gridlore: The word "Done!" in bold red letters. (Done!)
Dear gods, my feet hurt. But it was a very good day. I like busy Saturdays, mainly because it lets me spend more time with Kirsten that doesn't involve staring at some sort of video device and they recharge my brain.

But damn, do I pay for it. My floor weasels are running wild tonight, setting my feet on fire, pulling off toes, driving spikes through my feet . . . it's not the pain that bothers me so much, although it can be excruciating, it's that my brain has a library of Things That Can Happen To Feet that translates these random bursts of information from dying nerves into specific sensations.

Like right now, where the big toe on my left foot has just been ripped off. Ow.

My morning started with the bi-monthly Dungeons & Dragons game. Playing over Skype with roll20 for the maps and die rolls is fantastic. We have five players and our DM with me out in California and one in Norway, with the rest in or near Michigan. Today we reached the end of our epic side quest to clear the abandoned hold of the Ironaxe Clan of the fiends that possessed it and return the Ironaxe to the clan's last survivor.

Digenis, my pantless (it's a running joke) Half-elf Barbarian was wielding Fred the Greataxe, who was smarter than Digenis and hated the fiends with a passion rarely seen in sharpened hunks of metal. It is a testament to my love of playing my Chaotic Neutral character that not once did I have to make a saving throw to keep Fred from compelling me to fight. No, I waded right in, screaming my battle cry "Safety Third!" and hacking away. Fred and I made a good team.

Sadly, after we defeated the boss demons, Fred's mission was complete. He left my axe. Luckily, In the treasure trove was a shiny +3 Battle Axe. Mine! I've named it Fred, Jr.

But after all this, I had real world work to do. Kirsten had hooked up the trailer and brought ti to her office so we could do some work on it. She came and got me, and headed back over.

The first task was to deal with some of the drips and oversprays from the painting of the red stripes. Kiri did a great job matching the trailer's color, and you can barely see the newer paint over the old. She also painted the small window frame, and we did touch ups here and there. It looks much better now.

The second task was a bit harder. Hell, it was a stone bitch. The platform for the sleeping area is multiple sheets of thick plywood. We had removed them so the interior could be stained and sealed (it looks amazing now) and today was the day to reinstall them.

One little problem. We had forgotten to mark which holes in the supporting frame lined up with which holes in the platform pieces. There was much cursing and setting of things before we finally got the pieces to fit. We are not taking those bloody pieces out again without a very, very good reason.

After a short break, we tackled the third task of the day: our pallet. Since Burning Man requires that you support yourself for a week, you need to bring a great deal of stuff. The Army left me with a compulsive need to organize and make lists. Since we have the Free Trailer Beowulf now, our packing needs have changed. We wanted to get a feel for what we had, what we needed, and what we can get rid of.

I was pleasantly surprised. Because of my broken foot last year I was unable to take part in our unloading process. But everything was well-organized. We realized we don't need our cots, the spare tent, and a couple of other things. We will be taking the big tent and all its support material as someone will be buying it from us on the Playa.

Doing this has allowed me to better see how our loading is going to happen. A small amount of material can be carried in the trailer, not too much due to weight and stability issues, but it gets some of the load out of the truck bed (and out of the cab for that matter.) Having the trailer means less stuff and time needed for set-up and tear down. It's all coming together nicely.

We do still need a few things, a battery for our solar panels, a spare tire for the trailer, a couple of other minor things. And we still need to get the trailer's name up on it. I'm almost tempted to look on Craigslist for a graffiti artist to do the work.

But after all this, it was time to hook the trailer up and take it back to the storage yard. We decided to take 101 to avoid the rather bumpy roads on 87 and 85. Big mistake. The had been a major accident on the other side of the freeway, and the looky-loos were causing a backup.

But we made it, eventually, and got the Beowulf into its assigned bay. A run through the nearby Jack drive through, back to the office where I had forgotten my cane, and then home.

2,700 steps today. Not bad. But dear Halford, my FEET!
gridlore: A Roman 20 sided die, made from green stone (Gaming - Roman d20)
I'm really pleased by how well my proposed D&D campaign was received the other day. Having several people say "I want in!" is a refreshing change. I'll start finding maps and doing the research to make this game a cool reality.

If it does happen on roll20, I might ask for players to help fund a gamemaster's membership for me to help make for the best experience. This would allow me to get all the goodies that make online tabletop games great. Based on my current experiences with roll20, I'd probably want to use Skype for communications.

But I do have a complaint. "D&D meets Twilight: 2000" was a way of giving a quick analogy for the game's setting, not a promise to mash two entirely dissimilar games and settings together. The setting I'm planning is a take on the Battle of Manzikert, fought in 1071 between the Byzantine Empire under the Emperor Romanos IV against the Seljuk Turks under Arp Arslan. In the real battle, Romanos was betrayed and captured. Arp Arslan asked his royal captive what he would do if their roles were reversed. "Kill you, more than likely." was the reply. The Turkish warlord told Romanos that he was going to something much worse: let him go.

Historians point to that battle as the point where the Roman Empire began its long slide into ruin. It's also a great setting for the type of game I want to run, a game where the characters are already established, and have an immediate, pressing, need to work as a team to survive.

Thinking about it, the campaign could take several paths, all of which could run into each other with some meta-plots running in the background.

First of all we have The Long Road Home. This is the most basic concept. The characters, after coming together in the wake of the rout, decide to work their way back to civilized lands. It's a reasonable goal, and would make for a fine episodic campaign. The push is obvious, survive to reach home. The pull could be a desire to expose Constans Logios as a traitor, or to raise a new army, or to just get back to normalcy. All sorts of fun roadblocks to throw here, and a recurring foe in the agent of the enemy sent to hunt them down.

Secondly, the players could decided to be the Merry Men of Cappadocia. They steal from the evil and give to the good. The area where the battle took place still has many humans, now enslaved and forced to farm and labor for the enemy. They need heroes to save them! Again, this would a good episodic game. The characters would need to find a safe hide-out, gain allies, and then begin striking the enemy where it hurts. This would also lend itself to a running villain. I like boss fights at the end of a campaign. This one would require a more detailed map of the area the players will be operating in.

