Tags: rpg


Gateway 2010

I'll be running two games at Gateway in a couple of weeks:

Black Dog Pass
System: FATE (Deadlands)
Friday, 8pm


The trail from the city creeps over Black Dog Pass and snakes down an dry old riverbed dotted with rusty mining pans and cracked timber frames. It's been nigh on six months since man or beast came down that Canyon, not even the mail. People in these parts don't mind that at all, they come here for peace, and to hide. But now some strange things are happening in town and some people are saying that they should see to that pass.

Delta Company
System: 3:16 Carnage Amongst The Stars
Sunday, 2pm


The only thing standing between Terra and peace are the teeming swarms of alien scum infecting the universe and the only thing standing between the teeming swarms of alien scum infecting the universe and Terra are the 3:16th Expeditionary Force. Do you have what it takes to take up the gun in defense of civilization? Military action and bugs. Lots of bugs.
More Information:


Cluster Generation

Here are a bunch of links relevant to re-purposing the Diaspora cluster rules for other setting parameters. First are two links to how the VGSC peeps are doing it for their current projects:
Hollowpoint and Chimaera.
Then a set of RPGnet threads with various ideas and links: An Alternate Cluster Modelling Game, the Clusternomicon, Repurposing the cluster system and Designing a non-standard cluster (mainly useful for the links)
I have bookmarked all of these, but haven't had a chance to fully digest them all.

I suspect I'll look more into this later in the Suminter.

The High-Altitude Screen

I watched a few movies on my flights:
Certainly a contender for best movie of 2009. Intiguing mix of “awkward teenage relationship comedy” and “zombie action comedy”.
A good idea executed poorly. They spent way to much time trying to get you to care about too many characters and not nearly enough time on the great premise.
Mad Max
I always get the plots of the Mad Max movies mixed up and I had long suspected that I hadn't seen the original, which was in fact the case. It was refreshing to see a movie that wasn't structured in the pedictable modern action movie mould, with far more character and relationship development than action, in contrast to the later two movies.
The Hangover
Pretty funny investigation movie. Leslie Chow, the effete Chinese gangster, was a brilliant character.
A very interesting premise, especially from a roleplaying perspective – the end-state of the movie would make a great post-apocalyptic vampire game setting. William Defoe is always great.

The Storm Warriors
A sequel to the excellent The Storm Riders; an interesting plot structure, but not as good as the first movie. It primed me to think about a wuxia Dogs in the Vineyard hack.

Flying via Australia definitely gives more time for movie watching; I also managed to sleep for five hours or so.

Diaspora: Session 5

Last Wednesday was the final game of our Diaspora campaign. After establishing quite the set of facts in the previous week, it only remained to resolve them. I had sketched out a possible explanation and conclusion, some of which emerged naturally, and some of which ended up differently to my "plan".

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In addition to the combat issue discussed above, my other big takeaway was regarding aspects. One comment was that there were two many, which is perhaps true for a first time playing FATE, particularly a variant of FATE which doesn't allow multiple aspects to be piled onto a roll with the same abandon as SotC. However, I think part of the problem was inexperience with aspects and how they are best established at the start of play, and thus with my explanation of them. I suspect the three players were all too focused around a core idea (combat for Momoko, being a robot for Z004) which limited their application in play situations which weren't immediately applicable to that core. As the GM, I also didn't leverage them as much as I should have. I need to play on them harder, faster, sooner and better and make them much more central to events and the plot.

Diaspora: Session 4

After a lackluster last Diaspora session, a great memory refresh of player generated FATE play from Morgan at Gamex, and a couple of conversations with players about their post-Full Light, Full Steam preference for narrative play, I decided to kick myself out of the traditional play rut that I had slid into. Instead, I turned some of the leads they had gathered so far into aspects and intended to have the players generate more in an extended planning session. It went well.

When we last left our heroes, they had traced the pre-collapse technology to the Vega system...Collapse )

So, that worked well, revealing a web of mystic, cultic and violent activity centered on the characters and their motivations going into the final session next week, and all in two and a half hours. I have seen this approach work in just about every FATE game I've played in at a con, so there wasn't really anything experimental about it. However, every game group has a different dynamic, so there was no guarantee that it would work for us. I think it was exactly the direction that we needed to go.

