Monthly Archives: January 2015

Getting a Start on Mechanics

Monday, I didn’t work driving, so I worked on mechanics for the StarSea Fate rules. I started by looking at the one game I have available to me that uses Skill Modes, the Atomic Robo Role Playing Game. It made me realize I may have to do some research if I want races to act as modes, or more accurately mad me realize I need to simply reconsider the entire idea of races as modes.

But 4e Roles as Skill Modes is workable, once you examine Roles the right way. What I discovered is that since combat is detached from skills, you have to look at Roles a little differently. 4e’s roles are almost purely combat oriented, but there are certain skills you can expect with each role. As well, there are a couple of roles whose names have little to do with their skill bases, Controllers and Leaders being the primary sinners. The reality is, Controllers are the learned folk, most of them having a lot of Lore-oriented skills, while Leaders are typically social characters. To round things out, Defenders are strong, tough types, and Strikers are agile, generally sneaky types (although they also include some blitzers, who act more like Defenders). Once I did this analysis, I was more easily able to see how I’ll be dividing up the skills.

For reasons similar to race, I won’t be making Power Sources modes, either. While I haven’t re-read the Toolkit on Modes, the way they are handled in ARRPG, each character can have most of the modes. Your character rates each  mode, which gives him a cluster of skills all at the same rating. Skills in multiple modes become reinforced, and gain a level edge. As characters should not be of mixed power sources or races (there are no half-species in the StarSea), then those things cannot be modes.

Doing all this also started me on setting up a skill list, and comparing it to the Camelot Trigger setting (King Arthur’s Court in a future in which all of them ride Mecha) provided on the Worlds on Fire book. It has some similar concepts to the StarSea, so I decided I wanted to look at the names of skills, as they do a fair job evoking the chivalric ideal. I want to make some changes (for example, I’m pretty certain I don’t want a Resources skill, and I’m not real sure about contacts, but a Rank skill or some such to represent a character’s ability to requisition equipment might be more appropriate, as might something to represent knowing other knights.

I also started getting the mechanics of magic going, based on some of the ideas presented in the Fate Freeport Companion. Therein, magic is basically an extra that gives characters access to different spells based on which extra he chose (evoker versus necromancer versus “cleric,” etc.). While I originally didn’t care for the idea, as I looked at it again this week, I realized that I had bounced around the idea with myself of having different specialties for each order (such as telekinesis and telepathy for the Psionics, etc.) that I could use to create similar sets of extras for the StarSea.

I need to do a little research on the Modes issues, make some decisions about which skills exist and what modes they are in, and detail out my extras system, smooth things out into an integrated system, and I should soon after begin playing around with creating characters. I also need to work out a plot for the con game by the end of the week.

Just that…


Challenge… Accepted?

So, last Monday, Scott Martin, one of the gnomes of Gnome Stew, posted on Facebook about a mini-con done here locally at one of the County Libraries called “Bookwyrm.” This event is in April, on the 18th, and he tagged me in a comment as follows:

Craig runs a wide variety of games for a lot of different audiences… if we’re lucky, maybe StarSea will be ready for an alpha playtest.

My first thought was a little bit of panic. “Omigod! I’m not ready!” But then my next thought was, “No, wait a minute, I’ve been thinking about where I am lately…” And the reality is, I have a pretty good handle on the StarSea as a setting. Most of my vacillation is really about historical elements of the setting, and some on the way I’ll use the Fate System to accomplish my goals with said setting. Most of the rules stuff I’m uncertain about is character creation, and I can do pre-gens for the con, so that’s not an issue. I just have to make some decisions on how weapons and armor works. So, I chose to view this comment as an unintended challenge to myself. I’ve never run a con game (not a Con Game, but… well, you know what I mean), but I can either wilt or meet the challenge.

Once the idea was set in my mind, I pretty much let it go, to be something I’d post about. However, I still hadn’t run Fate yet. Strangely enough, our DMs cancelled our regular LFR game this week, and I jumped on the chance to run a Fate Accelerated game. Fate Accelerated Edition (FAE) is kind of the training wheels version of the game. We did some abbreviated character creation, and I used the players’ creations to formulate a plotline (after stealing a hefty chunk of concept from WWGS’s Exalted). I didn’t cover all the rules, but I hit some of the high points. I got into invoking and compelling, and fate points, but didn’t get into Overcomes, Creating Advantages, Attacking or Defending specifically, but let the players get used to the die roll system and applying skills. Everyone had fun, or so they claimed at Afters. 🙂 I was quite happy with the results. I was still gushing about it after work Friday with one of the Wednesday Night Regulars.

