The Big Game

I have a special form of insanity, I think. I do crazy shit like this:

All kids' face obscured for privacy.  Copyright Ty Cifullo, 2014.

I’m the big guy at the end stuffing his face with orange M&Ms. Orange is the color of Greed. Greed is evil.

Yeah, you’re counting right. There are twelve kids at this table for D&D For Kids, a monthly game I run at my FLGS, Crazy Squirrel Game Store.

Now, until last month, about four of the kids above were regulars. Last month, Free RPG Day coincided with D&D4K weekend, so we made it an event in CSGS’s RPG MiniCon, which they put on for FRPGD. So, one of the other Wednesday night regulars asked if he could bring his kids. “Sure,” says I. Well, he brought his two kids and three others (one of whose mother is pictured above, pitching in). This month? Those kids showed up again (which I expected) and then… Well, here’s a response I left this morning to the “how did it go?” question the store owner’s husband, Scott Martin of Gnome Stew, left on my Facebook after I requested his assistance running:

The need for a third DM came almost literally at the last minute. One of the dads shot me a message at 10:45PM Friday that he was bringing his kid and 3 others (which at that hour of the morning became 5 in my head). I didn’t notice and read the message until 2AM yesterday. Luckily, one of the other regular kids couldn’t make it. 

Otherwise, it went surprisingly well. I had already recruited Rob as a second DM, but I got the wild idea that I would just run a big battle. We had already decided to use an additional encounter seed in the adventure as a “get the new kids more up to speed” scenario and we were going to do two tables until that late notice. When I woke up, I had an idea for expanding that encounter out even more and decided to challenge myself and run the entire thing myself, with all of the kids. It did cross my mind to nix the latecomers kids, but I decided I’d test my chops as a DM and run a mega-game with Rob acting as a floating DM.

Lots of minions were on the field, and I kept them coming in waves. Eventually the older kids got the idea they needed to shut that off at the source (a necromancer send[ing] waves of skeletons at the PCs), did that and ended the game. I had had a completely different vision of how the game would work, but I wasn’t able to execute that. I’d have rather[ed] there be multiple DMs who could have handled chunks of the field and kids, but Rob as a floater worked well, because he could field questions for me and worked well getting the parents to help their kids.

Except for a couple of kids getting bored between turns, they all seemed to have fun. But next month, I know a couple of the kids won’t be back because they were just visiting Fresno, so numbers will be a little easier to divy up. However, I’m going to add a couple of clauses to the email I send out requiring more than 24 hour notice on the RSVP, so things can be planned better.

I think a certain amount of hubris was involved in my decision to run a game this big. I’ve wanted to do a multi-table game for a while, or a big game with multiple GMs. Those ideas are more like a Living (Fill-In-The-Blank) style game, where different tables might have different things going on, but all would contribute to the overall story. However, I am a little anal (no, I’m a lot anal), and once I got the idea for such a big game this weekend, I couldn’t let go of it. Fortunately, the scenario I threw together worked, and I’m glad for that. Also fortunately, I believe the back-up DM I chose, Rob (the other beardy adult in the photo above), doesn’t have the sort of ego to be bruised by not DMing his own table. (Especially as we had our home game later, which he is currently running.)

Again, on the upside, it seems the kids were happy. One of the new kids came around the table to give me a hug, so I guess she liked it. I swear, though: Next month, we will split the table. As well, kids that show up at the last minute may well be turned away, or someone at the store will have to whip out the D&D 5e Starter and run that scenario.

Yeah, I’m a special kind of crazy…


Funny What You Learn…

So, last Thursday, I started going through my old posts here on the blog. I simply used my tag-link, and I re-read those posts as I cut-and-pasted the material I needed into a new file. As I read, I came to a realization: I’ve made the same decisions repeatedly. Covered the same ground multiple times.

That I haven’t got a master file for my thoughts and notes, but have been keeping note tablets that don’t include what’s here means I’ve been thinking and writing in circles. And that’s got to end or I’ll never get this done.

