Sep. 16th, 2017 08:21 am
tegyrius: (Default)
Bad week. Not gonna talk about it here and now.

More important topic. Gnomes. What the fuck?

D&D gnomes, specifically. Why are they necessary? What role do they serve? What is supposed to be their unique schtick? 'cause as far as I can tell, they're basically comic relief for people who don't think halflings go far enough out on the "wacky jolly small people" axis.

Now, I have seen halflings played straight, and played downright unnerving (looking at you, Kulik). But that's rare in my experience. Gnomes... seem to have taken too many cues from their counterparts in World of Warcraft, what with the slapstick pranks and anime hair and woo-woo anachronistic tinkering. (Not being an old-school D&D player, I am uncertain if they were like that before WoW came on the scene.)
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There's a thread running on /r/rpg about how the gaming hobby has evolved over the last couple of decades. It does my cold, shriveled little heart good to see some people posting there who've been gaming for 40 years. Lots of interesting discussion, and very little venom or cries of the hobby's ruin because of Trend X.

It's got me thinking about why it's been so damned hard, these last few years, to get any sort of sustained campaign going. Adulting is hard, and I have very few tribe members left in the same city as myself, and the various online platforms do not quite offer the same experience as gathering around the table. But the hardest part seems to be the scheduling.

Someone else, in another Reddit thread, remarked that for adult gamers, getting the sustained commitment to a weekly or biweekly game has to include a social contract which stresses each individual player's commitment to the team. It's like a sports season - you gotta show up if you want to win, and the rest of the team is counting on you to be there for your role in the shared recreation. I can dig it.

And I'm feeling somewhat retro right now. Not necessarily in an OSR way - I generally like modern game design trends. But I want my next face-to-face campaign to be analog. Core books on the table, hardcopy character sheets and GM notes, physical dice, and no electronic devices allowed out. I want to see if it cuts down the distractions and ADD.


Aug. 19th, 2017 08:41 am
tegyrius: (Default)
A few years ago, I poked at the online port of Magic: The Gathering as a possible mechanism for recapturing that particular part of my misspent youth. It was a good enough investment of time and money but I dropped it because no one else I knew was playing it.

I'm still on the email list, though. Yesterday, I got a customer survey. And they made the mistake of offering a text box for comments. )


Aug. 7th, 2017 09:36 am
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Occasionally, E and I go off on worldbuilding tangents that result in new fictitious species. This has previously resulted in the ghost plum and the spider peacock. Last week, someone's Reddit handle inspired discussion of the floating ghost carrot.

Well, it's not really a carrot. Nor does it float. It's actually a subspecies of ginseng that can temporarily activate latent telekinetic powers.

The problem is that while a lot of people would like to have latent telekinetic powers, very few actually do. Because some of the interested-but-without are wealthy, powerful, and unscrupulous (but I repeat myself), this has resulted in a significant off-the-books genetic research project to identify the source of latent telekinesis. The results have been... questionable science, at best. And some of those results point to specific organs as the source of said latent telekinesis. Which has, in turn, resulted in a growing black market trade in organs stolen from latent telekinetic persons for transplant.


Aug. 4th, 2017 09:35 pm
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I have had a surprising amount of fun this evening in making PCs with the second edition Mongoose Traveller rulebook. And luck that absolutely defies my dice-rolling in any random character generation process where I'm actually going to play for reals.

My first pass yielded a belter whose childhood dream was to serve on the massive naval vessels that occasionally passed through his home system on commerce protection cruises. He applied to the naval academy as soon as he was of age, but failed to earn a slot. Undaunted, he enlisted - and was tapped for officer candidate school anyway. Decorated for valor early in his career, he enjoyed a meteoric rise to captain's rank. Unfortunately, he was wounded in action, suffering severe nerve damage. While the Navy paid for rehab, the setback to his career was too much. The enemies he'd made in the service saw their opportunity. He was passed over for flag rank and ultimately drummed out - though he did manage to serve long enough to receive a full pension.

