Posts Tagged ‘RPGs’

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Gaming Thursday: Star Trek Adventures Species

July 12, 2018

Here’s a new species to add to your Star Trek: Adventures games!  As I alluded to in my last ST:A post, our new campaign has afforded me the chance to recreate a character I’d been playing in a Trek game many years ago, a character whose playtime was unfortunately cut short when I moved out of the area.  She was bit unusual in that she wasn’t a standard Trek race.  Rather, I’d taken the basic outline (as well as the species name) from the Battlelords RPG, a game that I had randomly bought at some point.  After a bit of tweaking to their concept, crafting the rules, and writing a plausible insertion into the Trek universe, there she was – with a rich backstory of course! – walking onto the bridge.

Fast forward to today, and she’s back in action.  So without further ado, here’s the ST:A species treatment for the Cizerack for your gaming pleasure:

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1-zXIblE4C6LlVn48fEfSeJKoiutv5k9U

(Artwork copyright by SSDC)

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Gaming Thursday: Mouse Guard Flowchart

June 21, 2018

In the same vein as last week’s Star Trek Adventures, here is a flowchart/reference sheet/cheat sheet for the Mouse Guard RPG.  Given the unique way Mouse Guard works, there’s a lot that rides on each test, as there are so few of them.  Hence each test is rather involved.  Couple that with a rulebook that suffers from some organizational issues (such as having various aspects of the test procedure scattered throughout), this flowchart proved invaluable at our table.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1peik86Gj454fIgQEBbKy7w5zvd9VoHYc

In the end, once we got a handle on how it works, we ended up loving Mouse Guard (see my end-of-game reflection here).  We are stoked to play again, so our mouse adventures will continue!  If I update the sheet I’ll be sure to repost it.  And if you see anything that I erred on, please let me know and I’ll wrangle it right.

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Gaming Thursdays: Star Trek Adventures Cheat Sheet

June 14, 2018

As noted a few months ago, our group’s been playing the Star Trek Adventures RPG by Modiphius.  We’ve been having a blast (it has allowed me to recreate/resurrect a character I love that I was playing some 20 years ago in the Star Trek RPG by Last Unicorn Games) and the system’s proving to be a pretty good one.  As is my wont, I’ve made these quick cheat sheets/GM Screen/rules references to help us along:

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1k9AR8oRJ_qiSPoxW7QEVWZU50jQiIYOr

One thing to note, I didn’t include all the actions and options for starship combat, as I found this great set of sheets by Potato_Fishy that contained everything very well.  Otherwise, I tried to include pretty much everything that comes up often in play.

Hopefully this can be of use for your games as well.  If you see any errors or omissions, please let me know and I will update the sheet.  And if you’re not playing ST:A, I do recommend it!

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Gaming Thursday: Top Secret NWO Addendum

May 10, 2018

I forgot to mention one thing during my review that I really appreciated in the new TS:NWO, and that is the rules for interrogation.  A classic, standard, spycraftian story trope to be sure, but NWO puts little factual spin on it.

In NWO, there are two rolls made during interrogation:  One is to get the subject to talk.  The other is to get the subject to tell the truth. And here’s the thing:  if you use violence, while the first roll becomes easier, the second becomes harder.

It’s nice to see them break the trope that torture is efficient, quick, and produces immediate, proper, and actionable information.  Because it really doesn’t.  And in my book, the less we perpetuate that myth, the better.

So big kudos to the designers on TS:NWO for this one!

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Gaming Thursday: Top Secret NWO Review

April 19, 2018

Here we go!  Some 33 years after I bought my first RPG, Top Secret, the newly minted (and Kickstartered) Top Secret NWO arrived on my doorstep!  Written by the same author it promised a return to super sweet spycraftian action.  I ripped open the package to find a box sporting the deliciously familiar motif of gadgets and secret documents and money and IDs.

Ahh, wonderful nostalgia, both for the cover but also for a boxed RPG!

Inside awaited the rulebook, a set of bog standard dice, a pad of nicely done character sheets (albeit a bit odd in that they present a “folder” motif but since they’re one page it isn’t much of a folder…), a very nice looking and heavy duty screen, an introductory module (perfectly done up with prominent bands of yellow on the cover, again reminiscent of the module included in the original Top Secret box, good ol’ Sprechenhaltestelle), and a gaggle of play aids:  some die-cut counters (of artwork I am not that fond of), a series of vehicle cards, and a kind of secondary character sheet table card thing.

The intel is set.  The mission is clear.  Let’s dive into the debrief… Read the rest of this entry ?

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Gaming Thursday

March 8, 2018

This picture looks as D&D as can be!

(actually it’s a person participating in a correfoc in Spain… but that won’t stop our imaginations…)

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Gaming Thursday: Tasks, Difficulties, and Aspects

February 8, 2018

We’ve just started playing the new Star Trek Adventures (aka STA), and there’s a few mechanics in there that has spurred me to think about task difficulty levels, and even more specifically, about how to set those difficulty levels.  It isn’t necessarily anything groundbreaking, but it does have me looking at it in a new way that both seems to make it more intuitive to me as well as offering up something that could provide extra excitement and options in play.

It all has to do with leveraging the notion of an “aspect” or “trait”.  Both FATE* as well as STA use this concept.  Roughly speaking, an aspect/trait is a phrase or descriptor that denotes something specific and/or out of the ordinary about the thing it’s attached to.  So, for example, a scene could have an aspect of “Dark and Stormy” attached to it, a thing could have the aspect of “super hardened steel” attached to it, and a person can have aspects such as “Earnest Mecha Knight” or “Broken Arm” attached to them.

