Thursday, July 29, 2010

Strife Path Generator

This chart comes from a long vanished website called Shigata Ga Nai High that was devoted to BESM 1E. Most first edition stuff is easy to adapt to second or third edition rules, and besides this chart doesn't contain any game specific content anyway. It's a random "Strife Path Generator" for mecha pilots that's very reminiscent of  R.Talsorian's Lifepath tables . It's a great way to get some random background details for your mecha jock's life.

Strife Path Generator by Matthew Webber

Taken from "Tooniversal Tour Guide" Mektoon section by Robert Cross.

Perfect for seeing what type of interesting , dramatic or stupid personal problems that every Mecha Pilot character seem to have. Start by rolling 1D6. Go to the starting point with the same number. From there just keep rolling the die until you get an "End" result. You can go through the strife path as often as as you wish.
This chart is originally meant for Mecha pilots, but works with many anime character types.

Starting Point
1. You have an enemy. Go to the Enemy section.
2. You are involved in a love affair. Go to the Romance section.
3. You have a mental problem. Go to the Mental section
4. You have a family problem. Go to the Family section.
5. You have a weird problem. Go to the Weird section.
6. Roll twice. Ignore any further 6 results.

Enemy Section
Your enemy is ...
1. An alien
2. A former friend
3. A relative
4. A criminal mastermind
5. Someone on your side (possibly another PC)
6. A former lover
Now go to the Motive section

Romance Section
The object of your affection is...
1. A teammate
2. A friend
3. An alien
4. A criminal
5. An enemy
6. A relative or lover of a friend.
Now go to the Complications section.

Family Section
the family member is...
1. Your brother
2. Your father
3. Your sister
4. Your mother
5. Your cousin
6. Your in-laws
Now roll on the Family Troubles section.

Mental Section
Sometimes you...
1. Think everyone is out to get you
2. Develop a phobia
3. Suddenly change personalities
4. Become obsessed with someone, or something.
5. Suffer a change in emotions
6. Suddenly become completely insane.
Now go to the When section.

Weird Section
Something strange is going on...
1. You are cursed.
2. You have been contacted by aliens from another planet/dimension
3. You loose an Attribute and gain a new one.
4. Non-living items can talk to you.
5. You have a psychic connection to (Animator's choice)
6. If your Health Points reach 0, something strange happens

Motive Section
Your Enemy hates you because...
1. You defeated him in combat
2. You accidentally killed a member of his family.
3. You stole his lover
4. You sent him to jail
5. You foiled his plans
6. You are what he secretly wants to be.

Family Trouble
the family member is...
1. In trouble with the law
2. Is working for Aliens or a criminal mastermind
3. Is in financial trouble.
4. Has gone crazy
5. Has disappeared
6. Has become the Criminal Mastermind.

The When Section
Your mental problems occur...
1. When you get in/ out of your Mecha.
2. When you go into combat
3. When you see a certain thing
4. When you alone
5. When a certain person is around
6. When you are wounded.

Complications Section
Your love affair is complicated by...
1. He/she doesn't know you exist.
2. His/her family hates you
3. You're completely mismatched.
4. Your family hates him/her
5. You don't know that he/she loves you.
6. You have a rival for his/her affections.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Strange new worlds

Any good space opera rpg worth it's salt has to have rules for randomly generating star systems. It just goes without saying. This probably goes back to Traveller, which in many ways set the standard for sfrpgs. So nearly every space themed game that followed had charts that let you churn out solar systems like nobody's business. But more than a few of those games were determined to outdo Traveller by making there generation systems scientifically realistic. So realistic that nearly every system you generated was a desert of lifeless rocks. Mr. Lizard commented on this in the course of his exhaustive review of the obscure game Star Rovers.

Much as the entire early wave of fantasy RPGs made some design choices purely because "That's how D&D did it", most space-travel focused science fiction games offered a random star system generation system which was at least vaguely "scientific", because Traveller did, and many decided to trump Traveller by offering "realistic" probabilities for habitable worlds (based on, you know, all the habitable worlds which had been found in 1981), which meant a DM could wear out his dice hand before generating a random system which contained anything other than barren rocks.

I think the worst offender in this regard has probably got to be Spacemaster, which has chart after chart that seldom produced an inhabited system even after hours of rolling. (No, I do not speak from experience. Even I have my limits.)  Traveller never made that mistake, and when you rolled up systems for the game you were guaranteed to get inhabited systems. You know, places for adventure? Another game of that era that had the sense to put the adventure first was FASA's Star Trek rpg. They took it for granted that you would be exploring Class M planets, so when you got to a new system the question wasn't if there were habitable planets present, but how many were there. They even condensed the whole generation system into one convenient page.

