Category Archives: Metagaming
Not much going on. Mom is still out of the house, which means I’m still working a lot and not doing much at home. In addition, Mom had a bit of a scare last weekend, her heart rate suddenly elevating for no real reason. They never did say what the cause was, but as soon as my sister arrived at the hospital, Mom’s heart rate dropped back to a proper level. She was prescribed a new drug to keep her heart rate lower (in addition to her pacemaker to keep her heart from going too slow), and another drug to keep her heart rate up, and I think a drug to improve her appetite (she currently eats like a metaphorical bird).
I’ve read more in the Economix book, and I’m looking forward to getting through it all the way. It’s a pretty interesting description of the way economics have and haven’t worked in the US. I’m thoroughly enjoying it.
I’ve tinkered a bit with the Superhero Reboot, and I may be getting a bit rabbit hole-ish, in that I’m thinking of doing some world-building for the superhero world in which these characters exist. Part of me doesn’t want to bother, but without some ground rules, I have no basis for the characters, especially the legacy of my super-agent, as he’s the descendent of another superhero. I need to be careful, or I’ll end up going down a rabbit hole and starting work on a full universe. I don’t need that deep a project in addition to all the others.
Last Saturday, I went to the game store to while away the day while my usual group of friends were out of town, and it just happened to be an RPG Meetup day. I managed to jump into a game of Dresden Accelerated (Fate-based), which I think is still in playtesting. I enjoyed it, and the peak into some of the new systems. I look forward to picking it up in June.
While listening to a live-play podcast, I got to thinking about how undead might work in a setting. That is, how does the magic that animates the dead actually make a body something other than a bunch of meat lying on the floor.
The undead in most RPGs are taken from mythology, and therefore they have a host of origins: spells enacted on whatever bodies are lying around, rituals that transform the subject, but cast by others and the ritualist, infection vectors, and seeming spontaneous generation. I was thinking that for StarSea, I’d have one origin for most (or all) undead. That requires me to think about how the undead work.
In the podcast I was listening to, the zombies the party encountered were being animated by ghosts who were bound to the bodies by a sigil only one character could see. That set me to thinking about this subject. In Game of Thrones, the first of the White Walkers is created by the forest spirits in an attempt to thin the human herd which backfires on them, hideously. This creature was programmed to create others of its kind, and some of those seem to be sapient while the bulk are mindless hordes. Those two examples popped into my head of undead that aren’t so needlessly diverse.
On the other hand, I get the idea of different undead being linked to vices, a curse of the gods meant as an example of how immoral behavior will not be tolerated. I’ve never liked that idea, as it seems pretty backwards to give a sinner such vast power as a “punishment.”
I really don’t have a solution at this point, but I know in the StarSea that the undead are linked to the Corruption. Whole worlds and populations have been turned to undeath. This sort of undead should be like the undead of the GoT, not the random odds and ends of walking dead that populate most fantasy worlds. But this is just the kernel of an idea.
It’s late and I’m tired. So there you go. That’s it for this time.
I was doing fine until Saturday night, when someone in the house decided to sear a shark steak without turning on the smoke fan. The kitchen and adjoining living room got smoky, and I started coughing. I should have seen that as a bad sign. I didn’t get to bed that until 3AM. The two combined to give me a miserable head cold. I just posted on Facebook that I don’t remember a cold in which I’ve had so runny a nose or sneezed so much. I’m really just hoping now to keep it out of my throat and chest, or I’ll be really sick through Christmas.
I brought Mom home from rehabilitation Saturday. She’s doing well so far. Hopefully, my sister and I can remember to get her up and move around on a daily basis.
I have most of my prep done for running Titansgrave. I actually managed to get all my printing done with a minimum of cursing at the HP printer I own. I swear to God, it will be my last. I hate their products and their business plan (sell a cheap device and make money on the sale of ink cartridges). I can’t afford to replace it right now, but when it fails (like i know it will), HP will never again get my business.