Next, is the Lawrence of Cappadocia option. Forget raiding, raise an army among the locals and wage guerrilla war against the oppressor! I think in this case a more constant style would work as the characters work to recruit their army from local nomads and lead them to victory. While fun sounding, this one might bog down into a wargame, and I haven't read the mass combat rules yet. But still, it would appeal to players who want to change things on a larger scale.

Then there's the "Run In The Wrong Direction" possibility. Like the first, it involves getting away from the battlefield and heading home, but in this case, the characters are forced further and further into unknown territory until they have a much longer road. I really like this concept, because it gives me a chance to really do so world building on a grand scale in a fantasy realm. Keep pushing east and you come to places like India, Southeast Asia, China, and beyond. How do you ever get home? Admittedly, this option is the hardest for me as a game master, as it would require a ton of creative work. Plus, the players have to agree to a railroad for the first couple of adventures. Still, if you like road trips. . .

I can absolutely see these ideas merging. The campaign might start off with trying to get home, then coming to the defense of a small village and sticking around to protect the locals, who eventually form the nucleus of a resistance. If that resistance is shattered, the crew might find themselves many leagues from any known landmark and hunted by an army.

All good stuff. I'd be interested in seeing what people like from these ideas.
gridlore: A Roman 20 sided die, made from green stone (Gaming - Roman d20)
I've had an idea for a D&D campaign I'd like to try out for a local group, if possible, and if not locals then on Roll20. Here's how it goes.

The Emperor had called for a great crusade to throw back the monsters pouring out of the east. Half the empire was now under darkness, as orcs roamed freely while other, more dire creatures lurked in the shadows. Leo III declared that he himself would lead the army, and what an army it was!

Every noble landholder pledged his due to the war, legions of leather clad spearmen, some on horseback, some afoot, marching alongside their lords in their fine armor and gleaming ancestral blades. Those unable to fight, or needed at home for vital business, paid for mercenaries to take their place. Fierce barbarians from the west and north, corsairs off the Middle Sea, even bands of elvish warriors fighting for their own inscrutable reasons.

The center was given to the legion of dwarfs seeking to regain their homes in the eastern mountains. They marched with grim purpose, never singing or making merry at camp. Near the Emperor were the representatives of the Gods, clerics and holy warriors bearing relics of great power. Their prayers and blessings were a constant source of strength for the ever-growing mass of troops heading east.

Even the mystics of the magical guilds agreed to participate, although everyone agreed they hadn't done it without exacting a price. Their wagons rolled along with apprentice and journeyman mages keeping anyone from annoying their masters with trivialities.

Behind this horde came the usual camp followers. Tradesmen, entertainers (or all sorts), baggage trains and engineers; all drive east with one goal in mind: liberation of the empire's rightful lands!

Leo III was a wise man, and had planned carefully. All along the route great depots had been stocked with grain and fresh water. Huge bakeries were just waiting for the word. There was no scouring of the countryside to feed the army. There was a little looting, but that was expected.

Finally, the great force reached Caesarea, the last fort held by loyal forces. Now the work began in earnest. For the next few weeks, victory would follow victory as the Army of Vengeance (as the troops had taken to calling themselves) sent the foe flying in each encounter. Leo declared that the army would take Samosata, a once great city, and winter there.

That is when disaster struck. The army was advancing on the enemy drawn up in front of the city in a howling mob of orcs and goblins. The center was led by Durgar the Ironcrown, leading his division of dwarfs with their axes gleaming. The left, mostly heavy cavlary, was lead by Constans Logios, Leo's uncle and trusted adviser. One the right flank, the honor went to Mithander the Red, an outlander mercenary general who had proven himself in many fights.

Battle was joined, and it seemed at first that the disciplined ranks of the imperial forces would once again shatter their foes. Arrows rained down on the enemy center, weakening it greatly. On the right a great melee was taking place, with the enemy being pushed back step-by-step. The Emperor Leo, observing from a captured sentry tower, saw an opening and called for the Lord Constans to charge the weakened enemy center.

Instead, betrayal! Lord Constans' horse troops wheeled from the fight and fled at a full gallop. The enemy fell on the now undefended flank with howls or murderous joy. Two dragons, before this concealed in the city ruins, flew out to add to the devastation. The imperial army dissolved in a full rout, with many thousands killed as they ran for the dubious safety of the distant mountains. What became of Leo, no one knows.


So that's the start of the campaign. The characters will be survivors of the disastrous Battle of Samosata. They'll have to work together to survive and find their way back to civilization. Or perhaps become a guerrilla force of their own against the foul evils. In case you don't know the place names I used, this battle takes place in what is now Southeast Turkey (the city ruins were flooded by a dam built in 1982.)

If you ever played Twilight:2000, you might recognize this start. I like the idea of dropping characters into a situation with no real choice but to move and stick together to survive. I'll be working on all sorts of fun distractions and side quests, but this is going to be campaign where gold is far down the list of priorities. Friendly cities and temples with be rare. Every hand against you, nowhere to hide.

I like the idea. How about the rest of you?
gridlore: The Imperial Sunburst from the Traveller role-playing game (Gaming - Sunburst)
Yesterday a man I was lucky to count as a friend and mentor passed away. I only ever met Loren Wiseman in the flesh once, and that was long before we had a professional relationship. But he was one of the architects of the role-playing games that I still love to this day, and as I told my mom on the phone, he was probably one of the guys she wanted to punch in the face when I was a teenager (I was just slightly obsessed with Traveller. Slightly.)

Ah, Traveller. When Craig came home from a local game convention with that iconic little black box and told me that he wanted to run a game for me, I was thrilled. It was the early summer of 1977. I wasn't quite 11 yet, and attention from my big brother that did not involve a pummeling was a good thing. I found out years later I was allowed to game only because his regular group wasn't interested in doing a science-fiction game.

But I rolled up a merchant named Beowulf Schaffer (yes, I was reading a lot of Larry Niven) and Craig had of course figured out a 3-D starmap based on the Known Worlds. I think that game lasted three or four sessions. But there were more to come, and eventually I rolled up the character who would stay with me for years, Captain Sir Arameth Gridlore, Master of the Free Trader Driver Carries No Cash. I played Gridlore in multiple games through the years, and I'm proud to say that the old ethically-challenged merchant has made it into several official Traveller publications.

