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: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
Getting away from the book setting for a day, because something has come up that has me both amused and perplexed, and no it's not the water levels in Coyote Creek. It's how some people, how have been gaming for as long as I have, seem to shudder in terror when confronted with a game like FATE. Which, sadly for everyone, has become my favorite system.

The annoying thing is FATE is so bloody simple! To illustrate this, I'm going to generate character right here before your eyes! No dice, no calculator, just fleshing out a character concept. I'll wait while several of you finish swooning? Better? Then here we go!

The first thing the understand is the concept of Fate Points. Everyone has a small stash of these, including the Game Master. They are used to invoke Aspects. Everything has Aspects. Characters, places, monsters . . . they are details that can be used to further the story and to create advantages or disadvantages. As an example, the old warehouse the characters are searching might be *poorly lit* and an *utter firetrap* fill with *dozens of old crates and shipping containers.* Everything inside the asterisks are Aspects. If you wanted to hide from the bad guys following you you could invoke *poorly lit* by spending a Fate Point and get a bonus on your roll not to be noticed. Conversely, a player could invoke the *firetrap* aspect as a negative to get a Fate Point when he announces that his blaster shot as set the place on fire. Got it?

OK, making a character. First thing is your high concept. This is who the character is. Noble Knight of the Realm, Handsome Starship Captain, Secret Mage in the Big Modern City. An Aspect should be able to be invoked in both positive and negative ways.

For my guys, I'm going with Notorious, Allegedly Reformed, Smuggler. That can brought into play in many ways. So there's my big concept.

Next comes your Trouble. This is a flaw that is persistent. Ideally it should be something that would be difficult to get rid off. For my smuggler, he's a bit proud, and Has A Hard Time Resisting A Challenge. This can get him in trouble any number of ways.

After that, we have what's called "The Phase Trio." Three additional aspects that are ideally developed in consultation with the GM and the other players. This is where you build the story of why the group is together. Lacking other people, I'll wing it.

OK, first is "Entangled With the Thousand Suns Tong." My character is caught in a complex web of favors owed and obligations with an interstellar crime cartel.

Next, he is "Always Looking Out For (Character)", a long time shipmate and the one who usually gets the short end of the stick.

Finally I want him to have a nemesis, but phrased in a way that can be a positive. "Enemies At Court" means I've ticked off at least one powerful faction or family, but that group's rivals can sometimes be counted on to come to my aid.

So far, I'm liking this guy. On to skills! Skills are done in a pyramid, and the best way is to just show you.

+4 Pilot
+3 Contacts, Rapport
+2 Deceive, Notice, Resources
+1 Fight, Investigate, Lore, Shoot.

FATE uses dice with two sides showing a +, two sides with a blank face, and the other two showing a -. You roll four dice, and look to exceed a difficulty level, adding any skill modifiers. Simple!

Finally, I get three to five Stunts. Stunts change how skills work for the character. Sometimes, a Stunt will cost a Fate Point. Taking more than three Stunts lowers the rate at which you get Fate Points back. I'll stick with three.

"Who Can Resist That Smile?" When using social skills on receptive members of the opposite sex, I get a +2.

"Physics, Shmisics, I'm Flying Here!" by spending a Fate Point when piloting a ship, I can get away with seemingly impossible things.

"I Ain't Going To Hit You, OK, I'm Going to Hit You." by spending a Fate Point when throwing the first punch in a fight, I render the target unconscious if it was possible for me to damage him. (This trick would not work on a person in a hard helmeted vacuum suit, for example.)

So there you have it. I could go on a detail the aspects of my smuggler's ship, but I think y'all get the point. FATE is not a scary system, just different.
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: A Roman 20 sided die, made from green stone (Gaming - Roman d20)
This is the background story for my latest Dungeons & Dragons character. He is a Warlock, which is a magic-using character who gets his powers from a pact with a powerful eldritch entity that isn’t a god: A powerful fairy, a Lord of Hell, or something from a far plane of reality. All places are fictional, and taken from the Forgotten Realms setting.

It's also a bit of an experiment in writing style, going from 3rd to 1st person in telling the story.

