30 March, 2015

LARP Shield

In the quest to produce interesting LARP equipment, rather than the regular stuff that you can see everyone else possessing on the battlefield, I present my latest offering...



...after a day in the field, I'd like to report that the design was a success. The concept is a mystically enchanted, giant leaf.

To make it a bit more "LARP-safe", it needs some more padding around the edges, but otherwise it was good. The "gently serrated" edges also made good points to catch opponent's weapons on, to direct swords away from the body while opening up their defenses.

29 March, 2015

Hypothetical "Other Strangeness" Mutant Animal Derivation Listing

Here's the general listing of animals I'll be using for Other Strangeness... I know there are gaps in the list, I'm just trying to make sure I cover most of the interesting types. Are there any cool animals you'd like to see that I've left out? Note that some of these animals have been detailed far more than others, and some have outdated verb sets attached to them because they were added to the list earlier.

VERTEBRATES
Mammals
Aardvark – [claws], [burrowing], [good smell], [small x1]
Agouti – [], [small x2]
Ape – []
Armadillo – [hard armour], [], [small x1]
Baboon – [], [small x1]
Bat – Sn-Ch, Fly (Ch), Sense (Ch), Climb (Sn), Hunt (Sn), [wings], [sonar], [no hands], [small x2]
Bear – Fi-Kn, Bite (Fi), Wrestle (Fi), Navigate (Kn), Survive (Kn), [claws], [padded armour], [large x1]
Beaver – [teeth], [tail], [small x2]
Bison – [padded armour], [skeletal reinforcement], [large x2]
Boar – [tusks], [padded armour], [large x1]
Buffalo – [padded armour], [skeletal reinforcement], [large x2]
Camel – Ta-Kn, Navigate (Kn), Survive (Kn), X (Ta), X (Ta), X (), [dry survival], [no hands], [large x2]
Cat – Sn-Ta, Balance (Sn), Hunt (Sn), Convince (Ta), Seduce (Ta), [retractable claws], [nightvision], [small x1]
Cheetah – [claws], [teeth]
Cow – Ta-Kn, Calm (Ta), Perform (Ta), Diagnose (Kn), Survive (Kn), Meditate (Ch), [no hands], [large x2]
Coyote – [teeth]
Deer – [no hands], [antlers], [good hearing]
Dog – Ta-Fi, Bite (Fi), Tackle (Fi), Inspire (Ta), Scare (Ta), Navigate (Kn), [teeth], [no hands], [good smell], [small x1]
Dolphin – [sonar], [no hands], [no legs], [swim speed], [aquatic]
Donkey – [kick], [large x1]
Echidna – [burrowing], [claws], [quills], [good smell], [small x2]
Elephant – Fi-Kn, Gore (Fi), Tackle (Fi), Navigate (Kn), Survive (Kn), Remember (Ch), [prehensile trunk], [tusks], [padded armour], [no hands], [large x3]
Elk – [no hands], [antlers], [skeletal reinforcement], [large x2]
Ferret – Sn-Fi, Climb (Sn), Steal (Sn), Bite (Fi), Wrestle (Fi), Perform (Ta), [teeth], [good smell], [small x2]
Fox – Sn-Kn, Hunt (Sn), Steal (Sn), Solve (Kn), Survive (Kn), Bite (Fi), [teeth], [good smell], [small x1]
Giraffe
Goat – [horns], [skeletal reinforcement], [eat anything], [small x1]
Gorilla – [], [large x1]
Hedgehog – [burrowing], [claws], [quills], [good smell], [small x2]
Hippopotamus – [teeth], [amphibious], [no hands], [large x2]
Horse – Sn-Ta, Run (Sn), (), (), (), [no hands], [large x2]
Human – Ta-Ut, Convince (Ta), Lead (Ta), Construct (Ut), Repair (Ut)
Hummingbird – [wings], [heightened metabolism], [small x3]
Hyena – [teeth]
Kangaroo – Sn-Ta, Jump (Sn), Smuggle (Sn), (), (), [leap]
Koala – [claws], [dry survival], [small x2]
Jaguar – [claws], [teeth]
Lemur
Lion – [claws], [teeth], [large x1]
Manatee – [aquatic], [armour], [large x2]
Marten – [teeth], [small x2]
Mink – [teeth], [small x2]
Mole – [burrowing], [claws], [small x2]
Monkey – Kn-Ut, Jury Rig (Ut), Repair (Ut), Play (Kn), Solve (Kn), Climb (Sn), [prehensile tail], [small x1]
Mouse – [], [small x3]
Muskrat – [teeth], [small x2]
Opossum – [Claws], [Prehensile Tail], [Nightvision], [Play Dead], [small x2]
Orang-Utan – []
Otter – [], [small x2]
Pig – []
Platypus – [amphibious], [spurs], [poison], [], [small x2]
Possum – [Nightvision], [Claws], [small x2]
Rabbit – [Leap], [small x2]
Raccoon – [], [small x2]
Rhinoceros – [horn], [reinforced skeleton], [armour], [large x2]
Rodent – [Teeth], [good hearing], [good smell], [small x3]
Sheep – []
Skunk – [musk], [small x2]
Sloth – [claws], [small x1]
Squirrel – [claws-climbing], [small x2]
Tapir – [proboscis], [no hands], [good hearing], [small x1]
Tasmanian Devil – [Claws], [Teeth], [small x2]
Tiger – [claws], [teeth], [nightvision], [large x1]
Walrus – [teeth], [pressure tolerance], [padded armour], [no hands], [no legs], [large x1]
Weasel – [Teeth], [Heightened Metabolism], [Good Smell], [small x2]
Whale – [pressure tolerance], [padded armour], [no hands], [no legs], [sonar], [large x4]
Wolf – [Teeth]
Wolverine – [Teeth], [Claws], [small x1]
Wombat – [Reinforced Skeleton], [armour], [burrowing]
Zebra
Birds
Albatross
Chicken – [wings], [no hands], [small x2]
Crow – Ut-Ch, Dream (Ch), Fly (Ch), Construct (Ut), Jury Rig (Ut), Steal (Sn), [wings], [good eyesight], [small x2]
Duck – [wings], [no hands], [small x2]
Eagle (Predatory Bird) – Sn-Fi, Hunt (Sn), X (Sn), Dodge (Fi), Slash (Fi), Fly (Ch), [wings], [talons], [good eyesight], [small x1]
Emu – {no hands], [powerful legs]