Eventually, I had my own set of the rules, and used my weekly allowance to gather more and more Traveller stuff. This is where Loren comes back into the story. GDW, the publishers of Traveller and other fine games, started a magazine to support the game. The Journal of the Travellers Aid Society (JTAS) had short adventures, new aliens and equipment, and mostly articles that expanded the growing Third Imperium setting from a vague "there's an empire out there" to a living, breathing place. Loren was editing the magazine, and I didn't know it then, but his work honed my skills as a world builder.

Loren also was a great game designer in his own right. He did a series of war games set in Republican Rome, and was lead designer on a game called Twilight:2000. The setting of the game was central Europe in the aftermath of the Third World War and a limited nuclear exchange. The characters are soldiers in the US 5th Infantry Division who get a message from divisional command: "Good luck, you're on your own."

Needless to say this game was immensely popular at Fort Benning while I was stationed there. A game where all the officers are dead and we get all the cool stuff? Awesome! I still remember the day we were playing in the rec room at Delta, 3/7th Infantry. We had found an intact M109 self propelled artillery piece, and were having an argument over how fast it could shoot. Then we all remembered that right across from our barracks was the 2/10th Field Artillery. After confusing the staff Duty NCO, we eventually got a quick lecture on the vehicle and a spare Field Manual for it. All so we could blow up imaginary river pirates on the Vistula.

Fast forward several years. It is announced that Steve Jackson Games has gotten a license to produce a version of Traveller. Loren was going to be mostly in charge. The intial projects look great, and I'm checking the "writers wanted" section of the SJG website when I see a call for a GURPS Traveller book on the Imperial Army and Marines. With great trepidation I send in a proposed outline and writing sample. And wait. And wait. Finally, I summon the nerve to call SJG and speak to Loren, who remember is one of my idols, and ask him about it. "Oh, yeah, I'm giving you the contract." He may have said more words, but I had stopping having a functional brain.

Writing Ground Forces was a challenge. I had never tackled such a project before. Luckily, I was smart enough to ask for help from my fellow members of the Traveller Mailing List, and brave enough to pepper Loren with questions. Each one of which he answered fully. Ever written for publication? You send in your first draft and it comes back covered in red ink, possibly reeking of brimstone and charred at the edges. But mine also came with a note "You write like a pro! Fix these few problems, and we're all good!" Exactly what I needed to see.

I can never express how it felt to hold that first author's copy in my hands. It was a Traveller book with my name on it. It was a good book, and I'm proud to say that it's always been highly rated by Traveller fans. And it never would have happened without Loren Wiseman's guidance and patience. He'll be missed.
gridlore: A Roman 20 sided die, made from green stone (Gaming - Roman d20)
Today I'm boxing up all my Pathfinder RPG material for sale at Half Price Books. Because the game has become unplayable.

The problem is inflation. To keep sales up Pazio kept pushing out new books that had more races, classes, and - Gods help us - endless Feats. For those of you not up on the game, a Feat is a an ability that boosts a character in some way. Many are combat related. For example, Cleave, a fairly common low-level Feat for fighters, allows you to strike an additional foe with the same attack roll. Other magical feats allow spellcasters to customize their spell effects.

On the surface, this is a good system. It allows customizing characters to be good at their class abilities in different ways. One fighter might be a whirling dervish, slicing enemies down left and right; while his companion is a master archer, firing arrows with stunning speed and accuracy.

Where it falls apart is in the expansion books which kept adding Feats. The full list of Feats in mind-boggling. Each of these listed Feats changes the dynamics of the game, and will result in multiple dives into the rules to determine the effects, more so when the enemy is using Feats as well. This bogs down play no end.

Add in new character classes, new races, and so on, and you have a set of rules that result in more bickering around the table than actual play. So out it goes.

What Pazio forgot was that TSR's success with the D&D/AD&D line came from adventures and settings. The World of Greyhawk, Dark Sun, Spelljammer, Krynn, Hollow Earth, Mystara . . . all of these became fully realized worlds supported by well-written adventures. Each had a different flavor, so players could find the best fit for their group.

D&D5 has a much better mechanic in their branching paths for character classes. Much easier to control while still allowing for customizing characters. If Wizards of the Coast are smart, they'll produce more settings to go along with the Forgotten Realms.

I'd love to write one, actually.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Gaming - EatRads)
Yes, I'm finally going to run a game. Here's the pitch:

C’mon in! Sit down! This will just take a few minutes. First of all, I’m supposed to welcome you to the TransGalaxy family. So welcome. I hate that part, after all, you’ve already signed the contract, right? I mean, the recruiter made sure you did that first thing before sending you to me, right?. You’d be amazed how many potentials walk in here without a signed contract. Anyway, you signed, you’re part of the family. For five years, with an option to extend. Wish my marriages worked like that!

That’s a joke, son. Relax! Let me pull up your file and get you set up with a ship. Hmm. . . Kid, none of my business, and we’re happy to help folks start over, but ‘John Smith’ is hardly a good fake name to go by and. . .

Really? John Smith III is your real name? Hell, you want something better? I can set you up easy enough, I know some people. . . hey, no need to get touchy, just offering! I’m so used to new hires getting creative with their names. You caught me by surprise there. Almost refreshing not to be speaking with another “Jason Starkiller” or “Nebula Jones.”

So what do we have? Hm. Eight years in the Colonial Legion as an Assaultman, qualified on this weapons system and that instrument of destruction. . . son, you are aware we’re a shipping line, right? On-board ship security? We usually use ex-Federation security goons for those roles. Frankly, you’re more “seek and destroy” than “protect and serve,” know what I mean?
Hey, no need to look down, my boy! Know why I fly the Assignments desk? Because I have an eye for talent, for putting the right people in the right job. And you, you fine young fellow, you, are going to be a hit as a Delta Bulldog.

You don’t have a clue what I just said. OK, here’s how it breaks down: TransGalaxy is the biggest name in interstellar transport. We serve over a thousand inhabited star systems belonging to seven intelligent species besides humans, along with sanctioned contacts with the occasional intelligent machine cluster. Shipping is broken down into four basic classes.

