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Archive for the ‘Steampunk’ Category

First, a bit of background:  I am a second generation gamer.  By which I mean that my dad, his brothers, and my mom all played D&D when I was a kid (I was born in ’74…same as D&D, or so the story goes).  I remember sitting up at night leaning up against my bedroom door which opened onto the living room, listening in on their adventures.  It was therefore no big surprise when I took an interest in it myself.  I always borrowed my dad’s books and loved nothing more than to flip through the Monster Manual and Fiend Folio.

Once I got to the point I could buy things on my own, I started buying any RPG that caught my attention.  GURPS (second edition) was my first.  Cyberpunk2020.  Rifts, Palladium Fantasy, D&D (of course), and on down the line through a who’s who of RPG gaming goodness.  I played Star Frontiers, Gamma World, three different versions of Star Trek, and even took a peek at the old FASA version of the Doctor Who RPG.

If this were High School, and I was a cheerleader, you might call me a slut.  And it continues to this day.  I’m always looking over the next big thing.  I contemplated trying to put together a group for the latest round of Warhammer 40K games.  I found a copy of Victoriana when I heard that Abney Park (an awesome band, if you like steampunk) was using those rules to do an RPG based on their songs.  I’ve made my share of Shadowrunnners, usually either a street sam or a rigger.  I played first edition Earthdawn.

You could say I’ve forgotten more about role-playing than most of the latest crop of players has learned.

And RPG’s weren’t the extent of it either.  I have a (mostly) complete set of Star Fleet Battles, and have no problems with the tax code rulebook.  I can allocate energy for an entire fleet in the time it takes most players to do so for one ship.  I was a member of BLADES, the local game store’s Car Wars club.  We never made it to the regionals, but we had a hell of a time trying.

Then of course, there’s all the different editions of Battletech.  When I wasn’t playing, I was building.  Either I was creating terrain pieces, or arena maps, or just building characters I might never get to use.

My “Book of the Dead” would be a sight to see.  In it you’d find my elven Ranger, who faced Tiamat, and survived (saving the rest of the party at the same time).  Then there’s Valentine Victor Vargas, gnomish thief extraordinaire, and expert at the expeditious retreat.  Sir Eglemore, the undead skeleton knight determined to find the dragon that cursed him into undeath (and roasted the flesh of his bones at the same time).  Captain Crunch, the custom built pick-up designed for tournament Car Wars play, which could take a 150 mile per hour collision and allow the driver to survive.  Or how about his cousin, flambe?  He was a tournament legal, survivable car bomb.  Most memorable are Toog, Padaras, and Lady Charity.

Toog was a half ogre.  He adventured to prove his worth to the goddess of beauty.  He thought that if he earned her favor, she would make him handsome.  She never did, but he learned to overcome his handicap.  Now he runs an inter-dimensional fighting pit.

Padaras was from Monte Cook’s Arcana Evolved.  She was a Sibbecai who had grown up among a street gang, and then fought her way out of that gang to earn her self respect and redeem the crimes of her youth.  With her bow, Bloodharp, she could shoot anything almost from any distance.

Lady Charity was the daughter of nobility.  She ran away from home to become a pirate, and would have made a name for herself as ‘Queen of the Seas’ had she not been bitten by a ghoul, and turned undead herself.

Latest is Jonah.  A gunslinger on a desert world.  The game is like steampunk, but with a lot of cowboys and indians for set decoration (the indians are actually aliens), and with demons for bad guys.  He died in a gunfight, just exactly the way he wanted to go.

So if we ever meet one day, after the introductions (and please, forgive me if I act like a hyper child when I find out you read my blog, I’m not really like that in real life…it would just be cool to meet one or all of you), don’t be surprised if I act the part of the grizzled veteran with a whole lifetime of war stories.  Because on paper at least, that’s exactly what I am.

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In about half an hour, our weekly RPG session starts.  This will be session 4 of our Hero 6th edition game entitled “gasoline punk.”  Basically, take a lot of elements from anime (including a heavy amount from “Wild Arms”), and set it on a planet that is mostly desert.  It’s the remains of an old colony long since cut off from the original founding culture.  It’s a western, with sci-fi elements.

