Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Anomaly - The League Faces Challenges

The formation of the League of Allied Worlds may have brought an end to the Garden Conflicts, but it certainly didn't wipe away a hundred years of prejudice and suspicion. In spite of it's name, the League was never meant to become a unified government for all of the worlds in the Garden Nebula. At best, it was a way for the various planetary and interstellar governments to come together to resolve disputes without armed conflict. 

Those early meetings of the League Council were rough; shouting and posturing was seemingly the preferred method of conversation rather than debate and compromise. There was a lot for the Council to work out; planets that had changed sides during the Conflicts that two or sometimes three governments claimed, a interstellar economy and trade treaties needed to be ratified, and then there was the problem of the Allef Refugees.  These were just the tip of the gigantic stack of bills, legislature, and diplomatic treaties the Council faced.

In the case of conquered planets; those had to be resolved on a case by case basis. Forty three worlds fell into this category; worlds that various empires had controlled during the last hundred years. Each government would have to pour resources into those worlds, species migrated to those planets to not only secure and protect the world, but also cultivate it or look for a chance at a new beginning. Over the years, the fact that a world held both humans and Naguli populations meant that no matter which empire the world was turned over to, there was a considerable portion of the population that could be upset with the change. This led to concerns over riots and armed revolt; and that happened. 

On the world of Barm, the Granos population (about 38% of those living on Barm) objected to being turned over to the Republic of Kel. They protested and formed resistance cells against the Republic government. The resistance groups tried to get the Granos Territories to send help, but the Territories were bound to non-interference by the League Agreement; aiding the Granos take over the world would likely restart the Garden Conflicts. In the end, most of the Granos were offered a chance to leave Barm, and were given a paltry amount by the Republic as a "reparation award". The money barely covered transit expenses, and left those who returned to the Territories with nothing.  Meanwhile, those Granos who elected to stay on Barm reaped the rewards, taking over vast amounts of real estate and holdings.

The interstellar economy was an easier topic to resolve; most empires agreed that they would need a universal currency to foster trade between them. Establishing the currency was easy, implementing it was hard. It took an army of bankers and finance experts from every empire to come up with the exchange rates and treasury indexes that allowed the Garden Credit system to come into being as a legitimate currency, and to avoid the inevitable spiral of inflation. The Garden Credit became the preferred currency across the nebula within 5 years of the inception of the League. 

The Allef refugees became a complex problem for the League. The Allef were always an aloof race, usually preferring to stand alone during the Conflicts, and only entering the war when they had something to gain. The Allef Domains incorporated worlds from the Republic and the Naguli Empire, all of which were lost during the Conflict's final years. While the destruction of Allef led to the creation of the League, none of the League members could really decide what to do with those Allef who had either been rescued from the dying world or where off-world when the disaster occurred. All the League members were trying to rebuild their own worlds, help their own people rebuild or else handle the waves of refugees from their own empires; ex-patriots who elected to come home when their worlds were turned over to other governments. None of the League members formally elected to grant the Allef any relief, citing a need to focus on their own worlds for a time. This led the Allef no where to go; most had no money or holdings to utilize; those were all vaporized or left behind on Allef. A few philanthropists and charitable organizations did what they could to help the Allef Refugees, but many more slipped through the cracks and had to strike out on their own to survive.

In recent years, some Allef have managed to form small colonies and communities on worlds throughout the nebula, but these are small and widespread. Its still more common to find Allef alone or in small packs, wandering the space lanes trying to survive in a League that owes them everything, yet gives them nothing.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Anomaly - The Birth of the League

It started with the end of the Allef.

The war had gone on for a hundred years. Collectively it was known as “the Garden Conflicts”, because at various points in its history empires would leave and later rejoin the fighting. Looking back on it now, no one truly left the war, they merely stopped fighting for a relative brief moment to catch their breath and replenish their losses. But usually within a generation, they would be back looking for justice, or vengeance, or resources, or whatever it was they were fighting for this time.

