A V&V Update

I’ve been digging deeper into The Mighty Protectors – Villains & Vigilantes 3.0 over the last few days. I created my first character. I’ve been looking at the excellent Marvel Comics character write ups at MP Writeups.

I never thought I’d say this, but I think this game may be a superior superhero RPG to Champions. It’s at least just as good. I think that with regard to game balance it is superior. The combination of limits on the point totals of basic characteristics and abilities helps, but I think the real genius is limiting the average damage of attacks based on the total point value of the character. Keeps things in line.

 

Brainstorming New GURPS Campaigns

As I’ve written before, I think GURPS is best suited for somewhat oddball campaign settings. Honestly, I feel like if one want to run a pretty standard fantasy campaign, D&D is fine. If you want a standard supers game, Hero System/Champions is really good (You can do it with GURPS, but the game mechanic in the Hero System of Stun damage vs. Body damage, makes it uniquely suited to supers.) But if you to do something unique, GURPS is the way to go. I cite Victorian Apocalypse as a great example. This guy came up with a really fun and novel game world, and GURPS is very well-suited to realize it in the game.

I am kind of interested in doing an urban fantasy/magic style game. Not sure exactly where to go with it. I started reading the Dresden Files books this week. I’ll read a few of them. The first one was really quite enjoyable. Coming up with a setting like this, the would allow players to modify some of the classic fantasy archetypes into modern versions might be fun. It might also be easier than cyberpunk to give them a continuing motivation to band together.

Back in the 1990s I read George R.R. Martin’s Wildcards series. It’s kind of a “what if supers existed in the real world” kind of thing. Really fun books. There is a GURPS sourcebook that came out back then for this world. I think I’d be interested in running that kind of supers campaign as well. Honestly, I’m really good with the Hero system, and it would be a lot easier for me to use it, but I think the level of realism in the GURPS system lends itself to a better approximation of this kind of world.

I’m also interested in a science fiction/space campaign, but I’m not sure where to go with it. I could see using some of the old Traveller materials like “the Spinward Marches” as a campaign setting. I’m really not interested in the whole space ship building and combat thing. I think I’d rather have people get around via teleportation or some Doctor Who-ish way. I don’t know. Haven’t thought enough about it.

However, I think that CyberTex is going quite well, so I’ll continue developing that campaign as I experiment with ideas for other game worlds.

 

Homebrew Worlds

Reading the blog for the Victorian Apocalypse campaign has been fun. Honestly, I’ve never had any interest in Steampunk as a genre. It’s always seem like more of a fashion movement. I don’t know if I’d say Victorian Apocalypse is straight-up steampunk, but I do like it. The time line (that link) is really well done. I’m always amazed when people can come up with homebrew settings that seem to well-reasoned, creative, and engaging. My friend Bob does that with his Wuxia games. He’s become very knowledgeable about ancient China, and he’s able to weave that knowledge into his campaign. Being a massive Wuxia fan, familiar with all that genre’s characteristics doesn’t hurt either.

From the time I started gaming, it really never occurred to me to run anything but a homebrew world. We bought dungeon modules, but we always just dropped them into our own campaign worlds and modified them as we saw fit. But being  young kids at the time, we didn’t expend a lot of brain cells considering the histories of our worlds. We just tried to create fun dungeons to explore.

Anyway, back to steampunk and stuff like that. Reading that blog has gotten me thinking a lot about my own cyberpunk world, it’s timeline, etc. I’ve been working on a timeline, and damn, coming up with something that doesn’t seem stupid is not easy. There’s some retconning that needs to be done too. There are some technologies that the cyberpunk literature seems not to have fully anticipated. Wireless tech is one of them. The Sprawl Trilogy seems like it largely missed that.  Bladerunner did too. The real game changer is nanotechnology. How far should I let nano go? Because if it goes too far things start getting really weird. Or quantum computing. I may simply have to say that those technologies — nano and quantum – are simply so dangerous to work with that few people are willing to delve into them, and perhaps there’s some super-secret agency that goes around “handling” those problems.

Such are the problems of a person of limited intelligence trying to design a tight homebrew world.

Yesterday I found a copy of GURPS Deadlands: Weird West at a local gaming shop. It’s a very cool setting. I bought it, and read the introductory chapters at lunch. Very well done. I think these kinds of setting books are great. I love seeing how talented writers create a good setting, incorporating real history with all sorts of weirdness and fun. I’ve never wanted to run a full western game. But the notion of weirding it up is really appealing. How about the world of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian (already super weird!) with magic and monsters? I like that.