Flamingo – [wings]
Goose – [wings], [no hands], [small x1]
Ibis
Kiwi – [small x2]
Kookaburra – [beak], [wings], [small x2]
Lyrebird – [wings], [mimicry], [claws], [small x1]
Ostrich – {no hands], [powerful legs]
Owl – [Wings], [Nightvision], [Talons], [small x1]
Penguin
Seagull
Turkey – [wings], [small x1]
Reptiles
Alligator – [teeth], [hard armour], [cold blood], [tail], [aquatic], [large x1]
Crocodile – [teeth], [hard armour], [cold blood], [tail], [aquatic], [large x1]
Frilled Lizard – Fi-Ch, Bite (Fi), Block (Fi), Attune (Ch), Dream (Ch), Climb (Sn), [cold blood], [small x2]
Iguana – Fi-Ch, Bite (Fi), Block (Fi), Attune (Ch), Dream (Ch), Climb (Sn), [cold blood], [small x2]
Komodo Dragon – [poison], [armour], [cold blood], [claws], [teeth], [large x1]
Skink – Fi-Ch, Bite (Fi), Block (Fi), Attune (Ch), Dream (Ch), Climb (Sn), [cold blood], [small x3]
Snake (viper) – Ch-Fi, Hypnotize (Ch), Command (Ch), Bite (Fi), Wrestle (Fi), Poison (Kn), [poison], [no legs], [no hands], [small x1]
Snake (constrictor) – Ch-Fi, Hypnotize (Ch), Command (Ch), Bite (Fi), Wrestle (Fi), Poison (Kn), [reinforced skeleton], [no legs], [no hands], [small x1 to large x1]
Tortoise
Turtle – Sn-Ch, Hide (Sn), Swim (Sn), Meditate (Ch), X (Ch), Block (Fi), [hard armour], [pressure tolerance] , [small x2]
Amphibians
Axolotl – [Amphibious], [small x3]
Frog – [leap], [Amphibious], [small x3]
Poisonous Frog – [leap], [poison]. [Amphibious], [small x3]
Salamander – [Amphibious], [small x3]
Toad – [leap], [Amphibious], [small x3]
Fish
Angler Fish – [teeth], [aquatic], [armour], [incandescence], [pressure tolerance], [small x2]
Blowfish – [poison], [aquatic], [armour], [spines], [small x2]
Carp
Fighting Fish
General Fish (freshwater) – [aquatic], [armour], [small x3]
General Fish (saltwater) – [aquatic], [armour], [small x3]
Lungfish – [aquatic], [amphibious], [armour], [small x2]
Piranha – [teeth], [aquatic], [armour], [good smell], [small x3]
Shark – Fi-Sn, Hunt (Sn), Swim (Sn), Bite (Fi), Rip (Fi), Smell (Ch), [breathe underwater], [pressure tolerance], [padded armour], [no hands], [no legs], [good smell], [small x2 to large x2]
Swordfish
INVERTEBRATES
Ant – [good smell], [extra limbs], [small x4]
Bee – [wings], [extra limbs], [good smell], [stinger], [small x4]
Beetle – [heavy armour], [small x4]
Butterfly – [wings], [extra limbs], [good smell], [small x4]
Centipede – [extra limbs], [armour], [small x4]
Cockroach – [armour], [climbing claws], [extra limbs], [small x4]
Crab – [armour], [extra limbs], [aquatic], [pincers], [small x3]
Cricket – [leap], [extra limbs], [armour], [small x4]
Dragonfly – [wings], [extra limbs], [armour], [small x4]
Earthworm – [armour], [regeneration], [no hands], [no legs], [small x4]
Firefly – [wings], [extra limbs], [incandescence], [small x4]
Fly – [wings], [extra limbs], [small x4]
Grasshopper/Locust – [leap], [wings], [armour], [small x4]
Jellyfish – [aquatic], [poison], [extra limbs], [small x3]
Leech – [armour], [no hands], [no legs], [small x4]
Lobster – [aquatic], [extra limbs], [small x3]
Millipede – [extra limbs], [armour], [poison], [small x4]
Mosquito – [wings], [proboscis], [extra limbs], [small x4]
Moth – [wings], [extra limbs], [good smell], [small x4]
Octopus – [tentacles], [no hands], [pressure tolerance], [extra limbs], [small x2]
Scorpion – [poison], [extra limbs], [tail], [small x4]
Sea Cucumber
Slug
Snail
Spider – [poison], [spinnerets], [extra limbs], [small x4]
Squid – Sn-Ut, Squirt Ink (Sn), Swim (Sn), Construct (Ut), Jury-Rig (Ut), Solve (Kn), [ink], [beak], [no hands], [extra limbs], [small x2 to large x4]
Starfish – [extra limbs], [regeneration], [small x3]
Tardigrade (Water Bear) – [pressure tolerance], [armour], [hibernation], [small x4]
Wasp – [wings], [extra limbs], [good smell], [stinger], [small x4]
PAST ANIMALS
Mammal
Argentadon – [claws], [teeth], [heavy armour], [large x2]
Hyaenodon – [claws], [teeth], [large x3]
Mammoth – [prehensile trunk], [tusks], [heavy armour], [large x4]
Megalodon – [claws], [teeth], [heavy armour], [large x3]
Megatherion – [claws], [teeth], [heavy armour], [large x2]
Smilodon – [claws], [teeth], [armour], [large x2]
Thylodon – [claws], [teeth], [heavy armour], [large x2]
Bird
Terror Bird
Reptile
Allosaur – [claws], [teeth], [heavy armour], [large x3]
Ankylosaur – [claws], [teeth], [heavy armour], [large x3]
Brontosaur – [claws], [teeth], [heavy armour], [large x5]
Diatrymon – [claws], [teeth], [heavy armour], [large x3]
Dromaeosaur – [claws], [teeth], [heavy armour], [large x3]
Duckoid – [claws], [teeth], [heavy armour], [large x3]
Koolasuchus – [claws], [teeth], [heavy armour], [large x4]
Pachycephalosaur – [claws], [teeth], [heavy armour], [large x3]
Plesiosaur – [claws], [teeth], [aquatic], [heavy armour], [large x4]
Pterasaur – [claws], [wings], [armour], [large x1]
Sarcosuchus – [claws], [teeth], [heavy armour], [large x2]
Saurinoid – [claws], [teeth], [heavy armour], [large x3]
Stegosaur – [claws], [teeth], [heavy armour], [large x3]
Triceratops – [claws], [horns], [heavy armour], [large x2]
Tyrannosaur – [claws], [teeth], [heavy armour], [large x3]
Amphibian
Fish

