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Friday, September 30, 2011

Procol Harum: Beyond the Pale-

Who will search for holy grail
Past the edge beyond the veil
Who will come beyond the light
Far from reach beyond all sight
Who will share this bitter cup
Let the wild dogs tear them up
Let the cold winds blow them down
Drive them deep beneath the ground

Who will live in darkest night
Dankest gloom and quietest quiet
Buried deep beneath the ground
Far from any human sound

Who will search for treasure trove
Scour the seas and scale the globe
Past the peaks beyond the heights
Farmost reaches furthest sights
Who will share this bitter cup
Let the wild dogs tear them up
Let the cold winds blow them down
Drive them deep beneath the ground

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Look Inside: Combat in 'The Game' and UWoM-


:: Close Combat-
(c) 2011 Kyrinn S. Eis

Player Characters are Hero Figures by default, and as such, can command those of their Fight/Hit Dice or lower rating, including other 0-Die figures (Commoners).

All of the following d20 roll Special Results only apply if the Attack is successful.

At melee scale, this would mean that the PC-led attack (with accompanying fighters) succeeds, and all figures roll their dice of damage against the receiving forces. If the PC is in singular combat (other friendly figures are not 'engaged' with the same foes as the PC), then these d20 Special Results would apply on that PC's successful To-Hit roll. If your chosen game system rolls percentile dice instead of a d20 (BRP, etc.), multiply the (##) by 5 to arrive at the trained percentage score.

(6) V - Minimal Casualties :: Attaches an Auto-Dodge to a figure
:: (20) The figure gains a bonus of 4 to AC for the remainder of the Round and all of the next

(5) B - Co-ordinated Strike :: Attaches an Auto-Strike to an enemy figure
:: (17) Grants a second 'hit' at normal rolled damage (but a second Hit Location roll if used), or 1 Critical, &c.

(4) G - Vanguard Action :: Attaches to a friendly figure to grant them Auto-Surprise on next encounter of their choosing (stealth is possible to infiltrate further, etc.)
:: (13) As regards Tracking and Surprise, the figure acts as a Ranger of the same level until next combat

(3) Y - Free Move :: Provides the figure with an additional 4" of movement, before/after attack
:: (10) as above

(2) O - Focus :: Grants the designated figures with either: a number of visual/alerness focal point (a doorway, a computer bank, a facial expression), or a numerical bonus +1 per, Focus point.
:: (07) ""

(1) R - Weapon Check :: Forces the Operator to determine if the melee weapon is retained (rolling anything but another fumble), or how far away the weapon is discarded on a second 'red'. Unarmed attacks gauge disadvantage
:: (01) ""

For groups interested in opening up these options in The Game, combatants roll 1d6 per Hit Die, and group the results by number. Simple comparisons between the corresponding pools, in Initiative order, whittle-away at each other, making each reduction that much more likely to result in an injury in subsequent fights with others in that Round. Each Round refreshes the Hit Die pool, but each n of HP lost by the figure indicates the loss of one Hit Die for combat-pool purposes only (or not if you prefer). When the figure is reduced to 0 or fewer Hit Dice, the next successful attack results in the figure's (force's) defeat. This is true at the personal, tactical, operational, or strategic level.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Mass Combat as an Individual Mini-Game-

commented on the previous post by reminding me of 1st edition Stormbringer's section [3.10] for mass combat ([3.11] Naval combat is worth a read, too), which reduces the recommended method down to a POW v. POW (Wis v. Wis or PSI v. PSI) conflict. Successfully beating the meta-opposition of the GM's roll means that the PC has survived unharmed, has used her weapon/defence skills and is eligible to improve.

Failing the roll indicates that the character is subject to 2d10 points of damage with only her armour to reduce the effects. If the character has only sustained a Minor Wound (less than half of her total) she is similarly eligible to improver her fighting skills. Those suffering a Major Wound are in too much pain to gain the benefit.

Naval warfare is more or less as above, but is sink or swim as regards the fate of each ship in the combat.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Leadership in RPGs-

Leadership in RPGs (Tactical and Storytelling) is generally relegated to either a Player's speech (if they are 'roleplayers') or a Player's plan, both of which almost invariably involve a die-roll.

