Saturday, August 27, 2016

Yet Another Reskinning

On a gaming forum I frequent, someone decided to do a freeform Zootopia sandbox game.  No worries there, but...well, once some of the other characters were posted, I found myself coming up with Story and Role combinations for them.  It being the height of Bad Form to post another game on that particular forum built around the same general lines as that first one, I've held off even though our original GM has vanished.  (The game is doing just fine, by the by, in the hands of the co-GM.)

So right now, this is one of those semi-hacks that I wanna run if time ever permits!

ZOOTOPIA '77

Basically just straight Spirit of 77 with an all Furry cast: because the visual of a jive-fluent Tiger in a white leisure suit and an Afro boogieing on down to the disco on a Saturday night amuses me.  Khan!  Just talkin' about the Tiger.  Can you dig it?

If you must, imagine Zootopia as written and directed by the Coen Brothers, Quentin Tarantino, and Guy Ritchie.  Now crank it up to eleven.  Because as fun as Zootopia is, Judy is a Cop and Cops are The Man, and So77 is all about Sticking It To The Man.

(I was originally going to refer to this as Yet Another Plot Bunny--see what I did there?--but this is pretty much just a cosmetic reskin, much like doing an all-catgirl version of Firefly.)

A Tale of Two Frameworks

This is one of those facepalming moments of D'OH! that happens to me every other day or so.  The circuits go 'click', the proverbial light bulb flickers on, and I'm left going "oh! So that's why..."

I am a big, big fan of Vince Baker's Apocalypse World system.  I'm also a big, big fan of Ed Texeira's Chain Reaction family of miniature wargames.  And it finally occurred to me that they have one interesting feature in common...independently derived, and not entirely identical, but surprisingly close.

They also have a certain tone in common, being fairly narrativist in feel.  (I know, I know, 'how do you write a narrativist wargame'?  Ed's done it. Trust me on this.)  They achieve this by abstracting a whole lotta stuff that most of the gaming industry tries to define to a fare-thee-well and seventeen decimal places, letting you focus on the important stuff*.  This is more apparent in the 'light RPGs' that Ed has published, like By Savvy and Steel, And A Bottle Of Rum, Future Tales, and of course the entire family of All Things Zombie including After The Horsemen...but it's definitely there in 5150 Star Army and 5150 Battalion Commander as well.

That common feature, though...

In Apocalypse World and all its derivatives, there's a simple three point scale.  Whatever the roll is, whatever you add to the 2d6, there are only three outcomes that matter.

  • Got a ten or better?  You do that thing.
  • Got a seven, eight, or nine?  You do that thing, but it's a mixed success.  There's a complication or a cost.
  • Got a six or less?  In Soviet Union, thing does you.


In anything from Two Hour Wargames, there are only three basic outcomes.  You roll 2d6 and compare each individually to your figure's Reputation (the all-encompassing unistat for most of Ed's stuff).  If the die is equal to or less than your Rep, it "passes" the check.

  • Pass Two Dice?  You're good to go.
  • Pass One Die?  You're good to go, mostly...sort of.  Depending on what it was you were doing.
  • Pass No Dice?  This is gonna hurt.


This may well explain why I keep looking at New Hope City (the official setting for 5150 New Beginnings and the Private Eye supplement that goes with it) as a possible setting for Uncharted Worlds!  There's a lot of stuff that could transition smoothly from one game to the other!  Not that it would be perfect.  Oh, Void and Darkness, no, not perfect.  But some of those localized and specific tables could convert to Custom Moves very easily.

(By the by, when you adjust for the various stats in AW, they come fairly close to matching the mechanics for Reputation.  If you have a +2 in something, then you are roughly the same as a Rep 5 Hero for any move using that stat.  I actually didn't expect that when I started a few envelope calculations to check the numbers.  'Course, I'm a crappy statistician, so someone out there can probably prove me utterly mistaken...)

Honorable Mention goes here to Blades in the Dark, which has a whole lot of PbtA in the source code.  John Harper's rules also have a three-stage outcome, depending on the high die showing after a roll is made.