OTHER
Plants

Fungi

27 March, 2015

Defining the "Other Strangeness" world

I've been thinking of something more than just the characters in this game, it's collaborative storytelling, so it makes sense to spread the load when it comes to making the environment at the start of the campaign.

I'm just spit alling at the moment, but here's my initial thoughts in this regard.

Every player gives a wide overview definition of 2 regions of the city

They get a total of 25 points to divide between these two regions, the points may be spent on the following categories.
Safety 0-4 (0: Dangerous, 1: Unsafe, 2: Patrolled, 3: Relatively Safe, 4: Very Safe)
Infrastructure 0-4 (0: Ruins, 1: Minimal, 2: Poor, 3: Adequate, 4: Good)
Building Density 0-4 (0: Sparse, 1: Low, 2: Medium, 3: High, 4: Skyscrapers)
Industry 0-4 (0: None, 1: Low, 2: Medium, 3: High, 4: Industrialised)
Commerce 0-4 (0: None, 1: Low, 2: Medium, 3: High, 4: Business District)
Residential 0-4 (0: None, 1: Low, 2: Medium, 3: High, 4: Condominiums)
  [NOTE: Industry + Commerce + Residential <= Building Density + 2]

Special Features - first one free, then 1pt each (with requirements)
Waterfront (no requirements)
Landmark (2+ safety, 1+ building density, 1+ commerce, 0-2 industry)
Zoo (2+ safety, 1-3 commerce, 0-2 industry, 1-3 infrastructure)
Power Substation (2+ industry, 2+ infrastructure)
Sewers (2+ infrastructure, 1+ building density)
Subway (3+ infrastructure, 2+ building density)
Train (2+ infrastructure, 0-2 building density)
Motorway (2+ infrastructure, 
Small Parks (1+ safety, 0-3 building density)
Open Parkland (1+ safety, 0-2 building density)
Sporting Arena (1+ safety, 1-3 commerce, 1-3 residential)
Shopping Complex (2+ safety, 2+ commerce, 2+ residential
Warehouses (1+ safety, 1-2 building density, 2+ industry)
Abandoned Warehouses (0-2 safety, 0-3 building density, 0-2 industry, 0-2 commerce, 0-2 residential)
Farmland (0-1 building density, 1 industry, 0-1 commerce, 0-1 residential)
Military Base (3+ safety, 1-3 building density, 1-3 industry)
Cathedral/Temple/Mosque (2+ safety, 2+ building density, 2+ residential)
Airport (2+ safety, 1-2 building density, 1-3 industry, 1-2 commerce)
Hospital (2+ safety, 1-2 residential)
School (2+ residential)
University (1+ safety, 2+ building density, 2+ residential, 1+ commerce)
Ghetto (0-2 safety, 2+ building density, 2+ residential)
Police Station (3+ safety, 2+ building density, 1+ residential)
Courthouse (3+ safety, 2+ building density, 1+ residential, 1+ commerce)
Docks (Waterfront, 1-3 building density, 2+ industry, 0-3 safety)
Art Gallery / Museum (School or University, 3+ safety, 2+ building density)
Cemetery (0-2 building density)
No organised crime (2+ safety)
Irregular power (0-1 infrastructure, 0-2 industry) (zero cost)
Bad Part of Town (0-2 safety) (zero cost)

Each region is made up of a hex (some groups might use 2 or 3 adjacent hexes). The highest point region is placed first, additional regions are placed adjacent to this in descending order of value until all regions have been placed. 

Regions may be controlled by single groups (including corporations, police or gangs) (1-3 safety), contested by multiple groups (0-2 safety), or may be free (2-4 safety). Each player may create a single group and place them in one of the city's regions (as long as that region doesn't have the "no organised crime" trait). As long as the safety is 2 or less, multiple gangs can be allocated to the same region.

Then we'd look at some quick way to generate gangs or power structures that make sense in those regions. 

Needs more work, but for those players who like to detail their allies or spend time really getting into the development of the setting through their character background, this might help them do that. It might end up being abandoned, but the idea is out there now.

Making sense of Character Integration

Here's where my mind has taken the concept of backgrounds...

Let’s work off a more linear pattern for background/relationships. In this way, the benefits of the relationships are flat bonuses. Every level of a background/relationship provides a simple flat bonus (one advantage granted at the beginning of each conflict for each level in the relevant background. If a character is able to draw on more than one background at the start of a conflict, they must choose which one is most relevant, and they may gain a single advantage point each from other relevant backgrounds, during subsequent turns they might gain an additional advantage point from these other backgrounds up to the point where each background has contributed it’s maximum number of advantage points). A character can easily get the first level in a relationship, but it gets harder to improve this relationship to higher levels.