Friday night, I tested out the Games Workshop/Citadel gemstone paints. They’re pretty much a glaze that goes over metallic paints. Depending on the color, some of them work well, and others… not so much. For example, the blue color doesn’t look good over gold, but looks great over silver. The red and green work okay over gold, but on large surfaces, all of them can look like Christmas ornaments.
I think that’s it for this post. I’m now back to trying to do weekly posts rather than the dailies of NaBloPoMo. Feels better to be operating this way.
Drove up to Hayward today for work. Going in wasn’t bad, but coming out was horrible. All totaled, an exhausting trip.
Special order for the GM Kit for Fantasy Age came in. Yay!
I found an affordable copy of one of Michael Moorcock’s early novels on eBay. It should have been here today, as the tracking number shows it’s been in town since Tuesday morning. But for whatever reason, they didn’t get it out today. 😦
That’s it, really. Later.
Friday was work, a brief stop at HTU, and then pizza and Star Trek Beyond at the Framily’s. I also learned one of our neighbors died, this week. Let me quote myself from Facebook:
Years ago, the young man across the street was up in Yosemite with his friends. He fell from a considerable height that day, fracturing his upper spine and becoming a quadriplegic. His life was altered forever.
Danny made the best of it. He loved motorcycles, but being unable to ride anymore, so he created on his parents’ land (that he inherited once they passed) a museum for flat-track racing memorabilia. Small donations and an event every May helped support him over the years. He was a good friend to Dad and was the one who noticed Dad’s hadn’t been coming or going when he fell ill before his death, and let us use the museum for Dad’s memorial service.
Over the past few months, diabetes, bladder cancer, and other issues related to his paralysis wore away at his body. A few weeks ago, I came home late to see an ambulance at Danny’s place. He never came home.
Danny died this week. Danny was the unofficial one-man neighborhood watch. He spent good chunks of the day (when it wasn’t rainy) out in front of the museum, and those rare rainy days in it. It is truly strange to think he won’t be out there, keeping an eye on the neighborhood.
Rest In Peace, Danny Rouitt.
My sister told me while I was at HTU, but when I wrote this, my emotions got to me. Star Trek was a much needed relief. The first trailer had us questioning where they were going with things, as it looked like a Vin Diesel action movie, not a Star Trek movie. But the writers delivered a nice, nuanced story (although I knew the big reveal ahead of time, as I’d seen some interviews back when it was out in the theatres), with the right balance of humor, action and thoughtfulness to make it a nice ride. I think they’ve been taking notes from Marvel.
Yesterday was pretty boring, with a lot of sitting and waiting to go visit Mom so we could tell her about Danny. He’d been an inspiration for her when she first went into renal failure, so we expected her to be very upset. she took the news very well, saying she’d noticed she hadn’t seen him when she was out for a long time. After that, I went over to the Framily’s and hung out. After dinner, we went to Target and picked up some stuff, and then sat and watched talk shows until I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore. I finally woke up and got myself awake enough to drive just about the Boy and his dad got home from a band event in Stockton (about two hours north of Fresno).
On the way home, I was listening to an interview with the creator of Murders & Acquisitions, and he mentioned that, as part of his mechanics, as a way of forcing his players to use his version of Fate Points, he built a point cap into his system. Once you are at full, you can’t gain more. Like Fate Points and Cypher XP, they are meant as an immediately expendable resource. I’m not sure it is a great idea for my game, as you’ll need to accumulate points to actually improve in the long run, as I plan on using a multiplier. For example, to raise your character’s Strength from 2 to 3 might cost (current STR x 8 [not actual number]) 16 XP. If the player has a cap of 8, They won’t be able to raise their Strength (or anything else) and the game stagnates. It’s something to think about. I might just be something more appropriate for Fate and not relevant to my system.
