The Player from Hell

All this character creation thought has brought back memories of my most difficult player ever. This guy played Champions and D&D with us. He’d always create a character so lopsided – both physically and psychologically – that he’d be a pain in the ass. Example: in a regular 200pt Champions game, his favorite character had a 9 speed, practically no defenses, a 36 Dex,  and his major power was the ability to throw knives (armor-piercing ranged killing attacks) on autofire. Had I been older, I’d just said “no way”, but I was only about 17 or 18, and he was over 20, and I allowed this bullshit to go on. hahahaha. So you have this “superhero” who really goes beyond the “Dark Champions” vigilante stereotype right into the psychotic murderer zone.

This is the same guy who, when DMing a D&D game, would start your character at Zero Level, and then make it hard as shit to even find a mentor to get trained in a class.

Thinking back, I’m not sure what this guy was trying to prove, other than lording power over others and showing “how smart” he was. And he was a super smart guy. And frankly, he was a really good guy too. Love that guy to this day, BUT he was the Player/GM from hell.

I learned a lot about how to game from this guy. Just – do – the – opposite of what he did.

More game preparation

Looks like I might have 4 players for my GURPS game. That’s perfect, actually. We are going to get together soon and have a character creation session. This will allow the players to bounce ideas around, and try to make sure they have all the bases covered as far as skills go. I’m always willing to sculpt an adventure to any set of PCs, but it is nice if you have a variety. That being said, they can build whatever sort of characters they want.

I think it is harder for players to come up with character ideas for something like Cyberpunk, because the typical character archetypes just aren’t as familiar to them. In a fantasy campaign, everyone knows what a wizard, fighter, thief, or bard is. With no character classes in GURPS, and a bit more nebulous set of archetypes for Cyberpunk, it is challenging.

It might actually be useful to think of the typical fantasy types when making these characters. You still need a lot of the same kinds of skills, just tweaked to a techno-futuristic setting. A Wizard becomes the technologist/cyberspace cowboy. The Fighter become the ex-military bad ass. And so on.

I’m really looking forward to getting this started!

Interwebs Treasures #10

I’ve been busy working on my GURPS campaign, but found some time to surf the web for some stories…

  • Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition gets it mostly right. The author is slightly critical of the new edition’s emphasis on the official campaign setting provided by Wizards of the Coast. While I understand his sentiment (I am after all spending a lot of time coming up with my own GURPS setting), it makes sense to give players something well-developed that they can dig into right away if they wish.
  • Christopher, over at Ravens N’ Pennies, came up with these GURPS rules for Variant Judo Throw. Then he wrote a PART 2. Pretty cool.
  • I spent some time reading the 2013 Report to Stakeholders, from Steve Jackson Games. Kind of cool to find out what is happening with that company. It’s a great way of letting their customers in on things and make them feel more involved. Besides that fact that I like GURPS a lot, I must admit that one other thing that attracts me to the system is that it is owned by a true small company – a grassroots real-deal company. It’s clear from the report that they don’t make tons of money from GURPS, yet as true gamers they continue to support it. Cheers, Steve Jackson!
  • Still on Steve Jackson Games — check it — Gaming Ballistic’s Firing Squad welcomes Steve Jackson – video interview! In the 2nd half, Steve addresses both GURPS and table top RPGs in general. I love what Steve says about the value of NOT being a publicly traded company – allows him to do what he wants.
  • And finally, also from Gaming Ballistic, GURPS 101. Good stuff.

More GURPS Planning

I’ve spent a lot of time in the evenings over the last week reading the GURPS core rulebooks, reading some William Gibson cyberpunk, and brainstorming a cyberpunk/bio-tech kind of campaign setting.

It’s actually quite a lot of work, but really enjoyable too.

I ended up buying the GURPS Ultra-Tech and Bio-Tech books as PDFs. They are out of print, and the nice hardback editions are going for over $150 on Amazon for a new copy, or $70 used. They were totally out of them at the local game store, but they did have GURPS Horror. Now, I’m not planning a Horror campaign, but I went ahead and got the book as it is really well done and if history repeats, it will soon cost over $100 to get a nice copy. If I ever see used copies of these hardbacks at Half Price Books I will snag them.

Coming up with a “unique” campaign setting that still makes use of most of the common elements of the whole Tech-Dystopia-Cyberspace-Cyborg-BioTech stuff is challenging. I want to have at least the skeleton of an entire world built. It would be easier to just say “You guys live in MegaCity” and just jump right in, making it all up as I go. Most of my gaming history has involved just that. This time I want to be a bit more creative, even if it turns out kind of hacky. You gotta start somewhere, right? I considered just doing kind of a “real world Plus” game, with the PCs starting in New York City or something like that, just about 20 years in the future.

One thing that the classic CyberPunk literature seems to have missed (though honestly I haven’t read that much) is climate change. Very few people were thinking about it back in the 1980s. So I’m looking at the year being 2065, with the effects of climate change influencing everything. While I’m doing a rough outline of what the United States and the rest of the world look like in that year, the game will be based in the “Texas Corridor” – an enclosed MegaCity that includes the current Dallas area, down IH-35, all the way down to San Antonio, with a branch out to Houston. Action will also take place in the Mexico City Complex (El Complejo Grande). This will allow me to put a little Texas/Southwest flavor and style into the game.

