Archive for March, 2009

MG/Continuum Play Sheets Done

2009 Mar 30

I just finished hacking MG to run Continuum in a way that I think is going to be really cool. The character and combat sheets I made for the game are posted up here (PDF). I’m only having a problem trying to figure out what the “Cobweb” stratagem should do, aside from serving as a Feint. If anyone else out there is familiar with both Continuum and Mouse Guard, I would definitely appreciate some help.

Otherwise, I think most people with knowledge of both games should be able to run this pretty easily, just from the character sheets. Once I actually get around to playtesting this hack, I’ll try to write up a one-sheet of guidelines for making it work well.

P.S. Thanks to Willow for some early suggestions.

Burning Yet

2009 Mar 28

Why is that a character sheet I see?


Now I just need a second sheet with a conflict / time combat summary.

P.S. Yes, your Nature is now defined by the Instincts you choose. Acting along with your Instincts is acting with your Nature. Acting against your Instincts or outside of your Instincts is acting against your Nature. I think that rocks on toast, as long as the players aren’t fools. But then, I pity the fool who chooses “I’m like Wolverine” as an Instinct.

Your Yet is Burning

2009 Mar 27

Last night, we finished the Mouse Guard campaign I’ve been running, after 7 sessions. It was, without a doubt, one of the best roleplaying experiences I’ve had in the past couple years and several other players said something similar. Overall, I thought the system supported us pretty well, though we didn’t really use Traits very much and, by the end, I was using the simplified NPC rules they use for animals for mice as well (it was just way easier, like using the simplified “2d4+3d6+2d8 Raise 4d6” NPC rules for Dogs in the Vineyard).

I’m going to take a week off and think of what I want to run next, potentially as my last game in Boston, what with getting into UW and moving to Seattle near the end of the summer. My current instinct is to run Continuum using a slightly hacked version of the Mouse Guard rules. Something like:

The feeling that you’re having, that tell-tale mixture of panic and nausea? Some narcissist has Fragged you good and the future is crying out in pain: your Yet is burning. Now, you can stay Level here feeling sorry for yourself, or… we can find the little bastard that did this, Frag his sorry ass until he doesn’t know Up from Down, and then fix whatever he’s done to you. What d’ya say?

Time Combat

  • RENDEZVOUS (New Scripted Action): You meet with allied characters and share information.
  • FRUNE / ORACLE / MEASURE / IRON MAN / REVERSE ENGINEER (Maneuver): You gather information on your target, using Circles, research skills, or your own personal observation.
  • HIT & RUN / FLUSH / ISOLATE / STATUE OF LIBERTY (Attack): You Frag or hurt your target in various ways. You can only do this once you have a target, after a successful Maneuver/Feint or after a Rendezvous where you were given information from a successful Maneuver/Feint.
  • PATCH / HIDE (Defend): You either attempt to temporarily fix whatever Frag your target has done to you or attempt to mask your own whereabouts.
  • COBWEB / HARBINGER / SURRENDER (Feint): All three of these involve traps or attempting to demoralize your target.

Chen-Style Taiji Fist

2009 Mar 19

Unless you’re a martial arts dork, you probably haven’t seen Chen-style taiji (taichi) before. Unlike the dominant Yang-style, Chen style requires you to build up tension in your muscles during some points in the form (as if you’re doing a harder style like kungfu) and release it in little spasmy flurries of quick actions. This is really hard, because the rest of the form is flowing and has very little tension.

Check out this ten-year-old kid doing the basic Chen form, which I used to do in high school. I was never anywhere close to this good, of course. He’s ridiculous.

Captain Neo

2009 Mar 18

This morning I wrote a structured freeform scenario based on Captain Eo. My mind is currently vexed with ideas about combining it with The Matrix.

NEO: “I know how to dance.”
MORPHEUS: “Show me.”

Morpheus is liberating folks from the uncool Matrix and freeing their minds by teaching them to dance. Smith disparately wants to learn to dance (the agent analog of King Louis) and is filled with rage that he’s so square. Can ya dig it?

Making 4E Work for Me

2009 Mar 16

As far as I can tell, an encounter in 4E is any set-piece obstacle or conflict designed by the GM and then sprung on the players. You can have roll dice for obstacles outside of encounters, for example, if a PC decides to climb a nearby rock face for a better view of the area, but I’ll probably tend towards taking a “Say Yes” approach to non-encounter obstacles unless they seem particularly interesting.

The different types of encounters that I can imagine are:

  • no-roll encounters, resolved through free play;
  • single-roll encounters, resolved with, uh, a single roll;
  • multiple-roll encounters, resolved will multiple independent rolls;
  • skill challenges, resolved with multiple connected rolls; and
  • combat encounters, resolved with a map, miniatures, and a bunch of connected rolls.

However, there are a few problems with the way most encounters are written in adventures. First off, it seems like there are a lot of things that are basically encounters that are not really treated as encounters or written up as such. For example, there might be a description of how the PCs meet somebody and that person tells them some information and maybe even gives them more information if they make a certain skill check. As far as I’m concerned, that’s an encounter. It’s something the GM plans ahead of time and it’s something that could have multiple possible outcomes that affect the way the narrative builds.

Secondly, if the GM and players are really supposed to implement encounters dynamically in play, it would be really helpful if each encounter was written up in multiple possible forms. Not every encounter would necessarily need to have five different versions to choose from, one for each of the different types of encounters, but having at least a few choices would make pacing games or tuning them to the tastes of individual GMs and player groups much easier. Maybe you don’t want to fight the zombies, but decide to sneak past them instead. You could even have an encounter that began as a single roll, but would escalate to a skill challenge or combat if the roll was failed (or passed!).