  • 6?  Success.  Maybe even a Critical Success if you have more than one.
  • 4-5?  Sort of a success, mostly.
  • 1-3?  Failblog Fodder.

Blades is a bit more complicated, because there's also a sliding scale of difficulty depending on how much control the PCs have over the risk in question...but that's way too much to cover until after the book is finally published, lest I spill too many secrets.



Wednesday, June 29, 2016

7th Sea...Second Edition, First Impressions

Certes, I am remiss!  Grand Master Wick's newest contribution may be found through the following link:

http://drivethrurpg.com/product/185462/7th-Sea-Core-Rulebook-Second-Edition

And now, for a few notes and observations (with the customary caveat that your furlongs per fortnight will vary).  As usual, I'm trying to avoid too many spoilers in the process.

1.  This edition is less crunchy and more 'narrativist' than the previous edition.  Personally, I kind of like the new mechanics, as they will be somewhat easier to teach to my Cub.  (If she can handle cribbage, she can handle this!)  Character generation is much simpler and faster, and odds are you'll have something in the ballpark of what you want to do without having to compromise too badly (unless what you want is something decidedly off-genre and odd).  Villains are much simpler to stat and bring into play.  Ships are more abstracted than 1st Ed but no less dramatic.  Improvement is now on a story-based 'fiction first' approach as opposed to XP...and of all the elements of the new edition, this is the one that's going to be the most challenging!

2.  This is a more inclusive world, and not just in matters of melanin distribution!  I'm hoping this trend will continue as we see more of the world in future releases.  (But then, gentle reader, you already know I am not the sort of chap to get the vapors over protagonists of differing coloration, gender identity, or romantic preference.)

3.  There's an eighth kingdom now present.  One of the secret societies has gone from being the oldest to the youngest.  Some of what long-time first ed players know (or think they know) about Thean history and backstory may no longer apply.  The map is both bigger and some geography has been moved around.

4.  We still have NOM to blame for everything that goes south.  That acronym still makes me giggle* even though we all know it stands for Novus Ordo Mundi and has nothing to do with lolcats.  While I get the utility of a Villains' League of International Evil for plotting purposes, I cannot help feeling a little bit as though this is akin to statting Cthulhu.  Give heroes a discrete list of villains running a vast international conspiracy to do Bad Things, and sooner or later they'll try to do something Heroic.

5.  Sorcery is different, too.  The Castillians no longer have their own flavor of 'maaaaaaaagic!' but get Alchemy in its place.  The Eisen version is now a bit ghoulish, being one part Frankenstein's Lab and one part Potions with Professor Snape--I've seen a couple of comments around to the effect of "this isn't heroic!  This is horrific".  Porte is still the fabric-tearing collywobble inflicting madness that it's always been, and we get a new style to go with the new kingdom, but it's less a sort of spellcasting and more knowing how to cut deals with some entities of a powerful nature.    Finally there's a sidebar there that seems to rub some folks the wrong way.  (I generously interpret said sidebar as leaning toward a mix of the Colville and Wanker Rules** in intent, but that's me.)

6.  One thing that's missing: there's no sample adventure.  So we get all this neat stuff, and all these interesting ideas, and a new bunch of mechanics...and then we get turned loose to get ourselves into trouble, playing in the sandbox.  I think that's kind of neat, but thanks to the changes in the system, there's a bit of a learning curve...and I can see where some folks, trained as we all are to finding certain things in games, will feel that lack sorely.

So there you have it!  Now to see how it all plays out...

Oh, yeah. One more thing.  Remember I noted that a lot of this has been streamlined and simplified?  It'd be duck soup to hack this baby for planetary fantasy without bollixing too much of the  underlying rules.  I've been a long-time fan of Chad Unterkoffler's Swashbucklers of the Seven Skies for the flexibility of PDQ# as applied to Space Opera, and it looks very much as though 7th Sea 2e is going to be similar.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Back to the Drawing Board: By Savvy and Steel!

