Saturday, January 17, 2015

Star Wars Age of Rebellion, A Study in Two Acts

I thought Nick, the GM for the Star Wars Age of Rebellion game I was in, had been dabbling in crazy experimental game ideas when he suggested that we start the new year off with a new direction. Or directions. To do this he planned to have us all come prepared to the Google Hangout with an idea we wanted to explore; he would play through this idea one-on-one with each of us in two Acts. This would give us the story lines we could investigate, individually or together as a team, as the game unfolded.

I assumed Nick had been dabbling in here somewhere.

I was worried this might lead to chaos, with other players checking out mentally, or the GM forced to contend with insane and grandiose schemes *cough Dutch player cough*, or everybody weeping openly at the beauty of my American-inflected spoken word soliloquy. We could find ourselves facing human sacrifice, mobs in the street, the breakdown of our Hangout social order.

This is actually worse than chaos, but it sums up my fears nicely.

BUT INSTEAD!  I really enjoyed the session, the First of its Name in 2015. I really dug it. Not sure where our GM got the idea; maybe it's right in the rule book, and maybe I could have asked him before I wrote this blog post, but damn it Jim I'm a blogger not a reporter.

We ended up with four solid story ideas to pursue, and gave our GM a good idea of the stories that especially interest us as players. For any GM, that is bubblin' crude! Oil that is, black gold, Texas tea.

Coincidence that GM Nick and Santa share same first name?

My character, Booster, is a Technician with a focus on Mechanics and Mercenary Soldier traits. So he's good with computers and he can upgrade your ship, but he's also handy with a knife and enjoys tossing grenades. He also has a fairly heavy addiction to Death Stick, which is fine as long as he doesn't run short on supply.

Anyhow I decided to investigate the fate of several young Jedi that we had found frozen in carbonite and turned over to the Rebel Alliance. They had since disappeared, along with any indication they had ever existed or had been found by us.

Booster, deep in a drug-induced meditation of Pure Thought, comes up with these possibilities--
1) Rebel Alliance Command wants their existence covered up and forgotten, for their safety and/or the agenda of the Rebellion.
2) Agents of the Empire or Hutt syndicate intercepted them for purposes of Evil and/or Profit.
3) The younglings took off on their own, out of fear for their safety and possibly to continue their path as Jedi.  Also to wear black t-shirts, hang with the wrong sort, meet loose girls and boys, listen to loud horn-based jazz.

I resolve to find out the truth, no matter how deep I have to dig.

After putting out feelers regarding my desire to access high-level computer records, I'm approached by my old friend Cuco Croan. Initial tension regarding my dating his sister many years ago is soon forgotten over Trilobactite Imperial Stouts, and he agrees to help a brother out in exchange for smoky treats of the Death kind.

Cuco gets me 15 minutes access to a Data Recovery Station, where I go to work like Wolverine in Swordfish while Corellian-Hard Trance-Wookie Dubstep plays in the background. I look for the information surrounding the information that, while gone, I knew was there at some point.  I am brilliant, and find out:

1) The ships involved did exist and were involved, I'm not going crazy.
2) There is no mention of rescued younglings anywhere.
3) Changes to the data records all occurred within the Rebel Alliance.
4) Personnel changes were tracked, but records modified. Pay records indicate a janitor was assigned to a transport ship, but then he simply disappears. The pay records point to a planetary system I've never heard of, called...Dagobah.

I have resolved to find out all I can about Dagobah, and to go there in search of the younglings.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Illustrated Ideas for the Arcana of INTO THE ODD

I was reminded of an old computer game called "Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura" after my first game of Into the Odd. Some research revealed that I still had the documentation, and dozens of Arcana ideas were found. Here are the first of many that provided inspiration, re-imagined for Into the Odd.

First, let us contemplate the Key Principles of Arcana:
1. They do new things.  
2. They encourage creative and risky use.
3. They aren't something you'd want to use all the time.

