Monday, December 8, 2008
The funny thing to me is that when I typed out my one page of notes for the United Colonies, it ended up being 5 pages! I was getting a little worried about overloading my players until I realized a couple of things. First, this world building is primarily for my benefit. The first section in the campaign guide is titled, "Campaign Background: The minimum reading to not frustrate the GM" and that is only 3.25 pages long. Second, I know that the United Colonies entry is going to be the longest and each successive entry will be shorter. The United Colonies are the home for the PCs so this makes a lot of sense to me.
Here is an outline of what I included in this entry.
Basic Information: This paragraph includes a bit of history and ties the United Colonies into the arc of human history as described in the aforementioned "Campaign Background" section.
Psions: This section describes the history of the United Colonies in relation to Psions, which in this campaign are fairly new in human history.
Resources: This includes those vital things for space exploration, water, food, energy, human knowledge, etc. I rated each resource according to Fudge's 7 basic attributes, made a brief one sentence note as necessary on 2 of the resources.
Important Colonies: Each Colony has a 1-2 paragraph entry describing, physical composition, cultural differences, major resources (how it contributes to the United Colonies resources already listed), and human knowledge that it specializes in. If there was anything important about that colony in relation to Psions, I also listed that in a sentence or two.
For those of you who are also writing sci-fi campaigns I found the following resource very helpful but didn't bind myself to accurately reproducing the information here:
I aimed for a variety of colonization methods. I have cloud planets like Venus, rocky planets like Earth and Mars, moons circling Gas giants, sulfuric acid atmospheres, and one water planet. I have one asteroid colony in another faction too. I mean hey, what's a sci-fi world if you aren't mixing things up a bit.
This is what I used to build my GURPS fantasy campaign, I think you can use the same system to build a fantasy world as well. Countries are the fantasy equivalent of the major factions (i.e., United Colonies would be the home country of the PCs). Regions are the fantasy equivalent of a star system. Cities are the fantasy equivalent of the colonies that I've described here.
Friday, November 28, 2008
Here are a few of the more recent changes:
- Added an electropathy psion skill. How to write and develop the skill came to me all at once and I enjoyed it enough that I decided to add it even though I thought I was done creating the psionic skills when I wrote my last entry.
- I've decided to increase the starting limit for how many points characters have per day in their psionic pool.
- I'm reducing the reload times for the weapons. I had borrowed some of the stats from Fudge list of modern weapons from the and gave them sci-fi names (trying to keep the game less deadly) but the reload times are much higher for modern weapons than sci-fi weapons so I'm fixing that oversight.
- I'm also going to modify the psionic combat details to allow the same skill to have two expressions; attack and defense. I had originally written it that someone attacking might be damaged by the opponent's retribution. My player thought that was a bit harsh and I agreed with him in the end.
So then I decide on the number of groups. In each of my campaigns, I try to keep to keep the number of groups in the range of 5-9. Here I'm following the rule that typically people can only remember 7 things +/- 2 things. In my GURPS campaign, I created 6 empires and 6 groups within the home city of the PCs empire. In this campaign, I'm using the same rule. I've worked out 6 groups on the PC's home ship and 6 groups in the home quadrant of space. Here is the matrix for the home quadrant of space.
There's more nuance in my mind about these realtionships than gets relfected in the 2D matrix. For example, the relationship between the Religious Separatists and the Main Alien race is listed as Poor. In my mind that is because the Religious Separatists are preaching a doctrine of human supremacy and isolation at best, and advocating an extinction campaign against the Alien race at worst. On the other hand, the Alien race has superior technology and is ignoring the Religious separatists.
I added the final row to show how each group feels about Psions since my PCs are psions. The religious groups are persecuting and exterminating the Psions (Terrible relations), the Alien race is almost entriely psionic so their realtionship with human psions is Great. The relationship between the Free Colonies and Psion groups is very individual based on the colony and its rules/perspectives on psions.