I need another five hours in every day to pursue all this stuff.

I Hunger for CyberTex

OK, I’m posting a GURPS post again because, theoretically, tomorrow I’ll be on the GURPSday list, and I want something to show up from my feed! So yes, this will be a more rambling post than most on this blog.

Next game, I’ll be killing it in my new Ono-Sendai Cyberspace 7 tshirt. Yes, I purchased this.

Life is quite busy. The summer involves two overseas skateboarding contests I’m going to (don’t be too impressed — I’ll be in the “Masters” division, and I’ll come in last, but I’ll have a great time), and I’m also supposed to test for black belt in Aikido this summer. Combining the training for that with a very engaging but tiring job, and I’ve not had a lot of time for adventure design.

However, the need to roll the 6-sided dice is upon me. It has been a few months since the last adventures in CyberTex, so over the rest of this month I will without a doubt be writing CyberTex Episode 4.

My recent rereading of William Gibson’s Sprawl Trilogy has me in the right frame of mind. I have finished the books, and I’m listening to the audiobooks in the car on my drive to work (which is a short drive, so this takes time). I’m halfway through listening to book 2, Count Zero.

For a genre that is extremely dependent on atmosphere and mood, listening to a well-read audio book is a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the author’s vision. Particularly with Gibson, listening to the book after reading it has greatly increased my appreciation for the work and the genre. It’s just cool.

Not sure how many plot elements I will steal and mutate for a CyberTex story arc, but I have purchased a nice little notebook (I’m a notebook nerd) to write down possible game themes, hooks, etc. I’m especially happy with the $5 Japanese Platinum “Preppy” fountain pen I’m using (it was cheaper at the cool Japanese bookstore we found nearby!) It writes a very fine line, and using this cool Japanese artifact makes me feel like I’m doing the “real” books for some black clinic in Chiba City. See? It all fits together.

I wrote a post last night that I felt was a bit too negative, so I have deleted it. I will say this. It had to do with the Steve Jackson Games 2016 Annual Report to Stakeholders, which indicated the struggles of producing hardback GURPS material in a profitable way. There are a number of really great GURPS books that I would LOOOOOVE to have in hardback, that have only been done in PDF thus far. First amongst them, the How to be a GURPS GM, by Mook Wilson. This is very well-written, inspiring, and useful guide to, well…, being a GURPS GM. I think that combining that product with a few other useful items into a nice hardback might be cool. I’m no game business expert. I’m just a player, but I know I’d buy that.

I like sourcebooks and genre books. I’ve purchased a lot of GURPS stuff over the last 2 years. If the book looks like it might be useful at all, or just looks cool, hell, I’ll buy it. I have no interest in running a WWII game, but dammit I’m going to pick up the hardback WWII book at a local gaming store this month. I think GURPS Horror 4e is one of the best things I’ve seen. I bought it, read it, and immediately decided to bring some Lovecraftian horror elements into my Cyberpunk campaign (Yes, I know there’s a CthulhuPunk book for 3e. Let’s just say I “found” it).

But yeah, I’ll pretty much buy any GURPS supplement that is even slightly interesting to me.  I’ll buy old 3e stuff if the material is good. I wonder — are there any interesting current or upcoming popular genres that might make a good GURPS book? A book all about post-apocalyptic stuff? (OK, now I see a whole post-apocalyptic section on the GURPS website. But you get my meaning.)

I will say this. I have thought about running one of our sessions on a Sunday afternoon at Madness Games and Comics, a massive and popular local store that provides lots of tables for folks use. I want to do this just to expose observers to GURPS. Here is a bit a problem. What if they like it, and and to get into it? The hardback Basic books are not available in the store. Are they available to retailers still? I see they can be procured from Warehouse 23. If a little interest was generated locally, could the local store get the books? I would hope so. The basic set needs to always always always be available. Two years ago when I started this, that particular store had both books. Now they have none. So the books did sell. It just took a little while.

Well, whatever. I’m looking forward to writing CyberTex Episode 4. Going to start using more of the Cyberspace Cowboy rules from the 3e book. Should be fun!

Game #2 on its way!

In two Sundays we’ll be playing session #2 of CyberTex. I’ve been doing a lot of reading of inspirational material. Currently I’m reading the second of Gibson’s Sprawl Trilogy — Count Zero. Very cool and lots of fun.

