CyberTex Episode 4.1

May 5, 2067. It’s been a year since the PCs saw each other. A year since collecting their money from the Pinky. A year since they encountered the cult. A year since things got weird.

It’s 9pm in CyberTex — Downtown Dallas. The sprawl of the DFW domes has gone transparent tonight, revealing a clear sky and stars beyond. A few satellites move overhead, noticed by few, most of them long dead. Despite the clear sky above the dome, the streets of Dallas are foggy (as usual). There’s a mist in the air, and it’s 85 degrees F. Typically weird.

Inuyama finds himself at a sushi bar. In another part of town, Hawk and Max sit, in the middle of an open, abandoned floor of an office building, facing each other across a table, their eyes, closed, ‘trodes on their head, jacked into the shared hallucination of cyberspace. Joe has been MIA for almost a year.

The 25K Inuyama made from his last job has taken some financial load off his back. For the last few months he’s been working as a bodyguard for a SimStim star, Rose Mexicali, who normally resides in DFW when not working. However, at the moment Rose is working on a shoot in El Grande, so Inuyama is unoccupied. Though he typically avoids Japanese crowds due to his reputation and history, a new sushi bar has opened in Downtown Dallas, Yoshihara’s House o’ Sushi, and he is unable to control his Gluttony — he is there. The sushi is the real thing – aquarium grown delicacies – expensive, and he’s blown through nearly his whole last paycheck. 

The place is nice. High quality decor and furnishings, quiet Japanese music. A throwback to the times before the domes – before the wars – when there was not a monitor on every wall. Not a dive at all. Lots of rich people hanging out, eating, drinking. Inyama sits at the bar, a large plate of various kinds of sushi in front of him. The sushi chef working in front of him appears unaugmented. As he sits quietly eating and enjoying some real saki, he watches the man’s hands skillfully prepare food.

Among the crowd Inuyama notices two young men in dark suits. Perfectly attired. Their body language marks them as yakuza, not usually seen in the Texas Megaregion. One of them sits next to Inuyama at the bar. Staring straight ahead, he quietly speaks. “Inuyama-San. I am Hiroto. Thank you for the many enjoyable fights. On behalf of the owners, we welcome you.” Inuyama notices an earpiece in the mans right ear. Someone else is listening. Clearly, Inuyama’s reputation is still a thing. He thanks the man. “Many would love to see you return to your true calling, but not in the sterile confines of tradition. While tradition must be honored, without change there can be no progress. Wouldn’t you agree?” says the yakuza.  “That depends on what the change entails,” responds Inuyama, who asks what is being proposed. The man, who introduces himself as Hiroto, and explains that that is a unique fighting league in Houston. “There is a weekly event in the Houston region. You may not be aware. It is not known to the general public. Should you be interested, I can assure you that your needs would be met.”

Meanwhile, in a gutted and abandoned floor of an old office building, Max and Hawk face each other across a plain folding table, only vaguely aware of their surroundings. Trodes on their heads, both are jacked into cyberspace decks. Max has been studying the occult for the last year, and Hawk has recently begun training him in basic cyberspace deck use. 

In their minds eyes, they float above a world of glowing geometric figures spreading out on an apparently infinite 3-dimensional plane. Directly below them is is the mental representation of Dallas, a consensual hallucination representing the data and energy of the megacity. Hawk is familiar with the basic data structures of the DFW grid. The Aztec Pyramid -like structure of the Hernandez Engineering data banks, the white cubes of various financial institutions (all protected by powerful ICE), the garish glowing towers of the entertainment industry.  The entire city is represented in some way. Not an exact geometric representation, but a data representation. Lots of data or power shows up BIG in cyberspace. But no matter how small, everything has data. Everything is there.

Below them they see what appears to be the data-form of the building where they encountered the cultists jacked into the massive cyberspace port and the cyberdogs a year ago. They see geometric forms moving around the ruined data-structure. Hawk decides to investigate. He leave Max up high, out of site, as Max’s deck has only rudimentary movement ability. Hawk activates his disguise program and moves in to observe. The geometric forms are moving about methodically, extending glowing tendrils into the shards of data that once represented the old data center. When the tendrils make contact, they slurp up the data remains. The forms are oblivious to Hawk, who makes his roll and guesses correctly that these are simply robots, harvesting that data for who knows what. He is unable to determine who or what is controlling them. 

