Monday, April 3, 2017

GamernationCon 4: A New Hope



GM’s Log, 40317.11; I find myself at the end of yet another GamerNation Con. This was the 4th such con in existence, my 3rd.  All and all, travel to the convention was uneventful which is how I prefer it.
Andrew accompanied the away team on this expedition. Dono and Eric would join the party at Ten 50 BBQ down in Texas. We rented an intermediate-sized SUV, since there would be four of us getting back to the airport on Monday. We were almost given a Jeep Cherokee when I noticed a Nissan Rouge waiting in line.

We elected to “go rogue”.

Ten 50 BBQ was a great place to start the adventure. I’m not much of a BBQ guy, I like grilling but ribs and most other traditional barbeque is lost to me (much like beer), but Ten 50 BBQ had many things for me to enjoy; especially the Angry Orchard on tap. Greetings, handshakes, and hugs were had with the Gamer Nation in attendance. We ate, we talked, and then broke to the hotel.
GNC 2017 was hours away.

Thursday

I elected to run The Justice League of the Republic module first; an 8 hour epic with the Justice League reimagined as Jedi knights. The module went well, the PCs were appreciative and enjoyed the story. A rousing success for a first run (live Beta, if you will). I found that the first scene lasted way too long (almost 3 hours), so some changes would need to be made. The big reveal of Darkseid as the final villain fell flat, but that was due to some errors I made in storytelling. Even so, two members of the Norwegian Delegation were able to get seats at my table, and told me later that the module set a high bar for them for the rest of the convention. I finished off by playing in Wes Goodwin’s module as a Heavy (IHC-187) in a story involving an Imperial Commando Team and a bio-weapon.  Good times.  Total Hours GM’d; 8 

Friday

I was able to get in on a Savage Rifts game run by Darren West. Because I just happened to bring my old Glitter Boy mini from 1994, I got to play a Glitter Boy in the module. They play so much better in Savage Rifts than Palladium Rifts; much more balanced.  I took a short break, and got in a game of Artemis; the Starship Bridge Simulator. I state once again; I need to get some friends with laptops and get this game.  At 4pm I ran the JLR a second time, ending a little after midnight.  This run went much smoother.  Total Hours GM’d: 16

Saturday

IF you can only make it to one day of GamernationCon, Saturday is the day to come. I started off with a follow up to last year’s Fallout: Edge of the Wasteland module, titled “Fratricidal Tendencies”. Last year’s module was a showcase of the Fallout hack of Edge of the Empire I wrote. This module was a lot truer to the theme of Fallout, where there are rarely good choices, only a series of gradually worse choices. The players enjoyed the module, especially Burt who got to play Percy the Super-Mutant again.

I had to end Fallout quickly, because as soon as it ended I was on tap with GM Chris and GM Dave for the premiere of “The Black Nova Gambit” using the FFG Star Wars RPG system. The Gambit is a delve; 3 GMs, 18 PCs, 3 teams, 3 scenarios each 1 hour long real-time. The premise is a group of Jedi, Commandos, and Pilots simultaneously assaulting Darth Revan’s super battleship before it can attack the Republic. Finish the objective within an hour, success or failure will affect later scenarios in not only your group, but other groups as well. Running the Gambit was IN-SANE fun. After scenario one, where the Jedi squad finished their objective in 28 minutes, one of my players asked with some concern “are these going to get harder as they go on?”  Two hours later, those same Jedi are shouting “ROLL THE DICE!” as they are within 3 minutes of failing the objective of the whole damn delve. After 4 hours of frantic action and daring saves, the Republic scored a total success against the Sith, only suffering the loss of one valiant jedi who got sucked out an airlock after grappling with one of the villains.