Today has been short, including sleeping in (I got home and in bed around 3AM), another visit to Mom, and procrastinating on going to Costco to find out if I can replace my broken phone. I dropped it Thursday (face down into gravel) and cracked the screen. Not so bad I can’t still use it, but enough to be annoying. I just wanted a day of not running, to be honest.
So, I think I’m done for today. Later.
Had the day off, but spent it catching up on email. I’ve developed a bad habit of checking it only about once a week, and a couple of boxes had a couple of weeks.
Did some job browsing, too. Chewed up a lot of time looking at jobs I was under qualified for.
Squeezed in reading a couple of blog posts of someone out there building a variation on the Star Wars setting that seemed similar to the StarSea kinda of track, but had links to a couple of Rob Donahue posts, rich are always enlightening.
That’s it for today. Later.
Day 2, and I remembered to post! Yay!
So, Monday as she got up, Mom had a seizure. Only a week after getting home from the hospital, she had to go back. It looked like a Grand Mal, but we were really concerned that it might be a stroke. However, it seems to not be the case, or if it was a stroke, it seems to have left no damage. It looks more like the seizure may have been induced by an electrolyte imbalance. Whatever the source, there was talk of doing a spinal tap (which has now been delayed a third day), and she was given an EEG last night as I was leaving the hospital. I didn’t go visit her today, but I expect to spend a good deal of the day there tomorrow.
I realized today that, after complaining it would take too much effort to fix other games, I’m rewriting a game. Obviously, I’m insane. 🙂
I scanned through the Adventurers! Revised again, making some notes as to general editing (for example, the Gear Chart, which includes the weapon descriptors and Encumbrance chart, are mentioned in the middle of the game, but are basically separate from the Players’ Guide, unlike the older edition; it seems like clumsy editing) as well as ideas for my version of the system.
I need to sit down and write out some of the stuff I’ve worked out at present. I’ve got copious notes, but I need to get these notes finalized and on 3x5s. That’s what I’m using to keep myself and my writing brief. However, I’m expecting the final version to be about 16 pages. However, 8 might be more realistic. I’ll see once I’ve actually worked my way through all the subsystems.
All for today. Later.
I had meant to post last week, but I got distracted, as usual. I’ve got some downtime while I ride around for work, so I’m using the WordPress mobile app on my phone to compose this post.
Mom, Infection, Palliative Care
Part of last week’s distraction was another trip to the hospital for Mom. Another UTI had her blood sugar dropping through the floor. She went in last Tuesday and should be home today. (She did, and the first night was rough, as she’s got some sores on her bottom and her special mechanical lifting chair broke at bedtime. No one got good sleep here last night.)
The biggest bit of news out of this visit was her doctor at the hospital suggesting Palliative Care. Apparently, the doctor flat out told my sister that Mom is dying. Very slowly, but dying all the same. This isn’t really news. Mom is in Stage 4 renal failure, and is not a good candidate for transplant. That’s pretty much a death sentence in 5 to 10 years. Palliative care is for chronic diseases, kind of like pre-hospice. And it’s meant to help the family as well, which would be a good thing for us. We’ll see how things progress from here.
I applied for a couple of different jobs recently that required online tests. These were the sorts that they claim have “no right answers.” I have since learned that’s a lie. The tests are those things that are like college aptitude tests: “Do you agree or disagree that you never lie?” “Do you agree or disagree that you like dealing with angry customers?” And one employer quite plainly told me I’d failed a test “with no wrong answers.”
From what I’ve learned, these are make-or-break tests. Managers have lost skilled workers because someone somewhere decided that these “character tests” are more important than having skilled workers.
I’m not a super enthusiastic, cheerleader sort of person, which these tests seem to screen for. I’m pretty middle-of-the-road when answering these questions. I hate that I can’t be myself in order to even get an interview.
Notepads Instead of Blogging
On to gaming…
I’ve been noticing that I write down a lot of things in my notepads that would make good blog entries. Sadly, they never get transposed to digital format. I need to keep this in mind next month for NaBloPoMo. Not using the notepads and instead using the apps might make daily posts easier.