After a century of conflict, the empires started to get desperate. Many had lived their whole lives knowing nothing but war. Only the Granos and the Narasheem could remember a time when there was no war, back before the empires even knew the others existed. Many of them sought out new weapons and technologies, an edge that could bring this conflict to a close once and for all. The Uranar tried it first with Gesalin Gas, which they unleashed on the Republic of Kel. The death of Iasalo, three hundred thousand humans, drove the Republic into a frenzy. The Narasheem and the Granos weren’t too thrilled with their neighbor either, and formed a truce with the Republic. That phase of the war ended in a stalemate; the Uranar couldn’t use their Gesalin gas on any of their enemies' worlds, and the trio couldn’t invade the Reaches for fear of losing their forces to Gas attack.

The Republic researched “Jump Cannons”, mass drivers that could fire projectiles through localized jump gates. The Granos attempted to create supersoldiers through bio-tech research. The Narsheem sought out the power to weaponize solar flares to bathe fleets and planets in electro-magnetic pulses. Each empire had something that they were working on that could result in the utter annihilation of their enemies, but it was the Allef that made everyone wake up and see what the century had wrought.

The Allef, besieged by the Naguli and the Drakon clans, and abandoned by their allies in the Republic, were desperate. The Allef Domain had shrunk, and they were reeling. The Naguli had conquered most of the Domain’s former worlds, while the Drakons raided the rest until there was nothing left worth taking. With their backs against the wall, and no help in sight, the Allef attempted one last gambit to save their people and stop the war; they succeeded with the latter goal.

On that fateful day, a Naguli invasion fleet appeared over the Allef homeworld. As they approached, the Allef engaged their secret weapon; a gravity singularity bomb. The bomb detonated in front of the Naguli fleet, just as the main command ship was arriving. The gravity singularity formed at the same time as the massive command ship’s jump gate. The two fields interacted, catastrophically. When the blast faded, the Naguli fleet was gone, but most of Allef was gone with it. Over 60% of the planet’s mass, the area closest to the singularity, was drawn in. It was as if a giant entity took a massive bite out of the planet. Allef’s atmosphere destabilized, it’s gravity was thrown off by its loss of mass. What was left of Allef shook itself apart over the next ten days.  

The suicidal destruction of Allef shook the other empires to their foundations. They saw the lengths that a once powerful empire took to win the war and were shocked into action. Rescue ships from several empires headed to Allef to try and save anyone they could. Even so, only ten thousand Allef were rescued from the planet that once held three billion.

The death of the Allef greatly disturbed the other empires. They took a hard look at themselves, their people, and the effects the war had on the entire Stellar Garden. This event prompted the Republic to negotiate with the other empires. The Granos Territories responded first, but eventually the Narasheem worlds, and the Uranar Reaches entered negotiations. Even the Naguli Empire came to the table. The Drakon Clans ceased their attacks as they evaluated what the empires were doing.  After months of arguing, deal making, negotiating, and eventually peacemaking, the League of Allied Worlds were formed.

And all it took was the death of an empire.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Rookies - First Time GMs

So it's Father's Day, and I like many parents in this hobby have the pleasure of sharing gaming with my step-son. He's played in one campaign of mine and is lining up to be in the next one. He's come along as a player.  

In the meantime, he's started playing games with his peers; his own friends from high school and college. Actually, he's started down the path of game-mastering, running games for his friends. Frankly, I dimly recall my own first time experiences running games back when I was his age; another decade...hell, another millennium ago. Not only that, but when it comes to Star Wars gaming, I ran 5 whole systems ago. The West End Games system had different rules, but not really a different vibe. WEG's system was ahead of it's time, it had a narrative core layered on with rules and crunch bloat.

As I said, I don't recall much of specific challenges I faced when I was my son's age, but as an exercise, I realized it could be an interesting experience to talk to Jason about the challenges he's facing as a rookie GM.

