North Texas RPG Con

I discovered the Save for Half Podcast last week, and through that podcast discovered the North Texas RPG Con — a gathering 100% devoted to tabletop RPGs. And it’s here in Dallas! So stoked! I bought a badge for the entire 2018 Con in June, and I’m working on a game session to submit – GURPS Cyberpunk, based on my CyberTex campaign.  

I’ve never run a game at a con before, but my players enjoyed my game and apparently my game mastering, so I figured what the hell, what’s the worst that can happen? Everyone has a bad time and hates me? Sure – but that’s fine. I’ll put together the best session I can, and let the chips fall!

I’m especially happy because it looks like this will be the first time GURPS has been played at this con since 2012, when a guy named Mike Kelly GMed a number of sessions.

Anyway, more as this develops.

Dry Spell?

I had intended to get a lot of GURPS game planning done on my trip to London/Europe in July. On the way over I did spend a lot of time brainstorming, writing and rewriting parts of Game 4 for my CyberTex campaign, and reading from a cyberpunk anthology (one that I’m not very impressed with). But frankly I was not happy with what I came up with. I was going to go with it and run the game the weekend after I got home, but I was so damned jetlagged and flat out exhausted that I had to once again cancel that game. It’s taken me a month to really get my mind right again. I just can’t do skateboarding trips like that anymore – no Henry Rollins red-eye flight endurance and coffee marathons. I was just depleted upon my return, though I had a really good time on the trip. I managed to get 3rd in the “Legends” freestyle division (ages 40+), which I think is good since 2nd place went to a guy who currently enters Pro at most contests, and 1st went to a former pro who is still really good. I managed to place above the other old guys, who were all really great to skate with.

Anyway, I am now feeling like thinking about RPGs again. I have one more skate trip planned for this coming weekend, and some filming to do for skate video project, but other than that my mind is on gaming. With the days getting shorter this is a good thing.

I’ve been listening to various episodes of the Gaming & BS Podcast, reading some good gaming blogs like DM David, and just essentially getting back into the right creative mind-space. I realized that perhaps some of the things I was trying to force into the CyberTex campaign just don’t need to be there. I think I’ve been trying to over-overcomplicate matters. I want things in the game to be somewhat complex, but the way I was going was just getting unmanagable. It is harder to write games that involve a lot of investigation and clue finding, but also cater to a certain amount of action and other stuff. And as I have probably noted before, the nature of Cyberpunk doesn’t really encourage long-term adventuring party formation. But I think I’ve come up with a reasonable way to bring the PCs back together — one that makes sense and that I’m happy with. I will have to diverge a bit from the hardcore cyberpunk every man for himself ethos, and blend in some more cooperative story elements, while maintaining the classic cyberpunk atmosphere.

Sooooo…I need to go through my many notes and versions of Game 4 and see what I want to keep, what to change, and what to throw out, add some stuff, and bring it all together. Yeah, I do kind of agonize over these games. If I didn’t we would have played a lot more, but I really take a lot of pride in these game sessions, and I want each one to be better than the previous, and I want to do better as a GM each time.

Also, I keep being out of town or having to work on the weekend our D&D group plays. That sucks. I miss playing my monk.


Travel Reading

Heading to Europe for a week of skateboarding. The plane travel of course is a great time to read and work on GURPS stuff. I’ve downloaded Cyberpunk: Stories of Hardware, Software, Wetware, Evolution, and Revolution for reading material to keep me in the right frame of mine for writing CyberTex stuff, and of course will have the Chromebook on the plane with me for doing the actual writing.



Gaming & BS

I started listening to the Gaming & BS Podcast a couple of weeks ago. Really fun gaming podcast. Frankly, it is the best one I’ve listened to. The dudes have a good time, but there’s not a lot of the constant snickering and whatnot that often detracts from podcasts.

Last night I listened to Episode 15, in which the guys talk about the difficulty of developing a good Sci Fi campaign. They express just how hard they find it. I have to admit that I find it hard too, for a number of reasons. Even with my own GURPS CyberTex campaign, which is very sporadically played (hell, we’re just getting ready to play game 4 in July), it isn’t easy, and we do have a setting and some game history. For me the thing that makes it hard is that most of the tropes by which a GM brings characters together don’t really exist in the cyberpunk context. Characters in cyberpunk tend to be loner types. They don’t “form a party” and go off on a quest or exploring, or if they do they don’t really continue as a party for years on end. I kind of forced them together in the first game. Now that the initial three game arc is done, and I’m making the game take place a year later, coming up with a rational for bringing them back together has been challenging. I say challenging – what I mean is that doing it in the style I want is challenging. Certainly there are plenty of reasons, based on the first three games, to get them together again. But I want to “up my game” every time as a GM, which means I want my shit to be clever. That’s part of the enjoyment of it for me.