So, I exported my outline to a format the apps on my tablet can read, and I’m going to focus less on creating for a while, and more on retyping my notes, so that they’re in digital format, so I can start incorporating them into my outline, and transforming that into a manuscript.

Hopefully, a consolidated file will help me focus a bit more and stop going around in circles. I’d rather report progress than to keep reporting the same things every three months.

I’ve also been poking around at Pinterest and DeviantArt again. I can loose a lot of time there, as well as my own swipe files. And my swipe files only grow as I look at those sorts of sites. Aye-yi-yi.

I’ve also found a number of interesting articles on the FATE game system that is helping me to see how the system can work, and how to GM it. Included in those articles were examples of scenes from famous movies described in game terms. I’ve also found a couple of articles that have pointed me towards the Diaspora SRD for space travel and some elements of science fiction I’m thinking should be present in the StarSea.

I’ve also encountered some reviews of the 5e products available so far by folks who were fans of 4e, and God help me, they make the rules sound interesting. I still really want to hate the game…

Really, that’s all for this week. I’m working tomorrow, and I have Living Forgotten Realms tomorrow night, and I need to get some thing ready for both. Later.





Researching Ideas

Last week was another busy week. Work stayed local, for the most part. I got out of town once, and I did get a little done.

(Oh, hey look! There’s a horizontal bar button! DUH!)

One of my thoughts was on using the Changeling the Dreaming “realms” for adjudicating what can be affected by magic in the StarSea. Unfortunately, after looking at the old LARP rules (the only rules I have in easy access), I question my thinking.

Changeling the Dreaming uses a “verb/object” wild magic system. That is, you have an “Art” (or actually, a number of them) which determines what you can do (your verb), and “Realms,” which determine what can be affected, either by type or area/time (your object). Sadly, only two of the eight or so Realms isn’t extremely specific to the setting.

The Dragonlance Saga Edition had something similar, but far too many divisions, and no real “object” section. More accurately, the object is part of the verb and the magical divisions. In that game, there was arcane magic, which only affected directly nonliving things (for example, fire and lightning can be used as an offensive power, because you’re controlling the element, not the target), while divine magic directly affected living things only.

At this point, I realize I’m way off track from my original idea. My thought was to simply find something I could use for guidelines for determining difficulties for magic rolls to affect large numbers or spaces. I think part of this can be dealt with by simply re-reading the FATE rules. It’s been a while, and I just took a moment to review some of the pages that deal with areas-of-effect, and that pretty much confirms my need to re-read.

I also had some thoughts while reading the second series of the Hawkmoon books. The first book was a bit of a slog. It seemed a bit directionless. It’s obvious that this series is meant to tie Hawkmoon into the Eternal Champion mythos, which isn’t even hinted at in the first four books. There is very little excitement in the first book, and very little of the trademark Moorcock backdrops.

In the second book, as Hawkmoon starts off in a severe depression, but is eventually brought around and transported to an alien world in which the humans present live amongst massive trees, so large that they can ride horses on the branches! That made me remember the wondrous elements of Moorcock’s settings, the images my brain created from his writing, and I realized I was missing this sort of fantastic elements in settings I read and run in recent history.

D&D 4e mentions fantastic settings frequently, and I feel I was pretty mediocre at this in recent history. I want to describe much more fantastic places. One of the steps in that direction I want to go is towards more unusual worlds. Currently, my worlds are spheres, but I’ve been thinking of going back to flatworlds. I’m not sure yet how I’d handle one side, as I only really want to handle mapping one side of each world, to save myself time and complications. But I like the idea, which is an old one I had discarded and am now revisiting.