Back at Yoshihara’s House o’ Sushi, as Inuyama and Hiroto the yakuza talk, Inuyama notices that the sushi chef suddenly stops preparing food. The man cocks his head and closes his eyes, as if listening intently. Hiroto leans in and speaks quietly with the man. Suddenly both turn to the back of the restaurant. Hiroto and the other yakuza begin drawing auto pistols, while the sushi chef pulls a sawed-off shotgun from under the counter. Three asian men in the back of the place stand up abruptly, knock over their table, and draw pistols, yelling “This is the Bamboo Circuit’s territory Yakuza scum!”  The shit hits the fan. Chaos ensues as restaurant patrons scramble and panic. Inuyama, in an amazing display of agility, dives over the sushi bar and gets cover behind the counter. Shots are fired. Inuyama draws his weapon and shoots one of the Vietnamerican gang members. Hiroto is hit but not taken out. After a brief shootout all three of the Bamboo Circuit men are dead. As Inuyama surveys the carnage his telephone pings. A message is coming in. It’s from Joe, the sniper, who he worked with last year and hasn’t seen since. “Need help – now…”

In Cyberspace, Max and Hawk debate what to do regarding the data harvesting ‘bots. They are both curious. Who would be harvesting this data? Is the cybercult reorganizing? Are things about to get weird again. The internal display in Hawk’s bionic eye flashes “Incoming message.”  They jack out of Cyberspace, and Hawk reads the message. It’s from Joe. “Need help – now.”

Luckily, Max is one of the few people who know where Joe lives. It was Max, through his contacts and knowledge of the seedier elements of the DFW world, who brought the team together last year to work for the Pinky. Inuyama contacts Max. They try to just call Joe back, but he’s gone dark. Max, Inuyama, and Hawk agree to meet at Joe’s apartment, on the 15th floor of a not-so-nice apartment tower.

When they arrive, they see bullet holes in the wall outside the door, in the hallway. The door to Joe’s apartment is cracked open. Knowing what Joe can do in a fight, they are somewhat terrified for their own lives should they make a mistake. Max makes his stealth roll and moves up to the door. Inside he can see the feet of a dead person laying on the floor. He listens. Hawk uses his enhanced parabolic hearing to listen. Nothing. No movement inside. No sound of a gun being cocked or a new magazine being popped in. Max nudges the door further open, and sees a dead cybergoth on the floor, face down. Most of the back of his head is missing. Hawk uses his eye’s bug detector and enhanced vision and see a tiny camera in the hallway. They move into the apartment. No booby traps, though they did search. The group searches the apartment. Inuyama uses a foot to roll the dead guy over. White male, leather jacket, facial tattoos, huge mohawk, chip slot on one side of his skull, cyberspace input jack on the other side. His defining feature is the bullet hole square between the eyes. Joe’s work, for sure.

There are a lot of bullet holes in the walls, The large plate glass window in the front room is shattered. Max looks out. They are 15 floors up. Two floors below, and about 10 feed out, is a mag-lev track for the elevated train. Far below on the ground are two dead cyberpunks. No sane person would try to escape by jumping down two floors on to a train. Joe almost certainly made his escape that way.

The team continues to search the apartment. They find Joes’s computer in the back room still on. The video feeds from his hallway security camera and the one in the front room are still on screen. Hawk is able to find the footage from the last hour. The hall camera shows a gang of cyberpunks coming down the hall. The interior camera shows the door being kicked in. The dead kid in the front room starts to run through, only to have his brains blown out the back of his head. More shots as punks rush into the apartment. Joe comes into view, shoots toward the window, and then runs toward the window and out of the frame. Two punks run after him. The rest run back out and down the hall.

They continue searching the apartment. Hawk finds a hidden compartment in the wall. He examines the wall for booby traps, and finding one, activates the panel. A drawer slides open containing a paper journal. Joe’s journal. The read the last couple of pages…

April 4, 2067. The nightmares continue. Feel like I’m  in hell.

