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.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Twenty Parsecs: Aliens

I've been rummaging around in between my two long weekend shifts. Stayed too late at work and woke up too late to blog about anything substantial. Tomorrow is the end of my thirty day challenge, and I promise to have something longer and with more meat in it. So aliens.

I'm wondering how many aliens I want in the game. I'd like the scope to feel a bit more personal, so I kind of want to do what Starcraft did and have just two aliens, or even just one. Keeps the setting more tightly knit I feel, and allows me to really sit down and detail more about the aliens. Much easier when there is only one or two, rather than ten or twelve like your standard space opera.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Twenty Parsecs: The Commonwealth

Korhal, the capital of the Terran Dominion in Starcraft
One thing that I've been rummaging through my head is how I want the Commonwealth of Free Planets to feel like. I definitely want to keep a frontier feel about it, but at the same time, I do want points of human and alien civilization so that I can have interesting urban and political adventures. For this I've found a great deal of inspiration with Starcraft, the implied setting for D&D 4e, and the TTRPG Clement Sector.

Both are settings that take place out in a frontier area and have their fair share of worlds to explore and colonies to meet with. But they also have that 'points of light' style of campaign where you can have large capital worlds that the players can run through for fun. So using Starcraft's Terran Confederacy/Dominion as an example, for every Korhal capital planet out there, you'll have plenty of Mar Sara backwaters out there for 'lawless adventuring'. Which to me, is the core of exploration. Lawlessness and lack of social rules and etiquette so the players can (and many times have to) use their wits to overcome difficult obstacles. While the points of civilization are mostly safe havens until trouble happens (or they go looking for it). Then they have to use the same wit and canny but with the limitations of the social center they are in. Which to me, can bring about the most innovation and ingenuity from players. Conflict + limitations = ingenuity.

So the Commonwealth have been there for centuries. With a decent enough population growth, I see most of the Core Worlds with a population in the tens to hundreds of millions. Most would be centered around the first colony of the planet, with many of the later ones acting as satellite cities. You'd probably have the occasional colony far away for reasons unknown (resources, religious, or simply tired of the main colony's shit). Leaves plenty of undiscovered wilderness on the planets for intrepid players to explore, while still having cities for other adventures. I'm thinking five main core worlds would be good enough, with the oldest being the most populated and probably the capital. Soon I'll have to give these planets names and maps, but for now, it's a bit up in the air.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Twenty Parsecs and FTL

Getting a new puppy acclimated to a new house and new people has been a full-time job in of itself. It's been fun at the very least, and I'm working muscles that haven't been used in years. In the meantime, an idea for the sci setting I was thinking up called Twenty Parsecs (I really like that name).

While there is definitely FTL, it's new for both sides and not super face. Going a parsec takes a week and this sector is very very far away from Earth. But, even with a week, they could still get to Earth in a year. That's partially why I had FTL development take so long. It doesn't really make much sense if they have been separated for centuries if they can simply go to Earth in a year. So I'm thinking that FTL for the Commonwealth of Free Planets is in its infancy, only a decade old. With this, planets are focusing on reconnecting with each other via trade and transport, instead of travelling to an Earth that may simply be a fable.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Dog Eat Dog Days


Too pooped to blog with a new puppy that adores play and the outside world. I'm way too out of shape to be playing with a puppy.

Also, GMs, let your players have dogs as NPCs, even if they aren't a ranger. It's fun, not game breaking, and just something totally awesome.

That's all I have today. I'm going to go pass out now.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Campaign Space Ship: NECI Sigrun

This here is the spaceship that my players have been using for their game of M-Space. While it's mostly just been a plot device to get to the planet from the Ark, this time around, it'll get put through its paces in actual space combat. For those more knowledgeable of M-Space, you'll notice that the speed, engine power, and armor is low. This is to represent a lower tech ship on the cusp of achieving fusion drive, somewhere between Traveller and Orbital 2100. Many of the added stats like tonnage were mathematical formulas I used to convert Traveller stuff to M-Space.

I plan on working with either Blender or Unity to combine the 3D models of the ships and planets to make cool landscapes with them. It's something my players certainly will like. 

NECI Sigrun (created using the Galactic Civilization III Ship Builder)

New Earth Colonial Initiative's Sigrun

Pathfinder-Class

Size: 58 (290 Tons, 52 meters/170' 7" long)
Armor: 2 AP
Speed: 5 (Delta V: 80 km/s)
Handling: 3
Distance per Month Traveled: 200 Mkm
Fuel per Month Traveled: 3 tons
Fuel Capacity: 10 tons

Named% chanceHP
Cockpit 1-42
Engines, Thrusters 5-135
Engines, Maneuver 14-225
Sickbay 23-304
Crew Quarters 31-409
Cargo Hold 41-455
Railgun 46-471
Railgun 48-491
Engineering Lab 50-511
Crew Common Area 52-668
Hanger, Rover67-744
Hanger, Shuttle 75-9210
Sensors 93-1003

The NECI Sigrun is the premier spaceship for the Initiative Scouts. It is outfitted with two railguns for defense, a standard nuclear thermal rocket, and a life support system to last a crew for six months. The Sigrun has a connection to the ark AI, Noah, for information and orders from the higher echelons of the NECI. Able to traverse 1.3 AU in a single month and scan for all kinds of minerals and chemicals to locate important resources for the survival of humanity. The Sigrun can fit a standard crew of 9, including pilots, surveyors, and an engineer, all of which crossed trained to be survivalists, scientists, and security for the planetside away team.

Monday, July 24, 2017

M-Space Campaign


This coming Wednesday, I'm continuing my M-Space colonial campaign by using the above module with some changes to the adventure here and there. The main focus isn't going to be on the alien, though it will play a large part in harrying the players. The focus will be on the ship itself and a crew member cryogenically asleep in there.

While my game has been more of a episodic sandbox of exploring a hostile planet with a lethal atmosphere, there has been a sort of metaplot that the players have found. Some context. The players were on an ark leaving a dying Earth for a new planet through a wormhole. The plan was to set them there, set up shop, then bring resources back to Earth to help everyone survive. However, the ark stayed in the wormhole for 86 years before letting the players out, then closing forever, leaving them stranded away from a now dead Earth. As the players explored the planet, they found a crashed human ship called the FEI Icarus, despite the fact that the PCs were the first to make planetfall. Whats more, is that the spaceship has a more advanced power plant and an unusual engine in it that is more advanced than anything the player's or their colonial initiative has. 