I play a gunslinger, name of Jonah.  My sidekick is a young pilot.  Both of us are on the run from the Galbadian Empire, a collection of robber barons who picture themselves as rulers of the desert.  To paraphrase another sci-fi western “there’s some disagreement on that.”

We were hired to escort a scientist and his project to a place of safety where he could do research into an artifact left behind by the Mu, the worlds version of Native Americans.  Uniquely, Jonah is able to help with that a bit, having spent a lot of time among the Mu.  He understands some of their mysticism, and can even invoke a healing ritual, given enough time.  Of course, there’s the old flame from Jonah’s past who was also hired to go with them to retrieve an artifact from an ancient Mu temple.  Perhaps not too surprisingly, she turned on us, robbed us, took the artifact, and sealed us in the tomb to die.  We got out, and are looking for a bit of retribution.

Later, we’re going to be using GURPS because the GM is wanting to do something based somewhat on the Otherland series by Tad Williams.  So it looks like we’ll be doing a little post-cyberpunk adventuring.  Of course, I don’t care much for GURPS (or Hero for that matter), but like always, it’s either play what everyone else wants or don’t play.

Then of course, next week we return to Hackmaster.  The PC’s have decided that the dungeon is too tough for them, so I’ve been plotting a new story.  Don’t want to say too much here, but it involves the potential for some bad people to tear down the barriers between the planes of existence and “return the world to it’s natural state.”  Should be fun.

In the meantime, I’m also back to sketching out a new RPG system.  I’ve repeatedly tried, of course, to write my own rules, but in trying to be generic and universal, I always flounder after a bit.  This time, I have a goal in mind:  Instead of generic and universal, I’m aiming for cinematic action, a set of rules that can handle what I feel steampunk and pulp action should feel like.  The difference is that I don’t want to just copy someone else’s work, and I do want to consider how to add in other types of genre’s (even if the core isn’t written directly for it).

I’m calling it the “3D System”, which kind of tells you a little about the mechanics.  But it uses several different die types, and every roll is an opposed roll instead of just against a set difficulty.  Should make one on one duels a bit more interesting.  This way, even someone with a low skill might succeed, but the odds are against it.  Being a 3dice system, the result will still follow a bell curve, but you never know.  Damage in melee is a factor of how strong you are, and the better you beat his defense, the more damage you do.  Instead of just doubling damage when you roll a natural 20 (for example), the critical hits go up in severity based on how much damage you manage to score.

Right now, I’m still trying things out, and taking notes.  Soon, I’ll start on the actual first draft and maybe set up a time to do a preliminary playtest.  I might even share a few tidbits here with you.

Until next time…

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A couple of weeks ago, we finally got to play Rolemaster (Standard System).  It went pretty well, with only the minor hitches that accompany the first game of any system.

Our Cast:

Snok Ngo’Olek: Goblin Swashbuckler.  4’5″, and all of 70 pounds.  But he has a fighting attitude that reminds me of the saturday morning cartoons.  Remember when something small and full of sharp teeth would get ahold of Sylvester?  That’s right, nothing but a blur and the sound of a buzzsaw, until all that was left was Sylvester standing amid a pile of his own fur.    He believes that everyone else is the bigoted one, and that he’s just misunderstood.  “I’m not antagonistic, I just like to fight.” “I don’t steal things, people leave them to be taken.”  “I’m not a smart-ass, I’m just way ahead of them intellectually.”  Things like that.

Rundarr: Gnomish Mana Molder.  4’6″, 135 pounds.  By comparison to Snok, this guy is pretty pudgy, but he knows how to make things appear out of thin air, can muddle enemy minds, and likes to tinker with machines, and invent new ones.  He has the odd occasional magical flare-up that he doesn’t understand (I didn’t mean to burn that wolf to a crisp, i was just trying to distract it!).  He hasn’t been adventuring for very long, and is still pretty naive when it comes to surviving the adventure. He often gets caught up in the moment and forgets that he has spells, instead trying to use a weapon he has no training in to fight alongside the nimble swashbuckler.

