Sunday, April 20, 2014

Some Grenadier & Reaper & GURPS on eBay

I have some auctions up on eBay.

Click here for all of them, including two dolls I'm selling on someone's behalf.

For the gaming specific ones:

Grenadier 5001 Dungeon Explorers (complete)

Reaper Gauth (complete)

GURPS Castle Falkenstein (because I have two, and I'm not sure why I need two.)

Alien Menace, Session 1: First Contact (Notes)

Last night I played in Douglas Cole's Alien Menace game.

Doug did a far better job of summarizing the session that I could hope to:

Alien Menace Introductory Session

Basically we met each other, met our employer, saw the "drop ship" and interstellar submarine, and heard audio that beat out even the nest episode of most later Star Trek (at least to me). Then we got dropped off and showed aliens what six highly dedicated troopers can do with careful movement and overlapping fields of fire. Oh, and automatic grenade launcher fire.

Go read his summary, and then come back here and read these notes - they won't make much sense without the summary.


The Game

- Just as a side note, I've been to Changi International. Nice airport. When I arrived on the last flight it was dead - even the customs folks were gone and I just walked right out after passport control (one guy on the late shift). So it was amusing to arrive there.

- We christened the Oliver Industries island "Danger Island." Doug keeps referring to it by its code name, Morning-some-or-other island. Not us. Aren't players mean?

- Naturally when food was offered A.B. loaded up on steamed veggies, brown rice, and steamed chicken. Clean food, no drinks. Once we finally arrived at Danger Island, he wanted to see the gym (training plus a rehab facility) and lifted, because it was leg day.

- A leader with Born War Leader 4, Tactics, and Combat Reflexes? We roll 1d+7 for initiative on Partial Surprise situations. +8 if I'm smarter (IQ 11, so it's only likely vs. robots.) I see some bad guys being caught flat-footed.

- Doug has A.B. down as hitting with 7 out of 12 shots - it was 5. Still, with 5d+10 penetrating (we're using armor as dice)

- Armor as Dice means either the GM rolls your damage, or tells you the armor. Kind of meta-disappointing.

- My choice of a LMG variant a lot of ammo was solid. ROF 12 is tough with a 25-shot magazine, kinda low with a 100-shot magazine. It doesn't shoot well on the move (my last move was shooting on the run with it and missed entirely) but when crouching and aiming it did well (5 hits out of 12). Suppression effects might kick in, too.

- I like using the Speed/Range table for rapid fire, too, and I'll use that in my games in all likelihood.

- we had a lot of interface teething, which slowed us down.

The Interface

Oh, Fantasy Grounds, how you love the all-powerful mouse wheel. That button controls so much that it caused us nightmares.

- The map - you can't drag it to see more or less, just point at the right spot and scroll. Since we all had control of the tokens, this would also spin facing on our guys. And other people's guys.

- Dynamic lightning/dynamic fields of view are really needed, too.

= it needs snap to grid, with a lockdown of hexside to hexside (important for GURPS.)

- the interface is beautiful, but the chat window had tiny text, and it was often too easy to miss it when dragging and dropping dice. It wouldn't automatically add up dice, either, so you'd shoot for 5d+10 and have to roll, then right click and hit "=" to see what it equaled.

- the support for dragging GURPS weapons and skills into the chat box was nice, but keeping the sheet, the chat box, and the map in view at once wasn't practical, so I'd have been faster with a paper sheet in front of me.

- there are non-d6 polyhedral dice that you can't hide when you don't need them.

- the lack of video meant I was clicking back to Google Hangouts and then to FG to play.

- let's say little of the time Doug deleted the map by accident and how it came up without any Fog of War (or any enemies). It didn't make him happy as funny as it was for the rest of us.

- my record sheet picked up some oddities in translation, too - like how I had 1 point in HT-based Guns/Rifle and HT-based Tactics. What?

All in all, it's a pretty interface but man it got in the way much of the time.

Some of it will get better as we learn the system, but man, I was expecting less headaches and less serious damage from hitting the wrong key.

The GM

Doug is a pretty good GM.