Contracts Under Pressure )

And since I'm addicted to in-jokes, the characters full name is Porte u'Marinaio. Which is Corsican for Popeye the Sailor.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Gaming - EatRads)
Hi everyone. My is Doug, and I'm a Gearhead.

Hi Doug.

For those of you not familiar with the term in relation to role-playing games, a gearhead is some one who obsesses over designing all aspects of whatever fantastic realm the game take place in. In moderation, as with all things, gearheading can add depth to the game setting and to the enjoyment of the game. But fall into the Stygian depths of design sequences and scientific calculators, as I did, and you'll hit rock bottom.

Which, bearing a gearhead, means you've calculated the exact velocity of the fall and how much damage you'll take based on whether the rock is sedimentary or igneous.

As with so many things I blame my elder sibling. For it was that worthy who introduced me to role playing in 1977 with Traveller. As a 10-year old science-fiction addict, being able to play out the adventures was simply the best thing since the invention of the taco, as far as I was concerned. Soon after I begin playing, I had acquired my own copy of the rules and I started building my own clusters of inhabited star systems.

Now Traveller uses a one-line strong of characters to describe worlds. For example:

Arteaga B-57399A-B In )

That's what I got out of one line. But soon, people began demanding more. In Traveller's case, information on the number of gas giants and asteroid belts in the system, as well as on the local star was added. But still people wanted more detail. We began getting rules on figuring the exact length of the day and year, and how warm it was on the surface. Every one of those single-digit descriptors were expanded into their own lines of data.

And nobody cared! I've never met a single gamer who made use of all the crap these systems dumped on us. Players in any SF RPG don't want to get a BBC nature documentary. They want things that are relevant to the game at hand. A few notes on local color will get you through.

Things were worse when it came to equipment in games. The oft-mocked AD&D supplement Unearthed Arcana had pages devoted to all the different types of polearms used back when long-pointy sticks were the thing on battlefields. It was worse on the SF side.

For a time, "toolkits" were all the rage in gaming. It boiled down to companies saying "rather than paying people to design the Complete Book of Toys, were giving you the tools to do the work yourself." On the surface, a good idea.

Until you get into a book like Fire, Fusion, & Steel (FFS). This was supposed to be, in both its editions, the toolkit to end all toolkits. And like any good slavering gearhead, I dove right in. Then bounced off the math. I'm not good at math. But Texas Instruments and spreadsheet writers had my back, and reached the waking-up-in-an-alley-wearing-someone-else's-shoes nadir of my gearheading.

There was a book being written by a couple of Traveller Mailing List's stalwarts. Imperial Squadrons was the name. I was tapped to design four ships for the early Imperial Navy. I dove right in. Friends, these were not going to be easy designs. The largest of these ships, the Coronation-class Dreadnaught, was a kilometer long and had a crew of thousands. And I designed it down to the last kiloliter of space. In a ship that massed more than all the US Navy's aircraft carriers combined, I stressed over a space not much bigger than a bathroom stall.

But dear God, those designs freaking sang! I knew every inch of those ships. They were, to my mind, the ultimate expression of what you could do with FFS! Then the book came out; and my designs were gone. Oh, they kept the write ups, but the glorious details? Reduced to a useless "combat card." I was actually devastated.

But that's where I realized that all this detailing is pointless! All players care about with their ships is how they perform and what's in them in the most general sense. Why bother with details that no one is ever going to use?

The last design work I did for an RPG book was the equipment chapter in GURPS Traveller: Ground Forces. Christopher Thrash did the design chapter, as i recall, I built the stuff. And for that, close was good enough. I was more about usable in a game than trying to be a defense contractor.

Now I've gone all the way in the other direction. My preferred gaming system this dates is FATE, which is as far from gearheading as you can get.

To be clear, I'm not saying devoting time and energy to building worlds is wasted. Just know when to stop and understand what is going to be important to the story you are building.