Turns out the Key Principles, like all Key Principles, aren't so easy to follow. I did my best but if you have suggestions for improvement, please let me know by Comment, Email, Private Message, Sky-Writing or Teletype.

One last thing, a reminder from The Rules Themselves:  "Characters that are open about the Arcana they carry will find themselves the target of collectors, thieves and con artists."  You have been warned.

Chapeau of Magnetic Inversion

The Chapeau combines a top hat and an electrical coil to create a strong magnetic field. Bullets, fragments, arrows and blades that are made of iron or steel are rerouted away from the wearer when it is activated. Care must be taken around magnetic items of the wearer and his party; horrific consequences may also occur if used near someone who has been tattooed with iron-based ink.

+1 Armor vs bullets, pellets, arrows, darts, fragmentation, blades.

Illus by Stephen Beat

The Aether Bombast combines technology and arcane forces to create a formidable weapon.  An intensely hot "bolt" of pressurized plasma is fired from a compression cylinder; it can be fired out to great distance, and very accurately. The effect on organic matter is horrific, and the damage it can do to synthetic materials is impressive. Rate of fire is very slow, maintenance on the device is virtually impossible, and it should be used with care on airships and water craft. It should never be fired in a submarine unless self-destruction is the goal.

Heavy Gun (two hands), d12 damage. Cannot move and fire. Flashbang effect on those not wearing eye protection when fired. Sets target alight, d6 damage for 1d3 rounds. Burns through most materials.

The Mechanized Arachnid is roughly the size of a dog when extended and active, but folds into a small compact shape for ease of transport.  It has "large extendible claws to aid in subduing any opponents" but it can also be used to carry small items (such as healing salves or timed explosives), recover small items that are out of reach, and map areas that are currently unreachable or too dangerous for one to map oneself.  The claws are extremely sharp and the Arachnid can get red-hot from the pressure of its miniature steam engine if left activated for too long, so care must be taken around animals and children. It vents steam, and while it is not a loud device, neither is it quiet.

STR: 12, HP 10, Fast, d6 damage. Can Scurry up steep inclines and through small holes. What the Arachnid sees, the owner can see IN THEIR MIND.

The Necromizer taps into dark powers beyond the edge of our understanding and combines that with galvanic technology to raise the very recently dead and compel them to fight mindlessly by your side. This is especially useful when you are the last one standing, but can be helpful if even one or two of your party has fallen in combat.

The Fighting Dead will mill around aimlessly for a few minutes after the fight is over, and that is when they must be dispatched with bullets to the head or machetes to the neck. Otherwise an odd light will appear in their eyes, they will assume disturbing facial dispositions that imply evil cunning, and they will try to maim you and kill you, in that order.

Dogs tend to bark at people carrying a Necromizer on them, milk tends to spoil around the Necromizer, and babies are sometimes born with very sharp teeth if the mother has been in contact with the device.

STR 10, HP 6, damage as per weapon or d4 strangling/clawing. Frightening to behold and vomit-inducing to EVERYONE (except the owner of the Necromizer) as they have invariably soiled themselves upon violent death and are likely to be trailing intestines or brain matter.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Metamorphosis Alpha Or What's This Shiny Thing?

A massive colony starship hurtling through the vastness of space, out of control and chock-full of mutated humans, animals, and plants. That's the setting for Metamorphosis Alpha, a game that captured my imagination as a kid growing up in an incredibly mundane suburb of Chicago. I ran the game for some friends back in junior high a few times; it was always fun, but I struggled back then because the rules leave a lot to your imagination.  And I never had the chance to be a player, despite the stacks of characters that I rolled up because there was no Xbox or internet or smart phones, so why not spend a few hours rolling up weirdo mutants?

Heavily armed rabbits are heavily armed.
Never bring a knife to a rifle-and laser-pistol fight. Unless you can blow up their brains WITH YOUR MIND...