As I plan out the groups the matrix helps me to affix ideas that I've already come up with on specific groups. For example, I knew that I wanted some tensions between different human groups trying to become the main unifying force for all humanity but before doing the matrix, I hadn't figured out which groups that was. The United Colonies, the Merchants, and the Free Colonies are all listed as having internal health of Good so it was easy to imagine that these are the 3 groups that are trying to unify humanity. Niether one strong enough to impose its own ruling principles on the other groups.
Now that I've completed my matrices for the group relationships I'm going to write up more detail with a lot of information in the Unified Colonies entry so that PCs can select which colony in that alliance they are from. I'm also considering telling the PCs that they may create an additional colony that fits their own desires as long as the history of that colony brings it into the Unified Colonies in the end.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
I had considered two other schools of psionics; biofeedback and clairvoyance. I discarded the idea for a biofeedback school because I thought it would end up doing double duty as a combat skill (e.g., let me boost my dex before this fight") and I'm trying to keep psionics as the spice in a combat not the main course. I discarded the idea of clairvoyance pretty quickly for its capacity to ruin dramatic tension.
A final touch of flavor was added with the concept what I'm calling "The Red Button". When death for a psion seems inevitable, s/he can press the red button. This taps into a well of psionic energy and sends out an uncontrollable, unpredictable, but powerful and almost certainly life (and character) preserving wave of psionic energy that will affect friend and foe alike. It will take several days after utilization of this emergency action for the psion to recover their psionic powers. Rank and file NPC psions will not have this ability. Maybe one or two NPC psions will have single use of this ability. I thought this would be a fun way for a chracter to preserve their character in a game that is likely to be fairly deadly. I've got an XP system that will recharge "The red button" about once every 5-7 game sessions (we usually game for 10-14 hours). Which I'm hoping will make the use of this emergency button rare enough to make its use fun.
I've also begun working on the equipment lists which I'm trying to keep both interesting and small enough to be manageable. As a GM I don't deal well with increasing levels of crunch complexity. I found that as I added equipment, starting with armor, the system suddenly grew more complex. Here's an example, from the Fudge basic set, I selected Force armor, Composite armor, and Reactive armor. I've included the Force Armor (similar in my rendering of them to Holtzman shields from the Dune series) to preserve the possibility of hand-to-hand combat. The Composite and Reactive armors seemed reasonable given a higher tech level. In trying to make mechanical differences between these armors that will make it so that a player might actually choose one kind of armor over another, I found myself thinking along the lines of GURPS; cutting, piecing, crushing damage. To that I considered adding ammo damage which the force shields would be extremely resistant to. You can see how complexity spirals out of control so quickly.
Then I remembered how on the last session of my GURPS game I was still having to remind players about the difference between those types of damage and the appropriate multipliers to damage. I'm not interested in repeating that experience. So I thought I might make a more simple distinction between hand weapons and tech weapons. Or maybe just different damage scales for those two types of damage (though I don't want high tech weaponry to be too lethal either). Again, the goal is interesting depth to the equipment lists without adding complexity to the mechanic.
I also didn't want the force shield armor to make every combat degenerate into melee. So I added a disruptor weapon. With x hits (I'm thinking 3), this weapon will disable a force shield. However, they are extremely heavy and therefore not portable. I thought this would be a nice way of making the force shields vulnerable (especially when the PCs are attacking the enemy on the enemies turf) but without making them obsolete. The fun thing for me was that this swiftly shifted into an explanation for shielding on the ships. Ship shielding will be just a large force shield which can withstand X hits from enemy disruptor cannons after which more conventional warheads can be used. This may seem like an obvious mechanic to others but I've never run a sci-fi campaign and haven't watched Star Trek in ages so it felt novel to me for a second until Star Trek came to mind.
In the next few days I'm going to:
- Fill out the details for the psion skill (what can be accomplished at each skill level from terrible-superb.
- Zero in on a mechanic for armor, damage, and weapons that will satisfy all my many criteria.