The creators of Adventurers! currently have a Kickstarter going for a revised version of the game. I won’t be participating as my bank will not handle international currency. However, they have made the core rules available at the KS website. I’ve downloaded those rules and read them, and I’m going to continue to work with my new system.
While there are some nice improvements to the system, my two most important issues were only partially addressed. Shields still don’t activate often enough (on doubles, which is 1:6), although it’s easier to get Advantage while using the shield, which helps but is still too uncommon (only 4:9). And greatswords are still super weapons. I have my own plans to deal with these in my system.
Critical Hit World Building and My Worlds
In listening to this week’s Critical Hit, I was fascinated by the story of the spread of civilization and the place of Aasimars, Rakshasas and Daevas in the DM’s world. It made me think of where I’m going with both The StarSea and the Reincarnated worlds, and how I feel I’ve lost some of the focus of both. As Reincarnated is fresh in my mind, I feel I need to remember that it should have a certain “fairy tale” aspect to it that is present in the Corum novels. The StarSea should be somewhere between Star Wars, Spelljammer and Exalted’s First Age, with a sprinkling of Thor: The Dark World, as well as other of Marvel Comic’s cosmic stuff. I’m letting my desire for verisimilitude overwhelm my vision in both cases. I need to balance feel, mood and theme with need for grounding.
Digging up old adventures
A couple of weeks ago, I joked with my Thursday night gang that I’d like to see how they would deal with Moldvay Basic D&D. That spurred me to go out to my storage and try to find it. I failed to do that, but I managed to find some old adventures I’ve wanted to have handy for play tests.
One is T1 – The Village of Homlett, which is the lead-in to Temple of Elemental Evil. I don’t have that adventure, but T1 is a nice intro adventure with a base of operations for the PCs. It should be easy to convert the adventure to other systems, whether my own or Moldvay Basic.
The other is L1 – The Secret of Bone Hill. Like T1, L1 is an excellent beginner adventure, with a town and a couple of excellent quests, including the titular Bone Hill. There is a lot of easily adaptable material in both adventures. TSR could fit quite a lot in 32 pages.
AnyDice, probabilities and my system
I’ve been doing some research on dice and probability while tinkering with A! Eventually, I stumbled across AnyDice.com again. I know I’ve seen it before, but I’d forgotten about it.
AnyDice has immediately proven invaluable. I was able to get statistics on how Advantage (3d6, keep 2 best) and Disadvantage (3d6, keep 2 worst) would play out in a 2d6 system. And with that knowledge, I think I’m beginning to a handle on how to figure out threats and make everything else in the system work.
Right now, I’m weighing numbers in my mind, and I’m going to be comparing them to the probabilities that AnyDice is providing me, and see what shakes loose. The system will have a certain Cypher like mechanical feeling, but I think it will be just a little easier.
I feel that I’m running out of steam at this point, and that it’s time to wrap this piece up.
The trip to Morro Bay was fun. The ship was the San Salvador, the ship of the first European, Cabrillo, to set foot on the West Coast of the Americas, only 50 years after Columbus’s successful trip across the Atlantic. It was surprising how small the ships were at that time. She’s only about 100 feet long, and about 20 feet wide. In other words, a gaming style battle (or any of that crap you see in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies) would be horribly cramped. What still blows my mind is that they weren’t using a helm to steer the ship, but rather a tiller. They just muscled the rudder back and forth without any sort of pulley system to amplify the strength of the man steering the ship.
Morro Bay was also full of Pokemon Go! stops along the Embarcadero, as well as out to the Rock. I’ve pretty much stopped playing except on Thursdays, as the folks I play with like to walk around after the game, and Fridays and Saturdays, when the kids, their parents and I play. I’ve found it’s not working as a motivation for me to get out and walk around my neighborhood. My area is pretty dead because of sparse population and low income, which results in low cell activity, which results in low spawn rates. But walking the Embarcadero was fun, and we caught a lot of new Pokemon we don’t see locally.
