Monday, September 30, 2013

On the Weaponization of Notice

This weekend I ran my first game in an episodic cyberpunk campaign with just a few people in attendance. We system is Savage Worlds and one of the three players had any experience with the system. I gave the most rudimentary of rules explanations and jumped into the story, believing it best to learn Savage Worlds as we go.

At the beginning of the game, one of my players asked what the Notice skill does. I explained that it helps the character pick up on things that are out of the ordinary. This player would go on to use Notice in a way I didn't anticipate. He made it a weapon.

Most of the time, Notice checks are a way for the GM to reveal information to player, such as finding a clue or seeing the danger in the shadows. It's typically the GM who says when the Notice skill should be used. That wasn't the case with this player. Instead, he interpreted the skill to apply to Krav Maga-style combat situation awareness. And because I am of the opinion that no successful roll should be wasted, he would find something to his advantage each time he used Notice in combat, typically resulting in a bonus or other advantage in the following round.

Although this isn't how Notice is supposed to work, and it can result in some serious metagaming, I'm going to allow it. When a player suggests a dramatic detail for a situation and can back it up with the roll of the dice, who am I to prevent it? Anything that engages a player in active storytelling shouldn't be discouraged.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Shadowrun Complete City Kit, a Cyberpunk Vorheim

I am currently collecting resources for my upcoming cyberpunk campaign and one of the most helpful ones I have come across thus far is The Shadowrun Complete City Kit and New York City Guide. Using the city generation tools presented in Zak Smith's Vornheim, this is an indispensable resource for anyone running a game in a cyberpunk urban sprawl. Although my game is neither Shadowrun or set in New York, the pages of random tables are going to be tons of content for my game. Unlike fantasy games, cyberpunk seems like the sort of genre that is a bit harder to improvise, but this guide should be able to generate excellent adventures for cybernetic badasses on the fly without fail.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Wild Card Creator 1.0 Released

Journeyman Games has released the first full version of its Savage Worlds character making software, Wild Card Creator. I'm especially happy for the release as I am beginning a massive Savage Worlds campaign and any time saved managing characters is greatly appreciated.

Wild Card Creator is still not a perfect piece of software, but it's definitely getting there. At this point you are best using the software to run vanilla games or use one of the currently supported settings. If you are going to create a custom setting, which is probably unavoidable for most GMs running Savage Worlds, I highly suggest that you keep your rules changes to a minimum or simply use the vanilla rules and edit the character sheet after export to best fit your setting.

For example, for my cyberpunk setting I wanted to create an Arcane Background for Netrunning (hacking in cyberspace), but for the life of me I could not make the custom AB work. As a solution I am simply using Weird Science, house ruling the differences in the program and then renaming the AB on the character sheet. It's a bit more work than I would like, but programming these ABs are obviously tricky and SW characters aren't that hard to manage on paper anyway.

Another tip: use a custom setting if you are using any Knowledge skills. WCC only supports Knowledge skills that are explicitly mentioned in supported settings, which means that they are impossible in a vanilla game. You will need to create a skill for each Knowledge skill in a custom setting to give a character any skill that's not on the menu. I expect this to be fixed very shortly as it is probably the one feature that is missing regarding running a game only using the core rules.

So, should you get WCC? If you are running a game only using the core rules or one of the supported settings, definitely. It's a real time saver and will have you spitting out characters in minutes. However, you may want to hold off if you are into making custom settings with new Edges, Hindrances, Skills, etc.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Daring Tales of the Sprawl: Good, Simple Cyberpunk Rules for Savage Worlds

I've been looking for good rules for a classic cyberpunk game and things weren't going too well. I'm pretty set on running the game in Savage Worlds, but Interface Zero, the most popular cyberpunk setting for SW isn't really my cup of tea. The rules for hacking and cybernetics seem overly complicated and the setting doesn't have the run-down, lo-fi feeling I want from cyberpunk.

I contemplated checking out Cyberpunk 2020, but I don't have the time to learn a whole new system. It does, however, seem to have the best definition of cyberpunk out there.