- Continue expanding the equipment lists to include more gadgets for the crunch monkeys.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
My brain has begun to decompress. I running an Eberron adventure for the group that I normally play in to cover for our usual GM a few weekends ago. I love GMing again. My group was great, the afore mentioned challenging player has left the group for graduate school and I loved the group's new configuration. Everyone cooperated, as GM, I was never left with that icky feeling that I was allowing players to do vile things to either each other or in the imaginary world. I have been running the stock Eberron modules from The Forgotten Forge forward. I only ran that particular weekend because our regular GM wasn't going to have prep time. I have been running the module almost exactly as it is in the modules. I've made minor NPC dialogue changes to make things alittle more relevant for the players. This was so that I could GM with a bare minimum of prep work when needed. I knew after the game that I was ready to GM my own world/campaign when I couldn't stop myself from thinking of all the changes I'd make to the module for the next session and how I'd alter the next module in the series to do the things that I'm more interested in.
That's when I picked up my Fudge notes and started getting back into it. Yikes! I had forgotten when I was stuck. I'm trying to make a Sci-fi campaign equivalent to GURPS TL 8-9. I've also been trying to build into the Fudge house rules an equipment list broad enough to satisfy my butt-kicker players. I've considered just taking the set from the text but it brings things right make into the cartoony, uber-powerful realm that dissatisfies me as a GM. Specifically, I prefer players to deal with problems rather than "Hey I've got a
The real challenge that I'm having is with the customizing the Psionics for this campaign. I say that this is the real challenge because I'm sure that if I get this right it will satisfy the butt kickers in the group. It is also a challenge because I'm very picky about super/magic/psionic powers. I never want them to be the ultimate go to option. I like them to have back fire consequences, limited use over time, blah blah blah. I don't like things that the butt-kickers don't always. I'm also not that fond of the Fudge psion system as it is so I've been tinkering with it. So far I've got Psionics powered and resisted by a Will attribute which all normal sentient creatures have. That way normal humans can resist Psions without having aPsionic abilities themselves. I've also broken psionic abilities up into different types. I'm struggling with setting the power level. I want a clear and beneficial progression but I don't want the top level of psions to be immune to overwhelm by mundanes. It always bothered me that a 15th level fighter in D&D could be surrounded by 1sts level fighter with crossbows and laugh, unafraid.
So that's what I tinkering with now. . . . when I have enough time to get into it. My mission in the next week is to finalize the psion action types (e.g., telekinetic, mind-afffecting, empathy, and others) and then begin fine tuning the power levels. I'm toying with the idea of allowing my players (and not just my GM lists online) preview the psion system to try to work out their feedback pre-game testing.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Its a free text-based MMORPG. I don't know if the designers know about the psychology of rewards systems but they've got me hooked like crazy on this thing. I'm mining, killing, stealing, selling, buying, building, training, and a dozen other things on this site.
I'll be getting back to building the campaign by next weekend.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
So last week I put out the first feelers to both groups to see who might be interested in my new campaign. I laid out some of the things that I'm interested in like frequency (every other week), tone ("we're the good guys"), game systems (FUDGE, GURPS, maybe d20), and structure (episodic style allowing people to miss one session without guilt). I also tried to leave a lot up for the players to decide like genre (sci-fi or low magic fantasy), formality (silly to serious), and game system (within the parameters of what I'm willing to run and with the caveat that they try FUDGE at least once). All the folks that I was hoping from both groups responded with interest. Now I'm just going to have to get some space and time in my life for the new campaign which I'm hoping to be Friday evenings every other week. Right now it looks like that might all come together in late September or October.
Sunday, June 29, 2008
Subject: What I'm looking for in a gaming system...
...just in case someone on here knows where I can find it.
A build point, classless, system for character creation which includes aspects of personality (like GURPS)
A simulationist system that is intuitive, light on crunch, but still uses a map (less like GURPS).