Besides, there's always time to go back and expand a little.
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: The Imperial Sunburst from the Traveller role-playing game (Gaming - Sunburst)
At this point in history, as we approach Traveller’s 40th birthday, it is time to reassess the classic setting, the Third Imperium of Man. From it’s birth in vague references in Mercenary and High Guard, the 3I has grown mightily over the years.


The problem is it was never really designed. Dozens of authors working for different companies added pieces here and there. Oh there was the Moot, and we knew about the Imperial Armed Forces, but it stopped there. It was the broadest brushstroke of a setting. Which suited me when I was 13 years old.


I’m a bit older now.


So, I’m going to rip the Third Imperium to pieces and rebuild it. Comments welcome.


What is the Imperium?


11,000 worlds, the vast majority self ruling is the quick answer. Ruled by an Emperor and his loyal nobles. But most of the nobles seem to have no real power over these independent worlds. So what gives?


My answer is that the Imperium is, in a very real sense, the Imperial Navy. It’s the navy that keeps the peace, polices the “space between the stars” and has the best equipped troops in known space ready for action. The Imperium is a military state with civilian oversight.


But what is the Imperium? Born out of the ashes of the Long Night, Cleon I realized that what doomed interstellar civilization was the end of trade. The new empire was built on three concepts:

1. A universally accepted currency
2. A universally used calendar
3. Near universal freedom of trade


Using these three principles, the state grew quickly. (As an aside, the one thing I hated about 4th edition more than anything else was the Core Sector was filled with inhabited worlds. It should have been one desolate, ruined world after the other.) This would have been the glory days of the Scouts Service, who cemented their role as the more subtle option when compared to the navy’s hammer. Early merchant princes also struck out, using the promise of free trade to sign deals. It was a golden age.


And it established how the Imperium would run for the next thousand years. The Navy everywhere; gaining more power.
The Nobility.


One thing that always bothered me (once I started reading history, that is) was the neat pyramid of Traveller nobles. Everyone in their little slot. The reality is much different. So I’m scraping the nobility for the most part.


In the Imperium the only rank that really matters is Count-Elector. These counts replace subsector dukes, and they are the members of the Moot. They are the meat of the Imperium’s administration, as they control far more manageable areas of space. The local fleet admiral answers to them and the Sector Admiral. They control the local Unified Army, and oversee a vast bureaucracy dedicated to making sure that taxes and levied and apportioned correctly. The Count-Elector is the sophont on the spot. These posts are hereditary, but the Emperor can strip a family of their office if high crimes or gross incompetence are proven. Not all Counts are Counts-Elector, and it’s the Emperor alone who decides who get the title.


As members of the Moot, Counts-Elector are required to “maintain a presence” at Capital. As this is impossible for most Counts, a relative is usually sent as a proxy. The Moot is mostly a debating society, where the assembled member study issues and provide guidance to His Majesty. A year on Capital is a standard stop for a young noble’s Grand Tour.


Sectors are the province of Ducal families, and only rarely would a duke be an Elector. (One example is Grosherzog Norris of Deneb, who used the power of an Imperial Warrant to retain his title as Markgraf Regina.) Archdukes oversee Domains, and like the Emperor, are limited to mostly long range planning.


Barons are mostly life appointments, and are awarded for service. Most come with a manor house somewhere nice that provides a nice income. Knighthood is unchanged.


A note about Social Standing and noble rank. It is entirely possible for someone to be SS F and not be a noble, or not hold a title consummate with his power and influence. A merchant prince who controls the bulk of shipping across three counties might be of low birth, but his money opens many doors. This guy is probably a knight and should have his home estate declared a baronial holding. But still, he’ll be hob-nobbing with the glitterati while the Count-Elector of a poor frontier county will be ignored.


The Member Worlds.


The 11,000 worlds of the Imperium govern themselves, with certain limits. Imperial Worlds are strictly limited in their ability to conduct “foreign affairs” with other systems. In almost all cases, they are denied jump-capable warships (although a blind eye is usually turned to the “armed merchantmen” fielded in frontier regions.) They are forbidden to make war on other systems.


