Wednesday, December 30, 2009

25th Anniversary!

So with 2010 right around the corner, I realized something. This is going to be my 25th anniversary of roleplaying! I started way back in 1985 as a freshmen in high school and never looked back int he quarter century since.


Unlike most people I didn't start with D&D but actually with FASA's Star Trek game. I quickly moved on to Villains & Vigilantes and then dabbled a bit in D&D.

Fantasy rping always took a back seat to Star Trek or Superheroes, that's just the way it was up until 1989. Then I discovered a game that made all others moot for me, it came in a minimalist black box and cost my $18 at Captain Quebec (uFLGS) and it was called Cyberpunk.

I ran Cyberpunk for years (both 2013 and 2020) and was considered quite a lethal referee. I still am. I have always warned players that all other games I run for them to have fun and explore the world... Cyberpunk I run for me. And I like shootouts, double-crosses and non-stop action. All of these things lead to very high PC bodycounts in Cyberpunk and I am quite fine with that.

The other two themes I have ran to death are Superheroes and Star Trek.

I was the only person in my circle of gamers who held onto MSH Classic (FASERIP) after everyone else had moved on to Mutants & Masterminds. I just never got into all that book keeping. Wasn't for me. MSH was elegant, fast and I could eyeball a threat/power level in seconds. I didn't need to then perform a bunch of caculations based on that eyeballing, all I needed to do was add some ranks and Bob's your uncle.

I have run homegrown campaigns, Marvel Universe campaings, DC Universe campaigns and a weird folded Universe that lasted a bloody longtime as well.

Star Trek is another game I have ran in almost every incarnation, though not the one that came before FASA Trek. I have run Next Gen Campaigns, Movie Gen Campagins, Post-Gen Campaigns and even my own Ultimate Universe version of Star Trek. I have run Prime Directive using the original rules and D6. I know my Trek, but surprisingly only became a fan after I start RPGing it. That is why the FASA Universe will always be in step with how I see Star Trek and as such Movie Gen being Trek to me.

So with my 25th Anniversary of gaming looming I plan to spend 2010 revisiting these awesome genres (as well as continuing work on Final Age) and really have some old school fun with myself. The only difference is that I will use SAGA instead of FASERIP for my supers. I don't know what I will use for Trek and I will use my melange of 2013/2020 rules for Cyberpunk.

It's gonna be a good year for gaming!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Zenith Comics Presents: Ultimate Guardians

Well the die is cast and I am underway working on my Ultimate Guardians campaign. There has been a lot of enjoyment in my mind of working out various things and such.

The question of system is still up for debate (my declaration of BASH as a winner earlier may have been a bit premature) and it seems the old FASERIPer is in the running, but maybe as 4C. I will know as soon as I start to write stats down.

I have also teamed up with my buddy Longbow from the Super Buddies forums and he has started doing some art for me in the Bruce Timm style from the DCAU.

The first piece up is my old favourite, Lady America;

This is an old costume of hers and not her final look for sure, but it was nice to see her come to life in the first costume I ever designed for her!

While she isn't a Guardian at the start of the campaign, she will be an ally of them team.

The characters (no art yet) are as follows;

Galvanos - A Japanese Robot in the Shogun Warrior style controlled by a handicapped Japanese youth.

Max Plastic - A smart mouthed former-crook-turned-hero who can stretch and shape himself into almost anything.

Kestrel - An angry young mutant with the looks of an angel. His temper is legendary.

Traxx - A speedster who embraces all the traditional stereotypes about speedsters.

Zero-G - An ex astronaut turned superhero with power over gravity itself. A southern gentleman.

Arrow - A soldier/archery expert with hand-to-hand skills to match. He is secretive about his past.

Cascade - A mutant aquatic woman form Australia who studies marine biology and is at best a relunctant hero.

Now the game will be set in Capitol City, which I am going to do an big overhaul of. I am going to make it sort of a Chicago of the East, more on that later.

The big trick to the game is this. All the characters are from the older campaigns I have run, but this time it won't be the player who made them playing it. For example, Galvanos' player won't be playing Galvanos, etc... Really shaking it up.

More as it develops

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

How To Do Random Charcters In BASH?