A magic setting where:
- Spells or magical powers advance in power with the character (e.g., you don't take summon monster I and then II, rather I becomes II when you increase in strength). Or maybe more like the magic system in the WoD Mage books that is always flexible.
- Magic users don't overshadow mundanes but still do things unique and exciting. (Unlike D&D 3.5)
A system that allows, even encourages, a variety of roleplaying styles including powergaming, buttkicking, story telling, & method acting (as defined by Robin's Laws of Good GMing). I've got a group of friends with mixed RPGing interests and I'd rather replace my RPG system than my friends.
A good/non-tragic setting. World of Darkness turns most in my group off because. . . . its so. . . well. . . . dark. We like to be heroes and heroines.
A resilient system where if I don't like a mechanic I can change it in minor ways without fear of setting all the power balance of the imaginary universe off kilter (as can happen with D&D, GURPS, & Shadowrun).
As few books as possible.
Any and all suggestions, even those that counter my original preferences, are welcome. Mostly I'm hoping for some discussion that can help me out. Is there a "find the right gaming system for you" questionnaire on the web?
Some background for the question. I've run GURPS 3rd edition, and there's a little too much crunch in it for me. The finer details of multiple contingent actions, point refinements, are too much for me to track and use intelligently as a GM, and I've got powergamers who glom onto crunch like mad. We've run D&D and Shadowrun but the storyteller and method actor's goals get shunted to the side for choosing "non-optimal" feats and PrCs. I've got a good group of folks, we communicate, we get along, but it can be hard for the GM (and we have 3 people who GM in our group of 5) to meet all the needs of the group. If we were rating all the sessions, at most you'd get 2 people who love a session and 2 who thought it was okay. The next session, you try to meet the other people's needs and they rate it high but the other 2 were bored.
Thanks in advance for any help. I have always appreciated the group's input in the past.
The suggestions that followed were interesting but led me finally to one of two choices Savage Worlds and FUDGE. I liked Savage Worlds for several days but the mechanics seemed to encourage a cartoony style that didn't suit my interests. FUDGE was everything that I had been looking for in a game. To the guy who suggested it to me I wrote, "As I was reading I starting creating the system I've always wanted. It has been like Christmas with a new toy."
I bought the book as quickly as possible even though I probably didn't need to. I've been tinkering with my manifestation of FUDGE for awhile now and I think I've got it pared down enough (its under 20 pages long). The biggest thing that I'm wondering about yet is the magic system which I want to stay very low powered. I want people to think more about how to get out of the scrapes they are in instead of just hacking their way through them. I want to give them a flexible magical tool set that doesn't include a fireball. I'm also not interested in the magical member of the party overshadowing the rest of the party members. I'm not sure if the low power accomplishes that or not but I'm thinking about an all magically active PC campaign anyway so it might not matter. The other major option is a sci-fi space explorer's campaign which would cut magic right out anyway.
The basics of a FUDGE game look like the way to go for me as a GM. The beautiful thing about the system is that you never have to rules-lawyer anything again. You just assign one of the seven attribute levels to the challenge, "this guy's defense is mediocre", "the lock is of good quality", or "it will take at least a great jump to get to the other side of the chasm". Now in GURPS, that same chasm posed more challenges for the GM, if I wanted to make the chasm interesting, I had to start by figuring out whether my players would be attempting it using ST, DX, or the jump skill, then figure out how hard I wanted to make it relative to their skill and then set the distance just right and then describe it in feet and inches, way too much work. Also, FUDGE is tinkerable, I can add or delete things as I see fit, increase or decrease the granularity of the skill levels.
Now, I just need to convince my players to try it out. . . .
Saturday, May 31, 2008
The problem with abstract philosophies like this though is that they don't take the human element into account. In my situation it boils down to this: I don't want to eliminate my time with my friends by creating a new gaming group to play out my ideal vision for a campaign style nor am I willing to decrease my enjoyment of my gaming time by totally sacrificing my ideal vision for campaign style to accommodate the first preference of my existing group of potential players (who are also my friends). In other words, my goal in creating the campaign is to find a way to both have the style of game I'm interested in and to generate a game that my players will enjoy. The trick is to find a way of accomplishing those goals and I think that this human principle will be one of the guiding motivations in the subsequent discussions. How can I generate and maintain story deep enough to bring me joy and provide enough power, crunch, and butt kick and that my players motivated in that direction will still be interested.