Controlling this is the office of the Governor-General. Appointed by the local Count, Governors-General work out of the Imperial Consulate usually found in the planet’s capital city or close by the starport. Consulates tend to be near fortresses in most places, and are guarded by Imperial Marines. Because the Governor-General has the power to forbid any action taken by the local government if she feels that it threatened the safety of the planet or other systems, it would unduly restrict trade, or violates the few laws the Imperium has. Governors-General tend to be people who've spent years in the Imperial bureaucracy and have shown a talent for diplomacy. The larger and more powerful the world, the lighter the Governor-General has to tread.


Sadly, there have been thousands of instances of Governors-General using their positions to enrich themselves through corruption, theft, and in one notable case, co-running a pirate fleet with the world’s system defense commander.


Less populated worlds tend to have a Colonial Administrator assigned instead, leading a much smaller office. On very low-population planets, the Administrator could also be the Starport Authority Port Master, the Customs Officer, and run the best bar in town (it’s the only bar.) Such assignments are seen either as stepping stones to bigger and better things, or the inglorious end after not making the right moves to further a career.


In all of these levels, from the Count-Elector down to the Governor-General, the key problem is time. Even if you have a courier ready to go, the minimum response time is going to be two weeks. So at every level, you will find leaders taking action. Sometimes the wrong actions, but that’s where we get adventures!

Next up, the threats faces by the Imperium, or how your character got six Starburts for Extrem Heroism.
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 (Penguin - Carpe)
Over the last few years a tradition has grown that after the horrors of Black Friday comes Small Business Saturday; a day when you are supposed to patronize locally-owned small businesses and give them some of your holiday money. I love shopping locally, and heartily endorse this idea.

As most of you know, [personal profile] kshandra was in a car accident a few weeks ago. Nobody hurt, but the damage to Barnum, her PT Cruiser was so extensive that the insurance company wrote it off as a total loss. We got a substantial check (more than either of us had expected) and Kiri began searching for a new car. She found a great one at D&B Auto Brokers in Redwood City. This is a one man operation, and not at all polished. But there are some great deals to be found there. After a test drive, we paid cash for a 2005 PT Cruiser with only a few thousand more miles on it than the old car. We're picking it up Tuesday. To follow in tradition, the replacement for Barnum is named Bailey.

By the way, if you are shopping for a used car, do yourself a favor and spend the $55 for CarFax's unlimited account. Unlimited reports based on the license plate number, six VIN lookups, and good for 60 days.

After that, we headed to one of our favorite place, BookBuyers in Mountain View. We still had a bit of credit from our last sale here, and we wanted to support a business that has been struggling. Well, we supported all right. Walked out with a pile of books including one by my favorite historian. John Julius Norwich's The Middle Sea, a overview of Mediterranean history from reed boats to steam ships.

Food was required. Chili's is not a small business, but they make damn good food.

Finally, we supported our Friendly Local Game Store, Game Kastle. After much hemming and hawing, and on the recommendation of friends, I bought Feng Shui 2. Really enjoying it, and I realized that this would make an excellent system for gaming Tim Power's Last Call/Expiration Date/Earthquake Weather triptych. Hell, throw in Declare for good measure.

So, what did y'all do to support local businesses?
gridlore: A Roman 20 sided die, made from green stone (Gaming - Roman d20)
I'm reading Osman's Dream: The History of the Ottoman Empire by Caroline Finkel. There's a passage describing what Western Anatolia was like at the time of the rise of the Tribe of Osman. Both the Byzantine and Seljuk-Ilkhanid empires were in decline; the former withdrawing steadily towards Constantinople, the latter wracked by internal strife and clinging to territories along the Mediterranean coast to the south. The lands between these two fading states were. . .
. . . criss-crossed by overlapping networks of nomads and seminomads, raiders, volunteers on their way to join military adventurers, slaves of various backgrounds, wandering dervishes, monks and churchmen trying to keep in touch with their flock, displaced peasants and townspeople seeking refuge, disquieted souls seeking cure and consolation at sacred sites, Muslim schoolmen seeking patronage, and the inevitable risk-driven merchants of the late medieval period. 
Tell me that isn't an epic setting for adventures! Right in that passage, I see barbarians, fighters, rogues, clerics, and arcane magic users all crossing paths, uniting to save (or plunder) a column of refugees or follow up on the rumor of lost treasures on either side of the Byzantine/Seljuk split. Replace the Turkomen with hominids, add in some bad magic events, some lost cities.. the area is lousy with tombs and caves, and is home to one of the greatest subterranean cities known, the Derinkuyu site in Cappadocia. Plus, the highlands hold many ancient ruins dating to the Hittites and Hurrians. More lost places of mystery to explore!