My search is over now that I've come across Daring Tales of the Sprawl by Triple Ace Games. You can download their cyberpunk rules for free on their site. At only 13 pages, their rules are much easier to digest than Interface Zero. Triple Ace also takes a more freeform approach to cybernetics, which is much in line with what I was drafting, right done to the abstract monetary cost for installing cyberware. The rules are also free of any setting details, which make the great for any flavor of cyberpunk.

Monday, September 9, 2013

The D&D 30 Day Challenge in 30 Minutes

There's no way in hell I'm going to commit to blogging on this crap for 30 days straight. Let's get this out of the way in a half hour.

1. How You Got Started: My uncle gave me a bunch of old D&D books when I was about 12. I read them but was too shy to actually ask anyone to play. Plus, my mom was convinced that D&D would damn me to hell. So I didn't go near D&D until I picked up the 4e Red Box because it was cheap. Convinced some adult nerds to play with me and that's that.
2. Favorite Playable Race: Dwarves. Obviously.
3. Favorite Playable Class: Magic User. These guys are fucked up and awesome but no one wants to dick with magic systems.
4. Favorite Game World: I could never bring myself to run a game in a published setting, so none? I do like reading oWoD novels, so maybe that counts.
5. Favorite Set of Dice: I have a set of Q-Workshop dragon dice that I use more often then not, but I can hardly read them so I don't know if I actually like them at all. My favorite individual die is my d2.
6. Favorite Deity: Null, the god of antimatter and the void. It's the only deity a player of mine had ever given any effort in fleshing out.
7. Favorite Edition: Basic.
8. Favorite Character You Have Played: Rodrick, from my Vampire: the Requiem Gen Con game. He was a baby vampire who became Prince of City Town by being a jerk, having snappy one-liners and apparently being one of only five vampires in the entire city.
9. Favorite Character You Haven't Played: Like, another character from a game I've been in but didn't have control over? My brother-in-law had a cool magic user who got addicted to a magical drug and lost everything he owned and sentenced himself to death before leaving a dungeon.
10. Craziest Thing to Happen on an Adventure: A druid became friends with my worg. It was the only card I had up my sleeve for the encounter and she named him Jorge.
11. Favorite Adventure You Have Run: Death Frost Doom was a lot of fun.
12. Favorite Dungeon Type/Location: Old ass ruins.
13. Favorite Trap/Puzzle: I've never actually used any traps. I'd like to get someone in a pit trap someday.
14. Favorite NPC: Zeke from Death Frost Doom. I had him talk like Bubbles from Trailer Park Boys.
15. Favorite Monster (Undead): Vampire.
16. Favorite Monster (Abberation): Otyugh
17. Favorite Monster (Animal/Vermin): Wolves always work.
18. Favorite Monster (Immortal/Outsider): I don't know what this is. Cthulhu?
19. Favorite Monster (Elemental/Plant): I've never used one, but I'd sooner weaponize a corpse flower than use an elemental.
20. Favorite Monster (Humanoid/Natural/Fey): Goblins. I'll always use goblins.
21. Favorite Dragon Color/Type: Red. All others are just My Little Ponies in disguise.
22. Favorite Monster Overall: Giant, crippled demon the size of a city block that I threw at my players during a city siege.
23. Least Favorite Monster Overall: Kobolds. Why bother?
24. Favorite Energy Type: Excuse me?
25. Favorite Magical Item: Anything that requires removing body parts and slapping something dusty and cursed in its place.
26. Favorite Non-Magical Item: I dunno. Sword?
27. Character I Want To Play In the Future: A magic user who is obsessed with collecting spell components. He uses every part of the dead rogue.
28. Character I Will Never Play Again: Multiple members of the Serenity Crew.
29. What Number Do I Always Seem to Roll on a d20: It's a pretty even spread between 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, and 20.
30. Best DM You Ever Had: Dude who ran the Doctor Who game at Gen Con 2013. Got me to speak in a British accent the whole time and had a story worthy of the TV show.