Alpha is the top of the line, the big luxury passenger cruisers and high-end bulk transports. Those are the ones you see in the ads. Top of line everything. Crew standards are insanely high. These ships go only to systems that meet the 3S standard: settled, stable, and safe. Ever see that old series Action Aboard!? Shot on the ISCV King Richard, one of our Alpha liners. Yeah, that was a real ship.

Then you have your Beta ships. Almost as good as the Alphas, but smaller and working the areas that are still mostly safe with less-critical cargoes and passengers not needing the red carpet treatment. Crewmen on a Beta are busting their asses to get good enough evaluations to move up to Alphas. Still a good slot.

Up next are the Gammas. Gammas do the less profitable regular runs to colony worlds that are close to the fringe. Gammas also do hazardous jobs like refinery tows and the like. Work hard in the Gammas and you can go places! I myself spent almost 12 years pushing a Gamma along the edges of Stork space. Yeah, that’s where I got the artificial arms and eye.

Now you’ve been slumping down in the chair as I’ve told you this and you’re thinking “what the hell does being a Delta mean?” I’ll be honest. It’s not a glory and big tips like an Alpha, but that five year hitch will fly by because as a Bulldog, you’ll be right on the edges of known space, going to places most people have never heard of! Yes, it’s dangerous, but with great risk comes great rewards! Company bonuses aside, the, um, high rate of turnover in most crews means you could quickly find yourself captain of your own ship! Stop laughing. What was that?

Fine. Deltas tend to die a lot. Happier now? But I’m not lying about the opportunities! Now, let’s see who needs a warm body. . . Ah! The Driver Carries No Cash just docked and needs, well, a new crew. Mostly.

Mr. Smith! Pleasing stop shouting, you’ll disturb my coworkers! You signed a contract, sir, and TransGalaxy will enforce all the terms of it to the letter! I can assure you that the ship’s artificial intelligence was purged after the incident you are referring to, and we’ve had no trouble since then. What happened this time? Let me see here. Huh, that’s a new one. Cargo escaped and ate most of the crew. Odd, since it was hauling mineral samples. But you see why this is the job for you, right? Had you been there, your combat skills would have come in handy, yes? We call these ships and their crews Bulldogs because they might be ugly, but they never give up! Docking Bay C-54, Bulldog Smith, your captain is waiting for you. Good luck! Our security team will help you find your way and see you safely aboard.

Oh, on your way out, could you send the next prospect in? It’s a busy day.

Bulldogs is a space opera game of blasters and swashbuckling, as the crew of a tramp freighter tries to make a credit her and there working on the bottom of the food chain. TransGalaxy isn't picky about the crews they hire for their Deltas, so long as you have pulse (or function power plant, or ichor ducts, or whatever) and are not actively being chased by the cops when you sign up, TG will take you. Because odds are you'll be dead before they pay out the end of contract bonus.

Obviously, this will be a game with a humorous bent. Think Quark, Red Dwarf, Buck Godot. We will be using the FATE system which you can find here for free and playing on Roll20. You'll need to be able to log in with a sound device, and a camera would be nice. I may ask for donations to my account to help me buy the cool things to make the Roll20 experience better.

I plan on having session twice a month, 4-6 hours. Days and times are open for negotiation. We will need to meet for a character creation session as it's a cooperative thing in FATE. Looking for 4-5 players, and I'm pretty sure one slot is already filled (Hi Logic!) Hopefully we'll get this rolling in early November.

Questions? Answers? I'd like to keep them in one place, so no matter where you read this if you could leave a comment on my Dreamwidth that's be great. I do allow anonymous commenting, just sign your posts.
gridlore: A Roman 20 sided die, made from green stone (Gaming - Roman d20)
Recently I found a couple of opportunities to get back into gaming. Both involved the latest version of the granddaddy of all RPGs, Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition.

I picked up the Players Handbook, and I'll admit I was a little skeptical. D&D has been in a decline since the second edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, and things got really bad with the 4th edition.

Which seems to be a cursed number. I can think of several games that had terrible fourth editions.

But I am pleasantly surprised. D&D5e is a very good game. The base mechanic is a simple target number. Roll a d20 and add modifiers to hit a set target number. The modifiers come from either one of the six characteristics, or from having a proficiency from your race or class, or having a skill. Each character class has a proficiency bonus listed for each experience level, which makes things much easier to keep track of.

One mechanic I really like is the Advantage/Disadvantage rule. Various circumstances can give you an advantage or disadvantage. For example, if your opponent in a fight is Stunned, you have an advantage on on your attack. If you are prone, you are disadvantaged when you make an attack. This is simply rolling two d20s when making the attack or skill check, and taking the higher (advantage) or lower (disadvantage) roll. Simple, quick, and another reason to hate your dice.

The classic races, Human, Elf, Dwarf, and Halfling are hear, with more uncommon choices (Half Elfs and Orcs, Gnomes, Dragonborn, and Tieflings) in a separate section. Each race has descriptive text, game stats, and a few sub-races, like High Elves, Wood Elves, and the Drow. More choices are a good thing, and this can be easily expanded.

Character classes are excellent, with the traditional list of types. A new feature is choosing a path at third level that allows more specialization. A fighter, for example, can be a Champion, who focuses on his physical might; a Battle Master, who depends on tactical skill and mastery of his weapons; or an Eldritch Knight, a potent warrior who can also use magic. All classes have these branches which allows the player to make their character more to their liking as they go. Again, this is a feature that can be expanded without breaking the game. I've already seen several sites with expanded Archetypes.

But what really excited me was the section on Backgrounds. These adventurers had lives before the game starts, and this not only adds to the characters' abilities, it is a great tool for coming up with compelling story lines. The backgrounds listed are:

Acolyte - You spent much of your youth in a temple or monastery.
Charlatan - You excel at charming people and getting them to trust you.
Criminal - Your history is one spent breaking the law.
Entertainer - You grew up in a family that entertained others. Players, a circus, something.
Folk Hero - From humble beginnings you've become a local legend.
Guild Artisan - You come from a guild family, and were apprenticed yourself.
Hermit - You spent much of your youth isolated by choice.
Noble - From one of the great families you come, accustomed to deference and obedience.
Outlander - You hail from a remote region, far from things like cities and nobles.
Sage - You've spent most of your life in study.
Sailor - Most of your life has been spent under sail.
Soldier - You served in an army in battle.
Urchin - Born in the gutters, your only family your fellow urban poor.

