Prepping for Game

I’m getting ready for another session of my Traveller campaign. The game has some good momentum now. Regardless the game or campaign, my gaming group seems to take 45 minutes to 1 hour for each encounter or scene.  So three scenes will be good. Nice and easy to handle. Just need to remember a good piece of GMing advice I saw on Twitter – the basis of a good game is a good encounter. Make good encounters and scenes, and the rest flows. 

So far my group seems to be enjoying this campaign, even with the lack of a serious character advancement system in Traveller. I’ve always assumed that without that kind of reward players would get bored, but it hasn’t happened yet. 

I’ve been reading a lot of science fiction over the last couple of months. I’m currently in the middle of a large collection of short stories, which is just full of great ideas I could slap into game sessions.  Since returning from vacation I’ve not very little time to read. Need to get back on that after this game. 

the Mighty Protectors – V&V 3.0. First Impressions.

I’ve had the new Villians & Vigilantes 3.0 game, the Mighty Protectors, for about a week now. I have not played it yet, but I’m tossing around campaign ideas. Here are a few first impressions.

  • I got the soft cover book. It’s nice. Well put together, good illustrations, as one would expect from Jeff Dee and Jack Herman.
  • Random character generation and point-buy system. The old V&V editions were random generation. This resulted in some pretty crazy characters, and it could be a challenge to make the stuff you rolled make any sense or fit into a coherent character. I was always amazed that the characters published in the material, which seemed to be randomly created, were all really cool. I think it is just testimony to the game designers’ creativity. Now, at 53, I kind of appreciate that about the original game. I’d say this point-buy system is workable, but the random part is really cool and fun. The writers sort of say “do what you want”, which is nice. It’s a nice balance.
  • Speaking of balance, the point system is really useful to creating characters that are appropriate for the balance of the game. Starting point values are given for low, standard, and high powered games. There’s also a table that set maximum characteristic and ability values based on the total point level of the characters. For example, a “standard” campaign starts with 150 point characters. Based on that 150 points, there is a maximum value a power can have. Because of the mechanics of powers, it would be a lot harder to create a power-gaming abomination like you might in Champions. So the point system looks very effective for maintaining game balance.
  • Initially I thought this game didn’t really cover skills.  It doesn’t have anything called “skills”, but there is a Knowledge ability that can be assigned to specific kinds of knowledge or tasks. Science knowledge, acrobatic tasks, etc. It isn’t as well developed as some systems, but after looking it over I don’t consider it a massive problem.
  • Martial arts. If you want to simulate detailed martials arts, this is not the game for you. It is all covered under the ability “Natural Weapondry.” Looking at this, some of the other abilities, and the various modifiers you can apply to abilities, I think you could design some different martial arts techniques. But the system doesn’t do it for you. Would be interesting to see what I can come up with.
  • If you ever played or read through older editions of V&V, you will recognize the imprint of Jeff Dee and Jack Herman. The book contains lots of background info on their game universe. It is very cool.  What I’m not seeing is a lot of character examples. That would be nice. You could easily take some of the characters from previous editions and convert them, but I’d like to see some supplements with characters for this system. All the characters from previous editions were incredibly cool. I’d like to see some new ones!
  • I found this site, which converts a lot of Marvel characters to this game system. There are a few things I think the guy got slightly wrong, but overall he did a great job writing up these characters. Check it out.

I’m sure I’ll introduce my group to this game at some point. Honestly, I could always just use Champions, but there are some aspects of this game that I’m really interested in using. I have been brainstorming a darker game world to use, but the rest of my campaigns tend to be kind of dark and/or serious, so something a bit more lighthearted might be fun. Not sure what direction I want to go. I would be really easy to drop the PCs into the Dee/Herman universe though, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

 

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.

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.

 

 

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.

 

Working on Traveller

I intended to spend the night reading, but my eyes are tired and itchy from allergies, so I layed here on the couch with my laptop in my lap and started working on notes for a classic Traveller campaign. Curious how my players will react to a game with no really “leveling” or experience point system! haha.

First D&D game in many years

I’ve had a standing invitation from members of my GURPS group to join their regularly meeting D&D 5e game for some time. This last week I decided to take them up on it, and joined their group for at least that afternoon. I’d like to play more often. They seem to play about twice a month. I might be able to do once per month. Depends. I have a lot of stuff to do on the weekends, and 6 hours of D&D is a large block of time. Still, I would like to.

I had a great time. I haven’t been involved in D&D since about 1993, when I ran a game for my wife and three others who had never played before. I haven’t played since probably 1984. So it was really enjoyable.

Jeff, our DM, is running the a series of adventures (I still call them “modules”) from the publisher. The group was all at 8th level, so Jeff let me roll up my character at 8th so I wouldn’t just immediately get killed. I rolled up a monk, inspired by the Wuxia RPG campaigns my friend Bob runs. Saturday night I watched this movie to get me in a good frame of mind to play him.

Not being familiar with the new edition, the party, or what exactly was going on in the game, and seeing as how my character is a quiet, thoughtful man, I mostly sat back and let the others do a lot of the decision making. I did however, in-character, remark on the animal-like behavior of some of the underlings the party had with us. Needed to say something judgmental to account for his low charisma score.

So I had a good time.

5e is a fun system. It retains the flavor of D&D while increasing the options for player character class, race, and abilities. Gone are the limitation of class and level based on character race from 1st Edition. It’s a much more open game now, and I think that’s really good. At first glance the player characters seem overpowered, but when you look at the stats and abilities of 5e adversaries you see that game balance is retained.

I’ve owned all the 5e books for a couple of years now, and I have to say they are well-written, well-organized, and very easy to use. My fellow players had some nice playing aids, like spell cards that give quick access to your PCs spellcasting abilities.

One thing I’d kind of forgotten is a what a blood bath a D&D game can be. I wouldn’t characterize this campaign as hack and slash at all, but man, we did a lot of killing. In my GURPS Cyberpunk game, the game centers more on skill use.  Of course, GURPS is a much more lethal system, so it’s harder to stay alive if you fight all the time.

Looking forward to playing again.