April 7, 2067. Haven’t written in a few days. Finally got some sleep. The sleep of the damned, but sleep none the less. Can’t even describe what I see when I shut my eyes. Words fail.

April 8, 2067. Spent the day staring at code in this damned chip. Wish I’d never taken it, but then I don’t really wish that, do I? Have no idea what I’m looking at, yet I can’t put it away. Can’t throw it out. Can’t destroy it.

April 9, 2067. Contacted on ‘net today by someone wanted to buy the chip. The thought fills me with dread. I know it’s responsible for the terror I feel, but I’m like a simstim addict. Tried to end it all today. Autopistol in my mouth. Couldn’t finish it.

May 1, 2067. Spent the last few weeks drunk in a safehouse. Only thing that seems to help. I sense a war is coming. Need to be ready, but fear my mind is dissolving. Don’t know how much longer I can go on. Sometimes I’m not sure who I am. This all started when I took the chip from that lab with the monsters. I wonder if the other guys are having the same thing? I should contact them, but they’d just think I’m mad. I was a mental case already, before all this. Best to isolate myself…safer for others…keep them safe from what’s out there.

May 5, 2067. Contacted again today. Someone wants this chip. Well fuck them, they can’t have it. Someone on my monitor – they’re coming. They found me. They’ll be very, very sorry they did.

Given the dates that Joe was apparently in his safe house, Hawk is able to use cell records and computer traces to find the location. It’s another old building. This time the floor is abandoned except for, possibly, the safe house apartment. They approach the door and knock. No answer. They listen. No sound. Nothing.  They try calling Joe again. He’s still gone dark. No answer. No ringing phone inside. Inuyama backs up and runs toward the door, using his strength, speed, and power to break it down. Booby trapped. A bomb goes off. Their ballistic clothing saves them from serious injury.

Their ears still ringing from the blast, a figure in a trench coat steps out from the clearing smoke and dust. It’s not Joe.

“I can’t believe you guys did that. I’ve been wanting to meet your boys for a long time. My name…is Kolchak.”

End of session.

ITV Ref’s Notes #1

So we’ve had two play sessions of Classic Traveller in the Into the Void campaign. Both have gone well. I feel like the system is working as it should, even though I’ve had to guess on a few rules since I couldn’t find them on the fly. Honestly, the rule books are so short, and so simple, I need to sit down and really read every single word in them again. Today I answered one of my own questions simply by reading! Imagine that! Turns out all PCs have a skill level of 0 in every weapon. So yeah, your character with some other gun skill, like auto pistol-1, can pick up a shotgun and use it with no proficiency penalty. I’m sure there are a lot of other things I’m missing.

The campaign is starting to really take shape now. I have a few goals to accomplish before the next session. I need to spend a bit of time looking for good images of ships and common weapons to give the campaign more atmosphere and flavor. How is a tech level 13 auto pistol different from a modern day 9mm? I don’t know, because I’m not a gun guy, but I do know it should look really cool. Likewise, some nice images from the interwebs to illustrate the environments and places the PCs find themselves in would be good.

One issue with these kinds of games, at least for me, is that they are so open-ended that sometimes it seeks like the PCs don’t have clear goals or motivations. In a fantasy game, that never seems like an issue. Kill monsters, take their stuff. Right? In this campaign, as well as CyberTex, I want a more interesting story than that. Once I get my players to write up some brief character backgrounds I think we can make things a bit more personal. And then, of course, they can kill some monsters.

I also have some game mechanics topics I want to research in the old Journal of the Travellers Aid Society and other resources, like Freelance Traveller and the Zhodani Base. For example, I want to find some “minor” skills that are not included in the rulebooks, like language skills and a few other things. The trick will be adding things in that enhance the the game without blowing it up.

And of course I now need to do a better writeup of the Robot.