Having made a few connections in the diplomatic corps during his time dirtside as a naval attaché, he landed a position with that august organization, spending another twelve years "continuing warfare through other means" before growing weary of bureaucratic entanglements and deciding to strike out on his own.

The second character was a vargr who grew up on a dirt-poor colony world. He wanted to get off his home rock by any means necessary. After a failed attempt to break into the naval service as a pilot, he entered the draft and was selected for shipboard service as a marine - ironically and painfully close to the objects of his desire. Amazingly, he also was recognized as a potential leader despite his low birth and received a commission. In the subsequent twelve years, he was seriously injured in action three times while clawing his way to the rank of captain. The third near-death experience made him rethink his life choices, realizing that a little peace and quiet wasn't so bad.

He returned to his homeworld, using his separation bonus to buy a small ranch. Unfortunately, while he'd been away, the subsector had come under threat from its neighbors. Unwilling to abandon the planet or bend the knee when the invaders arrived, he instead joined the insurgency formed around the survivors of the planetary militia. Despite his age, his prior experience earned him a second commission, this time as the leader of a cavalry troop. After the war, he stayed on long enough to finish converting the insurgent forces to a professional military before resigning his commission and trying once again to do something that didn't involve getting shot.

The way the timelines line up, they were in their first careers simultaneously and got out simultaneously. It's a good bet that they served together, possibly even fighting in different parts of the major action that forced both of them out of service. After that, their next meeting would have been the catalyst for beginning their career as PCs: the diplomat was part of a diplomatic mission to the vargr's homeworld after a stable government was re-established. This gives me a solid duo of leaders with a good narrative structure around which to wrap the rest of a team. The old man and the old wolf decide they're gonna have some adventures on their own terms, perhaps, or maybe they're going to go take care of old scores across known space. Either way, they're gonna need a crew...
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A few weeks ago, I stumbled across this blog post, in which the author discusses the ways in which GMing and leading raids in WoW prepared him for a project management career.

So much resonance.

I've joked before about the crossover between full-scale disaster exercises and LARPs. At least, a lot of people who've heard that have thought I was joking. A smaller subset knows I'm not.

A lot of what we do in emergency management involves constructing hypothetical scenarios that have to be plausible and internally consistent, and then figuring out how to respond to them. Whether we're doing that on our own in the office or pulling together a cross-functional team from both the expected and the unlikely response agencies, we do a lot of forward-looking problem-solving. What we call a "tabletop exercise," most gamers would recognize immediately as a rules-light gaming session. There aren't polyhedral dice or (usually) character sheets because most of the participants are in play as themselves or their agencies, but the flow of discussion between players and the exercise controllers (read: GMs) is pretty much what I've been doing in this hobby for decades.

I'm not exactly getting paid to participate in my hobby but a surprising amount of the skill set is applicable...


Jun. 4th, 2017 12:25 pm
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E has been out of town all week, visiting family. I am reminded of what an incomplete human I am without her. Especially where food is concerned.

I've gotten a surprising amount of stuff done around the house and yard, though, and I've kept up my exercise schedule. Not sure how well that would work in the long term. Fortunately, she's due back tonight.

I've also spent a fair amount of time doing nothing productive. I'm eight episodes into The Expanse. It's a pretty good adaptation of the novel series. The visuals are fantastic, albeit a little poorly-lit at times. I only have a couple of gripes. Some of the dialogue is unclear, and I'm not sure if that's the audio quality or my rapidly-aging ears. And I'm not very happy with the fact that it took the main crew seven episodes to start acting like a crew, in large part due to the ham-handed characterization of Amos (which I suspect is on the writers - the actor's doing a fine job with what they've given him). But things seem to be evening out as the situation on Eros begins to go sideways.

I've also spent a handful of hours this weekend on the fresh beta release of the new Battletech PC game. It's limited to 4v4 matches against the AI, so that's not going to hold my attention for long... but based on what I've played so far, and Harebrained Schemes' track record with story for the Shadowrun Returns series, I have high hopes for the finished product. I've been playing mainly in the lower end of the weight range, with light/medium lances totaling 15M C-Bills (the balancing system for this mode), with occasional forays into the 20M bracket. MVPs so far: Centurion and, surprisingly, Commando. And a full backshot from a Victor is just as spectacular as it should be.