So the question is, who are these humans and where did they come from?

In the next session, the players are going to the second planet of the star system to investigate an unusual radio signal. What it'll end up being is the sister ship of the Icarus, the FEI Iapyx. Inside will be the discovery of a lifetime for them. Evil hydrocarbon aliens, a rogue AI protecting the Iapyx, and the only living crewmember of the Iapyx, trapped in cryostasis.

The discoveries the players make will be this:
  • Earth and humanity still live on! Though in a much different state than they left it.
  • The Iapyx and Icarus were ships testing an Alcubierre warp drive that sort of worked, but left the Icarus marooned on the planet the players were on, while the Iapyx simply got lost.
  • The warp drive and the fusion power plant can be retrofitted by the player's engineering after some time.
  • The players are on the other side of the galaxy.
This will advance the metaplot by a great deal, and it will give the players a chance to upgrade their spaceship to take them beyond the confines of the stellar system. Just gotta do some more stuff for the module Wednesday and I should be a-ok. I plan on having the crewmember in stasis for a time due to health reasons, before revealing more about the state of Earth. But in the distant future, I do plan on having the colonies encounter Earthlings. And it won't be pretty.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Great Kitbashed Campaign

From the game Offworld Trading Company

The current game I'm running is an M-Space/Mythras game, where the players are colonists, explorers, and security for the last of humanity aboard a giant ark ship. It's been a fun game with a new system for all of us. We're still getting used to how Mythras does things and keeping track of things like special effects, hit location, luck points, and action points. But I feel it's made a much more meaning game with how it does combat. And I really enjoy the more skill based system as opposed to class and levels.

One of the things I like is the way they do spaceships. Everything is bought in modules and most of the actual cosmetic design is left up to the GM and players. I personally made the ships similar to Traveller with a bit of tweaking and math here and there, but kept it lower tech. Like something from Orbital 2100. No fusion drives, no FTL, no artificial gravity. It means travelling to the different planets in the new star system can take a little longer in game, but it gives the players some time for their characters to do their own things. One is building battle droids and researching a fusion drive they found. Another is focused on making their weapons better. And now that their colony is close to up and running, there can be more human interaction for them (since near everyone is in cryo stasis).

The game is a huge kit bash of sci fi rules systems (and one fantasy!). The base is M-Space and Mythras, with more and more from Mythras coming into play as we learn the rules more. For the creation of solar systems and planets, I ended up using Mindjammer and Traveller, with an extended table for creating gas dwarfs, ice giants, and gas giants. Much of that comes from Freelance Traveller's article about gas giants, because so much has changed since Book 6: Scouts was published. Mindjammer has some extended stats for planets, like temperature, gravity, and radius that I honestly like for flavor and world-building.

With the colony coming close to running, I've turned to the OSR for this. Stars Without Number has a supplement called Suns of Gold, which details a cool systems for running colonial holdings. In addition, there is Adventurer, Conqueror, King, which has a very robust set of rules for domain holdings, population growth, armies, and taxes. I've done a bit of massaging between the two and have a system that does the best of both systems. It's a bit simpler than ACKS, but unlike SoG, it has more of the land holdings and resource harvesting to get more raw materials for the colony. The colony starts with 5000 people, and the goal is to hit 100,000 citizens so that it can become self-sustaining. This is more of a side game, played in-between sessions throughout the week. And really, only for those interested in that style of game.

We are very close to beginning that, and I think one of the best things I like about the colonial game is that the players can see real, tangible results in a world with little law and order set up. And I think that's why they've really enjoyed the game so far. It's been a real pleasure.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Twenty Parsecs: The Setting in Broad Strokes



Was thinking a bit more on yesterday's article a bit more. I feel I should amend something. I guess while I love just about all sci-fi, it's space opera that really does it for me, alongside spacefaring hard sci fi. Military sci fi doesn't do it for me much anymore, but I partially blame its overabundance. It is a common theme since in many ways, that would be the future equivalent of the D&D adventurer. Can't really blame it honestly, since it really works. And, any time I say the word 'space marine', I get a litany of Warhammer 40k quotes about burning heretics and never suffering xenos. Gets old hat quickly. Cyberpunk is a mixed bag for me, though I love some of its tropes appearing in some Transhuman fiction. 

So, Twenty Parsecs. How do I imagine it? I'd like to subvert a lot of the expected tropes used in sci fi. First thing, no colonies vs homeworld. At least, not at the beginning and not as the main focus. I've seen enough Expanse and Gundam to last a lifetime, so I don't feel the need to do a spacer revolution for this. Rather, I want this to be about two cultures, separated by the vast gulfs of space and time for centuries, reconnecting and the trials and tribulations that come from it.

The first is the Commonwealth of Free Planets, a confederation of five core human worlds that exist 20+parsecs away from Earth. Each one was part of a generation ship many centuries ago, though most of the common folk have long forgotten that past. The planets have been united under a common lineage but have, over the years, changed enemies and allies alike, like squabbling siblings. Still, they get along enough with themselves and their alien neighbors these days. Many of the survival protocols set from the onset of the colonization program almost a millennium ago have become almost doctrine. Survive, reproduce, build, adapt. The planets have, until recently, looked inwards to ensure their own survival, but the last couple of decades have seen them finally branching out beyond their cluster.

Then there is the Republic of the Earth Cluster. Like the Commonwealth, the Republic is made up of several core worlds in the Local Star Cluster, but much more united under a representative democracy. With their own history has been several eras of war, peace, and a futile attempt at keeping an interstellar empire centered on Earth. Now, Earth keeps a light touch on its outer colonies, though still remains the capital and in charge of their Republic. Unlike the Commonwealth, Earth has yet to find sapient life forms. In many ways, this gives them a more humanocentric view on the galaxy when compared to the Free Planets, who regularly trade with, befriend, and make war (or love) with aliens. 