At 8pm, GamerNation After Dark beings; which is the alcoholic gaming portion of the Con. I purposefully set aside time during After Dark to get a game in with players I wanted; GM Chris, GM Dave, GM Hooly, Andrew, Keith Kappel, and GNC2017 Guest of Honor Kat Ostrander from FFG. I was looking forward to this after getting my party together a couple days before; I’ve never GM’d GM Chris or Dave in all the years we’ve been friends (or maybe Dave once?), and Kat was very excited to get the chance to play after hearing about the game from Sam Stewart’s experience at last year’s con. Hooly is too fun to game with, I’ve been trying to get Keith at my table for a couple years, and Andrew would pick up on all the in-jokes of running a game set in the post-apocalyptic Hoosac Valley. GM Dave valiantly gave up his seat at my table for another con attendee Andy (Ross?) who had two games he pre-reg’d for blow up on him as the GM cancelled their events. Dave wanted Andy to have a good experience, and gaming with the celebrities and “celebrities” of the con in my module seemed to hit the spot. The game couldn’t have gone better; good people, good game, good RP, and good drinks (the apple moonshine Sarah sent me down with was throat singeing candy, lovely lovely burn-y candy).

After an hour or so of sobering up, and talking with some good friends like Chris Bradshaw, we headed back to the hotel at 2am. Total GM’d hours; 28.

Sunday

After about 4 hours of sleep and a meal, I was back at the con for my final run of “Fratricidal Tendencies”. I had to be done by 2pm for the closing auction to the Con, and we finished with about 15 minutes to spare. It was a glorious run, and a great way to end my GNC2017 gaming experience. Total Hours GM’d; 32; 2 over the 30 necessary for “Iron GM’, which was my third so I earned the “Titanium GM” badge (90 hours of GMing at multiple GNCs).

The auction was great; every hour of gaming earns you “xp” to bid on items at the end of con auction. Andrew and I pooled our resources, and received a few more donations from others who didn’t need their XP. I got a mini painted by Darren West, and Andrew got a few cool games. As I posted in another post, Sarah’s quilt was highly sought after by a few bidders, the person who won confided in me that her quilt was the one item THEY WERE GOING TO GO HOME WITH. Fortunately, they had the 520 xp needed to win it.

Final Thoughts

The 8 hour JLR module was a success, but I’ll be very unlikely to run it in the future.  8 hours in one sitting is too much, both from a stamina perspective and a “give more players a chance to play” perspective. I run 8 games (basically) at GNC, that’s 48 slots that 12 folks got to double up on, locking out another 12 attendees from gaming in a game with me. That’s not fair, and something I should have considered. Seven so, it was fun, and folks enjoyed being super-heroes in Star Wars.  (“I’m Hawk-Batman…”)

Fratricidal Tendencies was a nigh-total success; folks really enjoyed the story, the plot twist, and the final encounter. I say “nigh” total because I would have been happier if I had finished painting one of the important minis in the way I described him. Ah well.

The Black Nova Gambit was BRILLIANT, and big kudos to GM Chris for adapting his Saga Module to FFG. It can REALLY only be run at a Convention, you need that space and player pool to draw from. There were ideas from GM Dave to head up to Minneapolis and run it at FFG’s Gaming Center. 

Now there’s a thought…

I’ve really fallen in love with this con; it’s a trip I look forward to every year for the past few years 
now. I miss my wife, horribly, but my family in Texas do a real good job at distracting me. 😉
Final shout outs to my cohosts Chris and Dave, Krista who runs a mean Con, Hudson, Hooly, Keith, and Brev, Darren and his gaming crew, Larry and Will on Artemis, Jegergryte and the Norwegian crew, and all the pcs at my table as players under me or fellow players. Bonus shout-outs to Kat Ostrander (you have my card 😉), and Andrew, Dono, and Eric as my glorious away team companions.

Until next year at GNC 5 and The Order of Gamers; May the Dice be with you!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

2017: A Better Year

Welcome to 2017 people.

It's going to be a weird year, I can tell that already. I'll take a weird year after last year. I could use a year of self improvement and upward progress. A year of learning from past mistakes and making whole new ones.

I'm still in a creative slump, for a number of reasons. Oddly, I'm role-playing as a player more than I am as a GM of late. I'm trying to bring Another Longshot to a close but am having difficulty scheduling the last few sessions between the two parties. But there's light and hope that I may be able to get these lined up to finish by the end of Spring.