So I sat down to make a character in V&V and after 20 minutes of rolling dice and figuring things out I had a 5'10, 100lb, 17 strength, fashion model (performing art), lawyer (legal background), French Woman who was 17. Her powers were a mess, Stretching Device, Transmutation Device, Bionics, a Pet, Heightened Charisma (B), a magical mind control item and the pisonic/magic power of weakness detection. Oh and her weakness was Physical Handicap.

Now part of that was my own fault for randomizing the tables she got to roll on, sure, but also it was just very hard for me to put that all together. Yes I get to drop one power (bye bye stretching) but even then I had a mess of a character.

Now I could have selected the tables I wanted her powers on but that defeats the purpose of the whole random thing.

Maybe there should be an archetype table? Roll on that... okay now you can only roll on this table for powers, or these 2. I dunno.

I am going to see if I can figure out how to add random character creation to BASH. :)

Hold The Presses!

I've always wanted to shout that at the top of my lungs.

I just did... in an empty house... highly overrated... moving on.

"Who knows where thoughts come from? They just appear."

That quote from Empire Records has always been one of my favorites as it is pretty much spot on for how my creativity works on a fairly regular basis.

Well inspiration has struck once again and I now know what my new superhero campaign will be!

The problem is that I have done every kinda of campaign you can imagine, from Golden Age to actually playing in the late Silver/early Bronze Ages.

I have done Marvel campaigns, DC campaigns and fusion Marvel/DC/Whatever campaigns.

But none of it... not one moment of it has ever compared to the original Guardians campaign from back in 89 - 91. That campaign was magical and so fresh. It started with V&V and ended with MSH. It was the original line up to!

Doc - The mad scientist with the cybernetic arm, that he himself chopped off his perfectly good arm to add. What a dude! He had force fields, which would eventually be the end of him. He was a strange character played by a guy who wasn't into supers, but made the most of it.

Galvanos - The walking-talking Japanese Robo-Samurai. He was originally in the model of Goldorak but once the player saw the Ingram from Patlabor his look changed and never went back. For my money I prefer the original, though the player still doesn't.

The Osprey - The first character that this player ever played with me and frankly one of his best. A strange birdpowered man who was the comic relief of the team, in the vien of the Blue Beetle/Booster Gold hillarity of the JLI.

Cyberknight - A techno swordsman who was played by a friend who soon went off to the armed forces, but he played long enough to cut the power cables on Frostbite's icepack and set off one of the most oft repeated moments in any campagin thereafter.

Then there were two NPCs, Gyro and Cascade.

Gyro was my character in my buddy's V&V campaign in High School and I brought him into this game, warts and all. In modern vernacular he would be called a GMPC, but let me tell you when I killed him in the 3rd session, everyplayer confessed that's when they knew it was for real.

Cascade was from some GURPS Supers supplement, Super Scum I think, and was essentially an aquatic heroine. Truely the only thing that made her stand out as a character was her gentle nature and Australian accent.

That campaign world, Earth Alpha (which grew out of the aformentioned friend's V&V campaign which I inherited) would go on for 3 years and have some truely memorable moments. Characters would die, new ones take their place, other reborn... it was heady stuff for us in our late teens/early twenties.

And I have spent every campaign since then trying to recapture it.

Trying and failing of course. The only campaign that ever came even close was the PONY (Protectors of New York) campaign that last an unfortunate 4 or 5 sessions before I paniced and tanked it. Long story.

So if I look at the original Guardians campaign, what made it work? Well for sure part of it was the age and the times. The late 80's were an interesting time to be alive. For sure. But I suspect it was more than that.

Certainly the random character creation of V&V made a big difference as it forced the players to have to be creative when they made their characters. There were no "concepts" to be worked on, instead they took what was given, and formed a ccharacter out of that and then asked to reroll or change what they needed to as their character idea formed. That was an important part of old school campaigns and something that has been lost for the most part in modern rpging.

The other thing that contributed to it being an amazing game was that it was the first. The first long term campagin I ran. The first time I was the GM. The first time I was in control and not sharing a universe with another GM or just being a player.

So where does that bring me to today?

I can never, ever have that back. Those days are gone and I accept that. It is a hard pill to swallow but I will nonetheless.

But that doesn't mean I can't try something that is a little bit old, a little bit new and a little bit crazy.