May. 7th, 2017 06:11 pm
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I've been fiddling with some D&D character concepts lately (see previous post about tabaxi). As is usually the case with D&D, character concepts lead into worldbuilding, because I like to have some backstory about a character's origins.

Something triggered a memory from a thread on /r/dnd, and I wish I could provide attribution, because this one throwaway line suggests a lot of really cool setting work. The premise is that humans are the result of elves and orcs breeding.

This neatly explains why you can get half-elves and half-orcs, but no other racial pairings in D&D result in half-breeds. It also implies a very interesting history of how and why elves and orcs once got it on in sufficient numbers to produce a viable human population. This feels more mechanically-supported in D&D5 than in 3.x/Pathfinder/OGL, given the former's lack of racial attribute penalties... notably, making the average orc no less intelligent, wise, or charismatic than the average human. And that change also neatly undermines the traditional setting design assumption that all orcs are barbarians, incapable of creating and sustaining civilized cultures.



May. 2nd, 2017 09:28 pm
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So, D&D5 character concept in search of a campaign.

I really want to take a tabaxi from Volo's Guide to Monsters and give him a cosmetic rework as a snow leopard.

And then take the kensai monk subclass from this week's Unearthed Arcana posting.

And play this character:

Because how fucking badass is a snow leopard samurai?

(Actually, I'd go Tibetan rather than Japanese for cultural inspiration, because snow leopard. But that's some great artwork.)
tegyrius: (Default)
Occasionally, my brain does strange things with syntax. Such was the case when I recently became aware of the peacock spider. If we have peacock spiders, I asked, why can't we have spider peacocks?

So in my headcanon, the spider peacock is now a thing in the 7th Sea game setting.

It started out as a Montaigne attempt to breed a mute peafowl that would be decorative without disrupting garden parties with its shrieks. The result wasn't a mute bird, but rather one with raspy, rattling vocalizations - sounding, quite frankly, like a woman being strangled rather than one being knifed. As if that weren't enough, the breed's plumage lost much of its coloration, becoming silvery grey and the dark red-brown of dried blood. This might have been the end of the experiment if not for the elaborate patterns on the fowl's tailfeathers, which resembled unique, intricate spiderwebs when raised in full display.

While a few eccentric Montaigne do still keep flocks of these "spider peacocks," the primary market for the breed is, unsurprisingly, Vodacce. There, they are cherished pets, allowed to freely roam their owners' estates. Some Vodacce believe that spider peacocks also can sense when a sorte strega tugs the strands of Fate in their vicinity, and that their ubiquity in certain nobles' presence is more than simple ornamentation or ostentation.


Feb. 14th, 2016 01:49 pm
tegyrius: (WWGS keep calm)
Cleaning my desk. Ran across some handwritten notes on a Changeling campaign that never happened. This is disturbing:

The net is a realm of dream too. How can you tell where its Hedge begins? Is it the same Hedge? Or is it the border of another Arcadia, one whose inhabitants hold no Contracts binding them to the material world? Ancient sleepers stirring in the starless cyberspace. Under neon skies, Bobby Newmark's loa are coming. Korea was first. Addicted gamers in cybercafes never come back, not entirely. Online, no one can tell if you're a dog - or if you just have the head of one.


Feb. 7th, 2016 08:38 am
tegyrius: (paranormal tongue-in-cheek)
I could use no other avatar for this post.

One of my players in my XCOM-derived play-by-post campaign asked me for my thoughts on the newly-released XCOM 2. In case anyone else is interested...

It would make an excellent RPG setting in its own right. The premise, if you have not heard, is that it's the outcome of playing the 2012 game on Impossible Ironman mode and losing.