So are some of the ways I'm hoping this gaming group can come together. (1) The cross over player will be leaving the groups and moving out of the area in a few months. This is a big key because as mentioned he is very opinionated about GMing. Without him in the group, things I do outside of his style will not be objected to immediately drawing more focus and attention of the other power gamers to those points. This will allow me the freedom I need to develop a GMing style outside of his expectations and more in line with my own. Also, without him as the ring leader of discontent, I hope to be able to meet the needs of the other power gamers and to focus on story. (2) I really want to find a way to bring Man 3 from the GM group (remember he's the Method actor/Storyteller) over to the player group. This will add another actor/story teller combo over to the group and balance out of the two remaining power gamers. Even if (1) and (2) don't happen I think it is still possible for me to have the GMing experience I'm looking for provided that I do the following step. (3) Introduction and expectation setting at the beginning of the campaign. I think that this is going to be huge in terms of preventing dissatisfaction and in helping everyone co-create a gaming experience with the same goals in mind. The introduction should include everything from the gaming world, the tone (horror, tragic, or heroic), the power level progression, the presence or absence of character death, the reward system (e.g., storytelling emphasis), and a few more elements.
In order to accomplish this communication, I will have to be clear first about what I want so that I can present it and once I'm clear and I'm ready to bring my ideas to the group, I need to be ready for their input. Again allowing them to cocreate expectations but from the initial position and trajectory that can satisfy my GMing desires. The next few posts will be my process of getting clear about the elements that I'll need to communicate to my group in order to make the expectations of the players fit the campaign I'm willing to run.
Friday, May 23, 2008
The first group is the one that I've been gaming with since 2002. There is only one member, other than myself, that has been with the group for that entire time. I'll call this group my "player" group because I have primarily been a player in that group. Other than me, the group consists of 5 people; that is 4 men and 1 woman. The other group is the one that I ran my last campaign for 3 people all men. I'll call that my "GM" group because I've only GMed in that group. One man is in both groups. I'm going to describe people here primarily according to their gaming style as defined by Robin Laws in his book Robin's Laws of Good Gamemastering.
Man 1: Powergamer/Tactician. Cross-over with the GM group. He has years of experience with GMing and is very opinionated about how it should be done. If the GM lets something broken into the game it is his fault and he won't tell you it is broken, on the other hand if you ask him outright, he'll tell you if he thinks its broken.
Man 2: Method actor/Storyteller. Can be counted on for a good character background, to follow the GMs lead in terms of tone and story. Not inept with the crunchy bits of gaming but his strong suit is definitely the story and character element.
Man 3: Powergamer/Butt kicker. Tech guy, likes to build powerful combinations slowly over time. He'll be the one that doesn't pick the obviously broken feat, he'll pick the less obviously broken feat that can actually rend the world in two if built and played correctly.
Man 4: Powergamer/Butt kicker. Boyfriend to the woman in the group, tech geek, years of experience playing mostly D&D 3.0 and Shadowrun.
Woman: Casual gamer. Girlfriend of the man 4, MMORPG background, new to PNP gaming.
Man 1: Same guy as Man 1 in the player group. I invited him to join this campaign group for two reasons. First, he is really good at the crunchy bits of gaming. I hoped this would help me with running GURPS (having never played it) and that I hoped his facility would assist the other players in this group who had little gaming experience.
Man 2: Casual gamer. He's played a lot of Computer RPGs, he likes to watch the story progress but doesn't have a lot of intiative on his own for character development or action.
