Friday, May 12, 2017

Anomaly: All the Best Names are Taken

As I look over the notes I have for Anomaly, I'm one again forced to look at the names I've selected. Names are a big deal to me, I put a lot of stock in them. Several friends of mine have reflexively trained me to come up with names that not only sound cool, but are difficult to mock. Just about every game I've written in the past two decades has gone through the "Playground Test" on many occasions.

Even so, a few names slip through unknowingly...

So what's my hang up today? Simply put, I'm trying to decide if these names are cool and evocative enough to keep, or if I should just ditch them and go with something else.

The Stellar Garden: This is the name I came up with for the region of space that the bulk of the campaign setting will be focused in. It's a somewhat isolated section of the galaxy, either contained within or cut off from the rest of the galaxy by a sprawling nebula.  I thought that calling it the Garden would carry a sense that this was a cradle of civilization and species development. A variety of races have evolved within the region, much more so than science or typical sci-fi would have you believe would occur within an area so small (galacticly speaking). I also thought it could carry an almost "Garden of Eden" vibe as well, the thought that within the garden are delights while outside the garden lie dangers to those within.

This is one name I'm on the fence on, but currently leaning towards keeping it. It's a sort of unique name, at least I think it is.  I can't remember any other sci-fi properties referring to a section of space as such.


The Union of Garden Worlds: Ugh...the more I look at this name, the more I want to drop it immediately. I just don't like it.  The abbreviation is too clunky (UGW). It looks ugly, sounds ugly, and feels cumbersome. I want this to be my United Federation of Planets, my Galactic Republic, my Alliance; but all the good names are taken. Federation and Confederation make me think of Star Trek. Alliance and Republic make me think of Star Wars. I could do something with League, I suppose, but I need to keep away from calling it the Star League (Battletech and Last Starfighter). Garden League sounds dumb. League of Allied Worlds could...huh.  That actually doesn't sound too bad as I'm typing it.  

"League of Allied Worlds"...huh.

I even like the anachronism; LAW.  I can come up with all kinds of nicknames for them, both as slang and as insults.  That could work, that could work well.

Drachon Clans: The Drachon are my klingons, my orcs, my Battletech Clans. The outsider warrior society that believes in might and prowess over political machinations, and yet cannot seem to get away from those within their society from having political machinations.  Physically, they're basically Dragonborn (a la D&D).  I don't hate the name "drachon", but I wonder if I shouldn't call the Clans themselves something else. Drachon Clans are basically Klingon Houses, or Orc Tribes; those all use the species name in their identifier.  Maybe Drachon Clans can stick.

Allef: My space elves, because every sci-fi game has space elves. I'm simply electing to merge my space-elves in with another trope; space cat-people. I named them Allef because they're basically alley cats at this point; something befell their homeworld, wiping out almost 90% of their population. They now gather in small colonies or travel the Garden alone, living off the scraps of society or stealing what they can to survive. Still, I'm on the fence about the name.

Bathalian and the Bathal Host: The main villains of the campaign, or the main obvious threat anyway. I got the name for these from a line of miniatures from Reaper Minis. They're mind-flayers/illithids with that particular name filed off, but they also have a real "Zerg Swarm" look to some of the more powerful members. That really inspired me to make them this massive horde that swarms over entire sectors of the galaxy, subjugating planets to their control. I like the name, and the idea that there's a religious component to their society (hence the name "The Host"). My take on religion in my games of late has been relatively minimal; the Force certainly counts as a religion, but it doesn't carry the same weight or presence as gods in settings like D&D. Having a religious motivator for this game will be an inspiring change.

"Name-Not-Associated-With-
Bodily-Function forthcoming"
Urnar: One of my council-member races for the League of Allied Worlds.  Their name looks and sounds too close to "urine".  Absolutely getting a name change.

The Dark One: Ah yes; this thing. The Dark One is the god that the Bathal Host is founded upon. It's the main deity of their entire belief structure. They receive "blessings" from this god, and use those powers to convert others to their beliefs.  I hate the name. It's too generic. I know I've ranted about this before in this blog too, but I can't come up with something better.  I sort of want the name to be a title, or an adjective, rather than some made up name like "Obliviax" or something like that.  (Although Obliviax sounds cool, I may need to use that name elsewhere...)

It's hard.  It's hard to come up with names at times, especially if I A) want to at least sound original and B) don't want to give away too much ahead of time. 

Names.  They're all taken, man.


Thursday, May 11, 2017

Trinary is now Anomaly

Art by Leo Chuang
Welcome back to Fragments from the Rim; I was musing over on Facebook today that I needed to brush the cobwebs off this site and get it going again. Life has been rocky and rough lately, and my various forms of artistic expression have taken the brunt of my lack of drive and neglect. Part of me getting things back on track is getting my creative juices flowing again and enjoying the work I do. So; here's hoping this is a start.

Last October I posted an entire month of posts about "Trinary", a new campaign world I had kicking around my head that I finally attempted to get some traction on.  It's been a long while since I've made anything as grand as a campaign world; my Twin Worlds setting back in College was my last journey into world-building, and I had a lot of fun with that.  I poured countless hours of work into developing that setting for several Dungeons and Dragons campaigns that ran in the years following. Had many a good time and adventure that my players still talk about today.

I've had an idea for a long while, a theme that spawned the creation of a cluster of stars in the corner of a far-flung galaxy (no, not THAT Galaxy Far Far Away; I do enough campaigns in that one). The 30 Days of World Building exercise gave me a basic skeleton and a lot of ideas to work with. Looking back, I'm not happy with a lot of the names, but I am pleased with a lot of the ideas that exercise spawned.

Art by Luvisi
My biggest hangup has been the name; "Trinary". I had a few reasons for choosing that name, but it never sat right with me. It felt too clunky, too easy to miss-speak and call it "Trinity". Also, the name wasn't very evocative. I've been trying on other names for the campaign world for a while now; the name really drives a lot. Sure, I could try and develop a world and see if a name for the campaign pops out, but that's not typically how I operate. I try to put a name to the idea that I have, and everything that comes after is better designed to fall in under that umbrella. It fits with the themes and the stories I want to create for that setting.

I've decided on the name "Anomaly" for my game world.  The name hints at the fact that something is amiss and highlights the irregular, which for the most part includes most player characters. There are many anomalies in the game; social anomalies, stellar anomalies, cultural anomalies. Gravametric anomalies allow for Faster Than Light travel. Genetic anomalies hold the key for powers long lost to be reborn. There may even be a temporal anomaly or two that must be dealt with.

GM Phil's Anomaly (Yes, I know I need a new banner image...)

So now I've got a name I can work with. Next is trying to refine what I want into a very basic campaign setting that players can use.  I need to remember that I don't need to present them with the entire setting all at once, just enough for them to grasp the concepts of the setting, get a feel for the political powers, and understand the themes within the campaign world.

Here we go...

Art by Lino Drieghe

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.