It's 20 years after the fall of XCOM. Earth lies under the heel of an alien-controlled puppet government which is slowly driving the Avatar Project, a shadowy master plan toward probably apocalyptic ends. A global propaganda campaign recasts XCOM and other resistance groups as terrorists and the aliens as benevolent elder space-brothers.

Members of your core command team have kept the flame lit. They've recruited a scattering of willing operatives and have established a mobile base in the hulk of a downed UFO. Your mission is to unite the scattered resistance groups still fighting across the globe and use that network to seek out information on Avatar with the eventual intent of bringing it down.

Technically, it's running okay, though our gaming machine is five years old and is choking out on framerate. We have a new rig on order, originally bought so we could play The Division at max graphics; XCOM 2 should be screaming fast on it. I'm supposed to pick it up sometime this week. I have seen quite a few annoying typos in the game text, which leads me to believe no professional writer was involved in the dev effort (cue professional-offended huffy cat face).

Strategic gameplay is a bit more complex than XCOM. You have multiple resource types: space in your mobile base, power to run the facilities in those spaces, communication links to resistance cells (analogous to satellite control facilities in XCOM), alien alloys, elerium crystals, scientific staff, and engineering staff. It's easy to get sucked into an incident pit where you're short on multiple resources at once and struggling to get yourself back to operational viability.

And time. Oh, gods, time. Time is a resource and the whack-a-space-mole nature of not being able to solve all the problems has been turned up so far the dial broke off.

Tactical gameplay is very familiar, with the addition of a simple but beautiful stealth/ambush mechanic. If you start an op in stealth - and not all missions will allow you this luxury - the enemy forces operate in laid-back patrol mode until you walk into their vision range (which is clearly indicated when you plot movement). This allows you to put most of your squad on overwatch, then have one shooter start the party. The resulting cinematic kill-cam action as your other troopers pop up and mow down the aliens as they scatter for cover... that will never get old.

You have to fight smart, though, because the AI is much smarter and the enemies have some much nastier abilities. And many missions have timed objectives, which means you can't hunker down in defensive positions and wait for them to come to you. You have to keep pushing forward. And your people get shot to shit. Many times, I have had to recruit new resistance fighters because I had so many people in med-bay or in body bags that I couldn't field a full squad.

All of this may make it sound like a horrible play experience but it's really not. It's a lot of fun. The challenge level is just high enough that when you pull a mission success out of your ass, you feel like you've accomplished something.


Jan. 7th, 2016 09:37 pm
tegyrius: (paranormal tongue-in-cheek)
"What is your character concept?"

"Invulnerable black-clad moody lone wolf in a black trench coat wielding twin titanium monokatanas and smartlinked Desert Eagles firing incendiary moonsilver depleted uranium cold iron explosive tracer bullets while a bloodthirsty yet mournful heavy metal soundtrack wails distantly over the incessant rain that falls like the tears of a thousand fallen angels crying over the heart's mournful lament for a lost paradise."

"Um... no."

Iron 4

Dec. 26th, 2015 08:26 am
tegyrius: (Warning Cognitive Hazard)
I spent some time yesterday thinking about how to do an IK-to-5e conversion of the warcaster. )

Iron 3

Dec. 25th, 2015 10:40 am
tegyrius: (Warning Self-Evolving System)
The next low bar for converting Iron Kingdoms to D&D5 is races. )

Iron 2

Dec. 25th, 2015 10:22 am
tegyrius: (Warning Antimatter)
Next up in my IK-to-5e tinkering, some equipment conversions. )

Iron 1

Dec. 25th, 2015 09:28 am
tegyrius: (Warning Chaotic System)
Doing a bit of tinkering for a lightweight port of Iron Kingdoms into D&D5e. First up, the gun mage. )


Jan. 4th, 2015 07:48 pm
tegyrius: (snark ORLYsaurus)
Night's Black Agents is the spy thriller vampire RPG that I never knew my life was incomplete without.

Also: holywaterboarding. Win.


Dec. 17th, 2014 09:07 pm
tegyrius: (snark ORLYsaurus)
Today at work, we discussed southern Florida's wealth of natural options for body disposal. I have the best office.


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