It's easy to min-max these choices, giving you Fighter the Soldier background, for example. But I prefer to get creative.

Rouge - Soldier. Dragooned into the Army, this guy deserted during battle, and ran for his life. He began stealing to survive, and found he was good at it.

Barbarian - Urchin. Growing up unwanted and unloved in the alleyways of the Great City, this feral child depended on her anger to survive. Soon, even the toughest gangs feared her rage.

Monk - Sailor. Though rarely seen, the House of the Endless Water roams the oceans of the world, a huge monastery that rarely docks. The select few accepted on board are trained in the traditional martial arts, and practice in the rigging!

See what I mean?

Really like this game. Can't wait to play.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Gaming - EatRads)
The First Diaspora was commercial, when we spread through the solar system to exploit asteroids and gas giants. We learned that space was dangerous, and ready to kill us in many ways. The new breed of colonists grew strong and prospered.

The Second Diaspora was cultural, after we were contacted by an IRSOL Star City and given the hyperdrive. Suddenly the stars were open to us, and any culture or sect that wanted freedom embarked on massive transports and headed to new worlds. We learned that we were not alone, and that we'd often have to fight for our survival. These colonists adapted to their new homes, many changing their very DNA to fit in.

The Third Diaspora was one of survival. During the madness of the Purity Wars, an ancient gateway was discovered in Sol's Kuiper Belt. The Resistance set up an underground railroad, using any ship they could get their hands on the funnel dissidents and and the dispossessed through the gate. In the end, millions were saved and sent to a cluster near the North America Nebula, 1,600 light years from home. But then disaster struck. A Pure Earth raid on the gateway destroyed it.

We were marooned. Years from the Terran Federation with no way of knowing a safe route back.

So we settled in. Explored. Expanded. Settled and built. But fearing the return of tyranny, each world remained independent. We traded, debated, and prospered. Until the Korellians found us. In less than 14 kilo-hours, we were defeated and enslaved.

That was a century ago. We've learned. We've organized. Quietly, the worlds of the North America Cluster have formed a united government, the Confederate Systems Alliance, and have spent two decades carefully assembling the means of rebellion.

Recently something has distracted the Korellians. Fewer Battle Fleets patrol our space and the quality of Imperial Legions garrisoned on our worlds has dropped. Rumors come to us that the Empire has found itself locked in a bloody war with an implacable enemy. Our time has come.

But before we can light the fuse and bring the fight into the open, there is much to be done. Sabotage, assassinations, smuggling, subversion, intelligence gathering. All vital steps on our path to freedom.

Are you up to the task?

Divided, We Fell. United We Rise. The war starts in 35 kilo-hours!
gridlore: A Roman 20 sided die, made from green stone (Gaming - Roman d20)
I'm currently reading The Alexiad, written by Anna Komnene. She was the daughter of Alexios I Komnenos, Emperor of Rome from 1081 to 1118. The book is a fascinating look at one of the more interesting Byzantine emperors from an inside perspective. Anna herself is an interesting figure.

You also have the fact that this book was written in the middle of the 12th century, which flavors the views of the author. Anna, despite being a highly-educated woman and possessing a healthy dose of skepticism about prophecy and astrology, accepts religious miracles as fact. Which leads to one of the best ideas for a RPG dungeon crawl I've ever seen.

Book I of the Alexiad concerns the rebellion against Nikephoros III Botaneiates that brought Alexios to the throne. Nikephoros Melissenos, a brilliant general, was also marching on Constantinople. The two forces were exchanging letters trying to broker as deal. Here's the relevant passage:

Adventure seed

A tomb that seeps oil that cures all manners of things.

OK, let's make this an interesting Place of Mystery. The Temple honoring Demetrios is is fairly remote. The Church of the Healing God used to holy oil not only to effect cures at the hospital built there, but to manufacture heal potions that were a nice money maker for the order. People who made the pilgrimage to the temple also tended to leave generous offerings.

This will be a large complex. Aside from the actual temple and hospital, you'll have a religious school, a caravanserai, quarters for the priests and craftspeople, satellite temples, a tomb complex for the notable priests, storehouses, and a complex where the holy oil was turned into potions. Put the actual temple up against a bluff, that was it can be built into the cliff side. There will also be several agricultural villages nearby to provide the complex with food.

The actual tomb of Demetrios is inside the bluff, in a stone sarcophagus carved out of the rock. The oil that seeps out is collected in a series of drains, which takes to a collecting and barreling room on a lower lever. That space will be connected to a surface room by an elevator. Workers collect the oil, move it to the elevator, which takes it to the workshops mentioned above. The entrance to the tomb is behind a secret door in the temple. The workman's entrance to the collection room is more obvious and outside the temple proper.

Now, the who thing was overrun by barbarians, orcs, Perfidious Genoans. . . whatever baddies you want who would attack, loot what they could find, and move on. Dumb is better, as they wouldn't stop to figure out things like secret doors and the like. The Church of the Healing God knows that the odds of that areas being secured anytime soon is slight. So they have another plan: Get the body.

Here's the scenario. The Church needs a party of experienced adventurers to lead a high-ranking priest and several acolytes to the temple. Once there, the priest will oversee the ritual of removing the body from the tomb. If the body is touched by anyone who is unclean, the body rots away. Also, the Church wants as much oil as can be loaded onto a wagon or two. In return, the party can keep 90% of what they find (the person making the offer will mention that there is a large treasuty somewhere near the altar) and receive free healing for life from the temple. Raise Dead will still cost the usual fee.

There's always a catch. The priest is not an adventurer. He's spent his whole life in temples and the church bureaucracy. All the church people are dedicated pacifists and sworn to heal all who need it. Including monsters. The priest can be just naive about the realities of the world or an arrogant buffoon. They all know a few healing spells, and are great at first aid, but utterly useless in a fight.

