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.

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!

Next on the agenda

Saturday night’s game was really fun. Now I need to start brainstorming ideas for other games. Maybe a few standalone sessions and a two or three game series. That would probably be enough for this year. Given the sporadic nature of our game, some stand alone adventures (with hooks into other sessions or hooks into a longer subtext) might a good idea.

It was hard for me to get back into the exact flow of the first two games while creating session three. I didn’t really feel inspired until I was working on the final scene. I was thinking “what would be a fun environment for a fight?” For some reason the opening scene of the film “the Hunger” came to mind, so I modeled it after that — a super crowded CyberGoth club with Bauhaus playing Bela Lugosi’s Dead. THEN I was fully energized to make it all work.  Especially when I decided to actually play the song while the PCs were in the club. It helped me to then go back through the game again at that point, since my mind was more able to really start visualizing the scenes more cinematically, rather than just writing stuff down like a 15-year old filling a dungeon with monsters.


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.


Slow Session Prep

GMing once per month is turning out to be a really good thing. Rather than hammering out sessons and scenarios in rapid-fire mode, having several weeks to plan is fantastic.

neuromancer1After our first CyberTex game session, I decided to re-read William Gibson’s Neuromancer for inspiration. During this time I started working on game session #2, and had probably six false starts. Each false start, however, got me closer to a good outline for the next session. I want everything to make sense, and this becomes harder when you try to interweave the lives of four PCs into the overall arch of the campaign.

Anyway, I’ve been away from campaign planning for about 3 days, as I finished that book and did various other things. The book as been percolating around in my head a lot. Listening to the audiobook in the car helps too. It’s good to hear someone reading the novel dramatically, with a nice voice. It creates the atmosphere that I just don’t quite achieve reading silently. The more think about the novel, the more ideas I get for the game. Not stuff that will change the big-picture direction of the campaign, but cool stuff to add in and give it the right flavor.

So I will now revisit my session #2 notes and the campaign notes, and continue convoluting the story.


Adventure Design By Scenes

More thoughts on adventure design — probably been written about a lot in the last 40 years, but I just caught on. Here goes.

My current GURPS campaign isn’t a standard dungeon crawl. It’s CyberPunk, in an open-ended world. It isn’t 90% combat related. I want it to be about 80% skills and roll-playing. You know, mystery and problem solving stuff? These kinds of games can be challenging because the options for the PCs are endless. What if they don’t go where you want them to go? What if they don’t find the clue? How do you write an adventure that isn’t like the ones I played in and GMed when I was 15?

I feel like my first GURPS game (see previous post) went pretty well because after coming up with an overall goal for the session, I wrote it in “scenes”. This gave me a working organizational framework for the adventure. I sat on a plane, with my Chromebook, and wrote it like the plot and scenes of a short story, or maybe a couple of chapters from a book. I think some role-playing systems use this technique a lot, but I’ve never played any of them.

Working in scenes did a few nice things. For one, it got me in the frame of mind of really thinking about the atmosphere of the scene. I’m not saying I did a fantastic job conveying atmosphere to my players, but it’s a start. I think I can do better in the future. Next, by thinking in scenes, my job became moving the PCs from one scene to the next, or perhaps skipping a scene completely if the PCs somehow bypassed it  or I felt like it wasn’t needed. I packed each scene with clues to get them to the next scene, hoping they’d find at least one of them. They did. It worked. They didn’t find every single clue, but they found enough. I gave them chances to use a variety of skills to discover clues, rather than relying on one critical skill roll.

I’m sure this sounds very basic to experienced GMs, but in the past all my games have been D&D dungeon adventures, or Champions games where you just say “Dr. Destroyer attacks you in your HQ” and it’s on. Open ended games, or mysteries/investigations are just harder to write, but I think they are a lot more satisfying. At least that’s my impression now.

Once I had a scene’s location figured out and described, and I knew what the PCs goal was in that scene, it was time to fill it with clues, a memorable NPC or two, some challenges, traps, or just plain foolishness. Then I waited a day, came back and read the whole thing, and thought of more cool stuff to add. As it turns out, one of the NPCs I added as a “possibility” to Scene 1 turned out to be very fun and great for creating atmosphere. Without coming back for a good second look at the whole adventure, I wouldn’t have thought of that NPC.

I did actually drop one small scene right in the middle of play.  I combined it with the one to come after it. I made this decision on the fly, realizing during the game that the two scenes were very similar, and that doing two similar scenes back to back might be tedious. The game was running a bit long too. I told the players to give me a couple of minutes to think about the game — so I didn’t have to rush. My players gave me the time I need to keep some logic and flow in the story. Much appreciated.

All of this really helped me a lot. I’m fairly creative, but I’m not great at coming up with stuff on the fly. I like to try to make every game I’ve ever run the best it can be though, so some really good writing and prep work helped very much in this game. Hoping that Episode 2 goes as well. I think I have a good base to build from, and the PCs are developing really well.


Still more preparation

We had another GURPS meeting this weekend, to go over more character creation stuff. I’ve never spent so much time on starting characters before, but then again I’ve never been this committed to running a really good game. We’re almost done, and should be able to launch the game as planned in late October.

So far, looks like we have the following…

  • A gadgeteer/medic/hacker guy
  • A big touch ex-sumo champion bodyguard type, with a chip slot in his head
  • Ex-astronaut with a bionic eye
  • A Cyber-Bard — uses music and science to influence minds
  • A ranged weapon/sniper guy

Looking forward to this.

1st Meeting Scheduled

OK, we have scheduled our GURPS character creation session for next Thursday. Looking forward to it. We have two of the Characters core books available, which should help. I’m thinking that after a couple of gaming session I might let them do a little redesign, once they’ve had a chance to play the system and test out their characters.

Also, I guess the end of this month is when the new D&D 5th Edition Monster Manual comes out. I am planning on buying it.

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!

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.