There will definitely be more culture shock differences as I flesh them out, but I think the key adventures would lean more on social intrigue and on planet adventures. I'm not too keen on wilderness exploration as a major focus, only because my current game is already all about exploration. Plenty of room for city and spaceport adventures for the players. Of course, I'd like to have a main conflict in the setting, as a sort of metaplot I can fall back on when the more episodic adventures run their course. Maybe most or all the players are all Earthlings that are the first to enter Free Planet space. This would allow them to rub shoulders with the leadership of the Free Planets while still able to have adventures with the common folk. I'll have to think about it a lot more.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Sci Fi Setting Idea



For as long as I can remember, I've always loved sci fi. Books, movies, video games, and RPGs. While my desire to play or run in a fantasy, superhero, or other RPG game has always waxed and waned over the months, I'm always in the mood to run or play some sci fi. There's just something about exploring new worlds, encountering new aliens, and dealing with new technologies and cultures that has always spurred my imagination.

I'm currently running an M-Space colonial game, where the players are on an ark colonizing a hostile new world to ensure the survival of humanity. It's been a fun and interesting ride, and I've been blessed by some of the best players a GM could ask for. Still, I always like to brainstorm new ideas for future campaigns, especially with the Microscope game I wish to do, and this is one that I've thought about a bit. Here is one.

Twenty Parsecs

Humanity has, through the use of slow generation ship, colonized many of the planets outside of the Local Interstellar Cloud. Through long gulfs of space and time, they have lost contact with Earth, their homeworld simply becoming the place of legends and folklore. That is, until recently, when a space exploration vessel has crashed on the rim world Morning. The locals have discovered a real, bona-fide Earthling in their midst. What happens to Morning and the other colonies when this discovery is made? And is this the only Earthling that made it, or simply the vanguard of a larger force?

The name comes from Asimov, who calculated that at 20 parsecs, you can no long see the Sun in the night sky. The idea behind this is a political and locale adventure where the world as the players know it is being turned upside down. Earth, the fabled cradle of humanity, is real, and this is something that can shake the very foundation of the Union of Free Planets. Some may accept them with a cautious curiosity, while others may see the explorer(s) as a threat to their identity and independence. Whether or not the Earthlings come in peace, I haven't decided. I like the idea of keeping them mysterious and different, as it will have been several centuries since humans left Earth. I prefer a bit more of an optimistic theme for this campaign, but with the lingering fear of an unknown friend or enemy. I haven't decided on whether there are aliens here or not, but if there are, I prefer them to be crazy lifeforms, not humans with different ears and foreheads. I'd probably stick with M-Space/Mythras combined, with some elements of Traveller/Cepheus Engine thrown in there. Though I have been tempted to go back to Traveller for nostalgia sake.

There are other ideas I have for settings that would be fun, but I'll detail them another time.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Continuing a Solo Microscope


I'm getting into my work week now, and since I have the house alone to myself, it means I'll be fairly busy with work and housework for the next week. That means it'll be hard to really get into a game of Microscope until at least Sunday. Luckily, that should give me some time to sit down and figure out what I want from this.

So first, the "players".

I'm thinking about making four players, each one representing a different facet of making a history. They are the following"

Player 1 "The General": The general loves military history and battles. They are more likely to create scenes about war, whether it's the actual battles or the time leading up to or following a war.

Player 2 "The Politician": The politician loves social intrigue of leadership. Economics and trade, real politik, and Machiavellian machinations suit them well.

Player 3 "The Zeitgeist": The zeitgeist loves cultural movements, scientific innovation, and philosophical dialogue. Many of their scenes will be about advancements or regression in science, the arts, and reason.

Player 4 "The Explorer": The explorer loves the frontier and discovery. Scenes by the explorer include the discovery of new worlds and cultures, or lands of plenty.

These four players should be enough to do a good game of Microscope. What I plan to do is to use an oracle like GMA deck or Tangent Zero's Dice and interpret the icons in a way that would fit what each player would do. While it's still going to be biased towards my thinking, the random icons should inject a form of chaos to make the histories varied while keeping them coherent. I'll also have the standard Yes/No, And/But, Twist! dice for basic stuff.

The only thing I'm not sure how to model is the concept of Pushing a different idea. Obviously, it's kind of hard to push an idea or vote for one when I'm ultimately the only person doing it. I've thought about maybe having a d6 I roll for an idea Push if it hands on a 1, and adding +1 to it if it doesn't land on a one. But I'm curious how others would model someone pushing. 

A lot of this will really take putting myself into the minds of the four players above. I tend to be more of the Explorer myself, so that one will be the easiest. The Politician might be the hardest for me to grok. 

If anyone has more advice for running something like this and setting it up, I'd love to hear about it!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

My First Microscope



Last week I went out to my local gaming store and I picked up a copy of Microscope. I had heard of it before, but I never really gave it too much thought. The book looked sleek and I had heard good things about it, so I decided to pick it up and give it a try. 

Giving it a read, the game seems interesting though a bit hard for me to grok. Never really played a story game like this before, the closest really being Apocalypse World and FATE if those count. I have some players that might be interested, but the setting building seems interesting enough to me that I wondered something. Could you do a solo RPG of this?

It feels like it would be really difficult, since the idea is to gather together a myriad of different ideas for a setting. But I'd like to know if anyone has ever done a solo game of this before and how it turned out.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Map of Mars: Dying or In Progress Terraforming

A couple of weeks ago, I made up a map of Mars after terraforming. Recently, I was inspired by +Michael Gibbons and his B/X Mars collection to do up a different sort of Mars. One in the veins of a dying Barsoom, or, a futuristic Mars in the midst of terraforming. With this, I went back to Grand Designer, tweaked some things a bit, then ran it through G Projector and GIMP for some touch up. Hope you all enjoy!

Screenshot of a dying Mars, slowly gaining its reddish hue

A Mercator map of a dying Mars for a more gameable experience.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Solo Supers Sneak Peak Character 2: Cori the Corrosive Woman

As I write this, I'm typing up the next solo session that I completed over Thursday and Friday. Sadly, a long work week in the kitchen has left me fairly beat, so it'll take some time to get that write up out. In the meantime, here's another little sneak peek at a character coming up for my solo supers session.