The first rule will of course be the need for random characters. No matter what. That spark of creativity is what really pushed the original campaign and allowed for the players to help create the feeling of the team as a group and not in individual vaccums, with little or no contact with each other.

Second, it isn't the Silver/Bronze Age anymore. Hell it isn't even the Iron Age anymore. We have moved beyond once again where the Modern Age is falling in onitself and the next age is looming, but no one knows what that will be.

I think Marvel came damn close though.

The Ultimate Universe was a breath of fresh air, it had the costumes and the wow factor of the Modern Age but the grittiness of the Bronze/Iron Ages and right up to the end of the Ultimates series 2 it was perfect.

So there it is.

The Ultimate Guardians.

What does that mean? It means my old universe through the Ultimate lens.

The Golden Age came and went, there was no Silver Age.

This leads me to believe that BASH does not do what I need it to do.

I need that randomness and that anything-can-happen factor.

As it stands right now, Villains & Vigilantes does address that. I may just have to reconsider.

Arrrggghhhh! Damn my creative brain!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

And The Winner Is?

After reading and skimming about a dozen superhero RPGs, I have decided that BASH Ultimate Edition will be the system I will use for my new campaign.

I feel that BASH does an excellent job of mixing fast action with fairly in depth character creation.

While a couple of rules don't sit right with me, and there is room for a lot more Advantages and Disadvantages, I think in the end a House Rule here or there and I have what I need.

More on that as I develop it.

Monday, December 21, 2009

What Should Me Next Campaign Be?

So with only one more session (maybe two) to go for the first part of "New Dawn of the West" and the "Final Age" campaign group just getting underway, I have come to need a new campaign for the NDotW gang.

Now first off, I really don't expect anyone to reply to this. I rarely get comments or feel like anyone is reading this, so perhaps this is a masturbatory act of posting. Then again you never know.

Moving on.

I was thinking about doing some supers, but to be honest none of the available superhero systems appeal to me anymore and I just don't have the energy to write my own (despite my last post) and think that it may slide to beyond back burner status as a project.

Cyberpunk and Star Wars both bore me too quickly. As well Cyberpunk is oh so deadly which makes running a campaign a hard thing to do.

Not really up for another fantasy campaign, as I have one going with the other group and need time to clear the pallet with this one.

Star Trek... maybe, maybe Prime Directive... That I just don't know.

So suggestions? Oh and Horror gaming is right out with this group.

So yeah. Suggestions?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Villains, Mutants and Champions!

Okay I accept that is a less than inspired title.

Still, made you look ;)

Well recently I took a break from working on my post-apocalyptic-savage-fantasy setting and let my mind wander into superheroes territory. Now any of you who follow my blog, Earth Alpha, know that I have been reading all kinds of superhero games recently and just not been finding what makes me happy or clicks for what I want.

MSH Classic (FASERIP) - Been running this exclusively since about 1989. So very very tired of it. It lacks the excitement and such. My players know every maneuver, power, etc... Also it is a rather black and white system that is a touch too simple for me.

MSH SAGA - Again, plyed it quite a bit and while I like it, it lacks a certain "WOW" factor that I am seeking. Love the card based resolution, but I lost my cards a long time ago and my my my but they are expensive to replace from the used rpg market.

BASH Ultimate Edition - A very, very good game. The Ultimate Edition nearly won me over. The production value is top shelf and the presentation vastly improved over the basic edition (which I have openly stated I did not like). My only issue is, like FASERIP it is too simple and in itself, one of its primary design philosophies doesn't work for me. It isn't granular enough.

V&V - I love Villains & Vigilantes, I really, really do... but she is old and she shows her age. Though she does have some of the stuff I really like in a supers game. The characters grow in ability not powers. The powers are pretty much predefined. There is room to wiggle. But oh my the system is clunky.

M&M/Champions - I respect the hell out of Mutants & Masterminds and Champions, they are complete games that work very very well. I just can't stand games that fiddly. I hate building my powers (give me a power called Gravity Control and tell me what it does instead of me building a set of effects with the trappings of Gravity control) so those systems never work for me as a player or a gm.