I’ve also been giving some thought as to how the politics work again. In the real world, as well as the influence of Star Wars, the knighthoods didn’t/don’t directly rule. So, I think I need to do a little research into how the knighthoods of Europe (as I don’t know of any similar organizations in other regions) operated. Building on that aside for a moment, Europe and the Middle East seem to be unique in the creation of the knighthood. While other countries had nobility, only in Europe does there seem to be international organizations like the Knights Templar or Hospitaler that operate separate from the ruling juntas. However, I want to do some further research into these sorts of groups to see how they operated, and apply it to my own knighthoods.

Anyway, that’s pretty much all I have for this week. I’m tired, and I’ve got a car recall to deal with tomorrow, so I’ll be headin’ for beddin’ now. Later.


Issues on my mind

Not much to report this week.

I used my iPad to “scan” some images I had drawn in Notepad 1, but then accidentally overwrote them re-downloading the folder of files for Notepad 1 from the iPad.

My work week left me exhausted (which makes me wonder if there isn’t some other issue going on with my body or sleep cycle), and I had very few long trips that would allow me to actually write.

I really didn’t even give the setting much thought. I’ve had some personal issues on my mind this week. So much so that I’ve thought on little else without some external distraction. Nothing I’ll comment on here, but I might start journalling elsewhere (and privately) about the issue.

That’s it for this week. Sorry to disappoint all six of you who read regularly. Later.

“And boy, am I tired…”

That old punchline is a good description of where I’m at right now. Last week was hard, and the weekend wasn’t any easier. I worked a lot last week, getting nearly 30 hours. Usually, I float around 20 hours, so you can see I’m busy. I got in a few hours to type, and managed to complete the first of my old notepads, and this morning I got the images digitized as well, with the help of my iPad.

This weekend was the Crazy Squirrel Free RPG Day MiniCon, which I attended for a couple of events. The MiniCon happened to sync up with my usual weekend for D&D for Kids, an event I run to introduce kids to D&D (I currently use 4e, and will continue to do so, with the management’s approval). One of the Wednesday Night Pathfinder guys had asked me a few weeks ago about bringing his boy to a game. What he really did was end up bringing five new kids to the game, giving me a table with NINE kids! The kids were fine though (mostly being girls, who always tend to have better social skills than boys); what exhausted me was the heat. I seemed to be in a area dead to the AC, and the heavy decal on the back of the shirt had me sweating like a pig. I started increasing my fluid intake, and started increasing my pacing just a bit, as nine kids skewed heavily towards newbies is a little like herding cats. After the game ended, I got some Gatorade and went on to our home game, but by 11pm, I was exhausted. Yesterday, I got roped into chauffeuring my mother around in the warm weather, and spent today finally relaxing.

Now, another thing I did at the MiniCon (which no doubt contributed to my later exhaustion) was play a game of FATE. Scott, the GM, was a champ for working me into the game late (I misread the announcements on timing). We were amnesiac supers, captured by alien invaders who needed to escape an invader spaceship. So, I got to see how the game plays.

One thing I think all of use missed as players was the variety of actions our characters could execute. Only rarely did we choose to create advantages for one another (or even ourselves), and I don’t think we ever truly overcame an obstacle, but I may be wrong. I think this is partially because I think we were all old hands at the table, used to D&D and other such games where a certain amount of independence is the norm. But Scott knows the game well, and kept our play running smoothly. I’m looking forward to getting more exposure to the system.

Well, it’s late, and I have work tomorrow. Later.

Where Do Artificers Belong?

There are times when the tool is irrelevant. For example, yesterday (Saturday, as I am writing this) was a workday for me. Most of my time was spent driving, and when I wasn’t driving, I wasn’t really doing much else. On one trip back, there was too much glare for me to read my iPad, which pretty much excluded anything else. On my last trip, I was crowded into a back seat, on top of the axle. Too crowded to type, too bumpy to read without getting sick. Those conditions would have been impossible to work with just about anything. So, yesterday was a lost cause, except for brainworking.