I gave Doug some GMing advice, which he foolishly asked for. It boiled down to:

- don't tell us any details we can't observe with our character's abilities. Just tell us to hold on a second and then advance the bad guys (if any) or just pretend to be doing that.

- don't fill us in ahead on stuff that doesn't matter now.

- rolling hidden dice without us knowing why conceals when you are really rolling. Do that.

- the GM is always right, and when GMing for a crowd of four regular GMs, you can be assured we won't complain for a second. At least not during play.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Who will face the Alien Menace?

Tonight is the inaugural session of Douglas Cole's Alien Menace game.

My character is A. B. Karabus, from Passaic, NJ. He's 6'4", 260 pounds, and carries a squad-support sized version of the teams 6.8mm weaponry, because he has ST 17. He's also the team leader, became someone needs to be and he's got Born War Leader 4.

Why ST 17? Because I couldn't afford a 20. Don't ask such silly questions! He's got Bad Temper, too.

He's loosely based on a certain A-Team member, the Swede from Heartbreak Ridge, Animal Mother from Full Metal Jacket, Salvador and Brick from Borderlands 2, Lieutenant Breckenridge from the John Mackie book series "The Rat Bastards", a small homage to Roadblock from the old G.I. Joe toys, and a real life acquaintance of mine who is over 6', over 260, and has six-pack abs. I'm not that much of a mountain of meat, but I tend to have a hey-diddle-diddle-straight-up-the-middle approach to problems. Snipe it or stomp it, done.


(Click here for an animated gif of him in action!)

To be honest, I have approaching zero experience with gunplay in GURPS 4th edition. 1st-3rd, yeah. 4th, almost none. I played a session of GURPS 4th reviving my old Armageddon character, Bota Khan, but he's no fair comparison to gunplay at reasonable skill levels. In Armageddon he was a master of weaponry (by dint of long play) and lavishly equipped with super-tech weaponry. In GURPS he had Guns-24 or 25 or so and a recoilless weapon with ridiculous damage. It's not an experience I could really draw on. So I am really looking forward to figuring out the best way to defeat the Alien Menace with the heaviest MG I can carry.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Why Templates in DF?

This is pretty much why I enforce the templates in my current GURPS Dungeon Fantasy game:

Every PC Is Expendable, or, Why We Template

I wouldn't say it word-for-word the same way, but the sentiment is the same. Even the reason I don't bother with variant clerics is the same - too much detail, too much "find the god who gives you the cool spell combos" and not enough Good vs. Evil. You get guys who are good at their specific niche, don't stomp all over the utility of other player's characters, and who narrow down the options enough to give you real freedom of choices while preserving the GM's ability to focus the challenge.

My next game may be template-free, but this one isn't for those reasons.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Batch Haggling in GURPS DF

So you like to haggle, eh?

You want some more money?


But your GM moans about all those die rolls?

How about making it one die roll each for the players and the GM?

Batch Haggling: Instead of haggling for each item, a PC can try to get a blanket better deal for all wares sold on this trip to town (excluding items just purchased in town - it's for selling loot, not running a trading enterprise.) Roll a Quick Contest of Merchant vs. a generic skill of 15. If the PC wins, he's gotten a good deal, he gets a price halfway between that of his current wealth level and the next wealth level. If he ties, he gets no special deals. If he fails, he gets halfway between his current wealth level and the next lower wealth level. Since this represents a series of negotiations and not a since instance, you cannot use Luck on the roll. Once the price has been established, that is the "going rate" for that item in town, even if it is sold later - once you commit to batch haggling for a group of items, you're taking a risk you might get less than the standard rate for the items. You can always exclude some items, but you can't break up the items into groups and roll separately for them, unless different PCs are selling them.

For example, someone with Average Wealth gets 40% for non-coin, non-jewel goods. If he wins the batch contest, he gets 50% instead this trip. If he loses, he gets 30% for his items.

This is risky but can be very effective for high-skilled PCs, or those who need a lot or money right now or none at all.

Black Market haggling can be handled the same way, with the usual consequences for failure and the usual options for going to a merchant, instead.