The first level costs one point, the second level costs 2 points, the third level 3 points, etc. But there is no limit to how far a character might be able to go. Characters with incredible psychic potential might have spent 45 points in total to earn 9 levels of power, they’d need to spend another 10 points to get that 10th level. Meanwhile a character just starting their journey to psychic awareness might spend those same 10 points to go from zero to level 4. I’d probably apply some kind of story requirement to the acquisition of new background levels, maybe even capping it to one level per game unless a specific in game reason saw a way around this…(you ran the last mutant frog out of town, you could probably spend 6 points to take their former level 3 stronghold as your own).

For communal backgrounds, I think that everyone should keep track of how much they’ve spent on the total. The first point spent gives access to the communal background, and every point after that is thrown into a pool that improves the background in the usual manner. Improving from level 6 to level 7 might take 7 points, but two of the character’s might spend three points each, while the third character only contributes one point to it. If everyone knows how many points were spent on the total, then those who spent more points might have priority in describing the specifics of the background, or gaining access to the points it provides. Nothing formal, more of a friendly agreement.

What happens when a character dies, or leaves the story for some reason? I don’t think it’s fair to just negate all of the points that this particular character added to the communal resource, nor do I think that this character’s legacy should simply remain intact forever. Instead I’d suggest that each game, the missing character’s contribution degrades by a single point, until it is gone. Or maybe roll a die, to see whether the contribution degrades…I’m not sure, and I don’t think I really need to get bogged down in that detail while there are so many other important things about the system and setting that really need to be addressed first.

Allies
Activation Condition: You must successfully contact an ally in one scene before their points become available in a subsequent scene.

Benefit: You must name a specific ally for each point, such allies have their own statistics as though they were a character. Two ally points may be spend on a single ally to reflect an experienced veteran. [All ally points are spent permanently on specific defined individuals]

Drawback: Calling on an ally will often result in a favour that needs to be repaid; also, once an ally is killed or neutralised in the story, any points associated with the ally are permanently lost. [Disadvantages in a conflict may injure or even neutralise the ally, or may require bigger favours before they’ll aid you again]

Contacts:
Activation Condition: You must successfully reach one of your primary contacts before their points become available, otherwise only a secondary contact can be reached (half the usual benefits).

Benefit: You may name a specific contact for each point, where a named contact may provide an automatic success to a specific field of knowledge while you are interacting with them. Unspecified points count as generic contacts that may provide a standard d2 verb bonus when the points are expended. [Permanently spend points on specific named individuals with known areas of extensive knowledge, or temporarily spend points on generic contacts with lesser knowledge]

Drawback: Calling on a contact will often result in a favour that needs to be repaid. [Disadvatntages may lead to incomplete or out-of-date information, or may lead to bigger favours needing repayment before the contact may be used again]

Equipment:
Activation Condition: You must specify equipment items being carried, or be near the storage area for your equipment to gain its full benefits (otherwise you may have assorted generic items which provide half the usual benefits).

Benefit: You may specify items that exist in your equipment, where each point provides an automatic degree of success due to your familiarity with it. Unspecified points count as generic items and toolkits that may provide a standard +d2 equipment bonus when they are expended. [Permanently spend points on improved equipment, or temporarily spend points to access ad-hoc equipment of lesser quality]   

Drawback: When used, equipment may become damaged (thus requiring successful actions to repair them) or may become completely broken/lost. [Disadvantages during a conflict may lead to damaged or even irreparable items when they are used]

Influence:
Activation Condition: You must be in an area associated with your influence to gain its full benefits (otherwise only half benefits apply). The effects of influence are never instantaneous, they often take one or more scenes to manifest.

Benefit: Gradual accumulation of point expenditure may cause specific effects, or accumulate into wide ranging events that have significance influence on the long term narrative. [Spend points to overcome narrative obstacles where your influence might have some power, or to suppress negative effects resulting from failed actions in your influence’s field]

Drawback: Besides being slow, the use of influence might be cancelled by other people similarly using influence. [Disadvantages earned during a conflict may result in your actions being broadcast to other people with similar influences, or may see the influence permanently reduced]

Mentor:
Activation Condition: You must be in the presence of your mentor to gain the full benefits.

Benefit: Training from your mentor may be used to fulfil the conditions necessary to learning (or improving) abilities, your mentor may also assist in social or physical conflicts if the need arises. [All mentor points are spent permanently on specific defined individuals]  

Drawback: Once a mentor is killed or neutralised in the story, any points associated with the mentor are permanently lost. [Disadvantages in a conflict may injure or even neutralise the mentor, or may require some kind of penance before they will continue their teaching]

Psy:
Activation Condition: Psy is available at any time, but as soon as it is accessed, you are connected to the Dreaming (for all the benefits and drawbacks this entails).  

Benefit: Once connected to the Dreaming, you may spend these advantage points to increase the effectiveness of any psychic or mystic actions. [Permanently spend points on a continued link to the dreaming focused on a specific power. Temporarily spend points to enhance any powers you might possess, or resist the powers of others]    

Drawback: Excess use of psy may cause mutagenic instability, and may alert other psychics/mystics to your presence. [Disadvantages in a conflict may cause instability or direct injury, or may have some other form of psychic backlash based on the manifested effect (at the GMs discretion)]

Reputation:
Activation Condition: Someone needs to know you, or be associated with groups who know you, before you gain the benefits of reputation.

Benefit: Among people who know your reputation, you may spend these advantage points on social actions, or prevent incoming social actions that might impact your reputation. [All reputation points are spent on a temporary basis, to improve social standing in a given situation]   

Drawback: Calling on your reputation too much may see it diminish or may see it vanish completely. [Disadvantages may see people come to question your reputation, rendering it unusable until the reputation is restored]

Sanctum:
Activation Condition: You must be within your sanctum to gain the full benefit, if you are near the sanctum you gain half the benefit.