I’m going to have to find some other entertainment if I’m going to continue to walk, and I have done nothing in that direction at this point.
I did complete my first set of playtests of my Adventurers! modifications. I’ve tried out the simplest modifications, and they work pretty well. Combat ran fewer rounds, and there was less bias toward one weapon over another. Although, I must admit, the sword-and-board fighter took two of the three battles, when before he took only one. It as the last round of testing that was the most telling, as both combatants were down to their last couple of hit points before the killing blow was struck by the shieldbearer. I consider that balanced.
As I wrote previously, I’m completely discarding the Dungeon World combat rules, and I need to rethink my Cypher inspired rules a bit. My initial thought had been that everything would have a simple rating that would set all difficulties related to the opposition, and that would be a straight target number. With a die span of 2-12 with modifiers between -1 and +5, an odd span of numbers (1 to 17) is created. It doesn’t feel natural.
Pulling in more of Cypher could work, with Threat Ratings of 1 to 6 multiplied by 3 to determine the Target Number. Sadly, the lowest levels in each system aren’t especially difficult in either case. But thinking about it, a 6+ isn’t that easy for rolls with a low bonus. However, the big problem mathematically is that 18 is impossible to hit, unless I include other bonuses in the system. The big problem otherwise is the amount of derivation this system includes. It’s a direct rip off of the Cypher System, and that bugs me. Needs more thought.
Why I want to do something like this is to make threat creation easy. I mentioned this before. Both A! and DW are completely opaque in this regard, which I also mentioned before. (Does a little research in DW…) I was wrong about DW: It has a pretty open Monster Creation system. I just don’t care for it, just as I don’t care for a lot of the writing in that game. For a “quick” system, it seems awfully time consuming.
Yeah, more thinking.
I think I’m going to let things go there. I’m out of steam for this entry. I need to do some thinking on how to define threats.
The day after the last post was spent in the hospital, getting Mom’s transfusion. The day was pretty much wasted for any productivity. And apparently, I picked up something, as by the end of the week, I was sick. Last Sunday I spent making regular trips to the toilet between aches and pains, fever and chills. But by the time I got called to work Monday, I was feeling better and agreed to work. That was a mistake, as once I got off work, I spent the evening going to the bathroom in one night as much as I did all day Sunday. I continued to be sick until Wednesday morning, when things finally stabilized.
Feeling yucky, I did damned little with my week. By Thursday though, I’d managed to get some ideas down for new rules for armor, and to start a “playtest.”
The first idea was to simply eliminate the damage mitigation of armor. That’s simple and keeps to the original rules of Adventurers! I’m not really enthusiastic about this rule, as it’s basically D&D (armor preventing hits, as opposed to preventing damage), but this rules change allowed me to simply use my records of the original playtesting I’d done to test the idea. I simply ran the numbers a second time, without the armor saves. However, it made the greatsword power to reduce the target’s armor save (a power which seems to be common to all of the greatweapons) pretty useless, which I don’t consider a Bad Thing. I might run the numbers again with the greatweapon power reducing defense, but I haven’t decided for certain yet.
My initial impulse after writing these rules was that while it’s simple and actually works within the system, it just doesn’t feel right. Probably because in my mind, I’d rather have armor working as it does in reality, acting to prevent damage (“rhino-hiding” as it’s called in the SCA). Armor as hit prevention rankles me.
The other ideas I have are for an Apocalypse World style die-roll system (which is the basis of Dungeon World), but as I worked on it, I came to the conclusion that there would be additional systems I’d need. I’d have to start making decisions on how much damage weapons would generate, as well as how combat works in different situations, etc. I was starting to feel rules creep, I realize now. Again, it doesn’t feel right. A vague term, I know, but really the only way to describe how my mind is assessing the idea.
