Sunday, April 20, 2014

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.


  1. A bit of FYI about FG:
    • Connecting via "alias" bypasses the IP issues, I think
    • I've gotten used to the scroll-wheel so much that it doesn't phase me
    • The map does have a drag-point in the lower right that lets you pan
    • Snap-to-grid is in the options, and does snap to hexes (points and sides, not just sides)
    • Can create a skin with a bigger font-size on the chat window if you know how
    • There is a GM option on the campaign to turn on "automatically show the totals"

    1. Snap to hex side is really important - GURPS doesn't use the points, so anytime something snaps to the point it's an issue that needs correcting manually. That mouse scroll wheel thing is huge - I use it to scroll window contents, so when it's basically resizing, rotating, spinning, or zooming in and out on things when I'm trying to scroll down (like in everything else I mouse around in) it's really annoying. It may not be a "wrong" choice but it's not the way I operate the rest of my software, so it's hard to unlearn what I've trained myself to do on all my other apps - even the other ones I'm using at the same time as FG.

      I'm sure some of this will go away with familiarity, but it was really a big impediment to game last night.


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