Now I need to come up with some of the major players in this environment. People, corporations, the cops, etc.

More GURPS

OK, I ordered the two GURPS 4th Edition core rulebooks. Was going to buy them at my local came shop, but they didn’t have them both. Ended up ordering them from Amazon.

With regard to running a Cyberpunk game, I am going to get the 3rd Edition books for Cyberpunk, since they have a lot of the “flavor” of the genre, even if they are for the old edition. For technology, I’ll get GURPS Ultra-Tech book. Pyramid Magazine # 3/21 is supposed to be good to also be useful.  I’ll see if I can get by with that for a while.

I have started re-reading some classic Cyberpunk genre novels. Started with the William Gibson stuff.

I have to say, Cyberpunk really didn’t last very long. It seems like a pretty dead genre. Not that I don’t still like it, but it just seems played out. So we’ll see what develops. One challenge of that genre is that the idea of and “adventuring party” doesn’t really exist. Most characters are more like loners, so it will be interesting to weave stories that can involve everyone.

 

Interwebs Treasures #9

GURPSing

I wrote this post before I started my GURPS CyberPunk campaign a couple of years ago. I think it clearly explains why I chose GURPs. Over the last two years, I’ve really grown to appreciate the ability to go “rules-lite” or “rules-heavy” or anywhere in between with GURPS. Honestly, I think the character creation system might be the most daunting thing for new players. It requires some thought, and it isn’t easy when you have never played. Anyway, though our play sessions have been sporadic, I think the campaign has been a big success.

As I have mentioned here before, I’ve always liked GURPS a lot, but seldom used or played in that system. By the time GURPS evolved out of the Fantasy Trip, my friends and I were pretty well entrenched in the Hero System, and rarely played in the fantasy genre. After we got out of college, a friend ran a fantasy genre game or two in the GURPS system for me and one of the other guys. It was great, but adulthood had set in and we simply didn’t have time to play.

Since discovering theMook.net yesterday I’ve been revisiting GURPS and I must admit I’m kind into the idea of running a GURPS campaign in some non-fantasy genre. I read Mook’s game notes on his GURPS Cyberpunk games. It sounds really fun. I also bought a copy of his How to be a GURPS GM, from Steve Jackson Games. It was on sale for less than $10 (it’s a PDF), and after reading his blog I decided it would be a good purchase. It was.

Apparently GURPS can seem overwhelming to a lot gamers. I was going to say “new gamers”, but I get the feeling experienced gamers sometimes feel the same way. It is easy to see why. There are no character classes. Players build their characters using a point system, as in the Hero System. So as soon as you go into character creation there are a lot of decisions to make. You don’t just roll some dice, pic a class and race, and write down what your character can do. Since there are dozens (if not hundreds) of skills to choose from depending on the genre of the game, well, you have a lot to think about.

Mook advises that perhaps a character creation session and test combat are good ways to start a GURPS campaign. I couldn’t agree more. I won’t divulge any more of his advice here — buy his supplement if you are interested.

For the GM, GURPS also requires a bit more work from the outset. The GM has to pick a genre (fantasy, science fiction, modern, or whatever), decide what skills and advantage are available to players, decide on stuff like power level, tech level, etc. In other words, the GM must decide on things that most RPGs include already. Frankly, a lot of people just aren’t up for this. No foul, right? People are busy, and there are some damned good game designers out there.

So, with these “weaknesses”, why would I want to run GURPS?

Because it kicks ass.

For many genres GURPS is ideal. The sourcebooks available for GURPS are fantastically well-written. Steve Jackson Games really has this down. No matter what kind of game you want to run, GURPS will do it. From power levels barely above average person to godlike superhumans, GURPS can do it. It really is quite incredible. And once you have a little experience with the basic system, you can keep it simple or make it as complex as you wish.

In class/level – based games like D&D, I always kind of feel like I’d be cheating if I started characters out above 1st level. I realize there is really no “cheating” in these games, but I still feel that way. To me, part of the point of D&D, part of the fun, is starting out weak and getting stronger.

Character point systems, like Hero and GURPs, allow you to easily get around this if you are weird like me. By selecting the starting power level of the characters, and determining where the campaign will fall on the Realistic vs. Cinematic continuum, you have the option of starting characters where ever you want. You determine the lethality of the campaign too.

GURPS, from what I’ve experienced, is a bit more lethal than some RPGs. Highly developed GURPS characters seem easier to kill than highly developed D&D characters. It’s just the nature of the system. GURPS, I think, tends toward a bit more realism. That’s not bad – just different.

So here’s where I’m going with this.

In my life, I don’t have time to play every week. I’m thinking once a month, or twice, is the most I can manage. I think that for this kind of life, GURPS is ideal. You can determine at the beginning about how long a campaign will last. A 12-month/12-meeting Cyberpunk game? Sure. Just determine the desired power level to start it.  You don’t have to go through the process of building characters up to “levels” at which you can actually have some fun with them.

Anyway, I am working on some campaign ideas. I’m still digging the new D&D system, but I think I might try running GURPS.

Interwebs Treasures #8

Just a couple of items this week.

  • Naked Went the Gamer
  • theMook.net — website of GURPS master and RPG enthusiast. Author of How To Be a GURPS GM, which is worth buying — a downloadable PDF. His campaign info is great and fun to read. I am kind of digging the notion of running a GURPS campaign!