Now step back in time to December of 2014: I finally got to be a player in a game of Metamorphosis Alpha, and it was fantastic! Fast, exploratory, violent, and funny. I admit that the GM and fellow players were smart, seasoned players with a great sense of humor--that obviously adds a lot to any game. But the setting held up very well and +Wayne Rossi wrestled the rules into submission nicely.

I'd also read a couple of the short stories, written when sci-fi was still young, that specifically inspired the game: A.E. Van Vogt's "Rogue Ship", Brian Aldiss's "Starship", and Robert Heinlein's "Orphans of the Sky". Skim them to understand the setting of the game and mine for ideas--these books are not fantastic works of literary art, if you get my meaning.

A very good representation of the vast starship world in Metamorphosis Alpha, except the sides and top are neither transparent nor reflective: holograms and actual weather hide the reality.

The game was similar in system, and compatible with, Gamma World which has a much larger following, multiple editions, and plenty of support.

A little about the game we played.  Our party consisted of two Mutants ("Doctor" Shock-Tober and Cubert) and three Humans (Miquel, Mascon, and Keir).

After leaving our village, I was promptly attacked by a metallic bush that hit me with a sonic blast. Then we found a gun, but I was like "Does it fire a projectile, a beam, or summons angels. Possible Angel Gun!"  We crossed the river, and got into a round building with help from the gun, which it turned out fired persistent laser beams, not angels.

Cylindrical metal thing on wheels with arms--turned out to be a Security Robot!
I found a Med bracelet and the Metal Man (Security Bot) got Respect for me, and started calling me Doctor.  I ordered the Metal Man to pursue the Cat People who’d been squatting in the building and had brutally attacked us. Sadly, it never came back. What was your fate, Metal Man?

Our village in the middle, Forbidden Zone south, river and round building to the east. Player-drawn map.

We spent the night in the Security Hut and struck out Forward to the Ramp. We fried an android after he attacked me with a vibro-sword and nearly cut me in half.  DON’T OFFER PEOPLE SQUIRREL MEAT OR VINEGAR CRISPS THEY GET SUPER PISSED. 

Now east of the river, we name the big fortified town north of us "Syracuse" because they are orange. Lake on the right is detail between "Cliff" (side of ship), Syracuse, and the ramp leading to next level of ship.

Ultimately I used my electrical power to electrify an electrical building with electricity and it blew up two cubes of C4 in my Gucci bag, killing the entire party. So it goes!
Light blue line is the ramp, which took us to the Forestry level of the ship. And, ultimately, our doom.

This game took place over Google Hangouts, and one of the players handled all the map duties, first time I'd seen it done that way. It was very fun figuring out what things were, and Wayne did a great job of explaining modern (and futuristic) tech to us. Looking forward to playing again!

By Lindsay Archer

Monday, January 5, 2015

One Possible Bastion for Into the Odd

I want to keep +Noah Stevens concept for the City of Bastion percolating, as I thought it worked very well for the episode that I was in. 

We approached by airship and it turned out that Bastion was a multi-level metropolis who's smells and vapors extended far into the sky, and far below ground.

Yeah that's a fin up top. And it's not to scale either!

I made an arcology that looks like a Chilean torta!

This child-like drawing helped me keep track of where we were, roughly, when we played the game.

The Frothing Gates are disgusting from what I remember, composed of swirling, falling sewage.

The Sky District had the best air but the worst red tape; customs and tax officials, backed up by armed guards. Luckily, they are amenable to a nice bribe.

The Voracious Crab-Birds are a constant threat to travelers, despite their impressive plumage and inspiring wing-span.  Guns and rockets are your best bet against them, but if they get in close, you can knife them like it's lunchtime at County.

The Temple District is a life-saver if you're trying to ditch the law, and it's pretty fun, too. Many gods, many temples, pilgrims, hustlers, robe-stands and henna application specialists abound! Obviously, keep an eye on your money at all times.