Once that game sets, the question of "what next?" arises.  I've had a few campaign ideas kicking around my head:
  • Trinity, or Whatever I'm Calling It -  I'd really hate for all the World Building work I did last October be for naught, but I'm having a hard time and little motivation to continue working on the setting. There are a few contributing factors, but ultimately it comes down to feeling rather unoriginal. I know that "there are no more original stories" and "every story under the sun has been told already" but that doesn't change the fact that it still feels like I took the parts of Starcraft, Babylon 5, Star Wars, Star Trek, Firefly, and a couple RPGs and tried to mash them together. And because of that, probably, it feels fake to me.
  •  Earth 43 - I have ideas kicking around to run a game, maybe a year-long one, that the players are DC heroes but reimagined. Their own versions.  Or, maybe they don't get to choose and session one is the PCs suddenly discovering meta abilities of my choosing. Or something else entirely.  Again, it's only in the proto "this could be fun" stage.
  • Justice Council (or "The Jedi League of the Republic") - Along a similar vein, I'm writing a module for GamernationCon 2017 where the Player Characters are all Jedi versions of the Justice League on a mission against a Sith "Legion of Doom".  The module is going to take 6-8 hours to play, but I'm somewhat inspired to run something with more depth. Have it be a few sessions, or maybe a bi-weekly endeavor over Roll20. Total "beer and pretzels" level of involvement, but it could be entertaining for a few sessions.

Not my artwork, but I like it...
  • A Squadron of Rogues - Rogue One really got to me on a nostalgic level; it was everything I enjoyed about the Rebellion Era stories that didn't involve The Big Three (Luke, Han, and Leia). It reminded me of all the old WEG D6 Star Wars games I ran in High School and college. It reminded me of the "Special Forces Squadron" game I ran from 2005-2007. It tag-teamed with Fantasy Flight Games and the Rebels cartoon to triple body slam me into wanting to run a Rebellion game again. I really want to do something like a Rogue Squadron or Wraith Squadron game; the players are all pilots "and something else" (con men, mechanics, slicers, saboteurs, melee experts, etc).  Maybe that feels a little too much like "Team B" in my Another Longshot game, but hey the urge is there.
  • Renegades - I also want to run a game where the PCs start off as Imperials. I've never run such a game, at least successfully. I think I made an attempt once or twice, but it never came to fruition. This could be that game, but then comes the problem of "everyone's a human".  With the exception of Thrawn, the occasional Inquisitor, and a few spies the Empire is all about the humans. My main issue here is whether or not to run it as a strict Imperial game or as a game where the Imperials will eventually go rogue and join the Rebellion. But if I have them go into it knowing that the point is for them to join the Rebellion, does that take away some of the fun and character development?
    • Alternately, the game could start off "how far will you go", and have it be up to the PCs to decide how far they're willing to support the Empire in their iron grip of the galaxy. To make that work and be compelling, there would have to be some sort of benefit vs. consequences conflict going on; the longer they stay in the Empire the more they get "n", but the Consequences for that is a lot higher when they do eventually defect to the Alliance.
    • This game could, of course, dovetail in to the aforementioned Rebel SpecOps Squadron game.

Next up is Convention madness! GamernationCon 2017 is coming, and I've got a few things lined up for that. I might be running games for FFG at Pax East this year, which may hopefully segue into more of the same at Gen Con 50 this year in Indianapolis. I may also try to get out to one of the local cons this year, TotalConfusion, but we'll have to see if that's in the cards.

That's pretty much it for now; back to working on the Justice Council module for GNC 2017.  Maybe I'll start posting up my thoughts and builds for the PCs.

May the dice be with you!

Oh; and thanks, Obama.



Thursday, December 29, 2016

2016: Die In A Fire


Contrary to my last post, maybe I did forget about this thing.