This week, I’ll be working on figuring out what I can do for a plot for a short run game, cook up some characters that fit within the StarSea, and then putting together an elevator pitch/game summary, as paperwork needs to be submitted by the end of the month.

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

I Thought This Was A Part-Time Job?

Yeah, I’ve been working a lot this week. And driving most of that time. Many of my co-workers are retirees, and they are taking winter vacations this month. So, I’m getting more hours and working more. When I’m working, I’m driving more, mainly because there are fewer people, so we’re all trying to get more stuff done with less downtime. So, when I’m at work, I’m working more.

Wednesday night, we got back to Living Forgotten Realms after the holidays. It never ceases to amaze me how many of the scenarios are written poorly. The current encounter had a huge map, but all of the monsters were placed close to the “player start area,” so the majority of the map is useless and no one can move around. In addition, all of the monsters with area attacks have the targets listed as enemies only. ALL of them. Cheesy, amateur writing.

Also, Wednesday night, I talked to one of the guys who was really enthusiastic about playing 5e. He was talking about the game he ran for his wife’s birthday. One of his big criticisms of 4e was how many dice we rolled for damage; he thought too many dice were being rolled. Then he commented that the high-level rogues were rolling 17d6 for backstab. I pointed the hypocrisy of this out to him, but he barely skipped a beat in reiterating how 5e works for his play style. Okay…

I have been listening to the D&D podcasts I’d missed from the past couple of years because I lost my iPod a couple of years ago, and the discussions of the 5e playtest are interesting. I’m just thinking about them from a designer’s point of view and how things will work for the StarSea.

Today, I sent out my final email as the DM of the CSGS “D&D for Kids” game. I decided to cut the game back to a closed game at the store. I’ve no doubt mentioned it here before, but the organization simply became a chore. After the Big Game (read more about that here), I had a lot of contacts who never contacted me again. That may have been because of the game in which I lost my cool (see here), but I feel that people should have let me know that, not simply cut off communication.

Whatever. It’s no longer my problem. I’ll keep running my kids’ game until I complete the adventure, and then maybe I’ll move on to something else.

I picked up a couple of other Pathfinder books. I know I mentioned last time picking up the core rulebook. And I think I mentioned picking up the Gamemastery book, which is mostly text and mostly about running games. I understand it’s full of some amazing advice, and it looks pretty good. Plus, both books were on the consignment racks, so they were cheaper than full price. This week, I also picked up the Ultimate Campaign book, which includes the improved Kingmaker realm rules, which looks great. Also, the downtime chapter looks wonderful.

I’ve also gotten back into reading the Burning Empires supplement book. I’ve only gotten about a third of the way through the book, but it’s giving me ideas for some things for the StarSea. Ideas about ships and classifications and how they should work.

I was reading some articles earlier today (that I had found earlier in the week) regarding an attempt by a gamer out there to convert AD&D Greyhawk to Fate. While I found these articles initially interesting, I soon came to the conclusion that I’m going in a very different direction, and his conversion is a little too precise for my tastes. I’m backing off from the D&D trappings quite a bit with the StarSea. Just the basic “power sources” and “party roles” ideas will have any real purchase at this point, as well as some traditional fantasy tropes. So, I’m going to keep working in that direction.


That’s about all I have for tonight/this week. Next weekend is my first run of the reborn D&D with Kids of 2015, and I need to prep for that this week. Hopefully I’ll have some good things to report.





A Very Busy Week

For only working two days this week, I stayed very busy.

Last weekend, the Smalls and I went to the FLGS to shop for my Christmas present from their family. They got me something, but I drifted towards a game on the bargain bin that I was unsure about. The game in question was Magestorm, produced by Nexus Games. I can’t put up a link except to, because the game and creating company are now defunct. After pointing it out to the game, I mentioned I had picked up a similar game, the Boy asked which, and I pointed out a copy of Conquest of Nerath, another effectively defunct game. The Boy wanted to play both. So, while I wasn’t working (and even during downtime while I was), I read both rulebooks. By Wednesday night, I’d completed the CoN rulebook and gotten most of the way through the Magestorm book.