And I just realized that many of my answers involve games other than D&D. Oops.

Wealth as a Trait in Savage Worlds

I am currently planning a cyberpunk campaign and would love to put some serious stress on players concerning their finances and their extremely expensive augmentation. However, I hate the accounting that goes into keeping track of currency, especially when futuristic inflation is involved. My solution will be to add a Wealth Trait to characters.*

In order to procure an item or service, the player will need to roll a Wealth check. Hitting the Target Number of 4 results in a successful purchase, but there are some complications.

For every successful purchase, the character gains a point of Financial Stress, which accounts for dwindling cash reserves. Each point of Financial Stress results in a -1 penalty to the Wealth check. Financial Stress scores can be lowered over time or when players come into a certain amount of cash. If the player receives a windfall, they can actually receive negative Financial Stress, which would instead be a bonus to their next Wealth check.

Each Raise on a Wealth check prevents a point of Financial Stress. Two or more raises actually removes Financial Stress.

Rather than having a specific monetary value, every item and service will have a cost rating. This cost rating translates into another penalty to the Wealth check.

0 - Normal living expenses, cheap consumer goods.
1 - Expensive items, weaponry, mid-range consumer electronics.
2 - Very expensive items, basic augmentations, high-end electronics and weapons.
3 - Military grade hardware, complex augmentations, top-of-the-line electronics and gear.
4 - Highly experimental or secretive services, cutting edge augmentations and electronics.

Player's start with a d4 as their Wealth trait die. This die can be adjusted by choosing Edges and Hindrances.

Poverty - d4-2
Normal - d4
Rich - d6
Filthy Rich - d8

If a player fails a Wealth check, they can spend a bennie to turn the failure into a success. However, they will immediately gain the In Debt hindrance. This hindrance will act much like the Enemy hindrance until the player is able to appease their creditor. This appeasement is at the GM's discretion. Possible applications would be a semi-permanent level of Financial Stress until the debt is paid or running dangerous missions.

Hopefully this will make my players think twice about what items they purchase, will prevent them from loading their character's up with augmentations and will potentially cause some drama should they find themselves in Debt.

*I was able to find a similar idea on the Pinnacle forum, but it's a little more complicated than I'd like.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

First Impressions of Dungeon Crawl Classics

I have been slowly working my way through Dungeon Crawl Classics between changing diapers and starring into the mid-distance while I beg my 3 month old son to fall asleep. I'm about 75 pages in and wanted to record some of my impressions so far.

  • I like the idea of a 0-level character without class as a starting point. When I was cobbling together a basic fantasy RPG a while back, toyed with this very idea, although I never thought to give each player four such characters with the intention of killing of most of them by the end of the session. The character funnel seems like a cool idea, but it may quickly loose its appeal when a higher level character dies and is replaced with cannon fodder midway through a campaign.
  • I'm a big fan of the experience point system. I haven't gotten to the part that explains how to calculate experience rewarded to players, but I'm loving that all of the numbers involved are very low. One of the very first things I thought when I saw my first D&D rule book was that the experience points for each level could be divided 100 and be much easier to manage.
  • One of the things I like about Savage Worlds is that every single mechanic in the game is intended to be fun. DCC is the same way, but with the mechanics rooted in old-school games. Rolling for a warrior's attack bonus every round is a great example. Although I haven't gotten to it yet, the rules for magic seem to be very fun, rather than the book keeping of other games.
  •  Demi-humans seem to be much, much more powerful than the human counterparts.One would need to make good use of the random occupation chart to keep things under control.
  • I don't know how one could run this game without multiple copies of the game book or both the physical book and a PDF. There are plenty of good resources online, but the long spell descriptions, various crit tables and other stuff makes it seem impossible to play the game without printing out pages upon pages of reference sheets for each character. Maybe I'm over thinking this, but I don't want to have to slow down play to look up every spell, crit table or rule for a class when the players could do that for me.