I'm all in favor of having realistc science in my games, but not when it interferes with the fun. That's especially true of space opera games which are rather unrealistic to begin with. Skewing the system generation system to produce exotic locals for adventure seems to me to be the best direction to go.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Warp Factor six is slow

I was thinking about what it would be like to use Traveller subsector maps in a Star Trek game. They're a nice, convenient size. It's quick and easy to randomly generate solar systems, etc. And it's in a generous scale of one parsec to the hex. So how long would it take a Constitution class starship traveling at warp factor six to get around the map?

Warp Factor six is 216 times the speed of light. That means it would take roughly 1.7 days to travel one light year. To cross one parsec of 3.26 light years would therefore take you about 5.5 days. So it takes our ship 5.5 days to travel one hex one the map. Since the map is 8x10 hexes that means it would take 44 days to cross the top of the map, and 55 days to go from bottom to top! Our crew could spend a whole year of their five year mission just in this one subsector.

(generated using the Random Subsector Generator)

Now in the TV show the Enterprise went zipping around over much greater distances. That's why the authors of the first edition of the FASA Star Trek rpg didn't bother to include a map. They knew they couldn't handwave it away. But if you want to conduct your adventures on a more reasonable (and manageable) scale, the subsector maps are a good resource.  So just generate four or five of these subsector maps and you'll have a sandbox that should support a five year long campaign.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

ENnie Awards 2010

The polls are open for the 2010 ENnie Awards so vote if you want to.

I threw my votes behind the sf titles on the ballot, like Eclipse Phase, Diaspora, Doctor Who, Shadowrun and Rogue Trader. I also gave Hero System 6th edition high marks. I don't play Hero anymore, but I think it's one of the most influential systems in the history of the hobby, plus Steve Long has put out some great stuff for it. What are you going to vote for?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Scripted adventures

D6 Star Wars was a great game, but I never liked the adventure modules that were published for it. The reason is that they were for the most parts scripted, linear affairs. The GM and players were expected to follow the script with little room for improvisation.

Now, anybody who's ever GMed a game knows that if one thing is guaranteed to happen it's that the players will do something you haven't planned for. Railroading them back into a set of scripted events is just going to discourage their creativity and take something away from the gaming experience. I don't play that way, and neither does anybody I know.

So as a general rule scripted adventures are a bad idea for role playing games. However, there is situation where using scripted adventures is entirely appropriate: linked wargaming scenarios.

Have at you!

In this case the script would cover the narrative events linking the various scenarios, while the outcome of the battles would determine the course the script would take. Think of it like a video game. You punch some buttons to fight some opponents, then you sit back and watch a cut-scene that advances the story and takes you to the next fight where you punch some more buttons. Same thing, only you roll dice and don't use as much electricity.

Say your prayers, pardner!

Ideally you would organize the script and scenarios in a flowchart, so that the events of any given fight determine which chain of events follow. For example, space pirate Capt. Scorpio raids a landing field warehouse where he knows a smash-bot to be stored. If the pirates win the scenario, they'll be able to field the smash-bot in the next encounter; if not, they not only won't have a shiny new robot, they may have the space rangers hot on their heels. In either case, the outcome of the fight decides which way events will go within the general confines of the story.

Stop contradicting me, Duchesse.

So maybe it's time to dust off those old scripted Star Wars adventures and use them for a little inspiration.

[pics via Negromundheim and The Old Gamers’ Den]

Friday, July 16, 2010

Snapshot (1979)

I found this video retrospective of Snapshot (1979) by HistoryGamer over on BoardGameGeek. Snapshot separates out the combat system from Traveller book one and adds Action Points and a 15mm scale grid-based movement system. It focuses on indoor combat, mainly inside the confines of spaceships. Along with the usual eclectic assortment of weapons ("The following are polearms often carried by low technology boarding parties.") it also includes what has to be one of the weirdest rules ever.

Expletive: Not properly a movement, expletive is the venting of frustration and anger when a character is not capable of using his action points efficiently. In addition to its use in the pick-up maneuver, expletive may be used while waiting for sliding doors to open, or as desired. Expletive requires the expenditure of 1 AP per execution; it does not require triple cost payment in order to maintain a sneaking posture.