My last idea is based on the Cypher System, a series of games I’ve mentioned I really want to like, but can’t bring myself to like. The idea is dangers have a difficulty, and that determines the danger’s defense, attack, hit points, etc. Everything the danger does is a difficulty for the PCs to beat with dice rolls. That is essentially how DW works as well, so it’s a direction I kinda wanted to go anyway.
I realized as I built this rule that I’ll want to change skill resolution (which I’d originally written as DW-style), but I’m okay with that. While having a different resolution system for every aspect of the game is very D&D 1e, it’s definitely not the direction I want to go with my rules. I want a more standardized, unified set of systems.
I need to playtest the Cypher-style rules, and I’ll probably need to come up with a chart or something listing difficulties and what they mean. This was something I realized about both A! and DW: Both rely on bestiaries rather than give the DM rules for creating threats. On that level, they’re pretty opaque.
That’s pretty much all I have for now. I won’t be posting next week, as I’ll be taking a trip to the coast to see a reconstruction of one of the Spanish tall ships as it tours the Southern Coast of California.
Posted in Metagaming
Where to begin…
Financial issues continue, as I only worked 5 hours last week. Basically, I never got called as work has dropped off and we now have a surplus of drivers. Of course, the “feast and famine” effect kicked in, and I got nearly 30 hours this week. With the flakiness of my schedule, I’ve finally gotten off my ass and started looking for another job again. That’s pretty much a full-time job in and of itself.
On top of the in-flow issues, I paid my car registration online two weeks ago, and have yet to see the money taken from my account. I need to call the DMV, but I don’t know when I’ll get time for it, as tomorrow, I need to take Mom to the hospital for a transfusion, and that’s an all-day thing.
On the positive/gaming side, I managed to do some playtesting of Adventurers!, and I think the combat rules are a little broken. No, they’re a lot broken.
Just to test a combat, I ran a pair of characters with the same stats, same armor (heavy), but with different kit. One character had a one-handed sword and shield, one had a greatsword. I ran the combat three times, twice without skills, once with skills. I never used the game’s “Heroism Points,” as the way the characters were built, they wouldn’t have any. Basically, these were just exercises in how the system works, so I used no minis or tactics. It was two characters wailing on each other until one or the other fell. What I noticed was as follows:
- Armor works okay, but it seems very flawed. Greatweaponss reduce armor rolls and add to damage when they hit, which pretty much made the armor of the shieldbearer useless, as he kept failing the reduction rolls and taking additional damage. However, the Armor Mastery skill was amazing, enabling the greatswordsman to prevent all the damage dealt by the shieldbearer on most hits. Only a couple of really bad defense rolls on the greatswordsman’s part, along with good rolls on the shieldbearer’s attacks, enabled the shieldbearer to do any damage in the final combat.
- Shields are virtually worthless. It only activated once in about 20 rounds (when the skill was present, but had no impact), and didn’t prevent enough damage to be worth using. As expected, the shield is too passive for my tastes.
- The greatsword seems like a superweapon, and since there are few differences between it and other greatweapons, I think it’s just a side effect of the combat rules. The flat bonus to damage and penalty to armor rolls is mentioned above. While the one-handed sword gave a bonus to hit (due to the character builds), the plus one to hit really didn’t sway the math enough to be as valuable as the flat damage bonus.
- Crits can be devastating. Each character had nine hit points, and crits typically scored about 4 hit points, even more with the greatweapon, upwards of six hit points. The shieldbearer only one once, in the protracted twelve round combat, but lost the other two times. I don’t think a fourth combat is necessary: the math indicates the shieldbearer will likely lose.
I’m thinking I need to go to flat damage for weapons, with crits adding a small amount and no other damage, and armor changing to a flat damage reduction. I’ll need to figure out a new way to do defense as well, working on a way to include shields as an effective defense.
It’s late and I need to be up in the morning, so…