Thirdly, the clear difference between powers and skills makes shifting between these different types of encounters somewhat difficult. For single-roll, multiple-roll, and skill challenge encounters, PCs roll skills. For combat encounters, they use powers and sometimes also roll skills. Most powers seem to be useless outside of the battle map, which is really strange if they are things the PCs should just be able to do at any time. I propose that most powers should have a non-combat use or be tied to a specific skill, so they also prove useful in non-combat encounters. If I have an encounter-based power, why shouldn’t I be able to use it in a skill challenge?

Finally, all maps should be provided at full, reproducible size, so they can be printed out and used in play. And all monsters / hazards / obstacles should have their stat blocks provided with the encounter.

Obligatory Watchmen Post (No Spoilers)

2009 Mar 13

It was way better than I was expecting, after hearing my brother’s lukewarm comments. Definitely worth seeing, despite some of my bone-picking below.

The fight scenes were exceptionally mediocre, with the exception of the jail fight which was beautifully choreographed, reminiscent of the pre-decapitation fight in 300. I’m not sure what the hell the choreographers were trying to express in any of the scenes, though, even the jail fight, which is generally a sign of poor fight choreography or a director who doesn’t know how to work with a fight choreographer. When there’s no purpose or narrative to a fight, it’s just a meaningless fight, even if it’s beautifully choreographed. They would have been better off following Gibson’s illustrations more, because I can’t imagine Alan and Dave wasted a single panel on something meaningless (plus it would have been cheaper, probably, and wouldn’t require FX). Plus, Leigh was right that the gruesome violence of the early fights kept Rorschach from standing out as the sole murderer among the heroes.

The new ending worked for me. What didn’t was Dr. Manhattan’s reaction to it. It just didn’t fit with the characterization we’d seen previously from him. I also felt the ending was really drawn out, as if it should have come to a head faster and then wrapped up faster, leaving the audience a bit confused and shocked by the pace of everything. But instead there was this pause and a lot of explanation. The whole film seemed slow at times, but the slowness of the climax was especially odd.

Rorschach was perfect. I can’t imagine him being any better. It was worth it just for him and Daniel.

They only say the superheroes’ names once or twice. I found that I’d forgotten many of them by the end (such as Ozymandias and Nite Owl). Interesting.

The director didn’t seem to know what to do with the female characters but, to be fair, neither did Moore (at least, at the time) or superhero comics in general.

I find myself wishing there was a happy medium between this cut — which leaves out a lot — and the drooling fanboy cut that includes everything. Oh well.

A Jumble of Recent Thoughts

2009 Mar 13

The Newman O booze turned out so well that I tossed the orange rooibos booze I’d made several weeks back. I think the new booze is mostly cream-flavored, that not a lot of chocolate was infused into the Everclear, but I’ll have to see what other people think when we break it out to share. Additionally, there’s this ongoing issue where adding water to an Everclear infusion sometimes makes it turn cloudy. I’m not sure what to blame. Maybe something in the tap water (iron from the pipes, flouride)? Next time I might try bottled spring water.

Mouse Guard last night was great, if a sordid affair involving a ton of dice rolling through three-and-a-half separate conflicts. Robert was saying he’s not sure he’s ready to stop playing after Session 6 next week, but I feel like need a break and reconvening things later on seems like it might be full of troubles. We’ll see.

As far as the inevitable “What to play after Mouse Guard?” issus goes, this morning I was realizing that it would probably be much easier to run Fingers on the Firmament in 4E, given the tools I have available, than Nine Suns Must Fall. So I’m thinking about doing that instead and maybe saving Nine Suns Must Fall for later. Nine Suns might even end up being a Dogs in the Vineyard hack, since so many folks on SG were saying they wished there were alternate Dogs settings available.

In other news, I am continually reminded that playing and writing games makes me more excited about playing and writing games, while talking about games on internet forums makes me less excited about playing and writing games. This is a lesson I never seem to learn. Seems like talking about games on blogs and chats is the way to go, most of the time.

What a Week

2009 Mar 11

Today I was separated from my job in a relatively amicable way, my chief regret being that I won’t be able to finish the recent project on Chinese science research that I started a couple weeks back. Hopefully grad school will work out shortly or some other options will present themselves, so I’m not too worried. Honestly, things have been so stressful and disconcertingly strange in my work environment recently that I’m kind of relieved I don’t have to deal with that anymore. I’m a bit worried about the long term prospects of the think-tank I just left, but hopefully they’ll be able to pull things together.

This unexpected news came on top of us dogsitting for a neighbor’s dog that vomited in every room of our apartment last night. Fun stuff. At least Hannah is starting new work next week, so we won’t both be unemployed at the same time. And my boss said they’d make sure I was okay for the next little bit, so money isn’t an immediate concern, especially with my savings.

Anyway, not sure what my much freer days will consist of now. Murderland reviews will be much easier to finish, that’s for sure. Plus, it’ll be nice to have the option to finish some reading and a few personal projects over the rest of the week before spending time this weekend looking at my options for the future.

How to Flood Your Encounters

2009 Mar 10

I think my first series of encounters for Nine Suns Must Fall is going to be a flood, so I’ve been looking for 4E adventures that have fights that are half-submerged or take place along the edges of a watery disaster. I want to have flooded temples and villages and the underwater abode of the river god. That led me — through a complicated process — to pick up Wolfgang Bauer’s Wrath of the River King adventure. Excitingly, it has a bunch of really useful examples written by a guy who’s had a lot more experience with D&D than me. Rock.

I still don’t understand why D&D adventures don’t include full-size maps for every encounter that GMs can print out and use. I mean, WTF? I’m supposed to re-draw every map on a squared whiteboard? That’s ridiculous, especially since the adventures have maps in them. Is it really too much to ask that they include maps that are big enough to actually use?