But the week was not a loss. I got a lot of typing time in, retyping more of those old notes. I’ve been making decent process, but I’m not retyping every day. However, as I wrote above, I am thinking about things. I had some shower ideas, but they got overwhelmed by thoughts on Artificers (or Wyrd-technologists).

The StarSea setting has a lot of concepts from D&D 4E; one of those is power sources, another is roles. I want my players to have a more focused number of niches pre-planned. In the modern military, you have specialties, so the idea isn’t necessarily unrealistic. I think there are a lot of folks out there in the gaming community who didn’t like the roles and their association to MMOs. I had no real opinion on the MMO linkage, as I’m not an MMo player, but in my experience, roles have been part of D&D for a long time. However, I think some of the 4E designer choices were questionable.

For example, the “Leader” role. One, the name is largely a misnomer where powers are concerned. In reality, they’re healers. A couple of the leaders, especially the Warlord, have powers that move their allies, which to me would more say leader. Some of them have decent access to social skills, but the classes in question are rarely party leaders in the games I usually see played. A “face man” role is almost needed, separate from the healer role.

The Artificer class is lumped in with the leaders, another Arcane Leader alongside the Bard. I re-read the first few levels of the class this week, after some remarks at our Living Forgotten Realms game this Wednesday, and listening to the Critical Hit podcast this week. I’ve been tempted by the class for a long time, but I think in re-reading it, I’d never play it again in a game. The powers I was reading just do nothing for me.

However, I still like the concept. My favorite Tradition in Mage: the Ascension was the Sons of Ether (soon to be the Society of Ether in the 20th Anniversary Edition). I’ve always liked gadgeteers in superhero games, even if I rarely played them. I like the idea of there being folks in my setting who specialize in creating and maintaining these sorts of items. It makes sense. But how do these people fit into the grand scheme of the orders?

The orders will have specialties within squads of knights (PC parties), which will include guardians (defenders), infiltrators (strikers, for the most part), healers, and battlefield manipulation (controllers/artillery). I thought about a social specialty, but FATE is a more socially-oriented game than D&D is in general, and I’d rather play to that than resist it.

So, I’m left wondering where the Artificers fit in. Are they one of the five mentioned above, or are they separate. Right now, I’m leaning towards a separate role. However, I’m also considering making them a neutral faction. Way back in the history of gaming, there was Mekton, a game of giant robots. In the sample setting in Mekton II, there was a society of mek jocks who owed no allegiance to the two warring factions in the game, and whose technology was superior to either side. That setting element inspired a land that I’ve used in a couple of the settings that I’m working into the StarSea called Spyre, a land of technologically advanced people who usually remain neutral. However, this time, my thinking is that the Artificers could be more like “Lords of War,” selling their technology to both sides of the battle, so to say. A very mercenary point of view for my wyrdtechs.

Part of me likes the idea, and part of me doesn’t. I want each faction to have it’s own technological style, which really wouldn’t exist if one group is building all the tech. And I want PCs to be able to operate their own gear, rather than depending on outsiders (who would likely be NPCs, which is more work for the DM, if the players don’t choose to link to necessary NPCs).

However, I do like the wyrdtechs having different positions in the factions. For example, the “techno-priests” of the Divine faction might be outsiders considered nearly heretical, but tolerated, while the Arcane “techno-wizards” hold the kind of dark power the mercenary Artificers do. Psionic wyrdtechs would simply be folks with specialized knowledge, contributing to the advancement of the entire society, and Primal wyrdtechs might be considered quite mad, but too dangerous and helpful to ignore or exile.

All this has been rambling through my mind, and I’m not sure exactly which direction I’m going to hammer these guys into. I particularly favor the last one, but I need to get a little further along in my completion of the setting before I can answer these questions. In fact, my mind if bubbling up a compromise right now, in which there’s a neutral college of wyrdtechs, but each tech himself has his own loyalties, which brings me back to a state more like my original concept of Spyre.

