Saturday, April 26, 2014

Calling HQ Again: Any Means Necessary

This image per this license.

A Post Game Report

Points of Possible Interest:
  • Bat-Ears' drinking problem is really getting out of hand. His beatin' wrench was, however, mighty and occasionally beat the ship into functionality.
  • Cpt. Cody seems to have slowly morphed into a brazenly wild redneck in space. (He probably only got the rank of Cpt. because everybody else on his previous ship died. I really played him like an less than competent, very impatient, bravado-driven loudmouth. Not by the book, but really, really fun.)
  • M34BEL (that walking box with the tentacles, you know the one) seems to have shrank a bit and gained more ennui than when he/she/it last appeared.
  • Yawitz, the long-suffering and smarmy Venusian scientist, suffered too many fools. He also proved to be much stronger than he looked. He was quite good at both techno-babble and running away.
  • Audrey Orion, the Intelligence officer, did not make it, despite cautiously distrusting everyone and being shifty-eyed at every turn.
  • The Phasic Hedgemaze got rephased until it was a straight shot to the door.
  • The Giant Space Monstrosity and/or Weird Tentacled Lovecraftian Horror was killed with a Temporary-Black-Hole-Inducer/Annihilation-Cannon/Or-Something. So was a large portion of the ship. Cpt. Cody wanted to be extra sure it was dead.
  • Doc Headson, that smelly hippy, didn't make it.
  • We filled out the appropriate forms to ensure nobody got court-martialed.
Even though we ran a Mission Brief that I wrote, due to the nature of the system, I still got to be surprised by what happened. I think that may be Cosmic Patrol's greatest strength. You cannot expect what's coming.

This made possible by this license. More Cosmic goodies available here. Cosmic Patrol and some other things (Character Names , etc.) in this post are totally © Catalyst Game Labs. At the very least, you should really just go ahead and spend $5 on the Corebook PDF. It is beyond worthwhile.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

A Few Quick Notes from the Wilderness

I've spent a great deal of time out in them there woods. You couldn't tell it from my physique, but backpacking/ minimalist camping* is one of my favorite avocations. I haven't made time for it in far too long.

Anyway, for those of you who're less outdoorsy, here a few things to keep in mind when playing or running a wilderness survival scenario.
  • Water is your Savior and your Killer
    • As Savior - So much of survival in the wilderness is centered of finding clean drinking water. Go for a couple days without it (or drink some disease-ridden swamp water), and you probably aren't walking out the wilderness alive. Also, if you stumble across a watercourse, follow it. It's very likely that water will eventually lead you to people.
    • As Killer - Getting wet outside can kill you. Even in 60-70°F weather, falling into a stream can result in hypothermia. There's a reason shelter is primary to human survival; we aren't really biologically suited to living in many of the environments we inhabit. (Even damp, wool will insulate you better most other fabrics. A wool wearing peasant will likely have a much easier time out in the elements than his noble counterpart, all bedraped in silk and linen. See Below.) 
  • You'll be looking Down and You won't be Running
    • Those used to sidewalks, lawns, parking lots, and well groomed park pathways may have hard time understanding how uneven the footing is out in the sticks. You've got to quite literally watch your step. Running across uneven ground is dangerous skill to master and a great way to break your ankle. An unsteady jog is about the best you manage without a undue amount of risk. 
      • All that watching your feet makes it easier for people to sneak up on ya, too.
  • You've gotta Dress for the Weather
    • Wear layers and wear enough of them. Death from exposure is a very real threat in the wilds.
    • See above notes about wool.
  • Where you Sleep is an Important Choice
    • That comfy looking, moss-covered depression is going to turn into a soaking wet hole when it rains. Enjoy your hypothermia.
    • If you sleep next to your food or food scraps, there's a chance a bear may pay you a less than friendly visit in the night.
I could waffle on, but I think that's a pretty good place to start.

But why the hell should I care about this shit in my game of fantastic fantasy?

Well leaving aside things like "character immersion" and "breaking suspension of disbelief", adding these kind of things to your campaign makes adventuring more dangerous (and therefore more adventuresome [and therefore more fun]). The untamed, trackless wilds are deadly enough, even without dragons and giants and manticores.

Besides, imagine a squinting, weather-beaten Ranger pointing out any of the above.

"Out here, water's yer lifeblood and yer killer, lass."

"Looks comfy, eh? You ain't gonna like it when it rains."

"Watch yer feet. If ya break yer leg, I'm a'leaving ya here."

"You gonna wish that silk were something homespun afore the days done, milady."

That alone should be enough incentive.

*Take only what you need. It amounts to less than you'd think, way less. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A Superbly Strange Thing Floating in Space

A Fan-Made Mission Brief for Cosmic Patrol

The Setup
You've all pulled an easy assignment, for once. You’re on a long-haul, exploration mission to a seemingly empty section of space. The top brass science-types didn't want to send out such expensive instruments without a guard. So you’re gonna take a long nap in stasis, each of you will work a week-long guard detail to give Doc Headson a break, take yet another nap, and then collect your paycheck made fat with 4 months of Hazard Pay. Subjective time for you, 10 days. Cake-walk, right? Nothing’s ever that easy in the Patrol…

You all awaken to this message on the MedaPod ViewScreen (click to enlarge)

So now all systems are on absolute lockdown for 23 more hours, there’s a possible hull breach that can only be confirmed with actual eyes on scene, and the Doc’s gone missing.

Just another day on the job, it's time to earn that Hazard Pay.