How does this work out in actual play? - If my players are willing to take the risk, we'll find out!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Megadungeon Best Practices XIII: From Around the Blogs

Here are some megadungeon lessons I stole learned from other bloggers recently. For the rest of the series, check my Megadungeon Design page.

Write iteratively

Get a functional dungeon down as soon as possible, flesh it out just enough to play, and then fill out the details ahead of the players. It doesn't need to be finished from top to bottom before you can play.

You need to have enough to run with - and the usual rules apply. Side view first, overall plan, etc. But you don't need to do all of one bit before you move on to the next. Once you get enough to play with, you can start going through it in an iterative fashion and add more details as needed and as time permits.

A great example of this - with a thorough explanation of the how-and-why of it - is found in John "Beedo" Arendt's post Developing the Dungeon through Progressive Elaboration .

Having that working framework plus a basic concept will help you decide what goes in, and what stays out, of the megadungeon.

Corollary: Do it before the game, not during.

"Any one of us could improvise a room like the Trader Room - the worst case is that it might slow the game down a little if you need to roll a bunch of dice at the table."

Even slowing the game down a little roll a bunch of dice to find out what's in the room is a terrible thing in my experience. That little slowdown can kill a lot of momentum. That's rolling far, far better done ahead of time. Flesh it out on the fly if you have to, but man, do the "what's in the room?" rolls ahead of time. Your game pace will thank you!

So will your players' suspension of disbelief in the setting. If they know you just rolled up those orcs or that trader, they know anything you say is made up on the spot and not part of a larger whole. They may accept it and run with it, but it doesn't feel like something that was part of a larger whole waiting for discovery. If you write it even minutes before the game begins, it'll flow faster in play and seem more part of the integrated whole. Save the rolling for the stuff that's really determined on the fly - do they hit, do they miss, how much damage, where the orc is standing when you come into the room - and not the stuff that is more firmly set.

Even rolling some dice for the orc's treasure ("they all have 2d6 sp and 1d6 gp") and totaling it up is time you could have spent ahead of time most of the time.

Vary the Theme By Area

An overall theme for a megadungeon is important, but it's also incredibly useful to have a wide variety of places and types of places to explore in it. Because a megadungeon is basically a play area (aka sandbox, aka game world) in a box, you need to provide differences within the portions of it. It can't be a single themed area that never changes, otherwise it's not interesting to progress through and can lead to boredom.

One way to avoid this is variety;

- variety of entrances
- variety of monsters
- variety of levels
- variety of themed areas
- variety of challenge levels.

One good place to start for such variety is Courtney's Megadungeon Checklist. -C's lists is meant to be sarcastic, but you can't go far wrong using it as an idea list and a rough checklist of things of interest. You could run a whole game in a dungeon using only what he's got on that list and have a blast. It will lack some originality but will it lack fun? Not likely. Using that checklist you can decide what is too hokey or hackneyed or overused and must be avoided, and what you just haven't tried yet and would like to.

Make Every Level Interesting

Don't start with boring stuff and defer the fun, interesting bits for the lower levels. Start putting interesting things in right away. Put in encounters that are special, enigmas and strangeness worth investigating, and clues to deeper and even more interesting levels below. The upper levels should be interesting and exciting. The lower levels should be a magnet primed by discoveries on the upper levels. In other words, front load the fun.

The proper path is not this:

Boring
     |
     |
     |
    V
Interesting

But rather this:

Interesting
     |
     |
     |
    V
More Interesting

This is why my level one has a strange temple with a "death zone," headless busts that speak to those who replace the heads, and even a few more undiscovered oddities. Some of these (like the missing heads to the busts) pull the players down and then back up. Even level 1 is weird and interesting. The lower levels are more so, and connect to those even further down.

This one comes out of Roger the GS's The Megadungeon Paradox

Thanks to all of my inspirations for this post - I couldn't have written it without your words.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

With Friends Like These

Gaming Ballistic is having a "pick a theme song for Dungeon Fantastic" contest.

I hear he's giving out a super-awesome award and there will be juice and pie.

Go vote!
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