Cori Jeong

Origin: Transformed

Attributes
Prowess: 5
Awareness: 8
Coordination: 5
Strength: 4
Intelligence: 5
Will: 6

DP: 5
Stamina: 10 

Powers
Corrosion: Limit (Non Organic targets only); 5

Specialties
Pilot: +1
Medicine: +1
Weapons: +1

Qualities
Keeps People at Arms Length
Unsure About Powers and Usage

Cori Jeong doesn't have much to say about her past before the incident. According to her, Cori is an only child that comes from two Korean parents in Los Angeles and that they disowned her for joining the Air Force. An accident happened at her base in the R&D department, setting the whole place ablaze. Cori ran back in to save a scientist trapped in the burning building, only to get some strange goo exploded onto her. It turns out that they were experimenting with a bacteria that could break down plastics, metals, and other materials. When it got on her, Cori's body changed. She found she could control the bacteria through her hands as a bluish silver goo to eat away at non-organic material. Once her time in the Air Force was up, Cori left to try and enroll into a supers academy to better control her powers, but was only able to get into HSC. She's here to get knowledge and confidence to use her corrosive powers.

Cori is 24 and a 5'11 thin Korean woman, with hair down to her shoulders. She has a light tan complexion and glasses. Cori is fairly friendly and fun loving, but gets straight to the point in a conversation. She is prone to getting lost in thought and always dodges questions about her family and childhood.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Inside Outer

This was a monster from a dream I had last night. There are no stats or abilities, just a description for inspiration. Art accompanying it. A good sort of catharsis to get off my chest after a rough night.

By Zdzisław-Beksiński

I had a dream last night. I was back home in South Carolina, in the little swampy area I grew up with as a child. Maybe I was a child in my dream or an adult, I cannot remember. All I could remember was that I was scared, being chased by something terrible. I would look around the trees and brushes in the humid evening but never see it. But I'd find signs of it. Bodies of people it 'fed' on. What was striking was that everyone's face was inside out. Blown open. And deep down inside, I knew the creature took their soul this way. Erasing their identity violently and drawing out their spirit. For food? For fun? I don't know how, that's just how dreams work I suppose. All I knew was that I didn't want to be next. There was a real, palpable fear that came from it. Would I die alone in these swamps I once called home? Would the creature get me and carve my face out, burrowing for my soul? As my sleep cycle ended, I finally saw the creature, as above, based on that painting I saw years ago. It's strange how a myriad of things from your past can make their way into your dreams at night. But it just crouched there, waiting for me to make my next move. We stood there for what seemed like years and I felt like an old man. The creature said one thing to me before it finally attacked my face.

"I'm not hungry."


Saturday, July 15, 2017

Sneak Peek Character: Obi the Gravity Man

I've already done my second session of the solo game, finishing it yesterday. Sadly, Saturdays are my long shifts in the restaurant, so I don't have a lot of time for writing it out. Instead, here is a character sheet for one of the new cast members, Obert Martin.

Obert 'Obi' Martin

Origin: Birthright

Attributes
Prowess: 3
Awareness: 7
Coordination: 6
Strength: 4
Intelligence: 4
Will: 4

DP: 3
Stamina: 8 

Powers
Gravity Control:Extra (Telekinesis); 6

Specialties
Leadership: +1
Drive: +1

Qualities
Devout Worshiper
Shoulder Bearing Burdens

Obert, or Obi Wan as most of his friend call him, is a Haitian man born to impoverished family in Little Haiti, Miami. He was raised as a devout Christian and this is still important to his life, though there is always a sort of battle within him between the spiritual and the secular. When he was only 11, Obi was struck by lightning and barely survived. With it, however, he was gifted with the powers to control gravity. Seeing this as a gift from God, Obi's parents have since been pushing him to become a superhero to not only save others, but also pull them out of poverty. But deep down, Obi isn't sure if the superhero life is really for him. He failed the exam to get into the larger academies, but his parents instantly enrolled him into HSC. Obi doesn't want to let his family down, but he also doesn't really want to be a superhero.

Obi is 18 years old and has dark charcoal skin, a shaved head and a thin mustache. He's very respectful, growing up in a strict household. Generally polite and in a good mood, but most of the time seems deep in thought.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Thought for the Day: Supers Setting

Many don't know this, but the current solo superhero game I'm running is based out of an old setting I've run for over a decade. It started with my first time GMing a non-D&D game, HERO System. From there, it has changed to different systems and has been tweaked here and there, from Savage Worlds to the recent ICONS. It can be hard to keep track of changes to your heroes and villains and making them as close to their original concept as possible. And while I've sadly been unable to run a lot of games in the setting until recent, it's been really enjoyable when I have. Also, it's good to have different settings on retainer, just in case you get players that want to do something different from fantasy gaming.



My setting is very inspired by Watchmen, moreso in its timeline than tone. In the setting, I made a conscious decision to have heroes around for centuries, with the more superpowered ones coming out during WW2. Most of the history isn't detailed, but it follows what one would see in comics throughout the decades. I'd probably advance technology much more, much like they did in Watchmen. In there, you had an 80's New York with widespread electric cars and other stuff that you wouldn't see for decades. But also, the setting I have is of its time. There is social media, smartphones, and the internet. And I like taking advantage of that, with heroes having Twitter meltdowns or Facebook fan pages and things like that. 

This is where my game comes in. Another specific choice I made for my game was to have it as a school style game in the vein of X-Men, Young Justice, or My Hero Academia (which may have had a lot to do with this choice). However, I wanted to avoid using teenagers. Why? Truthfully, I don't really have an interest in roleplaying teen angst and romance. I already lived it many many years ago so I don't want to play a hormone-ridden teen boy. I think I have more in common with the college goer, especially since I recently graduated from my second attempt at school last year. And I picked community college because at least from what I've seen from people, there is this negative bias against it. Many people look down on those that go, so community college students make the best underdogs. And everyone loves an underdog overcoming adversity story! So instead of teenagers rebelling against adults and figuring out what their bodies do, now they are young adults that have 'failed' being 'proper adults' and are now figuring out what they are doing with the rest of their lives. Which resonates more with me. 

The place is set in Miami for three reasons. One, I lived near their for a couple of years while going to culinary school, so I know about it more than other cities. Two, it's the only big city I've ever lived in. Before that, Charleston, SC and Orlando FL would be the biggest cities I'd ever visit on a weekly basis, so it was a big culture shock to me. And three, I don't think there are any big superhero teams in Miami. New York is teeming with superheroes and villains, and Los Angeles and San Franscico have a decent amount. But there is no love for the Magic City.