The key for my mini-epiphany here is that they are denoting things out of the ordinary.  Most game systems will have a table denoting difficulties and a target number or similar that the character must achieve using the combination of their attributes/skills/etc and the die roll.  Usually there’s a progression such as Easy, Medium, Hard, Very Hard, or more poetic such as Routine, Skilled, Challenging, Difficult, Insane.  The question, as a GM, is in coming up with what level a task should fall in… we can get good at it over time, intuitively grasping both the world we’re supposed to be simulating as well as the meta-analysis of a character’s ability and the player’s frustration tolerance.   But as we developing that sensitivity is pretty nebulous, and can lead to some whipsawing of difficulty levels all over the place.  And even with experience, sometimes it can still feel all a little to arbitrary, and there are still times when the answer might stymie us.

After all that setup, here’s the grand idea/procedure:  Pick a base difficulty level, whatever’s appropriate for the game system.**  For example, let’s pick 1.  Then, adjust from there by adding/introducing aspects.  Hindrances add to the difficulty, niceties subtract.

Where I think this really can help is in using a trio of “generic adjective” aspects :  Extra, Extremely, Insanely***.  For example, a lock could be Extra Complex, a door could be Extremely Sturdy, a navigation plot could be Insanely Complex, a puzzle could be Extremely Tricky.  (Of course, the puzzle could also just be bog standard Tricky – which wouldn’t warrant an aspect).  These adjectives respectively add +1/+2/+3 to the difficulty.

This seems a lot like the typical ladder of difficulties (Easy, Medium, Hard, etc…), but this combo aspect of adjectives feels more graspable than the abstract nature of Easy/Medium/Hard as it focuses the attention to the actual thing at hand in relation only to itself, rather than that more abstract sense.  Plus, it then combines nicely with other aspects that can be placed on the scene, which themselves could receive the trio of adjectives to further specify how affecting they are.

So, to use a Star Trek example, Bones and Kirk beam over to Chancellor Gorkon’s ship.  The Chancellor has been shot.  “Jim, I don’t even know his anatomy…” says Bones as he tries to save the Chancellor.  Task time!  The base difficulty is 1.  The Chancellor took some hits and is hurt pretty bad… he’s extremely wounded.  Our difficulty is now 3.  Their standing in the lounge of the ship… not exactly a hospital environment, and Bones only has his little medical bag with him.  The aspect “Rudimentary Supplies” adds an additional 1, for 4.  Plus, Gorkon is a, and has the aspect of, Klingon.  That counts poorly here given Bones’ lack of their anatomy.  So we’re at a difficulty of 5.  And, worst of all, this is a major diplomatic incident.  The aspect of “Tense Situation” accounts for the factor that everyone is seriously on edge.  Boom, difficulty of 6.

Fortunately, Bones has an aspect of Xenobiology (could also be something fanciful like “Doctor to the Stars”) to represent he’s seen and studied a lot of  different alien species over the years.  He may not know Klingons specifically, but it helps him make good guesses.  So that brings the difficulty back down to 5.  Unfortunately, that is all he has to bring to the situation;  he’s got good skill and could potentially roll well, but it’s still difficult.  Doubly unfortunately, he rolls poorly, and he and Kirk are arrested.

To use another example, a party is trying to close a magical portal while under attack from beasts that are emerging from the portal.  The portal is a pretty simple one, and has no descriptor on it.  But, the “Howling Windstorm” that accompanies it, along with “Frenzied Combat”  make things much more difficult, as does the fact the group’s magic expert is nursing a “Ringing Headache” from being hit in the head by a tire iron earlier (long story).  Still everyone came prepared… the “Norstrormorororos Texts” they brought along gives them access to a lot of knowledge and tricks, and they are “Covered in Thyme”, a known beastie deterrent.  With their magic expert noted as someone who “I eat rituals for breakfast” the difficulty returns to 1, and the roll is easily made, and the portal closes.

Again, this could all be done with a simple accounting by the GM, but I think there’s something more satisfying and fun in calcing it all out like this.  For one, it lets the players know exactly where this is coming from, and also highlights how their preparation or the special aspects of their characters are helping in the situation (making them feel more epic).  Even better I think is that in listing all the aspects, they’re left out in the open and can lead to players coming up with more interesting and varied solutions by using them in clever ways, and perhaps even turning the tables into something wildly memorable. Even if not, many aspects will both aid and hinder – the Extra Windy condition may hamper communication and lock picking, but also gives the characters protection against ranged attacks, narrowing the attack options of their opponents.

Overall I think this could be really cool.  I’m going to try it out when next I run a game (squeezing it in even if the game system doesn’t intrinsically use something like aspects).  And this gives me something more to add to my stack of ideas for that RPG system totally honestly no really I am still (slowly) building

 

*  FATE uses the idea of aspects very broadly, where an aspect on a person (which itself can represent special training, or a characteristic, or a philosophy, or…) is similar to an aspect on a scene, is similar to an aspect on an object.  STA, on the other hand, has Traits for scenes and objects, but on a person, usually only their species is a trait, whereas there’s a different mechanic (Values) for philosophies and mental states, and a third mechanic (Focus) for specialized training…

** My own favoured spot to start from would be to pick the level that requires a competently skilled character to succeed at the majority of the time.

*** I would also include some adjectives to denote easier tasks, such as:  Elementary, Trivial