So why did you want to run a Star Wars game?

Because I've been playing it enough, I wanted to try being the GM.  It's the game system I've enjoyed the most out of what I've played.
What else have you played?

Mutants and Masterminds, the White Wolf games like Vampire, Werewolf, and those. What's their fantasy game...Exalted?  I think I played one of your Rifts modules, but not in the Rifts systems (likely one of my many attempts to hack it to another system).  

I tried the latest Marvel Super Heroes game, but I found the system too complex.

How many times have you run a game?

Three times so far, and they've been all really small groups; 2 people. I've got 5 players, it's just problematic trying to get them all together, so I run with whoever can show up.
Talk to me about your experiences running the game; what aspects are you finding a challenge and is anything coming to you easy?

I've been running adventure modules so far, and it involves a lot of "fleshing it out". They give you a good map to follow, and suggest a lot of stuff for plotlines in between; side quests and things like that. I've been trying to do that, but I've had two problems; the first issue is I've found that fleshing out the book's suggestions is tough.

The other problem is my PCs are relatively new to this, and are more focused on following the main storyline, so some of the side quest stuff is out of their interest.  Like, in Mask of the Pirate Queen, the players are eager to take the bounty contact without doing any background checks on the employer or obtain any information about the target of the bounty. They just want to take the contract and advance the story line.

As far as what's easy?  Combat is really easy, the PCs are all over that, and I enjoy the way the Star Wars system works. It's so open for what you can try to pull off with the results of the rolls.

Rules wise, what's the hardest obstacle you've found?

When I can use skulduggery (laughs) It's really just that you can use a variety of skills for a variety of situations. I'm just trying to figure out which skill you want to use or how to use it given any situation I encounter.

You're running your players through several printed modules. Do your players do what you expect, or are they going "off the rails"? Do you think the books handle that problem, or are you having to come up with your own solutions?

They're not even going off the rails, they're pretty much sticking with them. They straight-line the plot line and don't get distracted with any side topics.  Although they did decide to murder a Rodian shop assistant...

It's like they're playing Diablo; follow the main story and no side quests.

Do you want to create your own adventures?  Any ideas of what you want to come up with for a story or plot idea?

Absolutely, but I'm kinda stuck on what I'd want to do for an adventure with them. Thus far we only have one person in the group who's gamed before. Bringing the newbies through the various adventure modules is a good start. But I'll eventually run out of modules.

Honeslty, I think I'd like to run something similar to Beyond the Rim; find something, retrieve it, have stuff happen in between, and then they discover what they retrieved isn't what they originally thought. 

What setting would you like to run the game in?  Rebellion? Outer Rim?  Force and Destiny?

Probably a freeform game. If everyone shows up we've got two Edge of the Empire characters and three Force users. I think Edge of the Empire is the way to go for this group.

How have your players been taking to the game?

They seem to enjoy it. I mean, they show up, throw some dice, attempt to kill people, and have a good time.

What's their play style?

"Blow everything up". The last game I played that my buddy Everett was running, we had two Hired Guns, two Bountry Hunters, and me as the Demolitionist.  So yeah; "blow everything up".  We had to rescue someone from a building and the other players started throwing explosives through the windows.

I can't image that ended well.

Thankfully the guy we had to rescue was on the second floor.  Everything else got demolished. Anything we might have wanted on the first floor was completely wrecked.

It was all high school guys; no one wanted to be the talker, they all wanted to just wreck things.

I had that phase...

Honestly I'm surprised because two of them didn't go Force Users this time around.

Because they haven't blown stuff up with the force yet.


I'm trying to think of my own experiences, and I'm having a hard time doing it. When I was your age running games, I mean.

When I started playing, I wanted to go straight combat. With your Another Longshot game, I decided not to go full combat. Let's be honest, everyone in my group was a tank or a beatstick.