The particular rules-set may or may not have a Leadership skill or trait, but few have a deeper treatment of the same sort that wargames and game-friendly militaria possess, and many are perfectly content with that for the obvious reason that if they wanted it they'd craft their own set of rules for their fave RPG, or play a wargame instead.

Indeed, the circumstance of raising or commanding a band of warriors who number more than the fellow PCs and a few hires or henchmen seem few, and perhaps this has been the case throughout the history of the RP Hobby. That could have continued, were it not for the OSR's interest in the origins which greatly expanded and transmitted the core of the Chainmail rules-set (and related) to the plethora of gamers not overly aware of the nuances and peculiarities of that booklet. This was done by some of the stellar notables such as (Aaron of A Paladin in Citadel, and Evan from Swords of Minaria, as two examples).

A Google+ friend and I were recently discussing my games, and the topic of the VANGUARD Squad Control Record and its influences arose. I'm not sure if I got to tell him about Victory Games' AMBUSH!, but that was my first experience with a formalised 'run a squad from 1 sheet' game, although I'd certainly played more than one PC at a time (especially RPing Car Wars with the pedestrian rules from the ADJ), what with Tunnels & Trolls admonition to run a 'stable of characters'.

What I took away from them (esp. A!) was that each player needed to have that level of game-centric investment in the battle for it to have a real impact at the level I wanted in the games I run. At the Strategic scale, I want the Players to be Leaders, you know, 'REMFs', as it were.

How to build that sort of 'zoomable' action into the essential chassis of the game? became the basis of the previous two years of the regular Friday F2F game wherein the PCs were Primary and 2ndary leaders of an island, with considerable might at their disposal.

Interdimensional/extraplanar allies and the telegraphed effects of the PCs' actions untimately resulted in the Players' writing their characters out of history, undoing their considerable achievements, and missing numerous opportunities to advance the timeline's technological base towards the Quest for Ascension -- pursuing petty schemes, failing to think big, and generally futzing around week after week. Their actions and my total sandboxing of the game illustrated that a hands-off approach would benefit neither party of agents: GM or Players. No. I needed something intrinsic to the Vrun experience to resonate with the gamers...

Recently, running a series of short expeditions into entirely unknown territory has proved most effective in getting the players to 'grok' the importance of the scaled-up thought/prep, and as a consequence, better prepared the PCs to act individually as leaders, as well as the party as a military/scout body.

The Urutsk: World of Mystery Boxed Set's basic premise is that the Player is a colony or expedition leader. The primary role for a player in VANGUARD is that of a Squad Leader. The foundational and interconnecting aspect of the Vrun experience is the compulsory military service and the ties of Starship Crew Caste Clans. In sum, the Vrun RP experience is one of regimentation, redundancy, and careful resource management with a proud, Ancient martial history. That seems to create ad hoc Leaders when needed, and it is happening, organically, in game play.

Now, I'd like to ask you, the readers, of instances in your games in which the happy balance between PC actions and Battle Events was or wasn't successfully struck, and your thoughts on how best to integrate PC autonomy with their role as war-fighters (and preferably in a leadership role). Would you please share them with us?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Quantum Forks and The fallacy of the quantum ogre argument | KORPG Games

The fallacy of the quantum ogre argument | KORPG Games

I thought this dovetailed nicely with the quantum-aspect from yesterday's Divination post.
--The larger argument is not in focus here, merely the 'observer' and 'foreknowledge' components and how that works with Divination.


* If one's PC became aware that they (alone?) had shifted, but nothing was profoundly different, would that affect the play-quality of that and the other player/s?

* Would the Referee need to roll in the open, 'this is the Shift roll' for the event to have validity, or could the Observer Referee successfully navigate that behind cover roll, as s/he does with all the other mundane rolls, and still allow it to stand, regardless of how radical the Shift was indicated to be?

* If an Encounter Table listed a Shift-event for all within x' radius, would the GM, rolling in the open, be obliged to use the Shift result as indicated by the roll?

Monday, September 12, 2011

PC Divination in Urutsk-

Divination by PCs and NPCs
are going to yield an answer. The accuracy of the answer is modified by the PC's PSI score, but the base 'chance' of correctly parsing the information is largely a function of the sort of question being asked:

VAGUE (+75%): 'Which direction should we travel today?' -- This sort of broad answer does nothing to define the safety of the course pointed, and the Referee is not in much danger of invoking disbelief in the validity of such a broad question.