So in this setting, Miami is in the last decade getting a huge influx of 'snowbirds', villains from New York that are tired of dealing with all of the heroes and rival villains up there. Looking for more space and less heroes, they come down to Miami to find their fortune in a much warmer climate. Now Miami has its own government super team (The Magic City Defenders, another game I ran a couple of years ago) as well as a new super community college. And that's where our story begins. Imagine Community meets X-Men for a superhero team of the new millennium. At least, that's what I'm hoping for. 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Sci Fi Planetscape: NESS 02

Planet created using Grand Designer

Above is the second planet in the solar system of my M-Space game, but this can be useful for any game out there that needs an airless, volcanic hell hole. The planet's geologic activity is beginning to slow down and many of its volcanoes are now simply dormant. The mountain peaks etch around the surface, with darker basalt mares stretching between them. Several micrometeor impacts dot the surface, with a couple of larger impacts from the past here and there. 

Landmark Tags

"Continent Sized Basalt Mares"
"Long Volcanic Chains"
"Massive Impact Crater at Equator"


Possible Adventures Here

In orbit lies a sort of elephant graveyard with ship-sized corpses of alien space whale. Their bones have a lot of helium 3 stored away that could make a killing.
One of the mountains has an ancient volcanic base inside. Alien origin, what wonders could be held here?
Water is found deep in the equatorial crater. Could there be basic life here? Or maybe pirates are hiding out here, waiting for an unsuspecting miner.

The planet is designated NESS 02 in my game as a way to keep it a blank slate for my players to name it. All of the planets have this designation for that reason, with NESS meaning New Earth Sky Survey. While it may sound boring, that's mostly the point. To encourage my scouts to make some cool names for their new system.

Below are some more maps. One more gameable, and the rest more for looks and decoration. I'm still looking for a method to make the texture map a dymaxion hex map like you see in Traveller/Cepheus Engine. I think that might simply not be possible without some severe editing skills in GIMP.

A mercator option that's more useful for a game


A normal and holographic orthographicl map of NESS 02

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Solo Supers Aftermath: My Thoughts

So while this wasn't my first foray into solo gaming, it was the first one where I didn't use a pre-made adventure. That would be my Mythras game, which I will eventually finish writing up. However, doing the super hero community college was a fun romp with some good stuff and some concerns for my next session. For those who want to read them, they are here and here.



NPCs
So one thing I did a lot of in the first session was the creation of NPCs. Obviously, with NPCs comes the need to stat them. However, when I just create one on the fly and I need stats for them, I tend to take a while to get them up. And with something like a superhero school, there are a lot of NPC students and teachers that I'll need. So it's slowed down my solo game a bit when I'm trying to get some quick stats for my NPC heroes and villains. For random NPCs, I don't mind just rolling a simple Yes/No; And/But roll when they need to do something, but if it's a main villain or hero, I'd like some tangible stats for them. I wonder if there is some middle ground to do with this? Luckily ICONS's random attribute level table does a quick job of this. Still, I may need some sort of compromise with this to get something fast enough but still crunchy enough for a main villain. Perhaps combining the oracle I have (Game Master's Apprentice Deck) with the random power tables of ICONS. 

Speed
That brings me another thing. Sadly, I don't have a lot of time, with work, house stuff, and GMing an M-Space game on Wednesdays. So I generally only have an hour or two to really game on my own. I've done a lot to streamline my game since the Mythras one, and the simplicity of ICONS makes it run by quickly. However, I have come up to some obstacles that do slow down the flow of the game. Creating NPCs on the fly for a scene can take awhile, especially for action packed comic book fights with multiple people duking it out. Other stuff includes looking up how powers work in ICONS. While the conflict resolution system in the game is very simple, looking up what all the different powers do takes awhile. Gravity Control and Probability Control are two that came up in a recent session that took me a bit to understand. Also, the powers are very vague on their ranges and duration. Is gravity control concentration? I don't know, it's very unclear and frustrating and I wish the powers were written better. Also, despite my familiarity with FATE, it can still be hard for me to grok things like tapping Advantages and Troubles. That requires me simply reading a bit more and playing more I think.

Lack of Focus
This one is more on me rather than solo rpgs in general. Because there isn't a group of people to engage with, I find that sitting down for more than ten minutes causes me to lose focus. This is especially true if I'm gaming at my computer. I do use Evernote for my notes and most of my rules are in PDF form. However I may have to bite the bullet and simply disconnect my ethernet cable so I won't be distracted. Sitting down for a long period of time without a lot of stimuli has always been difficult for me, and starting to do it is even harder. I tend to procrastinate it a lot more than playing with people. It's why I find that I can make it a bit easier by just writing what happened in the last session. It puts me in a more engaged mode, but man, it can be hard to keep that focus. 

Advice?
So for those of you that have a lot of experience with Solo RPGs and/or ICONS, I'd love to hear from you on how you solve a lot of these issues. Especially the 'lack of focus' for me. I enjoy these solo sessions, but I definitely want to make them better experiences.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Some Character Write Ups from the Solo ICONS Session

Here are some character sheets for some of the NPCs I had in my solo session, which can be found here and here. Mostly just for the students. I'll have to write up the teachers at some point.


Alexander Lowery

Origin: Birthright

Attributes
Prowess: 4
Awareness: 4
Coordination: 5
Strength: 3
Intelligence: 6
Will: 5

DP: 2
Stamina: 8 

Powers
Cold Control: Extra (Ice Constructs, Ice Shield); 4+1
Blast (Ice Blast): 5

Specialties
Performance: +1
Power (Cold Control): +1

Qualities
Cocky as They Come
Flaky like Snow


Craig "C.J." Jacobs

Origin: Unearthly

Attributes
Prowess: 6
Awareness: 4
Coordination: 3
Strength: 7
Intelligence: 2
Will: 6

DP: 4
Stamina: 13 

Powers
Altered Form (Metal Body); Extra (Instant); 3


Specialties
Athletics: +1
Sleight of Hand: +1

Qualities
Listen to Me, I'm Bigger and Stronger!
Picking on Weaker Folks is Fun


Jordan Lowery

Origin: Birthright

Attributes
Prowess: 4
Awareness: 4
Coordination: 5
Strength: 3
Intelligence: 5
Will: 6

DP: 2
Stamina: 9 

Powers
Fire Control; Extra (Absorbtion Fire, Aura Fire); 4
Blast (Firebolt): 7


Specialties
Business: +1
Leadership: +1

Qualities
Loud and Proud
Unsure and Fear of Own Powers


Melvin Hornick

Origin: Transformed

Attributes
Prowess: 3
Awareness: 5
Coordination: 8
Strength: 3
Intelligence: 4
Will: 4

DP: 2
Stamina: 7 

Powers
Leaping: 6
Wall Crawling: 5
Stunning vs Will (Bug Bite!): Limit (Close Range); 7


Specialties
Drive: +1
Stealth: +1

Qualities
Loud and Proud
Unsure and Fear of Own Powers

Monday, July 10, 2017

Hero Southern Community Solo Session #2: Things Get a Bit Real

For this next adventure, I drew a card from the GMA deck to get an element and some icons. I got Water, Death, Sun, and Shield. That shaped the next quiz that I'll be doing.