Into the Void, Episode 1, part 2. In the Temple

The PCs, archaeologist Zal Twist, and Fardt the Gluck cautiously enter the ziggurat. As they enter, the giant columns inside slowly begin to glow, illuminating the inside of the huge structure. While it is big, the inside is very simple. Zal deduces that it is a place of worship. Of what? No telling. Hieroglyphs carved into the massive walls depict star systems. Roger attempts but fails to use Navigation skill to recognize the formations. Zal believes they are probably unknown systems of the Precursors’ past.


As they proceed into what is apparently a temple, Roger helps Zal to photograph and catalog the glyphs for future analysis. Lucky and Barney continue to explore the temple and discover  a dusty but apparently undamaged robot. They examine the robot, determining that it is of fairly common manufacture. Not a precursor artifact.  They drive the air raft into the building, and use its system to recharge the robot. While they do that, Fardt had been fiddling with a stone control panel on top of a slightly raised section of floor. Slapping a hand on top, he activates the section — an elevator. A door in the ceiling opens, and he disappears into it as the elevator reaches that level.

As the robot continues to charge and the others continue to study the carvings, Roger manages to find a control to bring the elevator back down. Fardt reports that there’s a whole control room of some kind up there. When asked why he didn’t just come back down, he says he was “looking around.”

Lucky and Barney manage to reactivate the robot, which speaks galactic common.  It is apparently a survey robot, sent to this temple some 450 years before, by an unknown source. It ran out of power while waiting for it’s party to arrive. Learning that 450 years have passed, it agrees to complete its survey mission by joining the PCs crew.

The party, including the robot, take the elevator to the upper level, and discover an astronomical observatory and data center. The walls are still carved with similar glyphs. A huge glass sphere occupies the middle of the room. The PCs discover what they surmise to be data storage media — polyhedral objects arranged in sequence. Zal makes his archaeology roll, and figures out the newest one. They put it in a player and activate it, as the glass sphere lights up with a hologram of star charts. Manipulating the data unit, the image changes to diagrams of what look like living cells, separated by space, with beams of light flickering between them. Further tinkering brings into view a star chart/hologram of the galaxy from a very wide view.  The PCs are able to see the Great Nebula of the Void in one place. Some distance from it, a glowing dotted line and arrow hang in space — pointed toward the Great Nebula. A trajectory? Who knows?

Zal wants to take that data unit back to the ship, where he has gear to analyze it. They load everyone, including the robot, into the air raft and take off back for the ship.

As they approach the landing site, Barney rolls and the party gains surprise on the scumbags from the tavern back on Mylor. The ones who told Zal about this planet.  From the edge of the woods, they use binoculars and see that the scumbags have a bunch of the natives held captive, and few are dead. Not good dudes. They see that the scumbags have come down in a landing craft, suggesting a larger ship in orbit.

The PCS come up with a plan. They’ll used the element of surprise to do a high speed drive-by of the bad guys, taking out as many as possible. Clearly, they are not there to be nice. I have them roll for 1-3 rounds before they are in close range. They roll 1. They manage to come out of the forest quietly, then roar toward the bad dudes. They exchange gunfire. The robot shoots electrical bolts. One bad guy hit. It’s Croyd, their leader. He’s hit bad enough to be rendered unconscious. Roger is hit, but his ballistic jacket keeps him from taking damage (shot “misses” due to jacket).  Round 2 – Roger, Barney, and Fardt (who is borrowing a shotgun) all fire. 2 more goons go down – Iron Balls McGinty and Tommy the Gimp. Lucky is driving, and runs right over the serpentoid henchman, Glych. The bad guys are all alive, but out.  They tie ’em up. The natives lavish praise on the PCs for saving them. Iron Balls regains consciousness. Displaying no loyalty to his colleagues, Iron Balls offers to give the PCs info on the ship in orbit, to help them get past it. He says if they don’t check in by tomorrow, the pilot will probably come in and blast their ship from the air. He wants to be a temporary member of their crew, and be promised safe passage back to Mylor. They agree.

End of session. Players are already devising their next moves for leaving the planet without getting shot up by a potentially larger ship.

 

Into the Void. Episode 1, part 1. New Beginnings, New Adventures

This session was dedicated to Eric Manuel, a friend from years past, who died recently from cancer. Smooth sailing old friend. 