Dervishes, in reality wandering Muslim holy men who had taken strict vows of poverty and charity, make great models for the tradition FRPG monk class. Everything else can be dropped in with almost no modification.

I'm picturing the larger setting being the rise of a new limited pantheon led by the Moon God, who has assumed the role of God of War. The Imperial Sun God cult has lost that, as it is old and tired. So along with the looting of tombs and slaying of monsters, you have the larger game of armies marching under the Crescent Moon. Will the players defend the Unconquered Sun? Rise in power until they can challenge the walls on Constantinople? Or forge a third path?

Let's find out. I need players.
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)
Working my way through The Babylonians I was struck by what a great setting Mesopotamia around the time of the Assyrian Empire would be. Because of the roots of RPGs, most fantasy settings are semi-coherent Medieval messes, with familiar tropes like castles, feudal states, and noble knights.

But in reality, by the time we reach the Middle Ages the world is fairly tame. Wild beasts have been eradicated, roads are patrolled, the land is divided up between noble houses and the Church. Sure, there are wars and crusades, but those don't make for good traditional epic adventures.

So let's look at Mesopotamia at the end of the 10th Century BCE. This was the end of the Bronze Age Collapse, a Dark Ages that wiped many states from the map. Assyria, though bent, never broke, and in the latter days of the 10th Century BCE  it began expanding, eventually conquering the known world!

Tell me this isn't a good setting. Ruined cities, dreams of empire, and in the game the collapse could have been anything. Dragons, orc hordes, someone summoned something bigger than their head . . . or any combination of events. The point is something really bad happened, and now the world is recovering. And you, you solider-of-fortune, are leading the way.

This would be an epic Pathfinder game in the tradition of Robert E. Howard. Ancient city-states, Sorcerer-Kings, lost cities, and the Zargos Mountains just packed with forgotten caves and dwarf-holds, all overrun now with monsters, of course.

The really nice thing is there are tons of empty space to be found. The Persian Achaemenid Empire isn't due for a few centuries, so all you have east of the Assyrian lands and the mountains are scattered tribal nations until you reach far India, which is ruled by evil giants with tiger heads and great fangs. There is great fun to be had with the existing tribal nations. For example, the Scythians are a pretty strong force around the Caspian Sea during this time. A lot of scholars believe they are the inspiration for the centaur legend, so let's embrace that! Oh, and there's another tribal nation coming off the steppes to make trouble . . . the Cimmerians. A few centuries early, but c'mon!

The Collapse could be the beginning of the end of my Great Dwarf Empire. Meanwhile, my tribal elves will be wandering far and wide, looking for allies against their hated foes.

Need to do the religions and some good maps, but I like this. A lot.
gridlore: A Roman 20 sided die, made from green stone (Gaming - Roman d20)
The other day on G+ someone posted a picture of an imaginary Traveller - Space: 1999 game. The comment was "I would so play this!"

I asked, "so what's stopping you?"

One thing I hate about the modern state of RPGs is the refusal of would-be GMs to do any world-building. They wait for the official expansion, or just complain.

Take Space: 1999 for example. If you wanted to do a game set on Moonbase Alpha, everything you need is there for you on the net. Episode guides. Maps. Equipment. Timelines. Uniforms. Spend a long Saturday writing down notes, choose a system, and start playing!

If I were running this game, I'd change the reason for the Moon leaving Earth from a nuclear accident (people have done the physics, any explosion big enough to hurl the Moon out of the solar system would destroy it.) to a crashing Eagle smacking into a secret research lab working on dimensional portals. The nuclear waste site was a cover story. Now the Moon pops in and out of reality when it wanders too close to a deep gravity well. Nobody on Moonbase Alpha even knows the other base was there, which could be a long term plot line.