Benefit: When in your sanctum, you may spend these advantage points to reflect home area knowledge. [Permanently spend points to reflect traps, defences, and other features of your sanctum, or temporarily spend points to gain home ground advantages]    

Drawback: Once a sanctum is compromised in the story, any points associated with it may be permanently lost. [Disadvantages may see a reduction in the sanctum quality, or may see it unusable for a short time]

Status:  
Activation Condition: Status is linked to a specific group, and only members of that group are affected by it. Dealing with members of allied groups may allow up to half the usual benefits.

Benefit: Within the designated group, you may spend these advantage points on social actions, or prevent incoming social actions that might impact your status within the group. [Permanently spend points on a specific status linked to a successful action, place or event of significance to the group. Temporarily spend points to improve social standing in a given situation]    


Drawback: Calling on your status too much may see it diminish or may see it vanish completely. [Disadvantages may see personal status questioned, or may see the status/reputation of the entire group diminished (which will certainly have repercussions from other members)]

26 March, 2015

Old School Printing Methods (Part 2)

It has taken a little longer to get further in this series because I've had some complications in the process.

The gel bed is fine, but I'll show you some of issues we've been facing.



First, we get a sheet of carbon paper, then a sheet of gloss paper (gloss photography paper for an inkjet printer is optimal for this, but there are plenty of other glossy papers around). The gloss side of the paper is face down, in contact with the "inked" side of the carbon paper. In this case I've got a sheet of tracing paper as well.



I'll use a map of a familiar country to work through this process. I've pencilled it onto the tracing paper, the. Then next step is to get the image onto the glossy side of the paper using the carbon paper. For this, I use a stylus (a ball-point pen that has run out of ink would work just as well). Tracing the map, I get an image on the glossy side of the paper where it has been compressed against the carbon paper.


This is wrong!

It was based on my instincts from other printing processes.




25 March, 2015

Individual and Communal Relationships

I’ve been thinking a bit about the backgrounds/relationships in System 4, and how they link a character to the outside world. A few people have commented on the idea of having a communal pool of relationships that the whole group contributes to, perhaps along the lines of a group headquarters (or secret lair), or a general link between the wider party and the outside world.

With this in mind, I’ve been considering the idea of splitting the backgrounds into 4 levels, and running the numbers comparing triangular or linear progression.

Allies (I or C)
1 An ally
2 A few allies
3 A small group of allies
4 A large group of allies                   
Contacts (I or C)
1 Contacts in one field (or part of the city)
2 Contacts in a few fields (or parts of the city)
3 Contacts in most fields (or parts of the city)
4 Contacts everywhere                   
Equipment (I or C)
1 A few useful tools
2 An assortment of special gadgets
3 All sorts of implements, doodads, and apparatuses
4 Anything you could want to get your hands on              
Influence (I)
1 Able to manipulate (or gain advantages from) a specific field
2 Able to manipulate (or gain advantages from) a wide field (or a few specific ones)
3 Known as a mover and shaker throughout the city
4 Known as a mover and shaker across the country (or even planet)       
Mentor (I or C)
1 Not much more powerful than you
2 Significantly more powerful than you
3 True Master
+1 Commonly available                   
Psy (I)
1 Aware
2 Sensitive
3 Empowered
4 Mystic                                                 
Reputation (C)
1 Known by Name
2 Recognized
3 Feared/Revered
4 Famous/Infamous                         
Sanctum (I or C)
1 Private Hole
2 Secluded Shelter
3 Secret Bunker
+1 Fortified                                          
Status (I)
1 Associated
2 Accepted
3 Integrated
4 Respected                                         


I don’t think 4 levels really works, it’s feeling a bit too compressed, and maybe a bit too trite in some ways. Maybe I should just run with an open ended linear system.

Needs more work.

24 March, 2015

Trying to add Depth Without Sacrificing too much Simplicity (again)

Some characters have natural advantages and disadvantages, regardless of the numbers they roll on dice during the course of a conflict. A character with hands that resemble animal paws is going to have trouble with feats that require fine manual dexterity (opposable thumbs were a pretty big advantage to early humanity), and a character with massive leg muscles (like maybe a mutant kangaroo) will have a huge benefit when trying to leap heights or distances. In keeping with the origins of the game (Palladium’s “TMNT and Other Strangeness”) there will be two levels of mutation away from the “human norm”, this gives us 3 general degrees for most things: “None”, “Partial”, and “Full”. To keep things simple, I’m going to state that those characters who have “None” for their relevant mutation (eg. “Hands” when dealing with fine dexterity) suffer a loss of 1 full success on their actions. Those characters who have “partial” mutations simply apply a –d2 to any roll where this are relevant.

One of the things that TMNT never really handled well in my opinion was the mutant transition where animal forms had no limbs what-so-ever (eg. snakes). In cases like these, I’m just thinking that certain tasks will be flat-out impossible. But on the positive side, evolving this far from humanity will open up new abilities and mutations (and more points with which to buy them). Another thing that just didn’t make sense in that game is the way that you can keep a completely human appearance while degrading hands and bipedal stance down to nothing. One of the common things about watching the “mutant animal” genre of cartoons (and reading the comics), is that “human appearance” is almost always one of the first things to go. I’m thinking of making that a prerequisite before other mutant deviations can occur.

Then we come to the issue of size. I’d like smaller characters to have an easier chance of hitting larger targets, but to have less chance of doing significant damage when the hit occurs. Conversely, larger character should have a harder time connecting their hit with smaller targets, but when those hits occur they should be correspondingly more powerful. From a simplistic perspective, the modified chance to hit is equally balanced out by an equal and opposite damage, so we might not need to worry about this mechanically at all, instead make it a narrative distinction. That feels like lazy design to me.