SW/D6 - Both of these have produced some fantastic super power books/supplements, specifically D6 Powers Revised and the Savage Worlds Super Powers Companion. But neither one has really captured me as a system. SW in particular never feels when I read it like it would work for a long term campaign.

DC Heroes/Blood of Heroes - I tried this game back in the day, and while I think the AP system is wonderful in its own way, it just doesn't do it for me. I know that there are legions of fans for it, but not for me.

The Rest - GURPS Supers, Heroes Unlimited, Squadron UK/Golden Heroes, Truth & Justice, Supercrew, etc... most of these are either really awkward games, or just systems I don't really like. Not to disparage though, I think Supercrew and T&J are very innovative games, just lacking the variety of crunch I prefer.

I was beginning to lose hope.

So given that I recently was doing some game design and such, I started looking at the SIEGE style of gaming (Castles & Crusades/StarSIEGE)and that lead me to some places I hadn't thought of yet. I found a thread about "Super SIEGE" on the Troll Lord Games forums that didn't seem to be going anywhere except "Wait for Vigilance" which, while it sounds very interesting, supers by gaslight isn't my cup-of-tea. So I started reading the vast amount of d20 superhero games that came out that weren't M&M.

As a side note, I find it rather sad that once M&M tore up the market most other d20 super-games kind of went to the wayside or were abandoned. A testament to the power of M&M to be sure, but I find M&M offers only one style of superhero gaming in the d20 pool, and that one is closely based on Champions.

As I read along, and reread V&V I started to see that a lot of what V&V is was essentially the first d20 Superhero game. Well after a fashion of course.

So what do I want out of a superhero game?

For starters no bloody point builds. Either random, or pick. Random I am starting to like, because it forces a level of creativity that has long been missing in modern gaming. Pick I like because it helps with concept. A mix or the two, or a random, drop and pick, reroll, something... I don't know.

I am also good with a d20/C&C based system. I used to think levels and classes didn't work for supers, but now I am seeing it in a different light and liking what I see. Classes work (Scrapper, Brick, Blaster, etc...) and if someone has more than one, well that's a dual-class or a multi-class.

I have read and am reading now a glut of d20 based super games that were all seemingly developed before M&M killed the market by its sheer presence, and I find most of them all try to do what I don't like, point builds. They also all use Feats, which normally I am against, but more and more I see myself coming around on.

So I don't know where this will all go, and I am not sure what it will all entail, but I know this... it's gonna be an interesting ride.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Super Hunt Continues: MSHAG - SAGA!

So after finishing V&V and having spent some time amoung the online community I find that while it brings back lots and lots of fond memories for me, it isn't the system I want. Much like BASH Ultimate Edition (another excellent game) it does everything it should, it just doesn't allow for the kind of on-the-fly reffing I need to do in a superheroes game. So, like BASH, well done, thumbs up, but moving on.

This brings me to an oldie but a goodie, Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Game, or Marvel-SAGA as it is known online.

I am reading it as we speak and will get back to you on this one.

Stay tuned true believers!

Monday, December 14, 2009

On Vacation... Sort Of

Well I am taking a month off of writing and developing "Final Age" so I don't know if I will be posting anything of substance here in that time.

I have one set of sessions notes from John to get up as soon as I get them and I may post some ramblings about various things, but beyond that... I dunno.

Might be a quiet month.

Cheers and happy holidays.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Villains & Vigilantes: Back to the Begining!

As you can see by the side panel, I am currently reading the Villains & Vigilantes revised/2nd edition rule book.

Let me tell you a fast story.

When I started roleplaying back in the 80s, the first game I ever played in was Star Trek (FASA) run by a guy I knew in High School. It was fun, but it never really captured me. I played some D&D (of course) and tried a bunch of other games, but nothing ever really captured my attention the way a boxed set I bought at Captain Quebec (the one of Decarie at Queen Mary) called Villains & Vigilantes (hereafter V&V).

Jeff Dee's art jumped out at me! The idea of playing superheroes was something my friends and I back in the Gaspé had done as children. We would trace from the Handbooks to the Marvel Universe and create our own heroes and villains and then run around the back yard pretending to battle crime! Our secret base was the treehouse in Ian's backyard or a tent in the field. Those were the heady days of real roleplaying it would seem.

V&V brought it all to light for me.