Finally, there is something living in the oil collection chamber. Pick any appropriate monster, but living ankle deep in miracle healing oil has changing it. Whatever it is, it is a huge version of the monster, with a regeneration ability that would make a troll jealous. And it's addicted to the oil, and would not appreciate any attempt to remove any of the barrels, or the removal of the saint's body. Oh, and the oil is highly flammable.

For Pathfinder, party level should be around 7 with one person having the Leadership feat. Having loyal retainers to guard the horses would be ideal. Killing the priest is a decidedly evil act, and the Gods will notice.

So, what do y'all think?

gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Goth)
Thanks to Tod Glenn, everyone favorite gun-toting liberal (he'll shoot you, but then he'll explore his feelings about it.) I now own an Xbox 360. After some fiddling and fjording, we have it hooked up and running. I bought a used copy of Madden 15.

Wow. The graphics are amazing. The players look like people, they move fluidly, and the action is smooth. Little details, like rain drops on camera lenses and grass being torn up when players hit the turf. You really feel like you are watching a game.

Game play has been greatly speeded up. Play selection is much faster, and presnap options come up with one button. When passing, the receivers' icons are faded out until they are open and ready for the pass. Most play combinations are ergonomic, not forcing you too overuse one hand. It will take a lot of practice, but I do have time.

One of my real loves is engaging in the Walter Mitty fanatasy where I'm a NFL player. Back in the old version, creating and progressing a player was dull as dirt. You hade to buy all your stats, then engage in endless preseason drills and practices. It really derailed the fun of the game. Now, you make far fewer choices. You choose where you went in the draft; high, low, or undrafted. Each affects your stats and team expectations. Next, you chose what kind of player you want to be. For example, you could be a power back, fast defensive end, or, as I chose, a West Coast quarterback.

After this, rather than waiting to be drafted, you scroll through all 30 teams and see where you would fit on their depth chart. As a rookie QB, most teams would have me standing on the sidelines holding a clipboard all season. But the Oakland Raiders.. well, they need a quarterback.

So we have Douglas Berry, a 21-year old rookie out of Harvard. 6'4", 225lbs. Looks at acts like a biker with a Harvard accent. Revels in his image as an uncouth barbarian. When asked about entering the draft he told reporters "I thought about Harvard Divinity School, but I'm already a God, so I chose the NFL."

Since most teams don't alow their players to ride motorcycles, he bought a classic hearse, had a Oakland hotrod shop go to town on it, and shows up for home games with a casket in the back. The casket is draped in the opposing team's colors. The Black Hole loves him.

As players progress, they earn experience points that can be used to raise stats and buy talents that affect gameplay. A good example for a QB is Throw Away. Having this lets the AI decide to throw the ball out of bounds if you have no one open and are close to getting sacked.

Great game play, amazing graphics, a whole lot of fun.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Me - Glare of Sarcasm)

  • My apologies for mostly vanishing over the last week or so.

  • The letter from the government telling me that I can work again and all my benefits were going away just kicked my butt.

  • I was seriously non-functional for eight hours after reading that, and barely able to operate as an adult for the rest of the week.

  • But things have been done.

  • We filed all the paperwork for a reconsideration.

  • We've contacted a legal group for assistance.

  • We've spoken with my doctor.

  • Which also led to another melt-down when it turned out that none of my referrals had gone through.

  • Which should be fixed now.

  • But we did enjoy FogCon.

  • Remember FogCon? We went to FogCon before all this started.

  • Nice, relaxing event.

  • I got the entire Mars series autographed by Kim Stanley Robinson.

  • The non-awards banquet was good.

  • Saw some old friends we haven't encountered in too long.

  • Next up, BayCon, where I will be a panelist.

  • We've learned that we need to get a room on site so I can retreat and rest.

  • This drama has also played merry hell with my workout schedule.

  • I either forget to go to the Y, or am too stressed to go.

  • That changes now.

  • The YMCA is now on my calender. Three visits a week minimum. Monday night aqua-aerobics with [personal profile] kshandra.

  • The change in my energy level since I started working out has been amazing.

  • My writing continues to improve gradually.

  • Working on a couple of things I might submit for publication.

  • The writing group I attend through Santa Clara Adult Ed has been amazingly helpful.

  • I'll probably self-publish my novel through Amazon, just so I can saw I wrote a novel.

  • Y'all are buying it. yes?

  • Still want to get back into gaming.

  • Thought I had a couple of leads on a group, but they fell through.

  • Anybody interested in a regular gaming night in the South Bay?

  • 20 days to Opening Day for your 2014 World Series Champion San Francisco Giants!

  • Who have the Best Commercial Ever.


gridlore: The Imperial Sunburst from the Traveller role-playing game (Gaming - Sunburst)
And I'm going to be using FATE. Which you can find here

The important thing about FATE is it is really a role-play system as opposed to a stat-driven game. Pathfinder, for example, is driven by numbers. Characteristics, saving throws, hit points, etc. In FATE, you don't have those. You don't even have characteristics. Instead, a FATE character is defined by Aspects; the traits and background that define him/her/it. The key to an aspect is that it should both define the character and drive plots for both good and bad.

As an example, I'll build my oldest and most beloved character, Sir Arameth Gridlore, free trader and ethically challenged merchant, in FATE. When I first rolled him him many years ago for a Traveller game, he had low strength and endurance, decent dexterity and high intelligence and education. Since I was a rabid Larry Niven fan, I saw him as being like Beowulf Shaffer: tall, reedy, and not one for physical violence.

Let's translate that into FATE.

First we need to define the High Concept. This is the elevator pitch for the character, one line that defines him.

Canny Free Trader Captain. OK, this is good. It establishes what he does and that he's quick-witted.

Next, we need a Problem. The push that explains why the character is safe at home. In Traveller, Free Traders face nigh-impossible financial burdens, which require them to take the more interesting jobs. So,

One step ahead of the bank. Captain Gridlore lives on the financial edge, and owes a lot of money to various creditors. Of course, he might be offered the occasional job to clear a debt, but it will be tricky . . .