One option to overcome this might be through a comparison of animal “size classes”, where a smaller character gains a number of advantages on an action equal to the size differential, but they need to earn a number of successes equal to size differential in order to actually inflict damage.

Snickers is size class 4, Spot is size class 7. When Snickers attacks Spot (or looks for Spot when she’s hiding), he gains 3 automatic advantages due to the size differential. These are gained by Snickers every time he initiates an action against Spot, but may only be used on actions against Spot (let’s assume he loses all the advantages If he turns his attention to someone else). Since a single advantage point may be used to increase a die by d2, and a pair of advantages may be used to add an automatic success to an action, we can safely assume on average that Snickers will earn more successes in each strike of the conflict, but that he will need far more successes to actually deal damage (if that is his intention). It probably makes more sense for Snickers to play a cunning game against Spot, maybe leading her into traps that deal damage regardless of size factor, or engaging in social conflict where issues other than size come into play.
  
To work through this problem, we might also need to pull in ideas of how characters might resist incoming negative effects.

I’ve already added in some elemental ideas. These are drawn from European alchemy and/or Japanese mysticism, they also pull in the concept that most anime teams feature four or five characters who almost always fit the elemental stereotypes. Even the TMNT have four members, and a mysterious mentor who walks a balanced path between them.

Basically…
Air – Speed, Surface Appearances (ability to deal with ephemeral/social conflict).
Earth – Stability, Resilience (ability to deal with physical endurance/conflict).
Fire – Passion, Strength (ability to deal with motivation drains).
Water – Rationality, Thought (ability to deal with rational debate/puzzles).   
(These are also the stances, and generally the “attributes” of the characters).

I had also considered the idea that a character would have a higher “virtual air” score when facing a larger opponent (this makes them quicker in comparison), and a lower “virtual earth” score (this makes them easier to wound). The reverse would apply when facing smaller opponents. If this is the case, it would means that “Earth” is used to absorb physical wounds, similarly “Fire” might be used to absorb attacks on a character’s motivation/emotions, “Water” might do the same for attempts to confuse the character, and “Air” might buffer social attacks.


It doesn’t feel 100% right, but it’s a step in the right direction.

23 March, 2015

Old School Printing Methods (Part 1)

When it comes to gaming, this is older than old school...but when it comes to printing, it's more recent.

It also counts as old school because it was used as a method of duplicating things in Australian schools in the very late 1800s and early 1900s. As someone interested in printing techniques, maps, and DIY, this really took my interest and became a household project. So, I thought I'd share.

(When there's an excuse to draw maps and experiment with new stuff, we rarely need to be asked twice around here)

The method is called Hectograph printing. It's not hard to do, but requires a few specialist tools and ingredients.

First you need to make a gel bed, then you need a sheet of old style carbon paper (this was actually the most difficult thing to source), some tracing paper, the thing to be printed, and a sharp pencil or stylus.

Step 1

Let's start with the gel bed.

This needs three ingredients and a glass or ceramic tray (don't use metal trays as the gel mix gets contaminated very easily by rust/corrosion).

For this bed, we mixed 60g of gelatine, 375ml of glycerine, and 250ml water, in a bowl over slow heat on the stove until the whole mix had dissolved into slightly cloudy liquid. 

The mix was then poured into a glass tray, any bubbles on the surface the carefully popped with a pin or pushed to the side of the tray where they wouldn't disrupt the smooth printing surface.

This was left overnight, thus giving us the gel bed for the printing process.


The gel bed accepts a layer of ink from carbon paper, and it is this ink that will be used for printing. Apparently it will run about 30-40 prints with good carbon paper (about enough for a large school class) before the ink gets used up and the images start getting too faint to use.




Grammatical Conflict

First, here's the list of adverbs I'm thinking of using.



Conflict Resolution (This applies to violent combat, social intrigue, and pretty much anything where a two or more characters oppose one another)

One – Stance
Every round, each player chooses a stance for their character. The stance determines the maximum number of actions the character can engage during a round.

Two – Initiative
The player whose character has the highest number of actions goes first. If there is a tie, randomly determine who goes first.

Three A – Action Declaration
The player declares their character’s action, in a single sentence using an available verb (if the character has specialised in this verb, they’ll get an advantage). If they have an adverb that makes sense as an advantage in this situation (and matches their current stance), they may also include this in the sentence. They may also include a noun representing a piece of equipment used in the task. Other things that might help in this statement of intent include some kind of “target noun” in the sentence to help identify who or what is the objective of the action, some kind of reference to a character relationship that might help, and a reference to any situational bonuses that might apply. If this gets too complicated you might want to split it up into two sentences.
I interrogate [fire verb] the prisoner [target noun] angrily [fire adverb]
I carefully [water adverb] refine [water verb] the methamphetamine [target noun] with my lab equipment [equipment noun].
Taking advantage of the distraction caused by Snickers [situational bonus], I climb [air verb] the alley wall on the left [target noun].
I excavate [earth verb] the box [target noun] with the instructions provided by Spot [situational bonus]. Diligently [adverb] working away with my shovel [equipment noun], until it is free.  

Three B – Difficulty
In most cases, a single success is all a character needs to accomplish their goal. In some cases the GM may determine that a task is more difficult and requires extra successes to accomplish (or might not be attempted at all while another obstacle is in the way). If the GM has specified a higher difficulty for the action, they indicate it now. The player with the active character may modify their statement of intent.

Three C – Determine Dice
Pick up dice to represent your character’s chances of accomplishing the deed.

Verb Die
d4: You have the verb, but you’re in another stance (you cannot use it at all if you’re in the opposing stance). Or, you don’t have the verb but you’re in the right stance.
d6: It’s a general verb without a stance.
d8: You have the verb and you’re in the right stance.
-d2: You're injured in a way that makes this verb difficult.
+d2: You’re using an advantage.