Anyway, it’s getting late, and I have to work tomorrow, so it’s time to wrap this up. Later.

This Week in the Wild World of the Doctor

This week has been rough on me physically. I worked a early a couple of days, and slept late on a couple of others. Early morning trips mean long distances, but that can also mean a sleepy Doc while traveling, usually while not driving. I did get some typing of my old notes done on a trip home the other day, but mostly, I’ve been reading while riding.

I read a couple of articles on the FATE system, as well as on Numenera, as both systems include opportunities for the GM to create issues for the players. The purely FATE articles were Ryan Macklin’s new product on DriveThruRPG, and focused on Character Creation, which I found helpful, as there were plenty of references to D&D style gaming, which gave me a lot of good idea on how to handle Character Creation in the StarSea.

I also read a comic I’d picked up a while back called Ravine. Some really nice artwork there, and some neat ideas for alien races that I might steal from, a little.

Last thing for this week is that this is my first post with my new keyboard for my iPad, a Zagg Folio. I saw it for $18 off, and Target’s regular price is below MSRP, so I decided to strike while the iron was hot. It’s a little tight, but it works a little better than the virtual keyboard, in that it’s easier to edit what I’m typing, as I have arrow keys. Those are easier for me to use than the magnifying glass that Apple provides.

That’s all I’ve got for this week. I have to work tomorrow, and I have a couple of things to complete before bed. Later.

The Work Proceeds…

Tuesday, I had to reset my iPad due to a corrupted podcast. Seems the file thought it was about 12 GB, and neither the iPad nor iTunes on my laptop could get rid of said file. So, I had to reset the iPad. Not really a big deal, just a pain in the butt.

However, I did manage to start getting some of my old notes typed up. It’s helpful to look at the old notes again every once in a while. It’s interesting to see how many decisions I’ve made and how I’ve changed things. However, without an external keyboard, the going is slow. I only today learned how to get some precision with the cursor, which has been my bane up to this point. I’m going to have to wait at least one more paycheck before I can take care of that. And I still need to get AppleCare for the iPad before I do other stuff.

Early this evening, I got to reconsidering some my thoughts from last week, especially the demon realm. Last week, I think I’d talked myself into not having the demons exist in a different dimension. I kinda think I need them in another realm, or I need to come up with some other way for them to move from world to world. In fact, I prefer them being trapped somewhere so that they need to corrupt and tempt People into summoning them from wherever they are. My original thought, way back in the ’90s. was that the demons lived in a nebula that screwed with people’s senses. The right people could detect that disturbance. Those people could also detect the wrongness around the demons themselves, assuming they were sensitive enough, breaking through any illusion or shapeshifting the demons might use to hide themselves. I like the ideas of the demons having a wrongness about them that can be detected, but I’m thinking the nebula can go as the home of the demons. I think that idea will get shelved for something else.

Maybe the demons are trapped in a subspace realm, in which they are like phantoms or some such, until they can find a sucker to bring them back into reality. The image in my head is a ghostly smudge in the air, like a shadow, in the shape of a humanoid figure with visible eyes, lurking in a room behind an unsuspecting future victim of possession. I rather like this, but I need to give it more thought before I commit to it.

I also got to looking at the Legends of Anglerre (a British comic-based FATE RPG) “plot stress” system. Basically, it’s a system for setting u a plotline with a tipping point, and then activating it through “player inflicted damage.” If you understand the FATE Fractal, then you likely get how this works. (The FATE Fractal is the idea that any thing can be built in game terms like a PC, and act and be acted on accordingly.) I’m hoping this is something I can incorporate into the StarSea.

I was reminded of a game that could be in my “Influences” chapter: Fading Suns. It seems that FASA now has the rights to the game, publishing a third edition, now in two books. I have the first and second editions, and I liked the setting, but my setting is going to be a bit different. My setting is more like Spelljammer, but less silly and with some more modern influences. Fading Suns is more like Warhammer 40k: a sci-fi setting with some magic-like weirdness.

