Thursday, 29 January 2015

Chaos, furthest from the skies

Go go five-minute game!

Anthony van Dyck - Portrait of a Man in Armour with Red Scarf - WGA07376

Premise: Jacobeans vs. Aliens

Reason: looking through game PDFs, and noticed that "secretly fight fantastical creatures in modern world" is a big trope. Meandered around the thought a bit, via "could you reverse it?" (difficult) and "it's always using new stuff to fight basically old stuff", to "history vs. sci-fi". Then there came a touch of "what would a sci-fi game look like to people a few centuries ago?"


It's the Jacobean Age, at least in Merrie England. Astronomers and astrologers alike are astonished by the sudden appearance of many new stars and meteors. They are even more astonished when these start falling to Earth, revealing themselves to be no meteors, but vessels bearing beings from the outer spheres of the cosmos! And naturally, they do not come in peace.

The allospheric beings are soon attempting to gain a foothold on the earth. Their great aetherships of iron, copper and sphere-crystal descent from the heavens en masse or in secret, trying now by force, now by guile to overcome the stout folk of Earth. Now let the King's champions take up arms to drive the invaders from this peaceful realm.


Strictly speaking, having the ability to invade other worlds involves fabulous technological advances that would, in passing, render the arms and tactics of the Jacobeans worthless. But let's pretend we don't know that. Maybe the allospherics simply never needed to be any good at fighting before, so they only really have quite primitive armaments. Maybe the aetherships work on such different principles that they didn't lead to the development of rockets, internal combustion engines or atmospheric craft. The important thing here is that, while (as always) the aliens need to be presented as having super-advanced technologies, mechanically they can be fought effectively with horses, black-powder weapons and swords. The technology's more advanced all right, but that doesn't make it stronger.

Otherwise, this will work much like other types of urban fantasy games. Sometimes the PCs need to root out an alien infestation in a small town, sometimes to hunt down an obvious invader, and sometimes to aid in a straightforward fight. The historical setting means information travels slowly, making it easier to support hidden alien sites and public ignorance of what's happening. The aliens can be a secret known only to a few, or a public threat, as the gaming group chooses.

I've been listening to a lot of Hunter recently, so I'm going to say this game uses one of those Storytell* systems with d10s. Maybe I'll incorporate Arthur's idea about having Skills be worth three times what Attributes do. Not sure. Either way, it's classless and skill-based.

There'll be a definite tradeoff in equipment, specifically bows vs. firearms. Strung weapons are broadly more reliable, quiet and faster to use. Black powder weapons can be fired one-handed, used readily in closer quarters, and need less training - but tend to misfire.

Alternative title: Get with child a mandrake root

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Monitors: those pesky mammals

I have made what I modestly call world-shaking strides in the development of my silly reptile game, and am now assembling a very preliminary draft! It's all very exciting. Then, I ran into a problem: to whit, mammals.

See, Monitors has a carefully-designed system for monitoring body temperature and its effects on your ability. This is perfect for portraying reptiles. However, mammals work completely differently. Instead of allowing fluctuating core body temperature, they have to stay very very close to a specific temperature or die. Instead of relying on heat absorption and dissipation, they generate their own heat and have their own heat-dispersal mechanisms.

Put a reptile somewhere cold, and it gets cold. Put a reptile somewhere warm, and it gets warm. Put a cold reptile in a jumper and put it in a warm room, and it remains cold. Put a hot reptile in a jumper in a cold room, and it stays hot.

Put a mammal somewhere cold, and it stays around 37C until it keels over. Put a mammal somewhere warm, and it stays around 37C until it keels over. Put a mammal in a jumper in a warm room, and it stays at 37C, gets increasingly uncomfortable and then keels over. Put a mammal in a jumper in a cold room, and it remains at 37C.

Do you see the problem?

Mammals and other homeothermic endotherms have several separate things going on:

  • They maintain a stable body temperature. The game mechanics must allow this, or they'll all die.
  • They are impaired over time in either cold or hot conditions.
  • They generate their own heat. They can generate extra if they're particularly cold, but they're always pumping out heat. If there's no way to disperse that heat, it can build up disastrously.
  • They have cooling mechanisms. They can sweat or pant to dissipate unwanted heat.

Mammals can stave off getting cold or hot more easily than reptiles, but if they do get very cold or hot, they don't cope with it as well.

I think that, mirroring nature, I'm going to need more than one system to make mammals work right. In fact, I probably need to have rules for homeothermy (a separate heat chart) and endothermy (mechanics), and possibly also cooling (more mechanics). But first, I need to work out what actually happens to mammals over a long period under various rulesets, and to do that, the best option is probably a model. Which means coding.

Monday, 19 January 2015

More titles

I'm fractious and wanting to be creative, but at the same time, my brain isn't feeling up for it. So I settled on busywork instead. Remember the titles thing? Let's do that again.