So on the topic of other Sci Fi campaigns, yeah, not super easy. I suppose you can just say “make all your characters members of the same exploratory space corp” or something like that. That works. That’s fine.  I think it all just seems a bit harder than saying “you meet in a tavern and an old man you save from a ruffian gives you a treasure map.” Which of course is also totally fine and fun, but not terribly inventive.  The great possible range of science fiction means that defining the scope and tech level of your campaign is really important.

I recently read this tweet from Pink Dice GM that I really liked. It is an approach I’ve been using in CyberTex. A means of keeping my mind on the atmosphere of the campaign and really trying to give the players a place for their minds to inhabit, but I’ve not articulated it like this. I think this is right. And I think that even with a Sci Fi campaign, if you can start with some sort of interesting premise, limited in scope but with the possibility of expansion, and some good player characters to envision in that campaign, you can use this rule of thumb and build a very good campaign.









Rainy Day

Looks like a rainy day here. Stormed all night, and still a slow moving heavy downpour now. Heading to aikido practice, but looks like a great afternoon for working on gaming stuff. Playing D&D tomorrow afternoon. A lot of the group will not be able to attend, so if thing slow down I’ll get them to roll up some Traveller characters.


Interwebs Treasures #18

Working on a Traveller Game

Now that I have the three core books, a bunch of supplements (all from eBay), and a CD-ROM that contains everything they ever published for Classic Traveller, I thought I’d start working up some campaign materials. At this point, I’ve decided to use the Spinward Marches supplement at the overall setting for the game. I purchased some inexpensive Traveller game scenarios written by Michael Brown to give me some ideas, and decided to use one of them as the core of Game 1. I’m about 75% done with writing for this session.

I have no idea how this will go. There are a number of reasons. First, well, it’s a big galaxy. Not totally sure I am good enough at GMing to handle it. But we haven’t even rolled up the PCs yet, so once we do that and have some backstories for them I should be able to come up with some additional material for the game.

Also – how will my players react to the game? One of the things I like about CT is the very simple and efficient character stats. There’s not that much there to keep track of. A line of six numbers/letters describes the characteristics. A few very general skills with a number next to them describe that character’s professional skills. The game pays no attention to things like languages spoken, etc. There will no doubt be some areas where I have to use my Referee Power to just say “OK, you speak Aslan” or whatever. That’s fine, but let’s face it, GURPS details everything your character can do, so this is way different. And of course, there is pretty much no character progression system. PCs are generated as experienced characters.

The first time I tried to ref a Traveller game here’s how it went (I was in highschool). The PCs were hired by some colonists to come and kill a massive beast that was terrorizing them on a remote planet. The PCs rented a helicopter gunship, took it to the planet, and killed the monster from the air. Game over. Yeah – good thinking on their part, not so good on mine, and not all that much fun. Hopefully as a 52 year old man who thinks a bit more clearly about these things, I can make Game 1 of this new campaign will be more engaging.

There are some other issues to deal with as well. Classic Traveller was created in the late 1970s. There are lots of technological developments and ideas it simply doesn’t account for that well. Computers, for one. There’s just a lot of stuff that those little black books, despite their elegance, don’t really address. If I were a true “rules lite” kind of guy that wouldn’t bother me, but I’m not. I like a little more detail in the system, but there are lots of resources to use beyond the LBB, so I think it’s cool.

I’ve noticed this same kind of issue with my Cyberpunk campaign. Older science fiction – pretty much anything pre-internet – simply doesn’t account much for networked computing, mobile devices, the development of nanotechnology, etc. I am fine with simply saying that stuff doesn’t exist. We’re playing Traveller as if we were living in 1977, as if we were in the novels of that era.

The nice thing about this is that I can try my hand at a space campaign without spending lots of time creating detailed character sheets for NPCs. It’s great being able to pick up the Citizens of the Imperium supplement, saying ” I need a scientist”, and finding plenty of easy to use stats right there.

I have to admit though that if the players end up enjoying this I may convert to GURPS so their characters can progress a bit during the campaign.

Interwebs Treasures #17