Monday, July 12, 2010

Digest sized games

There's something inherently old-school about digest-sized game books. That's because the earliest games, like OD&D, T&T 1st ed., and CT were all first issued in digest-sized volumes. I wish more games were printed in digest size, not only because they'd be cheaper, but because that would just be cool. Here's a few digest sized games I have...

Published by Corgi Books and distributed in the box set of Tunnels & Trolls, this digest sized rulebook is a reprint of the venerable 5th edition rules with only minor alterations (but not the 5.5 rules). The paper isn't the best quality, and it's missing the illustrations by Danforth and Carver that make 5E so memorable, but this is still the rulebook I get out when I want to play a game.

It was cool how Guardians of Order printed most of their books in digest format. It wasn't until the end that they started releasing big, expensive hardbacks (which may have contributed to GoO's demise, but I could be wrong about that). Of course BESM kind of contradicts my assertion that digest size books are old school, since it was a decidedly new school, story telling game. But it was still cool.

Slightly smaller than digest sized, the Pocket Edition of Traveller (Mongoose) is a miniaturized version of the main rulebook. Unfortunately that means the text is very tiny, so reading these rules involves a lot of squinting. I really like the Mongoose iteration of the classic Traveller rules a s they address some of my nit-picks with the original and more importantly they combine all rules in one volume rather than splitting then up into three volumes.

One of the reasons the first rpgs were digest sized is because that was the format of the miniatures wargames that the hobby grew out of. Some wargames kept that format, like Shock Force 2nd Ed. This fast, fun skirmish game is set in a science fantasy setting that's somewhat reminiscent of Gamma World, but the force builder rules let you take this game into any Gogol Island, for ex.

Another great set of skirmish rules I have are Wessex Games' Firewall 2136AD. While it doesn't capture the feel of cyberpunk as well as Cyberpunk 2020, it's still a fun rules-lite game.

UPDATE: I can't believe I forgot BESM at first. I added it and a few minor clarifications and corrections.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Fuzion energy

Fuzion began as an ill-fated attempt to combine the Interlock and Hero System game mechanics. And for a while there in the late 20th century it was riding high. Long before anybody had uttered the phrase "OGL", the basic Fuzion rules were released free on the web under an open license. Before you knew it there were a huge number of free supplements and Fuzion based rpgs available on the web.

But the bubble soon burst. With few exceptions, the die-hard fans of both Interlock and Hero rejected the new integration. The lead designers soon abandoned the project. Hasbro released D&D under the OGL, sucking the wind out of Fuzion's sails. All of those great resources slowly started vanishing from the web.

All of this was getting to me a while ago when I blogged that Fuzion was a vanishing game. I was being a bit overly negative, since it wasn't long after that post that a free Fuzion Star Wars game appeared. But my interest in Fuzion was really renewed when I stumbled upon the Fuzion Library, a Russian site that collects almost all the great Fuzion resources one one page. Some of the material duplicates what you'll find on Chritian Conckle's TranzFuzion and Otto Blix's Studio187, but there's some great supplements there that I thought had all but disappeared from the web. Not only are the full rpgs, like Babylon 5 and the Lovecraftian Tekeli Li, there's also the Heroic Abilities supplement that provides a complete, Hero-style power system for the game. Seeing all this stuff again reminds me why I like Fuzion, and has really rekindled my interest in the game.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Traveller System Generator

I haven't abandoned this blog, honest. It's just that, unfortunately, I haven't been gaming much lately. Even so here's a nice little System Generator utility for Mongoose Traveller that I found on the 'net. It spits out something like this...

C9E9332-B   S    Fl Lo NI
Gas Giant:
Star Port:
C  (Berthing Cost: Cr. 600)
E - Thin, Low  (Temperate)
9 - 92%
3 - 2.7 thousand
3 - Self-Perpetuating Oligarchy
Law Level:
2 - Portable energy weapons prohibited
Tech Level:
Naval Base:
Scout Base:
Research Base:
Imperial Consulate:
Pirate Base:
Fl Lo NI

Unlike most gamers I was never that into Traveller. One reason was that characters were invariably middle aged human veterans. Another was the relatively low-tech setting, with machine-guns, bulky computers and Jump Drives that need huge fuel tanks and take a week get anywhere. Top it off with a confining Official Universe © and I was off to other games. Which in retrospect I can see was my loss. All of those gripes I just listed could easily have been handled with a few simple house rules. And now with the Mongoose edition of Traveller I'd hardly need to bother. I really like this edition of the game and I think it's finally made a convert out of me. Now if it only had mecha...