As you can see, the piratical project is kind of sort of a little teensy bit stalled...but since I have a semipermanent jones for swashbuckling, it's difficult for me to stay in withdrawal.  At the moment, thanks to the 7th Sea Second Edition kickstarter, I have all the first edition PDFs on my hard drive which of course puts me in mind of By Savvy and Steel!  Being, as I am, more of a musketeer than a pirate at heart, it's time to grab Ed's answer to Dumas and go to town.  So, at the risk of copypasta out of the rules, here's how I build my new alter ego.

Your character is a Star...always a Star, unless you're playing a one-off skirmish game instead.  This gives a few automatic abilities, which basically boil down to their having a bit of script immunity and more free will in the face of stress (ie for some Reaction Tests).  These are:
  • Star Power
  • Larger Than Life
  • Cheating Death
  • Free Will

Choose his Reputation.  This ranges from a maximum of 6 to a minimum of 2, depending on your Age.  Reputation is a combination of many factors and basically represents how good your character is in a fight.  As per suggestion, Our Hero starts with a Reputation of 5...he's been in a few fights and exudes confidence and charisma.  

Determine his Birthright.  Rolled 2d6 and got a 7, which means he's a Commoner and specifically a Farmboy.  This is about as low as it goes (but only because Beggar isn't on the Birthright table).

Determine starting Fame.  This is depressingly dependent on your family, and just as in real life, you can't choose your parents.  So more dice hit the table, and Wesley here is one of three children born to his rustic sire, but he's not the eldest...and as the luck of the dice gods would have it, he's from the wrong side of Dad's marriage.  None of this helps very much: Fame starts at 0 (but see below) and he gets a single Level 1 Favor (explained later).

Determine Social Standing.  Like Fame, this depends on what your parents do for a living.  As a Farmer, it's a 1.  Bottom of the ladder.  Nowhere to go but up.

Determine Age.  Simple formula of 19 plus 1/2d6 results in a...20.  Just old enough to get into a hell of a lot of trouble.

Choose his Nationality.  And he's an Edensteinian (Edensteiner?).  He's local.

Determine his Attributes.
He gets two of these, since he's a Star...one rolled, one chosen.  The roll is 6,4 for Resilient!  (Once during each Encounter the character will treat its first Out of the Fight result as a Stunned result instead. Counts a +1d6 on the Wounded Table.  For choice, I give him Resolute (never count less than 1 success on the Dueling and Taking Control Tables).

Choose his Class.  Military makes sense for him: he's otherwise a garden variety Commoner, but somehow I don't see this kid wanting to stay on the farm.  This gives him the Fast Loader attribute and boosts his Fame to 11 and his Social Standing to 3.  He's also still in the service until he turns 24 and thus has a slightly different set of encounter rules.  For example, if his regiment is called to active duty, he won't be 'adventuring' until after they stand down again, one to three months later.  What happens in the meantime is abstracted.

Get your Weapons.  Ideally, you have a miniature in front of you (I don't), and how that figure is armed determines your loadout.  He's a Soldier now, so he gets a musket (sans bayonet) and I'm going to play merry hell with historical accuracy and give him a sword, too.

Choose your Items.  This is actually one of the parts of the rules that sort of fell down: fortunately, I have a Bottle of Rum, so I know that the usual standard loadout is two Items per point of Rep...and that as per usual, anything can be an item (so long as it does not break the rules of the game).  So yes, he could have a mansion and a yacht, but not a magic sword and a flying carpet.  This ain't Legends of Araby.  In any case, I don't feel like detailing these just yet.

Recruit your Group.  Another legacy bit of text, because in other games from THW you might start off with a few chums.  In BSS, though, you start his career all by your lonesome and recruit Grunts in play through the Carousing encounter.  However, if playing a one-off or a skirmish game, this is indeed when this would be done.

Consult the Campaign Map and decide in which specific Area you want to begin your career.

We'll put his Regiment in the Southern Mountains, smack dab between Bayern and France.  Given that the 30 Years' War is currently in full swing over in the HRE, this ought to be at least somewhat entertaining.