Now we can pick some other attributes to further define the character. The rulebook strongly suggests that this should be done as a group so your story aspects explain why the party is together. I'm going to skip that and just use three Aspects that really fill out Gridlore.

Born and bred spacer. Arameth Gridlore was born and spent most of his life in microgravity, living in various stations and ships. On the positive side, he won't suffer penalties for zero-G, knows ship/station protocols by heart, and can reasonably be considered to be familiar with any common equipment used in space. On the downside; he's agoraphobic and a neat freak. clutter and dirt can kill you in a ship, so he really doesn't deal well with them anywhere. He also has the build I describe above. He is not a prime physical specimen.

The Imperial Court knows my name. Due to some past exploits, Sir Arameth is known to various people in powerful offices. Again, this is a two-edged sword; he can get some favors and name drop to get out of trouble, but those friends will come to him with missions that he can't deny. He also has enemies at court, some of whom want him dead.

I've made some modifications . . . Gridlore's ship, the Driver Carries No Cash, has been extensively modified using black market parts and some alien tech. The upside is the ship can do surprising things. The downside is things sometimes stop working for no reason.

Now we pick Stunts. These are personal shticks that affect the flow of game play. I get three free. Taking more reduce the rate at which you regenerate Fate Points.

Been there. I can spend a Fate Point to remember a fact about a place.

Space-based MacGyver. I can spend a Fate Point to jury-rig equipment used on spacecraft and stations.

Now how much would you pay? When using the Rapport skill in a trading or bartering situation I can spend a Fate Point to get a +2 boost to my skill.

Now skills.

Great (+4) Starship Operations (I figured this was a catch all for someone who lives on a ship. He can do all the jobs and minor repairs, but lacks the in depth knowledge of an engineer.)
Good (+3) Rapport
Good (+3) Will
Fair (+2) Contacts
Fair (+2) Lore
Fair (+2) Shoot
Average (+1) Drive
Average (+1) Notice
Average (+1) Resources
Average (+1) Stealth

And there you go.
gridlore: A Roman 20 sided die, made from green stone (Gaming - Roman d20)
Once more into the breech.

I'd really like to get into a regular gaming situation again in the new year. I don't mind GMing. My preferred systems are Pathfinder and Fate, with GURPS a close third.

If you are local to the SF Bay Area in general, and the South Bay in particular, and would like to get together for a game that meets at least monthly, let me know.

Our place is totally unsuited for hosting people, so we'd either play at a store (Game Kastle or Games of Berkeley) or at someone's home. If you'd be willing to0 host, please let me know.

I tend to go more for role-play than hack and slash. I like long plots, sinister villains, and lots of laughter at my table. I cheerfully accept bribes.

In extremis we might be able to offer crash space to one or two people occasionally.

Again, this is for a face-to-face, ongoing, local gaming group. I have no problem with occasional diversion into board games or watching bad movies. I see gaming as a social thing first.

Let me know your preferred genres, and how many people you bring to the table. I'd prefer 4-5 folks as that's a good sized group.
gridlore: A Roman 20 sided die, made from green stone (Gaming - Roman d20)
Anyone, and I mean anyone, interested in gaming with me go here: and download Fate. Feel free to throw some money at them.

I'm posting this bloody everywhere, so I hope to have some sort of gaming group in the near future.

Let me know in the comments what genres and styles interest you.

Need I say that this is so I can set up a face-to-face regular session so I can have some semblance of a social life? I spend all day in front of the computer already. I am not interested in on-line gaming at this point.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
Ladies, Gentlemen, Others.. I need to start gaming again. I have all the time in the world, I can get around, and I want to run awesome games for you.

So with that in mind, a poll. Note, this for people who like to engage in face to face, tabletop, gaming somewhere in the Greater San Francisco Bay Area.

Poll #15263 It's game time!
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 3

Which system would you prefer?

View Answers

0 (0.0%)

Ars Magica 5th Edition
0 (0.0%)

0 (0.0%)

GURPS 4th Edition
1 (33.3%)

Dark Heresy
0 (0.0%)

Some form of Traveller
2 (66.7%)

What setting/genre would you like?

View Answers

High Fantasy (Lord of the Rings)
1 (33.3%)

Low Fantasy (A Song of Ice and Fire)
1 (33.3%)

Dark Fantasy (Once Upon A Time)
1 (33.3%)

Hard Science Fiction (Babylon 5)
1 (33.3%)

Space Opera (Star Wars)
2 (66.7%)

Cyberpunk (Blade Runner)
2 (66.7%)

Eldritch Horror (The Star Wars Holiday Special)
1 (33.3%)

Cosmic Heroes (Superman)
0 (0.0%)

Gritty Heroes (The Punisher)
0 (0.0%)

Something else
0 (0.0%)

What makes the game fun?

View Answers

1 (33.3%)

1 (33.3%)

2 (66.7%)

Character Development!
2 (66.7%)

Quoting Monty Python, Firefly, or Blazing Saddles!
2 (66.7%)

Throwing things at Doug!
1 (33.3%)

How many times a month would you like to meet up?

View Answers

1 (33.3%)

2 (66.7%)

0 (0.0%)

0 (0.0%)

Would you be willing to DM?

View Answers

0 (0.0%)

2 (66.7%)

Every so often
1 (33.3%)

gridlore: The Imperial Sunburst from the Traveller role-playing game (Gaming - Sunburst)
Finally was inspired enough to start my first world write up for the book. 1500 words, and the draft is up for peer review.

I rewarded myself with a game of Civilization, which went badly. But given the date, I really want a copy of Sid Meier's Gettysburg. Be a good week to refight the battle with different levels of difficulty and tactics. Need to see if I can find a copy that will work on our box.

In other news, The South Bay has become close, close friends with the sun. 93° here in Santa Clara and climbing. About to take an ice-cold shower.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Goth)
Finally managed to get a Conquest victory in Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword. The key is you have to disable all other possible victories.

Chieftain difficulty, Tectonics map, Ancient start, Epic speed. Here's the starting map:


I'm the purple dot at top left. Augustus Caesar of Rome. My victims fellow leaders are were:

  • Ramses II of Egypt. (yellow) Civilization destroyed in 3775 BCE. My initial Warrior found his border after only about six turns. I gambled that his Warrior was out scouting, and attacked. I razed Thebes and left the ruins as a warning to others. Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!