This was the first game of my classic Traveller campaign. Been trying to get this started for some time, and today was the day. We decided that our gaming group would do these games in short, 2-3 hour sessions, to make it easier for everyone to get together and easier for me, the Ref, to prepare.

Into the Void takes place in the frontier area of known space, on the very outskirts of an Imperium vaguely similar that of the standard Classic Traveller universe. Space beyond the frontier border is known as “the Void.” I’m using the same organizations, but ignoring the history of and maps of that universe. Making my own alien races, etc.

Imperium Year 6045, Day 234.

Game one begins with the recently retired members of the Imperial Scout Service. They begin on planet Mylor, on the very edge of the Void, in an as-yet unnamed and incompletely explored subsector. Most of the subsector is in the Void.  A small world with standard atmosphere, Class B space port (no “high-port”), and one major city of about 12,000 sophonts. The ex-Scouts, Roger (the pilot), Fred (“Lucky” – due to his many missed survival rolls and maimings), and Barney (expert ship Engineer) are in the star port tavern, trying to decide what to do next. Roger had mustered out with a Scout ship, and the three have decided to seek their fortunes together.

While at the bar, a local Gluck tries to pick Roger’s pocket. Roger smacks the creature away, but doesn’t pay him much mind afterward. Glucks are a common species in this part of the Galaxy. Spheroid beings, with no obvious facial features, they have 6 arm/legs spaced evenly around their bodies. They move by kind of roll/walking. They can understand human speech, and communicate in Galactic Common by vibrating organs in their breathing orifices. While quite alien looking, they are psychologically and intellectually very much like humans, and thus integrate well into human culture. Anyway, the pickpocket Gluck backs up. The slight altercation gets the attention of table of young marines, on their way back to the inner-Imperium after long duty on the frontier. The Marines taunt the Scouts, who react by buying a round of drinks for them, avoiding trouble.

After the Scouts have been at their table for a bit, a tall, thin old human approaches their table and asks if he might join them. He introduces himself as Zall Twist, an exo-archaeologist from the university on planet Zapata, one sector rimward – the subsector capital of the Zapata subsector. He’s been in the frontier for several weeks, researching rumors of the Precursor civilization, the theorized interstellar society predating the Imperium by several million years. This is his area of specialization and main research interest. He’s met a group of merchants (he points them out in the tavern) who mentioned to him an interesting ruin they happened upon 2 parsecs into the Void, when their ship misjumped. They landed on the moon of a gas giant for repairs and refueling, and while in the air they spotted what looked like a tremendous ziggurat in the middle of the heavily forested equatorial region. Zall thinks this may indeed by related to the Precursor culture, and wishes to travel to that world in the Void to investigate. He asks if the PCs have a ship, and upon finding that they do, offers them 50K up front, and 50K upon completion and return to Mylor, if they will take him to that gas giant’s moon and mount an expedition with him. He says he can think of no better companions on such a voyage than three very able former Scouts.

The PCs agree to Zall’s terms, and agree to leave the next day. They spend the rest of the day buying gear and supplies for this, and future, missions.

The next morning they meet Zall at the Scout base, where their ship is landed. It’s been refueled and maintenance is done. Zall has some scientific gear to load. As they load the ship, Roger feels a gut on his pants leg. It’s the gluck from the Tavern, who introduces himself as “Fardt” — with a “D”. He thanks Roger for not beating him up in the tavern — that it was nothing personal, and asks if the crew needs a cook. Feeling sorry for Fardt, the crew hires him on for 100cr a week, and finds space in the cargo bay to make him a comfortable quarters.

The ship lifts off, travels several hours to 100 planetary diameters distance, and engages the jump drive. Roger rolls and the ship avoids mis-jump. They enter jump space uneventfully.

During the week in jump space they have a chance to get to know Zall and Fardt. They get a few more details about Zall’s mission plan (not much of a plan, as they are going into the unknown), and learn that Fardt is a good guy — a reasonable and generally good natured rogue.