I also have watched about half this old documentary about Cyberpunk. It’s got some nice interview segments with William Gibson, but is also about “real world cyberpunks”.  I used to read about these dudes back in the mid-1990s, and it always seem really adventurous and fun. It seems like that kind of thing is just really dangerous and illegal now.

I have a week to finish preparations for session 2, so I need to get into gear. I have done a lot already, but I have so many ideas.

 

Character death within a party

This is not a new topic. I’m sure it has been talked to death, but when a member of a somewhat advanced party is killed, how do you handle it?

In D&D, I think this presents a very large problem, since the gap in survivability of 1st level characters and say, 6th or higher, is huge. So you lose a character or two, and what do you do. I’ve recently read about various ways people handle this. Some have the person roll up a new character, and advance them to the old character’s level, or maybe a level or two below. I’ve never been a big fan of starting characters at higher levels. For me as a player, I never feel like I have any emotional investment in that kind of character. It just doesn’t feel the same as running a character up from level 1. I actually saw one guy on a Facebook discussion say he considered the Experience Points to belong the the player, rather than the character. Obviously people can do what they want, but that seems weird to me. A little too much like just getting extra lives in a video game.

BUT – if you have a party of somewhat advanced characters, and one dies, if you make that player start over again with a 1st level character, a couple of undesireable things seem likely. First, the new 1st level character may simply ride on the coat tails of the rest of the party, gaining levels almost by association. Or second, the challenges faced by the party may simply be too difficult for the new character, killing him/her quickly if the DM doesn’t go easy on him. I can remember really good DMs who could integrate the new characters in, and give them challenges appropriate to their level whilst still challenging the higher level characters, but that’s not easy in a D&D game.

In the past I’ve participated in groups that avoided this situation a couple of ways. In some cases, in a particular DM’s word/campaign, players would have more than one character, so that if one died, there was still another to work with. We only played one at at time, so this made progress slower. It did have the added advantage of giving the players a more diverse group of characters to chose from when starting a game. If you played in a shared world, with multiple DMs running games at an agreed upon power level/style, the multiple characters can work out pretty well.

As I am about to start a GURPS Cyberpunk campaign in a couple of days, it made me realize that game systems like GURPs make it a lot easier to introduce new PCs to replace dead ones.  In GURPS, a PC gets better, but the world is still pretty dangerous. There isn’t such a huge gap in survivability between new PCs and experienced ones.

 

A few things…

Hoping to finally get the GURPS game started in January. It is time to start, even if the first couple of games are mostly for learning the system. I have been looking forward to this for months now, and I am ready to get it going.

I played RISK last night with my nephew – the Doctor Who edition. Pretty fun. I could do that again, even though I’m really not any good at it.

Ready to play some D&D too.

Reading and RPGs

Reading lots of fun and weird stuff, or informative interesting stuff, enhances the Gamemaster’s “game” tremendously. It’s one of the really great aspects of being a gamer. It’s hard to avoid. If you are a gamer, and especially a GM, you are always looking for inspiration, source material, and ideas for your game.

Sometimes it’s hard to keep your genres separated. You know – you start out in a fantasy setting, but then you watch Mad Max and get drawn into the post apocalyptic mindset, and soon your orcs are driving cars across the wasteland.

Is this your experience too? Is it just me?

Anyway, I’ve been reading all the Hellboy compilations. Well, not all of them. I’m on number three right now. Good stuff.

First Session!

Well, we had our first GURPS session on Saturday. Well, sort of.

I had the guys over to work on character concepts. As I fully expected, we spent a lot of time catching up. The guys I’m gaming with are all old highschool friends. They were not my regular gaming group, but I played some Champions with them. Anyway, a lot of catching up was needed, and it was a lot of fun.

The two guys who got there “on-time” decided on a couple of general ideas of characters. I really liked their ideas, and I think the game is going to be fun.

It was really fun seeing the interaction of these two friends as they talked about characters. I’ve known these guys for most of my life, but as I’ve said, they weren’t my main group of friends. It was incredible to see how their friendships really haven’t changed in all this time, and it was clear that they’ll have a very tight gaming “team” for GURPS, D&D, or whatever.  I’m sure it is nice to make “new” gaming friends, but it is really great to just be able to rekindle the fire that has been simmering for 30 years.

 

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.