I repeat these things to remind myself as much as my readers; maybe more.

Well, I have to be up a little earlier tomorrow (to earn the money for that keyboard!), so I’m calling it a night. Later.

To Split Infinities or To Not Split Infinities…

That is the question, to misquote the Bard.

This post is on the computer, as I was looking at webpages when my blogging reminder came up. I’m still getting used to the iPad (last night, I learned how to enter multi-tasking mode, which also was the key to figuring out how to actually close out programs), and sorting through programs. Before I bought the iPad, I had read about a fair number of apps that looked useful, and I’m still going through them to figure out what to keep and what to discard.

One of the things I enjoy about having a device like this again has been listening to podcasts. I have about two years of podcasts to catch up on, having lost my old iPod Nano when I was working at the IRS in 2012. Probably the one I enjoy the most is Critical Hit, a Major Spoilers Dungeons and Dragons podcast, a live-play D&D4e campaign. The guys and gal there are a great group. I haven’t been able to listen to any podcasts since the loss of the iPod. I’m always doing something that eats up RAM and bogs down the laptop without the addition of iTunes. However, with the amount of time I spend driving (especially this week, as I worked four days with plenty of trips out of town), I’ve been able to get back to them. I have a number of other podcasts I’ll want to catch up to, and I’m thinking I’ll be unsubbing a couple eventually as well, as they cover subjects I’m just not as into any more (such as the Numenera podcasts I was following).

I got a couple of stray thoughts running through my head about the StarSea from the Critical Hit podcast this week. I was inspired to think about the presence of planes beyond the mortal one. Contrary to my usual, I’m not likely to include alternate realities. While I usually like other planes of existence, but I think the StarSea will be complex enough without other planes. Except for maybe a hyperspace-style plane, although I’m not enthusiastic about that one. I thought about a sub-space, or some other Phantom Zone-ish realm which is the “hell” the demons now inhabit…

Oh, didn’t I mention the demons before? I might not have, but they are there. I think I have mentioned them before, but I think it’s been a while. Maybe I’ll return to that later.

The transitive plane might solve some of my problems with the mechanics of the ships’ engines. I know how most engines work, in their simplest terms. Car engines turn wheels, boat engines turn propellers, jet engines push out air. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I have in my original notes a mention of Ether, and starship engines could work like jets, providing thrust through Ether. Or, they could work like Star Wars hyperdrives, shifting ships into a sidereal dimension that allows FTL travel. That idea only works with my empty gulfs if I assume a more Babylon 5 hyperspace in which travel is between beacons, which I already have in place. However, piracy becomes more difficult if you have to follow the beacons.

So, it comes down to which concept of reality do I use: hyperspace is necessary for space travel; or a flow of Ether that ships ply like an ocean. I think my choice is clear.

That’s about all I have for this week. Later.

First iPad Post!

So, Thursday afternoon, I went into the local Apple Store and purchased the iPad Mini I could afford. 16 GB, wireless only. No add-ons yet. I simply couldn’t afford more. I’ve spent most of the past few days updating the OS, getting software, playing games, and just getting used to how the device works. I’ll be working on getting the stuff I’ve filled notepads with typed in and turned to an electronic format. I’d like to be able to put it into a database, but I haven’t found one for the iOS, yet.

I also completed the first four Hawkmoon books, which tell the complete the story of The War Against Granbretan. I realized that some of it is really poorly written. I noticed the truly sloppy clean-up of a poorly conceived character most, as well as the general lack of depth of all of the characters. The setting is rather interesting and would work well as a setting for Numenera, the all its weirdness.

I otherwise haven’t had much time (or more correctly, haven’t made much time) for work on the StarSea this week. A friend made an interesting comment on my Facebook post announcement from last week, but I haven’t been able to give it the thought it deserves.

So, I’m pretty much done for this week, so I’ll post this now and see how it looks. Later.


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