DEFINED (+50%): 'Is the river route safer than the high pass?' -- This is still a relatively open answer, and the Ref can answer as truthfully as would be apparent to a neutral observer. If there is much more danger in one portion of the one route, it will register as the more dangerous, regardless of how short a span the danger may be, so long as the likelihood of encountering it is great (passing through its lair, for instance). "You will find grave danger in the lowlands, but the pass is treacherous still.", is an honest but minimally-limiting answer.

FOCUSED (+33%): 'Does Yjavella truly despise me?' -- These answers are more correct the greater the person knows the other person/force/group. "Yes, but her love remains undiminished, leaving her in terrible despair." and "No, but her grief is so great that you could lose her if you press the matter." and "Her wroth is great and love is like a great bitterness, yours most of all." are all equally valid, although each flavours the reader's/hearer's perception, and this truth can cause further complication if acted upon precipitously.

SPECIFIC (+25%): 'Is my pursuer around the next corner?' -- These sorts of questions and their answers become a bit quantum, with the boxed cat being the validity from the point of questioning until the point of observation. "Yes." could be true, but by the time the supplicant peers around the corner with pistol, the beast is gone. Mutations that affect the accuracy of the forecast (precognition, ESP, etc.) should be thought of as a more sophisticated weather forecasting array -- its answers may be true in part, in a span of time, not observed or experienced by everyone in a given area. After a fashion, this is like the 'no rain today in the metro area' is true for most of the viewing area, but a few folks are still caught unprepared in a downpour.

PRECISE (+16%): 'Will flipping the switch spell our doom?' -- Either a yes or no answer, although the results of the switch flip could still result in most of the party's death from injuries although they escape from utter calamity. If even one of those present when asked survive, then the 'no' answer will still be true.

COMPLETE (+5%): 'Is this, out of the thousands here, the correct gem?' -- The Referee should be prepared to divulge the accurate answer regardless, if such precise answers are going to be allowed in the first place.

Asking questions of the same order of magnitude halve the interpretation chance each time if asked within an Hour. Asking the most exacting question is then best performed under the most favourable conditions, with the best Utilities, only once, while a slew of vague questions throughout a day could be performed with some success. Analysis-Paralysis can derail any party relying upon divination instead of action, but should be granted as it permits many Encounter Checks, and increases the likelihood of attracting Psychic or Magical creatures.

Modifiers from Utilities (Circlets, ancestral ritual tools, a psychic computer, etc.) increase the percentage of correct interpretation based upon their power, and may provide multiple simultaneous attempts with only the best result chosen, or some other bonus not listed.

Time and conducive environment (hours and a circle of willing assistants, for instance) modify the accuracy of interpretation upwards or downwards, as appropriate.

Illness, injury, emotional upset (such as personal stakes in the answer) will negatively modify the attempt by a variable amount based upon its intensity.

The point of all the preceding is that divination by a PC or NPC need not violate perceived autonomous intent nor railroad (or detour an intentional railroading) the PCs into the determined course of events.

Arcane Skill Ranks are roughly +5% bonus to the accuracy, but also allow for knowledge of Utilities (tome, pendulum, incense, etc.) that may aid in accurate interpretation.

D&D type games would likely use Wisdom as the basis, with Caster Level substituted for Arcane Skill Ranks.
--I have framed the % as a 'roll-high', because that is how I roll.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Curiouser and Curiouser-


On one level, Urutsk is a setting, both for gaming, as well as fiction. It is an Alternate Reality with all that implies, and has been cultivated for nearly thirty years; one in which the land masses are often discernible, but in which the Peoples have diverged enough so as to be unrecognisable. It is currently (the Autumn Era) a wetlands planet slightly smaller than our earth, slightly further away from Av the system star, and a significantly wetter, stormier world. Evidence suggests that Av has not always been the primary gravitational point in the 'system' and indigenous folk claim that the 'Worlds Wander.'