Raul and his class walked outside of the gymnasium to see a frightening sight. The weather was grim, with the wind howling and rain pouring. In front of them was a flooded area, with only roofs and some treetops poking out of the water. Before he could react, Admiral Hammer placed his hand on Raul's shoulder.

"It's part of the quiz son," Hammer said with a grim look. "Don't go messing with the storm just yet."

Hammer gathered the students together. "We're jumping right into the next test minnows. For this one, we are going to be looking at your ability to use teamwork to rescue civilians."

Mr. Arms pointed at the house furthest away from the group and continued from where Hammer left off, "On that rooftop, a family is trapped and trying desperately to avoid the flood. Your mission is for you and your teammate to work together and save them before the deluge swallows them."

Raul squinted his eyes and saw that there were, in fact, real people on the roof! He was taken back by their use of real humans out there for such a dangerous test, but it only meant that the stakes were real. This is the real super world, Raul thought to himself. No more games.

"You all will be assigned a partner and you'll have thirty seconds to plan your move, then one minute to rescue the victims. Starting... NOW!" Mr. Arms and Adm. Hammer gave out slips with everyone's names on it.

Did I get teamed with Craig?: No But

Raul drew his slip and mentally begged that it wouldn't be CJ. He opened the slip and breathed a sigh of relief, before his heart sank. It looks like he got Melvin. While Raul didn't hate Melvin, he was very worried about how his bug bites were going to do anything in this situation. Still, this is the hand he was dealt, so he straightened up and went to get Melvin.

The two did a quick run down of the situation and decided on a good plan of action. Just in time too, because they were first.

For this challenge, I used the Pyramid Tests in ICONS Assembled. The way it works is that I am trying to achieve a Massive Success. So I have to roll skill challenges to get it. Getting lesser successes can add together to create a better success. So 2 Moderate Success create 1 Major Success, and 2 Major Success create a Massive Success.

Pyramid Test: Difficulty 7; Time Limit 4 Pages

Page 1
Raul closed his eyes and focused on the environment around him. The thermal shifts in the clouds, the wind vectors blowing across the land, the small globules of water and dirt in the air. He clung to these and began forming a new weather forecast for this.

Raul rolls his Weather Control to calm the weather: 4-1+6=9; Moderate Success!

The weather calms from a severe squall to a light breeze, as the sun rays begin to part the clouds. Melvin leaps into action, bounding from tree top to roof top.

Melvin rolls to leap. He needs 2 Moderates or 1 Major Successes to make it to the family: 2-6+6=2
Melvin spends a Determination Point to re-roll the result: 4-2+6=8; Moderate Success!

Melvin slips up a bit on one of the roof tops, but he is able to catch himself on a gutter and make it to about half way to the family. Raul was fairly impressed, realizing that he underestimated the kid. Still, it wasn't over yet.

Page 2
However, it looked like things weren't going to go as swimmingly as they had hoped. Jetting from beneath the waves were two masked villains, one with a shark motif and the other with an unusual octopus costume. The two began throwing debris at Raul to disrupt his concentration. Without a second thought, Raul forms a twister around him and blasts off into the sky to dodge the barrage.

Raul rolls to dodge: 5-2+5=8; Moderate Success!

Raul is just barely able to dodge the debris, but with his broken concentration, the thunderstorm began reforming with a vengeance. 'This can't be fair,' Raul thought to himself. He could hear Adm. Hammer laughing loudly and shouting, "Never forget, there are always nasty surprises to be had during a disaster!"

Does Melvin continue on to rescue the family?: No But

Melvin froze with fear, feeling the pangs of terror deep in his stomach. Without thinking, he turns back and tries to leap onto the shark villain harrying Raul.

Because he is attacking the villains but not directly going for the rescue, I rule that this roll doesn't count for the Pyramid Test.
Melvin rolls to leap and grab: 6-5+8=10; Major Success!

Melvin careened through the stormy sky and landed on the face of the shark villain, biting him constantly.

"Gack! Ge... Get him off me! He's BITING ME!!" the shark villain was flailing and panicking as the octopus villain went towards him.

"Now's my chance!" Raul yelled, blasted off to the family.

Page 3
The house that the family is on begins to collapse. Raul pushes himself hard to reach them, leaving a cyclone trail in his wake. But the storm was getting worse and worse and it was hard to maintain focus among the turbulence.

I spend a Determination Point to activate 'Force of Nature', giving me a +2 to my effort.
Rolling to reach the family: 6-5+5+2=8; Moderate Success!
Because I got 4 Moderate Successes, those are converted to 2 Major Successes and then 1 Massive Success.

Raul grabs the family and holds on for dear life as the house they were on gets swallowed by the water. Hammer blows his whistle while Mr. Arm shouts at Raul.

"Congratulations! You and Melvin were able to save the family with a couple of seconds to spare! Bring them on in!"

Raul landed roughly on the ground and let the family go. Looking at them, he saw that they actually had gills the entire time.

"Shhh," the youngest son winked at Raul. "We want to make it seem super dangerous. It'll be our secret. Though I think my dad hates your friend now." He pointed at Melvin making it out of the pool.

It's now time for Craig to go with his teammate, Alex.

Does Craig make it over: Yes And Twist!
I drew a card to reveal Crown Sun Sword, meaning a conflict is reveal between two rivals. Oh boy!