One lesson I will take from the campaign, which as you can see has drifted pretty heavily in a Cthulhu-esque direction, is that if I want to maintain a certain tone, I have to enforce that pretty early. I suspect the cat was really out of the hard sci-fi bag as soon as one character was an Alien and another a sentient robot with a starfighter...

Another Sad Reality

Rob Donoghue has had a lot of interesting things to say about 4e recently. Last month he posted about page 42, the most important rules in the current incarnation of D&D, those for stunts. Today he posted about his hopes for a streamlined D&D in the forthcoming Red Box.* Like him, I'm not holding my breath for something that would work for me.

I like a lot of things about 4e, but I have little enthusiasm for the combat system. These days, I get my tactical fix on the wargaming table and while I like tactical play in my roleplaying games as well, I like it to have more punch and less drag. A quicker resolution mechanic would allow more combats and also more non-combats; more story and more adventure. If it were worthwhile to strip back D&D, I might do so, but so much of the characters are invested in that lengthy tactical play that it doesn't seem worthwhile to play D&D without that. If I'm going to arrange fights with the skill challenge mechanic, why use the D&D? Other systems do skill-based extended skill-challenge-type conflicts just as well, if not better, without gouging out the heart of the system. Should I end up somewhere in which the only gaming I can do is D&D, then I might start trying that sort of thing. Otherwise, D&D will probably remain a primarily social exercise and await a time when my gaming can take as long as it requires.

* I should note at this stage that whenever someone says Red Box, I think of the amazing Redbox Hack which is always close to my thoughts as a go-to fantasy game.

Gamex: Sunday

The Dresden Files RPG: The Doom of Damocles

Morgan ran four games of the Dresden Files over the weekend, all full, some with spectators, for a mix of FATE and Dresden Files fans, I was among the former. This adventure was like James Bond meets A Team: a team of supernaturals framed and sent on a dangerous mission to switch a Vampire's magical box on a super yacht before the Vampire could present the box as a gift at a dragon's party. Unfortunately some of the players were very much set in a traditional style of play where roleplaying is something separate from the adventure that you impose on it. That's not how FATE works and that approach takes time away from the adventure, so I was a quite frustrated at times. One of the players didn't really get the tone either, which was frustrating for the GM.

So, my Succubus Assassin and I didn't get to do much. I loved the characters and mechanics of the mission, but we got bogged down for what seemed like an hour in the mission exposition scene and the planning scene lacked a bit of focus. I did get a chance to see the latest FATE game in action though, and it looked quite good. It's definitely the crunchiest version yet, and yes, I ran the Hard Sci-fi iteration.

There was much discussion of the game over Mongolian BBQ, and I got sass from the woman behind the counter for ordering Tsingtao (perhaps because everyone else was ordering soft drinks?); Good-natured sass, I hasten to add!

The Blossoms are Falling (Burning Wheel): Four Days at Seikyoji

Dan's Blossom's game was an engaging premise and set-up, sadly afflicted by Sunday Evening Syndrome. The characters were four monks, each the head of a shrine within a mountain temple squabbling over which of the two converging armies we would side with, if any. After much side chatter and a few duels of wits (Burning Wheel's social combat system) three of us were agreed and had circumstantial evidence linking the fourth to an ordered murder, so we imprisoned the fourth and declared for the reigning (weak) Emperor. This game also refreshed my memory of Burning Wheel, and I think I now prefer the Diaspora social combat mechanics.
It is as I feared
Like Blossoms falling on snow
The dudes have arrived

My con (there was another session this morning which I didn't attend) ended in the Barcon Suite discussing various game play experiences both from the con and elsewhere while a group of people played Prime Time Adventures, before I got home, applied my Pandemic: On the BRink stickers to my petri dishes and watched a Venture Brothers episode. My Dr Girlfriend will be ready for next time. Oh yes, sweetie.

