and hide his wheel chair.

Fourth Match: Vlad Viper w/ Sasha on ringside vs Henry Ellis
The Count and Henry Ellis take on each other in a close match, with Father de Burgh on commentary. Vlad Viper would try and show off to Sasha, but she would rebuff and ignore him. Henry Ellis would put on a great show of grappling and power, throwing Vlad into Sasha. He also does well at playing to the crowd. Henry Ellis has gotten better at connecting with the crowd. However, this would be his undoing, as going in for a cutter, Vlad would counter and slam him, then climb the turnbuckle and get an elbow drop on him, putting him down. Unfortunately both Vlad and Henry Ellis would get rocked by Father de Burgh, taking advantage of their weakened state. The Preacher of Pain would leave the two crippled on the ground and walk off, cementing his role in the EPF as a terrifying heel.

Interviewer Michael Stand talks with Bob Coleman about being the new King of Kings and who he may use his title shot against. Bob Coleman rebuffs Mike and says that's a stupid question, as the Tag Team and Inter-Regional Champs are all members of his stable. So Bob Coleman makes it clear that he is going for the North American Champion, Ulysses S. Axel. Axel comes into the segment, pretending that Bob is the valet. After mocking the King of Kings, Axel does congratulate him on his win and says that the old timer is going to have his work cut out for him. 

Fifth Match: Tavreth vs Bob Coleman, Foul G, and Adam Connor in a handicap match
Originally a three man tag, it seems that all of the members of UNITY are now injured except Tavreth. He still demands the match, and MVP grants it with the caveat that only Tavreth can use weapons without disqualification. El Capitan would be on commentary. Tavreth goes for Adam Connor with a sledgehammer, but misses and gets attacked by Connor, injuring his back. The three would capitalize on this, with a camel clutch, splash, backbreaker, and senton to further injure Tavreth. Tavreth would fight the odds and show his monstrous power, wrecking each fighter as they would tag out. Foul G would slam El Capitan in the face with a steel chair out of frustration. Tavreth would lose his temper and spear the fat wrestler straight through the barricade, Both would be tired after that spot, and it allowed Adam and Bob to beat down Tavreth. This would cost Tavreth the match as he would be counted out. The winners would continue to beat down Tavreth and El Capitan, until Yarona would come out with a surprise. The Olympians, sick of seeing the Unholy Alliance making a mockery of wrestling, would jump to the rescue. Colleen would run out like a human wrecking ball and destroy Foul G and Adam. As Bob dodges and runs away, he would be met with Artemis's drop kick to his face. UNITY would finally stand tall as there is some semblance of hope against the Unholy Alliance.

And that's it. This has been a great game and while you don't need to know about wrestling to play, it really does help with the experience. I hope everyone enjoyed this and stay tune for some regularly scheduled D&D blogging.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Contemporary Fantasy Setting: Adventurers in the Modern Day

Real talk. When I saw the new trailer to Final Fantasy XV, it made my head spin in a good way. I am excited to play it, but what I thought was really captivating was the setting. Instead of doing something using fantasy, steam-punk, or science fiction, they are instead using a more contemporary setting with fantasy elements. There are cars, cafes, TVs, the internet, cellphones... while also with the monsters that inhabit a Final Fantasy universe, magic, swords, and flying battleships. It inspired me greatly to run a setting that is more of a contemporary fantasy, but where the magic is a big part of the world and not a hidden second world that you see often in books and movies (Harry Potter, Hellboy, etc.). Basically, I want to take something like Faerun or Greyhawk and advance the timeline to a more modern (or even near future) setting. No secret magic or hidden monsters. I want it to be front and center. Here are some things I've considered.


I think at first thought, adventurers as we know them would be more rare, especially in more stable, post-industrialized societies. Kind of hard to go killing orcs and taking their stuff when you have to contend with law enforcement. So adventures would have to take place in the frontiers or in lands of lawlessness. With advancements in both communication and travel, there probably aren't many unexplored areas on the planet (though below or above the planet is another story). That said, there are plenty of countries you could adventure in that would fit the bill for adventures. Third World countries would be perfect for adventurer, especially those still in the midst of some major changes (revolution, industrializing, political instability.). I feel that watching some modern adventure movies, cartoons, and video games are a great resource for these kinds of adventures. Johnny Quest, Uncharted, Indiana Jones, Far Cry, Tomb Raider. These are all great examples of adventuring in the modern day.

Probably the easiest start (but perhaps the hardest to execute) is a military campaign. Players out taking down an opposing army, or clearing out an area filled with monsters would be fairly easy to start. The problem is that with a military campaign comes the baggage of having to follow orders. Even if the commander is a PC, some players can still balk at the thought of following orders. One big idea to go with this is a paramilitary organization that acts as an agency to hunt down and destroy errant monsters that threaten their nation. Pretty much modern day dragon slayers, only replace their swords with M16s, tanks, and strafing runs.

If you don't want a very regimented military campaign, some ideas could include the party playing partisan freedom fighters. Less of a structure to it, and it allows for more freedom of choice. There's also playing as a PMC soldier or mercenaries. You'd have maximum freedom of choice, as long as you brought home money or other resources that your company needed, Playing as the A-Team or as Wade Wilson's group of mercs taking down despots and dragons has a good ring to it.

Parallel to a military campaign would be one in espionage. Playing James Bond, Michael Weston, or Sterling Archer would allow a different style of scenarios from the military campaign. Instead of war zones, you'd be going around the world to different cities, bases, and such. Would allow for more freedom, but much like the military campaign, you'd still be under orders from your intelligence agency. That said, there's a lot more wiggle room in a spy campaign for your players. so definitely look into that. Especially if you are going freelance spy, a la Michael Weston.

Law enforcement would be great for adventuring on the home front. Whether you are police, P.I., detectives, SWAT, or FBI/NSA, there's a great wealth of criminal activity in a stable (or unstable) country. Depending on the style, it could be by-the-book, or more loose-cannon and edgy. You still run into the same issues of having to follow orders, but at this point, I hope you have a group that is willing to handle that sort of thing in the game.

Stepping away from the law, there is always playing as the criminal element. Whether you are gangsters trading chimera blood in Compton or South Pacific pirates hunting for kraken eyes and slaves, there is plenty to do in this kind of adventure. Be a drug kingpin, or a professional stick up crew, or a human trafficker. This has the most freedom, but requires players that are comfortable being the bad guys. Also, the consequences for failure can be very dire, from the DEA gunning you down on the top of your mansion to a rival cartel putting your decapitated head on a turtle with an IED in it against your crew. Definitely things to consider with this high risk, but high freedom style of game.

There are other ideas I've been brainstorming for modern adventurers. A journalist like Lois Lane that roots out corruption. A modern day vigilante a la Batman that stops crime where few dare to tread. Even something as simple as modern day adventurers like Johnny Quest and Nathan Drake exploring monster infested rain forests and mountains would be cool. I really like FF15's warriors on a road trip. But there are also different types of adventures you can have in a modern setting. I think that will be a blog for another day. What other types of adventurers do you see in a contemporary setting, where magic is present and not hidden, but technology is similar to our own?