This would be a great episodic game. Each adventure would cover a new world encounter, conflict inside Moonbase, and of course the long term goals of figuring out what happened and finding either a way home or a safe place to settle. I'd give a clear indicator that the Moon is about to jump in a set amount of time as a way to force action ("Flash, I love you! But we only have four hours before the Moon jumps!") I'd run this game as a troupe style game. Everyone has a stable of characters, from command staff down to red shirts. So each adventure uses a different set of characters and we can add or subtract characters without too much trouble.

This would be an amazing GURPS game. Or, in a less gear-head way, FUDGE

There. Space: 1999 the Role-Playing Game.

That took less than ten minutes. You want a game in a well-documented setting, Do it yourself!
gridlore: A Roman 20 sided die, made from green stone (Gaming - Roman d20)
Call of Cthulhu is traditionally set in the 1920s. But I've been thinking of some alternate settings.


  • Stellarum recta sunt - In the early 13th Century, the Order of Hemes sees a world slipping into madness. Mages emerge from Twilight as gibbering madmen. Astrologers are killing themselves by the dozen, and event the power of the Divine seems to be slipping. If the Christ is not returning... what is? This is an Ars Magica game with the gloves off. Covenants would find themselves besieged by powers from outside the known Realms, and forced to fight powers that transcend Divine and Diabolical. How can mere Mages face that that the Devil Himself hides from?

  • The Stars Were Right - The Stars have shifted, and the horror has mostly ended. Now, the survivors venture forth to reclaim their world, and prepare for the next time. But the world has changed, and some of the Ancient Magics linger. This would be an epic post-apocalyptic/weird magic/horror game. It's your chance to toss all the weird you want into a game. Conan leading a brigade of sentient M4 Sherman tanks? Why not? GURPS or FUDGE would be best for this free-wheeling game

  • "Ils ne passeront pas" - 1916, and many are saying that the end of the world has come. They're right. Above the killing fields of France, old powers are awakening, summoned by the sacrifice of millions. In the world's capitals, men formerly thought mad are enlisted to bind these powers to the cause of final victory. And the Old Gods laugh... This is a more traditional CoC game, but more like Delta Green during the Great War

.
gridlore: The word "Done!" in bold red letters. (Done!)
It all started when I swung by Jack in the Box on my way home Tuesday night. "Bad for me Tuesday" has become sort of a tradition, where I hit a drive-thru to celebrate the start of my weekend with food that I normally would avoid. [personal profile] kshandra asked for a chocolate shake.

Within hours, she was nauseous and having intestinal issues that made us think that Ensign Wheatbiscuit had jumped ships. Wednesday, I drove her over to urgent care. Yup, some sort of bacterial infection. I didn't get it (although I did have a brief bout of similar symptoms, it is nowhere near what Kiri is experiencing) so where do you think this came from? I'm contacting JitB to register a complaint.

So that killed Wednesday. Taking care of my poor Kiri and watching the Masterchef try-outs pretty much summed up the day.

Today, Kiri is still sick and I needed to run errands. First, to Costco to pick up her prescriptions and Gatorade, then to the bank to get laundry quarters, and finally I desperately needed a haircut. Money is just tight enough that rather than going to the Costco pumps to fill the tank, I used my emergency gas can and got enough to get me through the next week. Then I'll need to refuel both Darby and the can.

Now doing said laundry, and composing a "Yo, morons" letter for Jack.

In other news, I may be a small business owner soon. On the Traveller Mailing List I wrote a post about how people should focus on smaller areas for their campaigns, a single subsector (20-40 systems) so that there is more detail and vitality, along with more plots that feed into an ongoing campaign. The gauntlet was thrown, challenging me to do such a subsector, and the idea of doing it as a Kickstarter was floated. Thus, I'm now trying figure out what I need to do to make Chinstrap Books a reality. Anyone know anything about what I need to do to establish a company that would basically be me and few others? Help!

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