This blog has always been a labor of love, and it's always worked best when I've had something to work on or write about that I can share with the masses; Jedi Rules for Edge of the Empire when we had none, development of characters or campaigns that I was able to share publicly, and the occasional work on costuming. I haven't had a lot of that lately. I haven't been inspired to do work on any new rules. Most of the few gaming projects I'm working on are either GM-only story ideas or locked down under an NDA (which is kinda exciting, in a sort of way). I've also been trying to refocus on several neglected areas in my life socially, which as a geeky introvert is hard.

And then there's this dumpster fire that's been 2016.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm a moody guy; empathic and empathetic to the feelings and moods of those around me. I tend to feed off them, and in some cases feed into them. When I'm in a good mood, I am excited and can share that energy with others. When I'm grumpy and down, I share that snark with others. These two moods tend to start cycles and spirals that can lead to creative enlightenment or long periods where I have no energy or desire to enjoy anything.

2016 has tended towards the latter mood. So many artistic heroes of mine have passed away. So many looming threats on the horizon. So many spectres of fear and despair caused by the events surrounding the election. Nevermind the personal difficulties and challenges I've faced privately which have fed into my outlook for the year.

I suppose there's nothing left for it than to try to reverse course and try to foster some good in life. I can sit here and continue to bash my head against the keyboard and hope something interesting falls out for me to type, or I can effect change in my life and climb out of the emotional pit I've been in. There are going to be things in the news that aggravate me, or depress me. I've got to look at all of those situations and think "Okay, what can I do about it?" and either do something to better that situation or realize that I can't do anything to "fix" it and try not to let it weigh on me. This isn't the same as procrastination or ambivalence; if there's something I can do that requires work or effort, I should do it. I can't fix the US Government, but I can support those who have to means to try. I can't stop my artistic heroes from dying, but I can remember and honor them by continuing to create art. I can't give my wife everything I want to, but I can give her everything I am able.

So what will come of this blog?  Will anything come of Trinary? What's next for my Star Wars RPGs? What am I working on for GamerNationCon? Will I get that First Order Snowtrooper done for me and my father in time to wear it next December? Am I going to GenCon 50?

The first question, I'm not going to answer. I'm tired of not meeting my promises; so I'm going to under-promise and work to over-perform.

As far as the rest of those questions; we'll see.

See you sometime next year.


Friday, October 14, 2016

Interludes

 No, I haven't forgotten about this thing.

I've been taking a few days off between projects, and then got steamrolled into a few things which ate up a lot of my writing time. Things seem to be stabilizing, so I can finally get back to writing.

Most recently, I've been putting the polish on my Fallout: Edge of the Wasteland rules and adventure. It's mostly set...mostly. I'm finishing up the equipment rules, and putting some final stat blocks together.  Once that's done, it'll be added to the upcoming GamerNationCon 2017 Kickstarter as a reward for backing it.  So if you want a copy of that early, go back that Kickstarter when it begins at the end of the month.

This makes me start to think about what I want to do for GNC 2017, and what I need to do. Because of a gorgeous miniature I won thanks to help from Sam Stewart, I have to write a module that features a dual-wielding female Dark Sider as the villain. I can do that. I also promised that I'd be bringing the third chapter of my Knights of the Rebellion series; Revenge of the Jedi. Can I work the two of them together?  Probably, I've already got ideas spinning.

But what else do I bring?  A Better Man, the same Fallout module I brought last year?  Do I write a new Fallout module? I've also been kicking around the idea of a Transformers-themed module, either using FFG's D20 OGL rules called Metamorphosis, or Chris West's Saga Edition based rules. Bringing something for Savage Rifts is appealing, too.  Do I write and bring a module for Trinary? The problem with that is context; if folks don't know the world, will they really care about the story? Plus I'd have to decide what system to run it in...


So many choices.

Then I have to figure out what to do about the first two chapters of the Knights of the Rebellion trilogy. Do I bring them?  There's only so much of me to go around, figure I've got 7 sessions in me to run; maybe 8. I have to figure that each game should get on the table twice, so unless I got someone else running the module, I can only have four modules max, three being a more likely number.