Soon my friend Graeme and I were playing all the time. I created my signature hero Gyro (who later became known as Ex Astris as I got older and more sophisticated, though I still think of him as Gyro) and Graeme populated a small world for us to play in.

To this day I have the original notebooks from those days and though Graeme would eventually move on from roleplaying, I never lost the bug. Many of those characters still appear in my home grown universe, including the most sinister villain team of all time. A team that still puts fear into the hearts of my players at the mere mention of them, Ravage V!

I moved on from V&V when I discovered Marvel Superheroes (FASERIP) and really never looked back. I tried other supers games over the years, but none ever grabbed me the way V&V had or offered me the kind of storytelling delivery system that MSH did.

Recently I have been getting the bug for superheroics again and decided that I wanted to referee again, but not with MSH. I have run that game every year for over 20 years now. To say I am burned out on it is an understatement.

So I went back out and started looking at Superhero RPGs again. Trying it seems to capture that feeling of "wow" once again.

•Mutants & Masterminds? An excellent system, but just not my cup of tea.

•Hero/Champions? More of the above.

•D6 Power/DC Universe? Not quite what I am looking for.

•Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Game/aka SAGA? A great game, but again not what I want.

• BASH Ultimate Edition? A very very good game and a strong contender to be sure.

Then it hit me... why not look back at V&V?

I have long since lost my boxed set and rule books, so PDF was the only way to go.

Now I can't say that I am going to run V&V, but I certainly want to look at it again. The first thing I will say is this; it captures comic book superheroes perfectly by doing one thing very right;

Heroes don't get new powers as they adventure (unless it is a plot point), but they do get better and better at using the powers they have.

That's a magic formula for me.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Updates, Holiday Break and Random Thoughts

So with this past weekend's session of New Dawn of the West (episode 11) we are on hiatus until the New Year. As well the Final Age game (more on that in a second) is also on hiatus for the same period.

I think that it is good to take a break for a month and really let the creative juices recharge a bit. I have been working non-stop on the World of Aeran and the Final Age game together for about 6 months now and I need to think about something other than swords, dwarves and dragons.

Final Age, just so we are all clear, is the playtest group for a RPG+Setting that a number of us are working on for release hopefully next year. Once the holidays are over, this blog will chart the development of that as well.

The New Dawn of the West campaign is also coming to a wrap-up soon, probably with the next session. Which is funny, because with the previous two DC Legacy story arc campaigns I did, it seems that I have found my magic number, 12.

12 is the number of comic book limited series (usually), it is also usually the number of episodes in a British tv series (they don't call them seasons) and it happens to be a number of other cool things, not the least of which is the Zodiac.

The problem I have always had as a narrator is an over abundance of creativity to the point that I lose interest and want to change the campaign after about 3 to 6 sessions. This used to drive my players nuts, but recently having settled into story arcs of 12 or so sessions has proven to be quite doable. So why fight it? It gives the players a nice long run and the me a chance to tell a story that may allow for a return, as it did in my DC Legacy game.

So what's next for the Fortknights? (That's right, the regular Saturday night biweekly game are the Fortknights and have been since about 2000 or so) Well I am itching to do a another superhero campaign, though this one homegrown and not DC. The only issues is system.

I am not going to use the MSH Classic (FASERIP) for reasons I won't go into now. It has been my go-to system for supers for the past 20 years, but for now I would like to try something else. So here are my choices;

• Marvel SAGA is a super fun system that I have enjoyed immensely as well, but the lack of cards may be an issue, since I would have to make my own and print them up.

• Basic Action Super Heroes: Ultimate Edition (hereafter BASH-UE) has caught my eye and I may give it a whirl.

• D6 Powers - Revised and Expanded may be a solid choice, but on the other hand I have played D6 to death and know its weaknesses far too well to really want to use it for a supers game.

• Truth & Justice is too weird for my tastes from what I am seeing.

• Mutants & Masterminds/Champions are just too darn complicated for me.

Any other superhero game I would consider are either too obscure, too rare or too broken for me to delve into, like say Superworld, V&V or Golden Heroes.

At this point I would say that BASH-UE is a strong leader with MSH SAGA right behind it. I'll let you know as soon as I do, and if you want to sway my thoughts feel free to comment on this.