Right?  Do you find yourself wanting to spread out more?

Yeah, that's why I want to go part mechanic for my next PC. As opposed to maxing out agility and shoot everything off the map.  

But that's fun too.

True! That being said, with some of the mechanics stuff for Rigger, it's really useful.

Any final thoughts on running and being a new GM?

I need to write stuff down if I want to make a game. Otherwise I'm not going to have a clue where to continue games.  I need to write down NPCs, planets, names, backstories; write it all down and keep track of it. I haven't really remembered every character's name when I played Longshot as a player. It's important to do that now that I'm a GM.

I do like using a white board for combat scenes.  In one of your games you did that, and I liked that. My players found it really useful to see where opponents and hazards are. So I'm going to keep using that.

Thanks for participating, Jason!
I gotta say, I'm having a "proud papa bear" moment when I think of my stepson sitting down behind the screen and running games. 

He keeps wanting to borrow my books, though...and I need them too.
Finally, a big nod of thanks to my wife for suggesting this topic. She's a real smartie, that one.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Coloring Within The Lines

One of the biggest personal obstacles I encounter when I'm creating a Star Wars campaign is how close to canon I'm going to keep the game. I've done games where the PCs interacted with established canon (with no adverse effects to the movies), and campaigns that completely tossed canon right out the window. Sometimes it's fun to rub elbows with Skywalker, Solo, Organa, and Vader. Other times I want to keep them as far away from it as possible. Not necessarily because I want to "preserve the story", but more because those stories have been told. By interacting with the movie characters, the PCs may feel like they're simply supporting cast for "the Big Three". That's not their role, though; they're the Player Characters. This is their story, and they deserve an epic as big as any Star Wars hero who's appeared on screen to date.

Aside from the aforementioned "tossing canon out the window", there are several tricks to keep your campaign within canon, but not interacting with canon. I find myself utilizing this when I put together a new Star Wars game.

Location, Location, Location

One of the first questions I ask myself when creating a new game; when does the story take place? Star Wars has a rich history, even if most of it now falls into the category of "Legends", and is no longer established canon. You've got the Old Republic era, thousands of years before the movies. You could even go farther back than that to the formation of the Republic and the fall of the Infinite Empire, and give the game a real "space fantasy" feel. You could play in the Fall of the Republic/Clone Wars era, or the Dark Times. The product line from Fantasy Flight Games is currently written from the standpoint of the Rebellion Era, and much of the media since Disney took over Lucasfilm has been focused on a return to that time. There's the New Republic era, both in the books from the last 25 years and the newer version that Episodes 7-9 will show us. The Yuuzhan Vong war, the Legacy Era, even farther beyond you could make up your own future where your PCs are Skywalkers, Solos, Antilles(es?), Calrissians, and a host of other famous family members.

So "which era to run" is my first question. Once I have that, the next location to decide is where in the galaxy is the game focused? Some campaigns I've run had no specific central location in the galaxy, they just sort of happened wherever the PCs wanted (or needed) to go. This felt rather epic, as the story swept across the galaxy to a score of worlds the the PCs would likely never come back to. However, the games where I had the most fun were ones that had a central location; a place for the PCs to get familiar with, get to know the people and unique places within, and gave them a sense of "coming home" every few sessions. 

I sort of equate it to the difference between shows like Star Trek (Original series or Next Generation) and Battlestar Galactica versus ones like Deep Space Nine and Babylon 5; with one the new location is the exciting discovery or unknown threat, while with the other there's a general desire to protect your home from threats that come to it, or dwell within it. This is a generalization and simplification to be sure, but I hope you get my meaning.

The Right Amount of Seasoning

A sad consequence of growing old was the dawning realization that I can't game like I did in college; not if I want to maintain a healthy social balance among my family and friends. No more weekly games for me, the games typically need to be spread out to months between sessions. This can make sweeping epics very hard to maintain, as I was reminded of with my last campaign "Another Longshot". I have to factor this in to the type of story I want to create with my players; more of a series of connected adventures that could stand alone rather than a sweeping epic that takes years to complete. 