  • Mansa Musa of the Malinese. (light brown) I quickly expanded east to hem Mansa Musa in. He's dangerous if allowed to expand. I waited until I had access to Iron, built a good sized army of Praetorians, and rolled in on his three cities. Finished the job in 595 CE.

  • Huayna Capac of the Incans. (yellow-orange) He annoyed me and was sitting on resources I needed. Plus I had this big, well-trained army just sitting there? Last city falls under the heels of my Macemen in 1150 CE.

At this point I took a breather, both the rebuild my forces and let my War Weariness drop. Also took the chance to work on all those non-military projects I had been neglecting. Built a ton of forums, temples, libraries, and courthouses. But then it was time for a grudge match:

  • Justinian of Byzantium. (gray) Look, bub, there's only room for one Roman Empire on this planet, and it's not going to be you, got it? My investments in research were paying off, for I had Riflemen and was close to getting cannon while most of my rivals were still in the swords and bows era.. The only surprise was that before I finally took his final few cities, Justinian went crying to the Ethiopians for help. Two front war? No problem! Dispatched the last Byzantine in 1605 CE.

  • Zara Yaqob of the Ethiopian Empire (green) went down with a whimper. I had destroyed what amounted to about 2/3rds of the combat power in a single battle when my army moving south from Constantinople ran into his invading force. After that it was just a matter of taking the cities one by one, while my Cavalry harassed and captured Workers and destroyed resources points. Ceased to be a problem in 1720 CE.

  • Which left Boudica of the Celtic Empire. (tan) Again, I held back until I could upgrade my force to Infantry, Artillery, and the first few Tanks. Also took time to colonize that minor continent and collection of islands to the right of the map. When the hammer fell, it was a three pronged invasion. She had no real defense, and my Bellumfulgur attack quickly ended all resistance.

As of 1856 CE ( 2509 AUC) the world is Roman! Rejoice!

I also finally got to see this victory video )
gridlore: A Roman 20 sided die, made from green stone (Gaming - Roman d20)
I know, I know.. Doug's back on his peculiar obsession about religion in FRPGS. I can't help it, because the more history you read the more you see the religion and religious organizations are some of the prime movers of big events. And a good RPG campaign should take place in a time of big, world-shaking events when a band of scruffy tomb robbers can rise to change the course of history (or rob bigger and better tombs. Your mileage may vary.)

As I've said before I've never been fully satisfied with clerics in most RPGs. Aside from picking some deity to follow, there was nothing really "religious" about them. There was some implied church structure, and D&D3/Pathfinder made things much better with the addition of clerical domains, so priests of different gods and different advantages, but there was still nothing to make a cleric much more than a fighter/mage with a lot of healing spells.

Why this drives me nuts is that, done right, a religion could be the focus of the campaign. Medieval churches were constantly meddling in national affairs, traveling to barbarous lands to convert the heathen, and engaging in feverish races to retrieve holy artifacts and relics from pagan lands and rival churches/cities. So why not in a FRPG? This works exceptionally well if you make the assumption that a deity's temporal power is linked to his worshipers and churches. The Sun God needs converts and new churches built! Go out there and smite the unclean, convert the innocent, and build me a cathedral! Add in purely mortal bickering over petty points of interpretation of holy writ, minor heresies, and the occasional cabal of demon-worshipers, and you have years of material waiting to be gamed out.

This is also a boon for party design. Let's start with a paladin. He's been charged with finding and recovering the remain of St. Fred. Traveling with him are his confessor from the Ordo Militant (a cleric) two lay fighters of the Order (fighters), an arcane mage who has sworn to the order (sorcerer or wizard) and finally a young ne'er-do-well who pledged to aid the paladin in exchange for not having his hands chopped off for thievery (a rogue). The party has a long-term goal that can lead to innumerable adventures along the way.

This would really well in my campaign setting where the Islamic expansion of the 8-10th centuries is replaced by waves of humanoids boiling out of Arabia. In our world the Arabs and Turkomen were more than willing to trade, exchange ideas, and coexist in peace between the numerous wars. In this setting, the Holy Lands are crawling with monsters, and Constantinople itself may be threatened.

For this to work, you'd need a good basic idea of how the church in question functions and what the rules are for those in its service. Subject of the next post.
gridlore: A Roman 20 sided die, made from green stone (Gaming - Roman d20)
I was just reading a story about how 3-D printers are becoming far more common and coming down in price to the point where they might be household items in a few years, and my first thought was "this is going to make custom miniatures for RPGs incredibly easy to make."

Think about it, fellow gamers. How often did you search for just the right figure? You needed a left-handed ranger with a sun-pattern shield. You settled for that right-handed dude in a cloak, and carefully sawed and glued bits to make him look sort-of right. But now? Now, given the right pattern making program, you can build your figure. Better yet, you can easily update your figure as the character advances. Pick up a +4 scimitar with awesome fire powers, but your figure is holding a long sword? Chuck that one in the recycle bin and build yourself a new one! Need an army of hobgoblins wield spears and roundsheilds, wearing conical helms? The first fifty will be done in 20 minutes.

Painting is still an issue, but from what I see the next generation of printers will include color options, so you can at least get the gross colors right.

It's a brave new world of geekdom.

In other news, I've picked up a stomach bug and am currently busy dying.
gridlore: Gold football helmet with red 49ers logo (Football - 49ers helmet)
in an alternate universe.

Back playing Madden 2011 again. I have a very successful franchise, but need more cash so I can build a new stadium without moving the team. To that end, after my 34-14 victory over the Ravens, I made some moves.

I went through my roster and looked for places to cut. Under performing and overpaid veterans, mostly, who were blocking the advancement of promising rookies, mainly. I put them on the trading block with a lower-round draft pick, and asked for a higher round pick. Cleared close to $30 million off my payroll, and now have two picks in each of the first three rounds of next year's draft. I'm starting tomplan for the retirement of some of my more valuable veterans.

Seriously, I think I enjoy running the front office more than I enjoy playing football in this game.


gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)

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