The campaign:

After several abortive attempts to create a playable campaign, I finally threw my notes out of the window and just decided on a situation to throw my characters into.  I figured from there, I’ll let things develope.  As a result, we all had a lot more fun than usual. As things progress, I plan on introducing a lot of steampunk elements into the game (just because I think they are cool and fun).  Besides, this summer Abney Park’s Airship Pirates will be out, and I want to end up with something compatible.

The story:

I started by describing how our two intrepid adventurers were out in the wilds for whatever reason floated their little boats.  They were ambushed, sacks dropped over their heads, and kidnapped.  The adventure started after the hoods were removed, and they saw they had been penned up with a lot of other, scraggly looking people.  It didn’t take long for them to realise that they were taken by slavers and sold to a fighting arena.

Before they can make any escape plans, the pair of them are chosen for a fight, some gear is thrust into their hands, and they are pushed out into the pit.  Their opponent: an emaciated, hungry wolf.

DM Note: I chose the encounter because I knew it would be tough (according to RM rules), but not so tough that while dire, they shouldn’t have trouble overcoming it.  I also chose it so that I could teach them the rules for combat, which work a little different from other games.

The swashbuckler started trying for a flank attack on the wolf, while the mana molder tried fighting it with a quarterstaff (with no skill in it).  After a few exchanges, the mana molder is knocked out.  The wolf turns it’s attention to the swashbuckler, and the two of them take turns exchanging attacks.  Both are scoring hits on the other, but the wolf has more hit points to burn through, meaning unless the swashbuckler pulls something amazing out of his…er…rear, he is going to lose.  The table finally turned when the swashbuckler started scoring critical hits against the thing.  By this time, though, the gnome was back on his feet, throwing stones.  The ploy worked, and as it turned to deal with him again, he enveloped it with flame.

DM Note: I failed to notice that he didn’t have enough ranks to cast that spell, so I retroactively decided that he has occasional flares.  It should be interesting to see what happens with the next flare (Rolemaster is a D% system, and if you roll a natural 66 or 100, the GM can apply any unusual result he sees fit).

The wolf dispatched, the slavers came for them.  They tried to struggle, but until the gnome started using his “Jolts” spell (which stuns the target for a number of rounds)  things weren’t going well.  The Jolts spell came in very handy through the rest of the evening, as they stunned or killed as many slavers as it took to escape the slave pens and steal a wagon to make their escape.  Session #2 starts with them on the run.

And Now, Next Week:

Actually, this is going to happen in just a couple of hours from now.  In fact, the gang should start showing up soon.  The plan is for them to have a nice chase scene.  Them on a wagon loaded with weapons (from smugglers!) being pursued by the remaining slavers and the owners of the wagon.  I’ve planned such obstacles as a ravine jump, and steampunk air pirates.  At first, it looks like the pirates are coming to their aid, but in the end, what kind of story would that be?

I didn’t plan much to happen in last weeks session, because I knew with a group of new players, and me GMing the game for the first time ever, things would go slow.  This weeks plot has a lot more elements, and we’ll just see how far we get before we run out of time.

If you’ve never heard of Abney Park, go here for basic information: www.abneypark.com

Abney park is an Industrial punk band that went steampunk a few years back.  I like just about every song they sing, and since the steampunk stage, they tell some pretty interesting stories as well.  Furthermore, www.jango.com has some of their music (possibly other sites, I don’t know).

And, coming this summer, based on the stories they tell in their songs: http://airshippirates.abneypark.com/

It’s based on the rules for Victoriana 2nd Edition :  http://shop.cubicle7store.com/epages/es113347.sf/en_GB/?ObjectPath=/Shops/es113347_shop/Categories/Victoriana  which is a dice pool system, and so will take a bit of work to convert to Rolemaster.  But I think it will be worth it.

Victoriana itself has been a very interesting, well researched and entertaining read.  I may just have to use their settings more often, if not their rules (I’ve sunk way too much into my Rolemaster set to just stop using it).

And for those of you who know nothing about Rolemaster:   http://www.ironcrown.com/, and    http://www.ironcrown.com/ICEforums/index.php  are good places to get info.  Also look here:   http://www.icewebring.com/what-is-rolemaster/

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