As soon as Hammer blew his whistle, Craig armored up and leapt into the air, clearing the villains and the water in a single bound. He grabbed the family and gave Mr. Arm the thumbs up.

"Jesus, he did that in a single leap!" Melvin exclaimed to Raul. "I can't believe how strong this guy is!"

Raul nodded as he watched an embarrassed Alex walking off the pool. "Man, I didn't exactly do shit that round," Alex said disappointingly. "I got him next time."

As Alex was getting out, Craig decided to play a prank on Raul. He slapped the flood water, sending a decent sized wave at Raul and soaking him to the bone.

"Haha that's a good look on you Soggy!" Craig yelled, laughing out loud. "That's what you get for thinking you could one up the champ!"

Raul lost his temper and fired a blast of hail at CJ, denting his armor a bit. Craig wiped the ice off of his face. It was go time!

Initiative
Raul:1+4=5
Craig: 3+3=5

A circle of students formed around the two fighters, chanting and screaming and yelling for a fight. Craig rushed to Raul, hoping to teach the twerp a lesson in messing with him. 

Craig rolls his Prowess against Raul's 5: 3-4+6=5; Marginal Success!
Because it's a Marginal Success, the damage is halved to 4. However, Raul has no resistance, so he takes the full 4 damage.

He wound his arm back and slugged Raul straight in the stomach, knocking the wind out of the poor kid. Raul is not happy, but he knows enough about Craig's fighting that he doesn't want to be anywhere near the guy. Raul flies up into the air and launched another blast of hail and wind at Craig.

Raul rolls Will against Craig's Coordination of 6: 4-2+6=8; Moderate Success!
Craig takes 2 damage.

Raul tags CJ with the full force of his hail blast, but Craig is able to withstand a great deal of it thanks to his natural metallic armor.

Do the teachers notice this and stop it?: Yes And

Admiral Hammer and Mr. Arms steps in, grappling the two and holding them back.

"Knock it off you two!" Arms's normally friendly demeanor was drowned out by seething anger. "You both are heroes in training. Fucking act like it!"

With everyone calming down, Arms spoke again, "You two need to see Student Services right now about this. We do not tolerate unsanctioned interstudent fighting here."

"But he started it!" Raul stammered angrily.

"GO! NOW!" Arms was not playing around.

And so Raul and C.J. headed over to be disciplined on the first day of school. Will our heroes set aside their differences? Will they be expelled? Find out on the next session!

Final Thoughts

So more and more, I'm finding that writing these sessions up are a lot harder than playing them. They certain take a lot more time, but it's a bit enjoyable. I'm also enjoying ICONS a bit, though I do plan on doing more with Qualities and Stunts once I grok them a bit more. The 1d6-1d6 method is perfect for solo play and I definitely recommend it. I'll also have to write up some actual stats for more students as we come along. I plan on continuing this as well as finishing the Mythras solo session write up in the future.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Hero Southern Community Solo Session #1: School is in Session!

Below is the first half of my solo ICONS session I did the other night. Because of work and house stuff, I unfortunately have to break the summary down into two halves. Tomorrow I have the day off so I can do more with the blog. Apologies again.

For this, I used 3d6 for my basic GM, where the first is Yes/No, the second is And/But/Neutral, and the third is a Twist die. In addition, I use the GM Apprentice cards for more extensive answers. For rolling up NPCs, I have some of Ennead Games's superhero kits to roll up any superhero teacher that I need. As for ICONS, the only modification I've made is that I'm going with their 1d6-1d6 version of rolling. Basically I roll 1d6-1d6+my modifier against the difficulty (or NPC's modifier, if I'm going against them) and try to roll higher. Since I'm the only one rolling, it makes sense for me to do it this way.

Here we go!

*               *               *

We begin our adventure with our 'hero' Raul Montanez getting off the bus and arriving at HSC in the early morning. Plastered on his face are bags under his bloodshot eyes, red from the shots of coladas and 'greenery' he took to ease the anxiety. But today was the day he had been waiting for. While it wasn't any of the big academies, HSC was the closest Raul could get to finally getting his shot at the big time. A shot at being a bona fide superhero. Taking in a deep breath and readjusting his back pack, Raul takes his first steps onto the campus.

Taking in the sights, the campus was fairly normal looking for a supposed superhero school. The buildings were all from the 60's and most had bars over the hurricane windows. The lawn was tall and pot holes littered the roads running through the campus. The buildings were covered with make-shift decorations and homemade banners one would see at grade school orientation. A feeling of dread and regret hit Raul in the pit of his stomach, and he wondered if this was really going to get him into one of the bigger academies.

Do I spot any friendly faces?: Yes And

Just when he was contemplating leaving turning back, Raul spotted two friendly looking people at the bulletin board. They were a guy and a girl, both with pale skin, bright red hair, freckles, and similar enough features that they looked like they were siblings. Raul strolled up to them and tried to break the ice.

"Hey there," he said, voice crackling. "Is this were we get our class assignments?"

The guy smiled a goofy grin and nodded, "Yeah man, they got the listings up here." He scratches his short hair and pointed his thumb at the girl. "Me and my sis are first years, so we're hoping we don't get lost in this hole."

His sister shrugged, "Yeah, last thing I need is to make a wrong turn and run into some homeless guy out of his mind on flakka or some shit." She took a drag from her cigarette.

"By the way, I'm Jordan," she offered her hand out to Raul. "And this rude asshole is my twin brother Alexander. Too cool to introduce us."

"Hey, I'm your older brother!" Alex exclaimed, barely taking his eyes off of his phone.

"By like two minutes!" Jordan said. "You always bring that up like it's supposed to matter!"

"Hah, well it's good to meet you guys," Raul interrupted before their bickering could continue. The three continue talking while walking to their first class, trading stories and info. They live out in Miami Shores and apparently have opposite powers, with Alex being able to control ice and Jordan being able to control fire. They take turns showing off a bit before realizing that they are going to be late for their first class.

Do we have the same homeroom?: Yes But

While they had many of the same heroic courses, Raul failed a bunch of his general studies and is stuck in the remedial courses for math and literature. 

The trio make it into Hero Orientation, where they grab their seats at desks from the Reagan era and wait for the teach. Raul looks around to see a fairly large class. Most of the people have to stand since there aren't enough desks.

Do I spot anyone familiar?: Yes But Twist!