The game starts in January 1625.

Oh, one last detail.  I forgot about this until the very end (can't you tell?) so I snagged a name off of this site (fantasynamegenerators.com).  Since my piratical lass is theoretically Dutch, so is her cousin.

Marthijn Pusters 
Rep 5 Star
Military (Fast Reload)
Resilient
Resolute

Out of respect to a certain former co-worker and department supervisor, Marty is assigned to the 4th Royal  Regt, of  Foot commanded by Colonel H. A. Nachtrieb and answering to a Lt. Strucker.  (I never got around to painting those Grenzers, but I can't imagine Han would be unhappy about a promotion!)

And there we have it!  Ready to rock.



Friday, March 4, 2016

A Few Notes

No Thank You Evil

My deluxe copy of No Thank You, Evil! arrived Monday evening.  Tomorrow we're going to give this baby a proper try-out under fire now that we've all the bells and whistles to go with it.  One of her cousins, who is a terrifically talented budding artist, has been asked to draw my Cub's character for her as well if and when we can ever get together and get the kids around a table for about an hour so Unca Harry can show 'em how this works.  Better yet, she's got a couple of friends who may well be willing to join in!

Spaaaaace Opera

Alas, the Black Box Traveler game hit a snag and so my space opera jones is roaring back in full force at about the same time I'm hoping to free up time to playtest another fine historical hack of Apocalypse World by the clever, talented, and patient D. Pignedoli, whose City of Judas I also tested. Can't tell you what this one's about just yet, but it's pretty awesome.  Like Wield, though, it's not really amenable to online setup and play due to the method of setting construction (some assembly is required) and so has to wait until our current GM hits a point where he needs a few weeks off.

Buckle My Swash

Got convinced to back 7th Sea Second Edition, now the most funded tabletop game kickstarter ever.  Now, normally I'd prefer Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies (or PDQ#) for my derring-do and wild acrobatic exploits with flintlock and rapier, but John Wick went and did something that got my interest up.  Second Edition will be a global sort of project, not just pseudo-Europe.  And if you know me, you probably also know that I'm only too happy to support projects that add a more diverse approach to the hobby--Spears of the Dawn, for example, and the upcoming Renegade Jennys and Boilerjacks both come to mind.  Which brings me to a bit of a dilemma.

On the one hand, it is so totally freakin' awesome that we get the notAmericas and notAfrica as well as the Crescent Empire...and hopefully some day we'll see the unAsian subcontinent and far sortaCathay as well.  On the other hand, there's always the risk that in an honest attempt to be more diverse, someone is gonna lapse into some unfortunate cliches (like what happened with Bruce Cordell and The Strange RPG).  I'm going to reserve further comment and hope hope hope that nobody drops a thermal detonator into the ship's magazine in the process.

Aside from that, I like what I'm seeing in the quickstart very much, and amused that one of the five pregens is more or less the sort of character I like to play right out of the box.  (She even comes with a potential romantic subplot that made me giggle like an evil panda for several moments when I read it.)  What little I know of the first ed (don't have it, never played it, but borrowed it and read a friend's copy once) they've streamlined and improved the game a bit.




Monday, January 18, 2016

Plot Bunny Number 5013a

Too many games, too many ideas, too few players, not nearly enough time.

(ahem)

While my aforementioned jones for Uncharted Worlds is likely to be getting satisfied by a certain black-box game of Traveler, I still have plot bunnies that sink their nasty, sharp, pointy fangs into my sensorium and refuse to turn loose.  Here is today's entry, which is the official posting of something that's been running amok like an over-caffeinated anthropomorphic little Raccoon kid with a super-soaker and easily embarrassed older siblings.

An all-catgirl reskin of something Firefly-ish with a dash of Flash Gordon and Barsoom...as written by Rumiko Takahashi and directed by Nabeshin and Ralph Bakshi.

Blasters, cutlasses, battle-bikinis, and a hint of fanservice along with incredible special effects and the occasional planet being destroyed by accident.

Yes, this is probably sillier than most UW games would be.  That's how I roll.