Equipment Die
d4: Poor quality piece of equipment.
d6: Typical piece of equipment.
d8: High quality piece of equipment.
d10: Optimum piece of equipment.
-d2: Using the equipment in a way that it wasn’t intended.
-d2: The equipment is damaged, but still basically usable.
The presence of an adverb or relationship doesn’t add dice to the pool, instead they each add a single automatic success to the final result.

(Any die that drops below a d4 cannot possibly obtain a 4 or higher as it's result, and is therefore eliminated).

Three D – The Roll
Roll the dice, every die that rolls 4 or higher earns a success. If a die rolls 8, it earns an extra success. Any die rolling an even number earns an advantage, any die rolling an odd number earns a disadvantage.
For an increased chance of success, you may spend two of your character’s actions at once. If you do this, roll 2 of the designated verb die and choose the more advantageous result.

Three E – Resistance?
If the target noun was another character, they may now use one of their actions to make a statement. The make this statement using the verb they are intending to use to avoid the effects directed at them (and any of their adverbs, or nouns that might contribute to this resistance). They determine and roll their dice; successes on 4s, double successes on 8s. Any resistance successes cancel incoming successes on a 1-for-1 basis.

Three F – Result
Any successes not resisted now produce effects. One success will accomplish a result, but in the case of more difficult tasks it might only get some of the way toward completing the intended action. If extra successes have been earned, above and beyond what the GM has designated necessary, they may be used to add special effects, provide advantages to allies, or do something else (I’m still thinking here, perhaps different verbs have different “extra success” conditions, to make them each unique in some way…perhaps that’s just getting a bit fiddly).

Four – Next Action
The character with the next highest number of available actions acts. The same character may act twice in a row, but if they would act three times in a row, they need to defer to someone else’s action before taking any more.     

I haven’t addressed the idea of backgrounds/relationships at this stage of the core game mechanisms, because I haven’t decided whether to add them in as an extra die, use them to give automatic successes to actions, perhaps rerolls, or automatic advantage points at the start of a conflict where their presence is justified.

Also note that I haven't included the benefits of advantages gained from rolling even numbers, or the drawbacks of disadvantages gained from rolling odd numbers. I'm basically thinking that spending an advantage allows the player to boost a verb die by +d2 (I've included this in the procedure above). Spending two advantage points give an automatic success, or give everyone on your side a +d2 bonus for their next action (as long as this can be justified in the narrative). Spending three advantage points gives an automatic success to everyone on your side (again, as long as this can be justified). Disadvantage points might cancel out advantage points, or might be spent by the GM to inflict penalties (1 pt = -d2, 2pts = -d2 to everyone or -1 success, 3pts = -1 success to everyone). 

I hope that this might encourage strategic thinking within the narrative. "I'll draw the fire in this direction (-1 success to me), which will give everyone else a better chance to accomplish their actions (+d2 to everyone else on my side)."  

I’m rapidly heading back to that area of game design where I want a whole lot of detail, but I don’t want to bog down play to get there. 

21 March, 2015

Integrating Character and World

There's something I love about White Wolf's World of Darkness, this is something that had played a role in many games I participated in up to that point, but was something that had never been formally written into the rules. I'm talking about character backgrounds (not related to specific stereotypes of race) that provide some kind of mechanical interaction with the wider rules.

In a game like Vampire, you get backgrounds like "Status" (which define your position within your chosen society of the undead), "Generation" (which gives an indication of how pure the immortal blood is in your veins), "Wealth" (an indication of the money at your disposal), "Contacts" (assorted people who have knowledge and might be able to provide clues), "Allies" (the people you can call on when the excrement hits the fan), "Influence" (which reflects you ability to manipulate a particular industry to gain benefits), or "Mentor" (the relative strength and power of someone who has taken you under their wing).

In Werewolf, where status is measured differently and purity of supernatural blood is measured genetically, these two become "pure breed". Werewolves being more spiritual also gain access to a "Fetish" background (which determines the spirit bound items in their possession) and "Totem" (which is combined with other members of the group to create a guardian spirit for the pack).

Wraith uses these ideas too, but takes a very different perspective. "Wealth" means little to the restless dead, and the act of dying renders anything like "Generation" or "Purebreed" irrelevant. The version of "Wealth" used by Wraiths is measured in oboli, the currency of souls used by the dead, and Wraiths maintain a link to the mortal world through a "Haunt" (a place of significance in their life and a refuge in their death), "Memorium" (which reflects how many people remember them, and thus their metaphysical strength), and "Eidolon" (reflecting how strong the character's metaphysical will is).

All character get a base amount of points to link into the wider community. They may choose to spend these points in a way that ties them closely to a particular group, they may spend the points in a way that gives them friends or other communal benefits, or they may spend them in a way that will make them enemies. Regardless of how the points are spent, a competent Storyteller/GM will make use of every point expended and find some way to link it into the wider story.

This Vampire character has points in "Generation" and "Status", they obviously think of themselves as a bit of an elder and they want to play the political game. This other character has points in "Influence" and "Wealth", they obviously still have strong links to the mortal world, but since they didn't spend points in allies or contacts, they're obviously a mysterious shadowy figure who manipulates things from a distance. Beyond their specific individual statistics, these points tell us about the characters role in a community and the relationships that might have significance in their ongoing story.

I've played in a few games over the years where backgrounds were paramount, personal statistics were stripped back to simple figures drawn from the wider attribute categories (physical, mental, social) and simple ability switches (do you have the ability, yes/no?)...in fact the live action Minds Eye Theatre basically runs like this. I've played in games where the entirety of the game mechanics revolved around background points (sometimes rolling dice, sometimes straight comparisons of numbers).

I'm thinking of something similar for "System 4/Other Strangeness". Beyond the raw verbs you use in a given situation and the adverbs attached to them (which grant automatic successes), I'm thinking of using backgrounds or relations that might boost a characters capabilities. But such relationships are distinctly two edged swords, they are generally positive (adding an extra die that might generate additional successes), but they might also apply additional advantages/disadvantages to an action attempt where they are used, and they might require narrative elements engaged to refresh them. Here's where the feedback loop between character actions and wider community repercussions come into play.