One thing I'm going to be doing, definitely; I will be running a "High Gamer Cred" session and a "Con Newbie".  Not sure what will qualify for High Gamer Cred as a limit, but I know the Con Newbie will only be open to folks who have almost no Gamer Cred; maybe 50 or less. I'll have to run it early in the Con; maybe the first session of the first day; you can rack up Cred really quickly if you try to.

Lots to ponder, lots to think about.


Friday, September 30, 2016

Day 30: Last Day


This is it!  The End! The final day of my 30 Days of WorldBuilding challenge for Project Trinary! I'm psyched up, ready to write, and ready to go!  Let's see what today's final exercise is!

Take a break
Today's exercise is to NOT exercise. Give yourself a break from world-building to let the ideas sift themselves out in your mind before you start writing like a fiend tomorrow.
...oh.  Uh...huh.  Okay then...I guess I'm done...?

Kind of anti-climactic to the whole process, then again this is a task that someone theoretically starts on October 1st and then on November 1st starts to bang out a novel for NaNoWriMo. But I'm not writing a novel, I didn't do this exercise to start a book. Every time I think about writing a novel, my lack of exquisite vocabulary gets away from me. My dialouge skills are solid, it's my inability to set the scene that gets me lost and off-track. But that's my own damage for another time.

So...what do I do today?  I was kinda jazzed up and ready for some monumental capstone to this project. But maybe Bryant is right, maybe I could use a break. Take a day off before starting in on something more.  Maybe I could use all this information and get some writing done. Maybe I can use what I am good at and write a few teaser pieces, or mood setting pieces for Trinary.  It might even help solidify a few ideas for the game.

Like a name for the Dark One, or a better name than Trinary.

So I guess that's it! This has been "30 Days of Worldbuilding a new campaign setting for some yet-unknown system". I may decide to keep this setting agnostic and let the readers decide what system they want to use for their games. Me, I'm definitely going to run this world, so I'll need to decide how I want to run it.

I think I may have written more for this blog in the past month than I did all last year. I've been in a bit of a rut these past two years. Something's been deficient; time, enthusiasm, ideas on what to write about. But I'm sticking with it, and I'm sticking with this.

In October, I'm going to flex my writing skills and write some stories for Trinary. I've got an idea on how I want to write them, and about how long they'll be. I probably won't be updating this blog as often as this month, but I might. There were many days this month where I mentioned that I needed to "come back to this" or "do this again for another planet or government". That's what October will be used for; second passes and stories.  My goal is to get something out each weekend, and at least two updates during the week.

I've got this Pintrest folder filled with images of stuff I've found around the web, maybe my weekday tasks will be taking an image and adding it to the setting, describing what it is and how it fits into the world.

It's been a fun month; for those of you who read along with me, thanks for joining me. I hope it's been at least a little insightful and possibly encouraging of your own writing project, whatever it may be. I hope you'll continue to join me as I work on Trinary in the coming months.

Until then, may the dice be with you!


Thursday, September 29, 2016

Day 29: Character II


My last character day didn't go so well, and I ended up cutting her from the Setting because the storyline she was attached to didn't match the themes for the start of the campaign.

Today's character exercise is a little different.

Exercise:
Look in your social and cultural world for not just the places where your character doesn't fit in, but also the places where he or she does, and note them in your character notes. Make sure that, by the end of today, you can name your character's parents and siblings, the town where they grew up, their age and any training they've had, and the most influential three people in their lives.

Oh, and for those of you who already have characters fully fleshed out: Spend your fifteen minutes writing a scene in which your character is given a gift they have to refuse. You decide on the gift, the giver, and why they have to refuse it.

 Once again, the man theme behind this exercise is lost because I don't have a main character, not one that I'm a) writing a story about or b) willing to share with the public at this time.  I could do this for the main villain of the first story arc, but doing so and making it public would give away way too much information that I want.