>Stop the Leak near Airlock C
>Locate Doc Headson and Return Him to the Ship
>Hold it together until the Abeyance is Over
>Report In and Head Home

>Damn Lockdown >Strategic Abayence >Odd, Even for the Patrol >Space Mansion? >Ghosts?! >It’s Never Easy >What the Hell >Metatherions?

>Horror in Spaaaace >Haunted House >Hedgemaze >Creepy >Specters >Abduction >Mythos-ish >Unsettling >Scary Gentlemen

The Setting 
This is what appears to be a Victorian era Townhouse floating in space. Because being in the Patrol isn't weird enough, right? It’s got it’s own atmosphere and Earth-norm gravity. The ship seems to have crashed into the Townhouse’s rocky hedgemaze. Airlock B stands wide open, leading into this surreal nightmare.

Scene 1 - All crewmembers are accounted for except Doc Headson. The possible breach near Airlock C must be investigated and stopped. To add to the fun, because of the Abeyance all equipment lockers are autolocked. The viewing ports display an unreal vista, an old-fashioned townhouse floating amongst the stars?! A bloody trail leads from the Command Deck, out through an open airlock, and into a creepy Hedgemaze... 

Scene 2 - The Hedgemaze is infested with an unbelievable mix of foes: Uth, Killbots, Mindplants, and more…  And they seem to be incorporeal! (Use stats out of the book minus the armor pips, and they can only be harmed only by Rayguns or other energy attacks [fire, electricity, etc.].)

Scene 3 - The Townhouse proper is protected by Zombie Butlers (use stats for Space Pirate Minion, always attack last using weapons of opportunity, bite can transfer zombie disease)and illusions of a multitude of horrors. In a second story bedroom there resides a tentacled Monstrosity dressed as a proper Victorian Gentleman. What’s left of Doc Headson lies on a gurney. The Monstrosity fancies himself a collector of sorts. The crew has to defeat the monstrosity, save the Doc if possible, and get back to the ship alive!

Good Luck, Patrolmen!

This made possible by this license. More Cosmic goodies available here. Cosmic Patrol and some other things (Uth, Metatherion, etc.) in this post are totally ©Catalyst Game Labs. You should probably just go ahead and spend $5 on the Corebook PDF. It is beyond worthwhile.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Everyone's Favorite Class

An experimental, untested class for your favorite retroclone.

Above Awesomesauce by William Blake

The Bard

Examples: Skalds, Troubadours, Warrior-Poets, Master Manipulators, Cult Leaders, Mountebanks, Wandering Minstrels, Con Artists, Savvy Politicians, Libertines, and Charming Rapscallions.

Requirements: Charisma 10, Wisdom 10

Who is this?
This is the person who knows that a well-placed smile or just the right words have far more power than a sword or a spell. He/she can pick up on very subtle social cues, and always seems to know the right things to say.

Bards are also typically performers of some kind: whether the formal recitation of epic poetry, erotic dance, historical lecture, proselytizing, playing an instrument, juggling, gossip, or anything in between.

Weapons and Armor Allowed - Any.
Advancement - As Thief.
Hit Dice - 1d6.
THAC0/BAB/Attacks - As Thief.
Saving Throw/s - As Cleric.
Alignment - Any.

Class Abilities :
Level 1 - Preposterously Charming - Bards have a permanent +2 on all Reaction Rolls (in addition to whatever bonus his/her Charisma may provide).
Level 2 - Inspire - Once per day per level, Bards can provide a +(½ of Bard's Level rounded down)* to a single action attempted by a companion. For every +1 (or +5%) given the Bard must spend 1 minute boosting the confidence of his/her companion. This can take the form a few words and a pat on the back, a brief recounting of a cultural hero's accomplishments, or a well chosen greeting card. The Bard can opt to give less than the full bonus as time-saving measure.
*For less granular systems like Lamentations of the Flame Princess's Specialist skills, have the character roll two dice and take the better of the two.
Level 3 - Mesmerizing Performance - Once per day, Bards can use a performance to achieve the equivalent of a Charm Person spell. Only a single sapient creature with at least neutral regards towards the performer can be affected. The affected need not understand the language of the performance (if any), unless language is somehow key to the performance. For instance, the movements of a dancer are obviously not language specific and even a poet could possibly rely on the rhythm and sound of his works to woo across languages; however, for a gossip or a lecturing professor, language would remain a barrier.

You probably don't want to play this class if...
  • your group never uses reaction rolls. 
  • even sapient monsters are always considered hostile.
  • you don't want to talk your way through the campaign world.

Are the Bard's abilities magic?
If your setting has that Tolkienian conceit that words and music are a type of magic, then sure it's probably magic. If not, then the character probably just has Jim Jones, Napoleon Bonaparte, Mae West, or Oprah Winfrey** levels of charisma/charm/social-acumen.

What about the Jack of All Trades character? 
Just play a LotFP Specialist.

What about Bardic Magic?
Just play an Elf who sings.

Questions, Comment, Vitriol, Dirty Jokes, and All Other Forms of Feedback are Welcome.


**Personally, I despise Oprah, but it is pretty obvious a fuck-ton of other people do not. Actually I had a bit of a hard time coming up with a good generic list of charismatic women. I can think of plenty of examples of individual females I find to be highly charismatic, but few of them are generally known. I don't expect many of you know who Poly Styrene was. Anyway, I really didn't expect trying to generate that short list of examples to become an object lesson of gender bias; possibly revealing some vestigial bit of my own gender bias. Interesting.***
*** YMMV.