Some of the backgrounds/relations I'm thinking of so far include...

Allies - close friends (this bonus reflects the people beyond the other PCs who can be called on when things get tough. Benefits might depend on the ally, and each ally should be detailed for something they're known to be good at and something that they just wont help with at all. When used, an ally might require service to be reciprocated before they're willing to help again.)

Contacts - loose information networks and sources (this bonus is used to get information about things that might not be directly in the character's sphere of influence. Benefits might add clues to an investigation, or indicate how or what is necessary to proceed. When used, the information might be wrong, or it might come with a price attached)

Equipment - this one's pretty obvious (this bonus indicates pieces of signature equipment that the character has practiced with. Benefits might include higher damage from weapons, better results from technical gear, or simply modified gear unlike anything that other people possess. When used, there is always the chance the the equipment might break, or it could get stolen)

Mentor - an elder or teacher (this bonus reflects the benefits that might be provided by someone with great experience, possibly teaching skills, imparting clues, or just helping out. Benefits might include training sessions or montages, healing, or using their status in the community. When used, the mentor might retract from the character so that they will learn independence, or they might even risk being neutralised by the character's enemies)

Sanctum - a place of refuge (this bonus may only be used when the character is in or near their chosen place of safety. Benefits reflect the character's knowledge of the area, how well stocked the sanctum might be, and how well concealed. When used, it might dwindle the stocks, or draw enemies near and compromise the location's safety)

Status - reputation among a group (this bonus only applies when dealing with this particular group, perhaps some corporation, gang, ninja clan, or mutant underground. Benefits reflect the deference that other members of the group might give the character, and the favours they'd be willing to give purely because of the character's position. When used, it might eat into the character's social capital, or perhaps the character might be expected to fulfill certain obligations to the group to maintain their status).

I'm sure there will be more ideas for these, but that's what I'm running with for the moment. I haven't even specifically come up with the way they'll be applied mechanically in play...I'm sure it will come.

20 March, 2015

Skill List

When you come up with a skill list, you really define what your game is about. Even when you tell players "here's a basic starting list, feel free to come up with new ideas of your own", you've already set their minds down specific paths and their future choices will reflect the initial direction in which you sent them.

A game with dozens of described combat options, and no obvious ways for players to investigate the world around them doesn't lend itself to any style of play beyond hitting things (and maybe taking their stuff). This paints a very different picture to a game with pages of detail about political machinations and the various ways players may interact with the world socially.

White Wolf's Classic World of Darkness gave each of its races a slightly different set of abilities on the character sheets (beyond the differences required by the varying power sets), it didn't necessarily mean that werewolves couldn't learn the skills of etiquette and intrigue, but was more of an indication that a traditional "Werewolf" story didn't see a lot of this.

So I'm trying to think of what might be the core abilities associated with a bizarre, slightly arcane and monstrous game about mutant animals in a world like our own.

Here's what I've got so far.

Wide
Narrow
Move [Biped]

Dance (A)
Sneak (W)
Run (A)
Charge (F)
Climb (A)
Chase (F)
(Glide)* (A)
(Fly - Glide) (A)
Talk [Speech]
Interrogate (F)
Negotiate (W)
Intimidate (F)
Taunt (W)
Convince (A)
Inspire (A)
Research
Study (E)
Meditate (W)
Read (E)
Search (W)
Attack
Slash (F)
Punch (F)
Crush (E)
Impale (F)
Tackle (E)
Throw (A)
(Swoop – Glide or Fly) (A)
(Stomp – Size) (E)
Defend
Block (E)
Dodge (A)
Protect (E)
Redirect (W)
Counterattack (F)
(Absorb – Armour) (E)
Create
[Hands]
Concoct (W)
Construct (E)
Build (E)
Fortify (E)
Manufacture (E)
Cook (E)
Repair
[Hands]
Jury Rig (W)
Reinforce (E)
Restore (E)
Refine (W)
Pick (W)
Disarm (A)
Shoot
[Hands]
(gun)
Snipe (W)
Cover (A)
Spray (F)
Aim (W)
Use
[Hands]
Drive (E)
Activate (W)
Deactivate (E)
Heal
Cure (W)
Diagnose (A)
Patch (W)
Perform Surgery (E)
Psychoanalyse (A)
Hide
[size]
Conceal (A)
Stalk (W)
Hunt (F)
Dig
Burrow (E)
Buttress (E)
Excavate (E)
Mine (E)
Comfort
Empathise (A)
Identify (W)
Soothe (A)
Bolster (W)
Sense
See (A)
Smell (A)
Taste (W)
Hear (A)
Feel (E)
Intuit (F)
Other
Fish (W)
Project (Psy/Magic) (F)
Poison (E)
Lift (F)
Enchant (Psy/Magic) (A)
Curse (Psy/Magic) (E)
Navigate (W)
Track (A)
Tumble (A)
Perform (A)
Mimic (A)
Hypnotize (Power) (A)
Play Dead (Power) (E)
Demolish (F)
Tie (E)
    
If a wide verb is in Bold it means that everyone starts with this. Otherwise, characters will start with around four "wide" verbs, and once they've picked a wide verb they may learn a "narrow" verb within it (or may learn one of the "other" narrow verbs). In total, I'm thinking that most characters will start with about a dozen of these "narrow" verbs with the ability to pick up another every second game.

Each of the narrow verbs is specific lined to an elemental force, the character needs to be in the right frame of mind to engage such a verb. If not, they are limited to wide verbs. Many of the wide verbs have a trait attached to them (eg [Hands]), this indicates that if the mutant animal has insufficiently developed traits (or bears the animalistic version of such a trait), they might find tasks of this type difficult.

That's where my mind is at the moment, at it seems pretty content.