Gamex: Saturday

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This time the convention was at the Sheraton rather than the nearby (and inferior) Radisson, and the lunch set-up was both better and cheaper.
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It was at this point that I discovered the healing powers of 3:16 as my voice had improved over the course of the game! I celebrated with Pann's fried chicken. Ooooo yeah.
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The day ended in hilarious fashion with a Venture Brothers game of Inspectres that was essentially a bunch of friends sitting around doing Venture Brothers voices. As I hadn't watched the show at that point (although I did remember midway that I had seen one episode) I didn't play, but it was a brilliant couple of hours, particularly the interchange between Morgan's The Monarch and Mike's 21 and 24. The show has now gone to the top of my must-watch list, and when I got home last night, I watched the pilot.

Gamex: Friday

Strategicons open at midday on the Friday, but I don't think I'd ever attended that first afternoon before. This time I was running my first Strategicon game Echoes, in the 2pm slot, playing Mike Olson's post-apocalyptic actioner, Leftovers, at 8pm and hitting Barcon at midnight.


I had one pre-reg for my Diaspora game (a guy who had the game, but hadn't quite got his head around it yet) plus one sign up, so I wasn't particularly confident of playing it. I designed it for six players, and thought it would probably run well enough with four. We managed to get a third and I was going to give it a go when a fourth arrived. Hooray!

Mechanically, Diaspora worked exactly as I expected and wanted. Three of the four players were familiar with FATE, so aspects worked well, tagging and asking for compels appropriately to keep the economy moving. I had only read the social combat rules the night before, but we had no real cause to use them. That said, they are awesome I I will definitely be looking to bust them out in my regular game.

If I had scripted the players' actions, I think the plot would have turned out something like it did. My four players were great. They all revealed any character secrets at dramatically appropriate times and we ended with a desperate struggle in the engineering bay, an oxygen flushing, and a climactic negotiation for the fate of the vessel and the mission. Gold. The only problem was that the game ran well over time and into the dinner break, so I'll have to think about how I structure the pacing before I run this at Buckets.


This was an ashcan playtest of Mike's new game. The elevator pitch is "Survivors of a weird, Lovecraftesque apocalypse struggle to live in a ruined world populated by Horrors both inhuman and otherwise." In this post-apocalyptic setting, healing gets very hard, very quick, but can be easily accomplished by grafting bits of otherworldly creature onto your body. This changes the nature of the resources you can draw on, and at a certain point results in NPC-ness. The more human you are (measured by a "Human nature" dice), the more you can use relationships and tools, the more alien (measured by a "Horrific nature" dice), well, you can have tentacles (grafts). It's a game with dice steps (d4 to d12) and summed dice pools.

Our mission was to get supplies from a nearby group of Hummanists (pure humans with no tolerance for the grafted) and we played with a high action approach and ended with a disturbing scene in which a PC with particularly high Horrific nature forcibly grafted part of his own body onto a dying Hummanist. It was definitely in keeping with the setting.
I have an ashcan copy if anyone's interested in playing this.

The evening concluded with a visit to the Barcon suite. Barcon is a convention within a convention (which can be described using the Dogs In the Vineyard corruption ladder). This con I didn't play anything at Barcon because there were always interesting looking games in the 8pm slot, but it was a great space to hang out and debrief from the day's games.

Diaspora: Session 3

The crew of the Filly, recruited the Devil Dog's navigator, Stone, and headed for the slipgate to T85. There, they located the wreckage, maneuvered to it without attracting the fire of a nearby Flotilla vessel. As they were bringing a promising chunk of wreckage into the cargo hold with the robot arm, a luxury yacht appeared through the slipgate on a rapid vector. Z004 hailed them and spoke to Captain Brill of the Isometric Future, feigning mechanical failure. After several circumstances aroused their suspicions, they decided to bushwack the yacht, which, coincidentally was what the yacht had planned for them. The ensuing firefight drew the attention of the flotilla vessel, Watcher of the Dark Ocean, which destroyed the Isometric Future and drove off the Filly, after inviting Z004 (but explicitly not his human companions) on board.

The wreckage pointed Dora towards a lost undersea civilisation on the main waterworld in the Vega system.

Tonight's Diaspora session seemed a little flat to me, but perhaps it was just me. Or rather perhaps it was me. I seem to be getting an unwelcome case of con crud before the con! It was my first time with the space combat system too, and the chapter could have used a pre-game re-read too. Finally, my Gamex one-off has absorbed most of my recent Diaspora thought. Preparation, preparation, preparation. It perhaps didn't help that it had been almost a month since our last session.