Man 3: Method actor/Storyteller. He had played hack-n-slash D&D 2.0 in college and I invited him to this group because he was a guy at work that I thought I could get a long with. I was right. He likes developing his character and has written poetry (very bad poetry) out of game time to read during game because that's what his character would do. His imagination sometimes runs away with him though; he can forget that his character is in the GMs world and that he can't narrate what exists in the world just because he wants to.
Me: Storyteller/Method Actor. I started gaming at age 25. I had hoarded some D&D books through high school and college but never really played. My first character had a Russian accent, developed in a lot of ways, and finally languished in an unfinished campaign. At the time I was accused of doing things out of character when I tried to help the story go along. Now I see that I'm just a storyteller style player. I'll adapt my character to the world so that the story can continue. But I'm still trying to play my character; storyteller first, method actor second.
As a GM, I've learned a few things about myself.
- First, I can't GM evil, annoying, or mean PCs. I can't stand the idea of rewarding immoral actions even if those actions take place in an imaginary world.
- Second, I don't like, and am not really good at, prepping for the crunchy details. Man 1 in my groups can GM a D&D creature with 3 templates, weird feat combos from obscure source books and make it all work. Me, I'm lucky if I GM the flying rules right (and I didn't in the last session I GMed).
- Third, I like interesting and diverse character interactions. I like it when the PCs have to deal with an unpleasant person and change the reaction deliberately. I like when the PCs turn an enemy into a friend rather than just whack the guy. As a player, I've enjoyed playing many different character but they're all basically good.
My leanings toward storytelling will allow both storytellers and method actors to thrive. The casual gamers from either group would survive well as long as I don't make them work too hard.
After all this analysis, I don't feel like I'm any closer to a decision between my options of picking one or the other group, cross pollenating the groups, or just trying to find/create a new group. However, I have hopes that reading this post later will help me see something I may have missed making it obvious which route I should have taken in the first place.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
- Who to game with. Specifically, stay with my current gaming group or try a new group or composite group of people.
- Gaming system. Under consideration are: D&D 4.0, I have an adequate D&D 3.0 library, I'm quite familiar with GURPS and ran my last campaign in that, and finally FUDGE the unknown dark horse system that has me thinking I might actually get to run a game and a campaign the way that I want.
- World. I have a well developed campaign world that I ran my last campaign in. I like the idea of using it again but if any guys from my last campaign or the group I'm a player in are in this campaign there may be too many preconceived ideas about it.
- Balancing GM goals and player goals. I like good PCs and good missions, I need players that can get on board with that. I also want more story in this game. However, I'm neither used to that nor do I know what to do with powergamers who want more and more shiny gadgets. You can see too that this consideration leads back into the gaming system question above.
- Time. Baby, completion of the dissertation, settling in after a recent move, and new job are all taking their toll. Gaming for 12-14 hours on a Saturday once a month may not be as viable as it used to be.
- Infrastructure: I may be looking for a new tracking system for combat, world interactions etc., more prepped maps, and more prepped cardboards figures can really decrease prep time later.
Sunday, May 4, 2008
First day on the new gaming blog. My current plan for this blog is two fold. First, to blog my experiences as a GM and as a player. Second, to use this blog to work out some of my thoughts and plans for my next campaign. I'm just about to finish a GURPS campaign and am in the early stages of planning my next one (maybe GURPS, maybe Fudge). I've also GMed Eberron. I've played AD&D, D&D 3.0 , D&D 3.5, and Shadowrun. I'm playing in the very beginning of a D&D Eberron campaign.
I recently received an order from RPGshop.com and would like to display my latest acquisition. You might be a geek if you buy a bag of random dice not because you need them but just because you like dice. You know you're a geek when you then lay your new dice out on a tray, sort them into columns by color and then into rows by die type. Though, I am thankfully able to stop short of the compulsion to arrange the color columns into a rainbow progression.
I'll be adding more entries soon, more as a way to walk through my thoughts about the new campaign. Once the campaign begins, I've considered logging each session as an entry here. We'll see.