The more I write these days, the more it feels like I'm planning on "seasons" for my game rather than sessions. It's like the Rebels cartoon or any of the DC's "Arrowverse" shows on the CW; each episode (or 2-episode arc) deals with a stand alone story. Within that story are plot threads that weave into a larger storyline that will culminate at the end of the season. This give me more of an opportunity to write sessions based on the player's backgrounds, motivations, and complications while still building towards a season finale that ties it all together.

Uncharted Territory

So what happens when you have a desire to run a game in an era that's seemingly been written a thousand times over? I had this mentality for a good fifteen years that I was done with the Rebellion Era; that every story that could have been told within that time frame had been told. I was distracted by the stories being written after the destruction of the Second Death Star, or by those leading up to and including the Clone Wars. But what appealed to me about those eras were that there was seemingly more open canvas in which I could paint my own picture about Star Wars. An uncharted section of space where I determine what happens there in. What I was reminded of recently was that the galaxy is a really, really, really big place. There's plenty of space within the galaxy for me to create a vast and robust story and never have it cross paths with anything already established if I don't want it to.

One of the best resources I've found is the interactive Star Wars Galaxy Map website. It lists out the location of every known sector, planet, and trade route in the Star Wars galaxy. It even links them all to Wookieepedia, so you can look up important details about the planet, sector, or trade route. Taking some time, it's rather easy to find a sector or two that are practically empty; devoid of any meaningful established canon  or even "Legendary canon".

Practice Makes Perfect

Utilizing the points I've made thus far, let's look at a potential new campaign. With my rediscovered enjoyment of the Galactic Civil War, I elect to place the campaign in the Rebellion Era. Specifically, I'm really enjoying the years leading up to A New Hope, as seen in the Rebels cartoon and Rogue One. I want to tell a story about a rebellion forming within a specific sector, one that will become a part of the greater Rebellion as a whole, but still focuses on the politics and dynamics within a specific region of space.

Looking at the Galaxy Map, there appears to be a nice and mostly vacant sector in the southern side of the galaxy; the Tantra Sector. According to Wookieepedia, there really hasn't been much established there, especially within the new canon. There have been only the barest mention of anything about the sector in Legends canon, even though the sector lies between two of the major galactic trade routes. I can see the sector being heavily colonized within easy reach of those trade routes, with most of the interior of the sector barely touched (or even explored). Entire planets of beings could lie in that region and have yet to be discovered, or lost colonies could have thrived there waiting to be brought back into galactic society.

This region of space, and the era it's in, gives me a huge amount of real estate to create planets, organizations, and plot points for. I can lay out details for the Imperial's control of this sector, outlining the military strength of the Sector Fleet and the general personality and machinations of the Moff in charge of the sector. I can create several worlds to fill specific roles within the sector; population centers, manufacturing locations, agro-worlds, shadowports where criminals thrive, and lost colonies that simply want to be left alone. Pirates who threaten the spacelanes and bounty hunters who hunt them down for sport and profit. Lost temples or starships that hold secrets of the Force... 

And of course, dissidents who balk and refuse to submit to the will of the Empire and who have chosen to be rebels.

This could be a fun place to play, a corner of the sandbox that I can build what I want and how I want it. It can be a familiar place for the players to have meaningful effect on, yet close enough to the "galactic highways" that an adventure could take them across the galaxy if need be.

Growth Potential

Where you place your story is almost as important as what your story is. A good location can make a good game great, a sweeping plot-line epic. It provides players with a sense of familiarity, and can be something to motivate your players to action when you threaten "their home".  Be sure to give a lot of thought to how much freedom and space your location provides, and enjoy the time you spend coloring within those lines.

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.

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.


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 


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


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.


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.