The ship exits jump space on target, 100 pds from the gas giant. They immediately spend the first day in-system skimming the gas giant for fuel, in case a fast getaway is needed later. They then begin scanning the surface of the moon for the ziggurat. They quickly find that the gas giant is emitting random bursts of radiation into space. Remaining in orbit for an extended period is a bad idea. For each hour spend looking for the ziggurat in orbit they have a 2/6 chance of finding it, but a 1/6 chance of being affected by a radiation burst. In the first hour they do not find it AND they get hit by a minor burst. No structural damage to the ship, but some scalding of hull plating that will need to be replaced. In the second hour they locate the ziggurat and avoid further radiation bursts. They land in a clearing of the dense forest, 1/4 kilometer from the ziggurat.

Upon landing, they spend the first day doing ship maintenance, again preparing for fast exits if needed — a lesson learned during their 16 years as Scouts. Barney, the engineer, successfully maintains the J and M drives, finding no damage from the radiation burst.

The night sky of this moon is dominated the gas giant and the spectacle of occasional radiation bursts harmlessly lighting up the night sky and the distant Great Nebula of the Void, visible as a red haze in the sky, even from several parsecs away.

Day two they decide to take the air raft to the ziggurat. The entire group goes, including Fardt. They take the air raft high above the trees, surveying the area around the ziggurat from the air. This close, they see what appear to be old landing pads to one side of the structure, overgrown now with vegetation. On the other side, the ruined walls of smaller structures.

They land near what appears to be a big stone door on the base of the structure. Looking at the ruined building around them, they use their IR googles to scan the surrounding forest. They can see the heat signatures of small humanoid shapes out in the relative darkness of the woods. The shapes are not closing in. Just watching.

Clearing the heavy vine growth from the wall around the massive stone door, they discover a still-active electronic pad with a couple of blinking lights. They assume this is the doorbell or door actuator.  Lucky used his Electronics-2 skill and manages to hotwire the system.

The huge door slowly rises as the party stands at the entrance, the woods full of humanoids of undetermined friendliness, and the ziggurat itself inviting them inside to discover who-knows-what.

End of session 1. Game time elapsed 1.5 weeks.

I may have gotten a few details about time required for gas giant skimming and stuff like that wrong. I’ll look that stuff up before the next session. Since it was not critical to the game today I just assumed a day for stuff like that. I have a better idea how my group will play Traveller now, so I can tweek the upcoming stuff in this particular adventure, and make sure everyone has a chance to shine, and make sure there’s some exciting stuff in game 2. I could have really played up the radiation burst a lot more — the effects on the ship, a chance for the engineer to do this thing, etc. Live and learn. That would have been exciting though. Lesson learned.

North Texas RPG Con

I’ve signed up to attend the North Texas RPG Con in June. I had not really planned on going to this, as I though I was going to be involved in family stuff that weekend, but things changed, and what the hell.

It has been years since I’ve been to a gaming con. I’m also going to be running a GURPS Cyberpunk (CyberTex) session on Friday afternoon of the con. I’ve never run a game at a con before, but I have lots of source material to draw from in my campaign. I have four players signed up already, so I’m excited that someone thought it sounded cool enough to play! Looking forward to it.

I’ve also signed up to play two sessions of Call of Cthulhu, once session of Villains & Vigilantes, and one session of classic Traveller. So that’s a lot of gaming. I may still sign up for another Traveller session on the last morning of the con (Sunday). Depends on if I want to drive back out there again. Sunday morning should be nice and easy traffic though.

Trying to get my own gaming group together. Not easy. Hopefully we can play a bit.

New Traveller Campaign

Just set the date to start a Classic Traveller campaign. Kind of excited about this. Also, playing on weekend afternoons for just 2-3 hours will make it easier to prepare games, easier to get together, and allow weekend evenings for doing fun stuff with family and spouses. I think it’s a win for everyone. Amazingly, none of our group has any children, so Saturday afternoons are not full of soccer games, birthday parties, or other activities designed to oppress poor gamers.

Planning to use a homebrew setting/universe/subsector-or-two rather than the published Traveller setting. I love the published stuff, but I really enjoy creating my own stuff. That’s a lot of the fun of running a campaign for me.

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.