But this is a day for characters, so I'm going to write about characters, specifically where they will start off. The first campaign I run in this world might have to be characters that I come up with. I don't know if I'll have enough of the setting scripted out for the first batch of PCs to be able to truely make their PCs from scratch.  I've had folks make characters in similar siutations before; the original Longshot game had PC "archetypes" that I wanted filled. Like Ace and Commander; I wanted one player who was the hotshot pilot, and another who was centered around leadership abilities, but how that PC got there was up to them.

This first campaign might be different. For the story arc to advance, I might have to do similar scripting with the starting PCs.  For at least the first Story Arc, anyway. What I'll need to determine are what roles will I need filled within the group.

And, of course, how many PCs will that be?

I'm not even sure what I'd want as archetypes for the game; Retired or Discharged Union soldier? Psychic? Definitely a non-human. Danal Resistance member?  Ku'jai farmer?  I still need to see what the first story arc is going to entail before I decide on archetypes, relationships, and skills necessary for success.

Almost every space opera has some "guy and his ship". I'm sort of tempted to put transportation from one system to another in the hands of the NPCs, and be something the PCs have to negotiate for.  It's a possibility I'll have to consider...

Tomorrow we finish this thing.

One more day...


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Day 28: Left Out

Today should be a blast...

Exercise:

Spend 15 minutes thinking about two or three of the above "left out topics" and post in the comments any other world-building topics that come to mind that you haven't seen addressed in these threads and would like to.
 The post for today's exercise then goes on to list several topics that folks have come up with over the years. I feel like using that as a list...

Clothing: What passes for fashion in your world? 
I like the idea that each world has it's own fashion trends. One world may favor the ultra-chic of today's high-end fashions, while another world is mostly "blue jeans and t-shirts". For the Union as a whole, I look a lot to what's come before; Star Trek, Star Wars, and Battletech. Similar worlds, similar themes.



Sanitation and hygiene: We don't read speculative fiction to read up on people going to the bathroom, but how clean is your world? What do large concentrations of people do with their waste (biological waste as well as regular ol' trash)? 
The Union tends to have mass-garbage yards where trash is compacted, launched into orbit, and fired into the nearest star. At least that's how it works on most urban settings. The more remote a world, the more necessary it will be to try and recycle anything and everything they can. Composting stations, recycling yards, scrapyards; that's the norm in the Stellar Garden. I think there may be one or two minor powers that will be akin to "70s era US", where it's all fossil fuels, smog, pollution, and garbage yards miles across stinking up the place. 

Disease and Treatment, Medicines: Similarly, how does medicine work in your world? What do people do for pain? What do they do about disease? How do people heal? Are there hospitals, healers, infirmaries, medics? 
High medicine with advanced cybernetics, pharmaceuticals, and life-preserving surgeries. Certain psychics could even be involved; if they are skilled in bio-manipulation or with mental techniques, they may be called on for delicate matters.

Treatment of the Elderly: A related issue: do your elderly drift away on icebergs? Do they get put into an old folks' home? Do they shift to hyper-productive imaginative lives in a VR world? Are they revered? Reviled? 
In urban centers, medical science allows humans to live past 100 years of age, regularly. The elderly live long and active lives, due to supplements. The poor don't quite have the same access, but they still can live a long while. Most are still active members of the community and ideally seen as knowledgeable elders.


Law Enforcement and Incarceration: Long-term incarceration is a modern phenomenon, and one that doesn't seem to work very well, given the overpopulation in prisons. What happens to criminals in your world? Fines? Feuds? Eye-for-an-eye mutilation? Microchipping? Do you have prisons? 
The Union maintains various prisons around the Garden. Each world has a few in isolated locations; the goal is to rehabilitate felons and use them as labor in mines, farms, or civic improvement projects. Upon release, they are gene-tagged and on effective parole for the remainder of their lives. The worst criminals are kept away from the public, locked into prisons orbiting dead stars, on planets with harsh climates, or on refurbished asteroid bases. Only the very worst criminals are issued the death penalty (treason or murder of a government official).

Some fun details to add into the setting. Two more days and then this project phase is completed.