Not so much a Dungeons & Dragons draped game in sci-fi trappings as a game of Skyrealms of Jorune hybrid with Metamorphosis Alpha and Gamma World, Urutsk is primarily the story of the Vrun people who have returned to the periphery-system after their galactic empire literally exploded. Stranded on a world their experts maintain is one of their points of origin, these Vrun are the relatives of all the Human ethnicities of the planet, having been culled from the 'very best' of these diverse folk long ago and set amid the then-extant stars.

Urutsk owes much of its scattered inspiration from '60's and '70's Sci-Fi Film, Print, and TV sources, mixed together in a strange slurry and allowed to ferment. Shows like ARK 2, SPACE: 1999, STAR TREK, Buck Rodgers, Mission Impossible, AVENGERS, The Prisoner, The Starlost, SWAT, and EMERGENCY! are admixed with DC Comics John Carter Warlord of Mars, Marvel's Killraven, and Banshee-era X-MEN as well as a lot of indie-mags my older sister turned me onto.

Urutsk' first real session was a Sci-Fi one, and has progressed from a contemporary/near-future setting through at least seven thousand years of history. More than the perusal of simple reference work has gone into the philological basis of the setting's languages (Vrun being but one of a few to have received my care over the decades), and outstanding linguists have noted Vrun's facility as an actual, usable language not-derived from any contemporary or known ancient source. This stems in part from my multi-lingual upbringing and the love of language my parents possess(ed), as well as my own interests in the effects of symbols upon human psychology (including subliminals).

I do not advocate 'shake-and-bake' bottom-up, quick-fix solutions in game-world design as anything more than a stop-gap measure to be re-examined and altered so as to suit the Big Picture (preferably one's own Big Picture rather than simple variants of pulp and weird fantasy) of the setting. The confusing mass of ideas and inspirations must, IMO, culminate in a work that helps describe the creator as much as the intent of the work. M. A. R. Barker's Tekumel setting, although pored over by ideoarcheologists of the neo-old school bent, is poorly understood as anything else but a proto-D&D archetype, replete with Underworlds, Barbarians ignorant of the setting's details, and a place filled with 'oddball and gonzo' critters and items. True admirers of the Professor's work (Jeff Berry and the Aethervox crew, and among the various mailing lists devoted to the setting: Sally Abravanel, Brett Slocum, Peter Houston, Alva Hardison, etc.) have long seen past the superficial (and sad) comparisons to more staid mock-Western gaming settings, and can appreciate variance in society, culture, mores, and language.

It has been my recent pleasure and honour to game with others who can parse these differences and appreciate the Urutsk setting for its own sake. That isn't to say that a dungeon crawl can't be fun for these recently-met players, but rather, that they seem interested in something more and recognise the soul that has been poured into Urutsk.

Perhaps, you too, are looking for something other than elves, dwarves, and hobb--halflings, and always expected more from a setting? Then, Urutsk may be a destination you would like to explore. I am running a regular game schedule on Google+: Wed/Fri, and Thursday beginning around 8:30-9:30 PM depending upon the players' schedules. The two games are separate but contemporary 'streams'. All times are -5 GMT/Eastern USA

We look forward to seeing you there.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Light Infantry-

Vrun Line Trooper-(Medium)[12" Move]
XP: 18 | 2HD | 28HP | AC 4 | Attacks: Bolt Rifle [1d12] | Bayonet [1d6] | Brawl [1d4]
--For D&D

1 [R] 1d12 -- 2 [O] 1d10 -- 3 [Y] 1d8 -- 4 [G] 1d6 -- 5 [B] 1d4 -- 6 [V] 1d2

Vrun Line Trooper-(M)[3]

MR: 18 | 2FD | 84DP | +1Def | -4H ARM | ATK: Bolt Rifle [R] | Bayonet [G] | Brawl [B]

Troop Quality: Standard
Figure Type: Light Infantry
Specialist Training: Rifleman
--Concealment/Manoeuvre, Steady Shot
Advanced Training: none
Special Advantages: none
=Point Total: 10

Armour: Antagonist (Field Plate) [-4H]
* Bolt Rifle [R], +1 Attack per Round, Long Range, 5 Shot Internal Magazine, Bolt-Action
* Bayonet/Short-Sword [G], Light Weapon, +1 Attack per Round