Looking around, Raul spotted a face he had hoped to never see again. A tall, muscular young man with a dark, charcoal skin and a buzz fade hair cut shoots Raul a dirty look and approaches him menacingly.

It was fucking Craig.

"Holy shit!" Craig yelled loudly, "They let YOU in here? Shit man, I think I picked the wrong school to go to. How you living, Soggy?"

"*sigh* Hey CJ..." Raul didn't make eye contact. Craig Jacobs was a childhood friend from when they were in diapers. They used to be close, until Craig hit puberty, got buff, and got in with the cool crowd. Since middle school, CJ has been calling Raul 'Soggy' because when Raul's weather powers appeared, it was in the middle of their middle school dance and soaked everyone in the gym, ruining the dance for the whole school. CJ never let him live it down.

"Man, don't be like that," CJ frowned and firmly pushed Raul's shoulder. "Though I guess if I didn't make any of the good schools, I'd be all cranky too."

"Hey, don't forget CJ, you're also here. Sounds like you didn't do so great either." Raul grew a bit of a backbone, getting tired of CJ poking fun at him

Rolling Will vs Will to insult and get a rise out of CJ: Difficulty 6; 4-4+6=6 Success!

CJ's face turned into a scowl and his body armored up, revealing a metallic coating around his whole body. He looked like a human statue made from iron. CJ made a fist and spoke.

"Listen here, I actually passed my entrance exam unlike you, Soggy. I'm just using this to get REAL experience before getting to the big time. And if you got something to say about that, I'll break your face in."

Before Raul could get up, a short, scrawny kid interposed himself between the two. "C'mon guys," the kid said, "the teacher's here! We can't get expelled on the first day!"

CJ sneered at the two, then took his seat. Raul felt that this probably wasn't the end of it.

"Thanks again. I didn't really want to see where that was going," Raul said.

"No problem. Name's Melvin. It's my first year here too. I can't wait to get this started."

The orientation teacher finally walked into the class room, placing his suitcase on the desk and straightening his tie. Raul and his classmates looked in awe as they realized who it was

Rolled a quick NPC with a weird name, but I liked it and decided to roll with it.

"Hello class, I'm Galactic Arm," he said, fixing his mask a bit. He was wearing a normal suit, but still had his mask over his face. "You can just call me Mr. Arm. I'll be your orientation teacher this term."

Galactic Arm was a fairly popular super hero in the day. His right arm was imbued with the powers of the cosmos, and it glowed like a star-studded nebulae. Arm could heal people with it, or launch cosmic blasts with it.

Is he friendly?: Yes And Twist!

"In this course, we'll be discussing the basics of applying your super powers to help others," his smile shone through his mask and one could sense the energy and desire to do good in his voice. "Being a super hero is more than about fighting the bad guys. It's about stopping crime and rescuing innocents. Expecting the unexpected."

Mr. Arm fiddled with some keys in his pant pocket, "And speaking of unexpected, we have a pop quiz for you all. I think you'll like it. Follow me."

The class groaned as they were led to the campus gym. It was the largest and newest building on the campus, capable of housing all kinds of crazy scenarios to test the students on proper rescue procedure. On the way to the gym, Raul and Melvin hooked back up with Alex and Jordan. Melvin spent the walk chattering about his life and powers. His powers included wall climbing, minor leaping, and giving people rashes with his bites. Apparently, Melvin had barely passed his entrance exam, but most of the academies didn't accept him. Most felt his powers simply weren't enough to handle fighting crime, which left Melvin no choice but to enroll in HSC and try to get in that way. Raul felt bad for the poor kid, since he himself wasn't able to pass the power control portion of his exam. Still, there was a sort of camaraderie of taking this last ditch effort to become a superhero.

As the class entered the gym, they are greeted by a gruff old man wearing a Navy inspired outfit with a giant hammer tattooed on his left arm

"Alright kiddos," he said menacingly, "I'm Admiral Hammer and I'm going to be in charge of making sure you all don't die out there on the streets." Hammer was a super strong brick that could swim through water like a torpedo. Raul didn't know much about him beyond that, except that he's been around since the 80's.

"Out there in the real world, villains, criminals, and Mother Nature won't give two shits whether you're too tired or not ready to deal with the day. When disaster hits, you need to be prepared to hit back, twice as hard. So put on yer big kid pants and get in line. We need to see what you can do first."

Hammer pointed to a circle in the dirt and explained that they had to use their powers to launch a baseball as far as possible. Anything went, but the only rule is that they have to stay in the circle.

CJ was the first up, and he transformed into his metallic form. He wound up for the pitch and launched the ball several hundred feet away. The class was impressed and it even caught the attention of Hammer.

"That was some fine throwing, Mr. Jacobs," Hammer nodded at the proud young man. "Mr. Montanez, you're next!"

As Raul walked to the circle, he went passed CJ. CJ bumped his shoulder into Raul on purpose, "Beat that Soggy."

Raul tried to calm his nerves and cupped his hands in front of him with the ball inside. The wind around his hands began to twist and turn, faster and faster until it created a small, horizontal cyclone.

Roll my Wind Blast against a Difficulty 4 to land a good score and Difficulty 8 to beat CJ's score: 4-1+6=9; Moderate Success!

Raul levitated the ball in the twister and launched it like a missile. The ball went passed CJ's marker by a decent enough margin. Raul turned to see Craig's disgruntled face scrunched up. It was worth it just for that, Raul thought.

"Ah, so we got ourselves a weather wizard here, eh?" Hammer looked sufficiently impressed, "Here's hoping you don't kill anyone with that power." Despite his laughing, no one could tell if he was serious or not.

Does anyone beat our score?: No And Twist!

I actually drew a GMA card for this one and got Significant Obstacle of Conflict in a Different Area.

No one is able to beat our score, though many come close. Alex came in last, as he couldn't think of a way to use his ice powers to launch the ball far. Jordan blasted the ball like a rocket and it reached a good football field's length before burning away. With the ball launch done, Hammer spoke.

"Now that we are done with that, it's time for the second part of your test. We've seen your powers, but now we have to see what YOU are made of with a little simulation the teachers came up with." Hammer motioned for the class to follow him.

What's in store for the students? Will Raul's and CJ's rivalry heat up too much and boil over? Will they all survive their first term in HSC? We'll find out next time!