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

Working more on Game 4

Today was my morning off. Got up early (6:30am), had coffee and breakfast, chilled, read, and then spent two hours working on Game 4 of CyberTex. I’m doing Scene 1 in 3 parts — 1a thru 1c. These will deal with separate, concurrent events for each of the PCs (two of them together), which all intertwine and bring them back together for another story arc. This was originally planned as a one-shot, but my players seem to be really into the game, so I think I’ll make it another three game arc. Anyway, I wrote up the plot of 1b this morning. I’m writing this game in a more narrative fashion, which I think is helping me immerse myself in the game world to really describe everything more richly — the NPCS, the environment, the potential dialog, etc. Kind of writing it as a “module” specifically for my own PCs.

I’m really happy that my players have taken so well to GURPS. I am certainly no ace with it. I really haven’t delved into the magic system (since this game has no magic), or even more advanced combat. But GURPS really offers the kind of customization that makes for interesting PCs, and a nice toolbox for the GM to pull from.

I’ve got two skateboard contests coming up this summer, which I’m really busy practicing for, but I think when they are done I will try to actually play more.

Interwebs Treasures #16

  • A video from the interwebs – Crit or Miss Special: The Problem with GURPS : not a criticism of GURPS, but a video by a huge fan of GURPS about why he often chooses not to use it. My commentary: I’ve purchased many RPGs over the years. Few have been played more than a few times. D&D. Traveller. Champions (HERO system). GURPS. Those are the systems I’ve used a lot. When I’ve purchased other games that create their own systems for a particular campaign setting, I’ve usually thought the systems sucked, even if the background material was really good. A few exceptions. My friend Bob had this game called Demon: the Fallen, which I looked through and it looked awesome. Technically it was part of the World of Darkness thing, so whatever, maybe it wasn’t entirely it’s own thing. Still, if I see a game system for a cool setting, I think there’s an 80% chance I’d just GURPS it, or use the Hero system.
  • A cool interview with Marc Miller, designer of Traveller.
  • Travellermap.com – mind blown. Zoomable, printable map for Traveller’s Third Imperium setting.
  • Zhodani Base – incredible Traveller site.