The Kids and I played CoN most of the evening, pausing for the Ball Drop in NYC, and finally gave up on that board at about 1AM. The Boy and I started a new game New Year’s Day in the afternoon, and finally finished around bedtime for the Kids (so we played about six hours), but only because I got a couple of lucky rolls. By the time I got out of the house for dinner and a movie Friday night, I had finally finished the Magestorm rulebook.

CoN is basically D&D meets Risk. There is a board mapping out the D&D 4e core world, a new world suggested in the sourcebooks. I guess that world didn’t really take off, as it got dumped (practically erased) as a world for development in D&D books with the announcement of 5e. I liked it myself, but that’s a tangent you don’t need me exploring. There are four nations (including the eponymous Nerath) spaced around the map, one to each corner. That map is chunked up like the real world map is for the Risk board.

The game is pretty slow, as every space on the board is populated by 1omm scale minis. As the nations are directly on each other’s borders, combat is likely in the first round. While combat runs quickly, income allows the players to quickly bring even more figures on the board. In our second game, I only won because I managed to get some victory points by having my heroes explore a dungeon, and lucky rolls allowed me to defeat the monsters that guarded treasures that were high point value pieces. If that hadn’t happened, I think I would have eventually won, as the Boy was investing heavily in dragons but not other weapons of war. Attrition would have eventually gotten the best of him.

All in all, I liked the game, I just think the initial placement of of figures and the fiddliness of the rules were detriments. I’d like to be able to find the time to tweak the rules and make the economy run a little better, giving players a bit more opportunity to develop the nation they want to play.

On the other hand, the events cards in the game (basically the source of spells and other magical effects the players use to aid themselves and harm their opponents) are very flavorful. The Dark Empire of Karkoth has some great cards that get across the feeling of a nation ruled by undead. The Nerathan Alliance felt like beleaguered underdogs who could pull some amazing stunts out of their collective butts to turn the tide, etc. (The final two nations are the Iron Circle, a nation of orcs and goblins who work with devils, and Vailin, elven traders.) I hope to be able to do some tweaks to Fate to get a similar effect in the StarSea.

However, once we’d played this game and I finished reading the rules for Magestorm, I knew we’d never play it. It’s a lot like Games Workshop‘s Warmaster (a brilliant game of 10mm Warhammer Fantasy Battle), but with powerful mages, the focus of the game. For my money, the magic is slow to build, but once it does, it effectively increases the power of an army but about half. The game could be played without the mages, and probably much more quickly. Combat is dealt with in ten stages, about half of which are magic. However, if I’m going to do that, I might as well play Warmaster, which has a much simpler combat resolution system.

Friday I took off work so I could clean my desk off to prepare for the big switch over to U-Verse. AT&T sent us a letter a couple of weeks ago that basically told us that they were no longer going to offer DSL in our area, and that we would have to switch over. It took all day to clean, get the installation done, and move things back where they belong, but in the end, I’m quite happy with the change. Downloading files and videos is much smoother than our old arrangement. Something about the old DSL modems didn’t interact well with routers. And things are faster now, so this has been a good deal so far.

After that, we went out for dinner and The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies. Tolkien purists won’t like it, but I thought it was a fantastic movie. All the major characters got a lot of good development, and the visuals and combat was amazing. I’m hoping to get the chance to go see it again with others who are interested.

Yesterday, I picked up something else off the bargain rack at the FLGS: The Pathfinder core rulebook. It’s been an interesting read so far, but I’m not planning to get in too deep. I will say that I like what they’ve done with paladins the most so far, especially their spiritual weapon. After that, we got back to our home D&D game, continuing our adventures as rebels in the Moonshaes against the forces of Amn.

Today was finally a lazy day. I’ve just been tinkering with the new Internet connection, enjoying being able to watch a YouTube video without having to restart a million times.

But now, it’s getting towards bedtime, and I have work tomorrow. Night all.