Misunderstanding White Wolf

Vampire: The Masquerade - Mankind's greatest fear is coming to pass. Maybe... you just aren't cool any more. All-night parties are big business for folks who can't go out in daylight. For those wanting a shot at the limelight, event management is where it's at, and has been for centuries. Still, troubling modern trends are creeping in, and centenarian whippersnappers are starting to turn their sparkly noses up at nine-course banquets and pavanes. In this tense game of personal stress and mid-afterlife-crisis, PCs battle to maintain their hold on the entertainment world at a time of rapid change. Partnerships are made and broken, deals sabotaged, prices undercut. There is no victory in vampire business, only a temporary prosperity before the dawn comes.

Mage: The Awakening - That is not dead which can eternal lie, and with strange aeons it will need coffee. Running the world's remotest branch of Lie Inn was always going to be a challenge, which is why the PCs were transferred there after various failures. But nobody reckoned on magic. In truth, the main clientele for Lie Inn No. 666 are travelling sorcerers in need of lodging. Impossible coffees must be brewed, flying tomes kenneled, silken robes spotlessly dry-cleaned at 4am. Above all, breakfast must be served in bed. Providing wake-up calls to the past and unicorn bacon will tax the PCs to the full, but every good review offers a tiny scrap of hope for a promotion. This dramatic game of personal failings and petty ambition crushed by capitalism brings real tension all round the table. Last-chance employees battle for personal status and temporary reprieve, or band together to overcome the outrageous demands of their customers - providing they can keep their mutual contempt under control. Features innovative shift-based gameplay and full menus (vegetarian options included).

Mummy: The Resurrection - No-one ever escapes the shadow of their family. You thought you had a firm grip on adulthood; steady job, affordable apartment, even the occasional disastrous date. Then the heavy footsteps came one rainy night, and that midnight pounding at the door, and you learned that even death is no barrier to parental interference. Four hundred miles between you and suburban tedium wasn't enough to keep your dead mother's iron-willed revenant from tracking you down in the big city. Now you must try to hold down your job and avoid gossip while keeping your fly-wreathed parent from screwing your whole life up, yet again. Players must use all their ingenuity to overcome prying landlords, nosy roommates, suspicious bosses and above all, your mother's constant demands that you ask for a raise and invite that nice girl from the funeral parlour over for Sunday lunch. A tense game of exasperation.

Hunter: the Vigil - Patience is the key. Reputation is king in the backwoods, and when the season begins, so does the hunt. Carelessness doesn't bag any deer. In just one day, the PCs must kill enough game to bolster and improve their social standing, while dealing with the intricacies of licencing, truck maintenance and placating impatient spouses. What's more, every hour brings danger, for as the hunt draws to an end, trigger fingers get jumpier. This innovative game covers a single inaction-packed 24 hours, and features a unique Impatience mechanic. An appendix features a rich array of authentic backwoods dialect terminology for immersive gaming. Features four sample storylines for the Storyteller to present.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Monitors: 2015 reality check

I'm repeating the May 2014 check on current progress. Finishing this list will not mean Monitors is done; I'll need to go back over it and create a coherent redraft from the hodgepodges, inconsistencies (heat points, weapons and penalty dice need serious revisiting) and stuff suggested in the comments. But it will mean it's approaching playtestability. And of course, at that point I'll need to also create a playtest scenario (I have bits of idea) and find victims volunteers.

If you spot anything worth noting here, please do point it out.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Kitting Monitors, decision time

Okay, I've done more than enough procrastinating on the subject of equipment. Time for some decisions. How do I want to model equipment in this game?

Basic guiding points here:

  • premise: sorcerous spacefaring bionic secret agent lizards
  • tone: Saturday morning cartoons meet Dan Dare
  • tech level: high-tech, not ultratech
  • crunch: moderate

What have I got in my pockets?

I think for a game like Monitors, I probably should be aiming for a fairly abstract non-mechanical system. It's supposed to be a sort of campy, fun, enthusiastic game. You don't want to have to go through a list at the start and worry about whether you take a Transdimensional Aggrandizer Node, you want to attempt to disrupt a dimensional vortex and invent the Transdimensional Aggrandizer Node on the spot as something in your utility belt that will let you do that, just as flavour text.

Essentially, a Monitors character should be assumed to have access to the equipment they routinely need to use their skillset. Since they are sorcerous spacefaring bionic secret agents, this means that any Monitor should be assumed to have a fairly substantial arsenal of stuff for dealing with magic, space travel, mundane technology and Secret Agent Stuff, plus whatever an ordinary citizen in a professional job would generally have, plus equipment and supplies needed for the routine requirements of their specific role. No mechanical attention is needed on this point.