The Best of the Best

Promotional photo of the cast of Star Trek dur...

Promotional photo of the cast of Star Trek during the third season (1968–1969). From left to right: James Doohan, Walter Koenig, DeForest Kelley, Majel Barrett, William Shatner, Nichelle Nichols, Leonard Nimoy, and George Takei. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Settings, trappings, and descriptions often trigger the imagination far more than game mechanics, whether simulationist, narrativist, or a conglomeration of the two.  The two, “fluff’ and mechanics, should be married well within a game; presented fiction ought to be supported and represented by the game’s mechanics.  To do otherwise leads to very frustrating moments.

Creating campaign worlds, their setting, the people and politics that shape and motivate, and the events that spring up from these factors are, for me, almost more enjoyable than working with the mechanics of a game.  There is a freedom to the creation process that is both daunting in its near infinite possibility and exhilerating in the blank canvas that it provides.  Stephen King once said that a blank sheet of paper was his favorite thing, so open and raw in its unlimited potential.  I absolutely get that point of view.

When I sat down to create my own vision of Star Trek for my gaming group, I knew I wanted to capture that frontier feeling given in the original series, so the era was relatively easy to pinpoint.  That selection helped refine many aspects of the setting, from Starfleet’s political position with other cultures, the kinds of starships available, and the overall technological level.

My game group consists of nine players.  With so many players, any specific setting that we choose to play in is bound to alienate at least one person, so I never prepare a campaign without some sort of primer.  This Star Trek publication could make certain assumptions about my private audience, but I wanted to make sure that even the most uninitiated of my would-be Starfleet Officers were armed with the basic knowledge of the various roles and stations, and the technology that enabled those stations.

Thus, this “fluff” section of the Star Trek manual was created.  It was quite intentional that each station was limited to a single page; in some cases I could have gone on and on, but presented as it is, it enabled a player to print up only what they needed to run their Officer and, hopefully, sparked enough interest to do some external research if they wanted deeper knowledge.  While nearly devoid of game mechanics (a few were snuck in there, but mostly as FATE-driven aspects which are more narrative than mechanical anyway), this document provides a solid peek at the best of the best for Starfleet.

As always, enjoy and please, post comments, questions, and concerns.

Star Trek FATE Officer Stations

A Few Modifications…

Yesterday, I posted the first portion of a Star Trek FATE game I put together a few years back for my group (https://offscriptgames.wordpress.com/2013/04/27/to-boldy-go/).

NCC-1701

NCC-1701 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Like any game, errata is a given and there were a few things that, once I printed it for friends, realized would be helpful.  Therefore, I put together a quick rules addendum.  This addendum provides trait combinations for common rolls as well as some Merit advancement costs for Advantages.  Since that’s just a page and a half add-on, I figured it might be nice, here, to include the character sheet we used during the campaign.  You’ll find the link for these documents at the end of this post.

It is my intention to release the second part of the PDF document in the next day or two and will continue to release all of the information I put together for both the rulebook as well as the campaign I ran, providing a jumping off point for a complete Star Trek game.

Star Trek Rules Addendum

Star Trek Character Sheet

To Boldy Go

English: A stylized delta shield, based on the...

English: A stylized delta shield, based on the Star Trek logo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Reimaginings and resurgences are a spelndid way of breathing new life to old concepts and themes.  This has been accomplished a myriad of times, in a myriad of ways, covering a myriad of subjects.  Whether it is a fresh beginning for beloved comic book heroes or a relaunch of a favored science fiction story, taking a new look at something classic often brings an unseen perspective and provides the chance to showcase a story to an untapped audience.

One successful example of a relaunch is Star Trek.  From the original series to Next Generation to Deep Space Nine to Voyager to Enterprise and back, full circle, to the recent film reimagining of the original series, Star Trek serves a splendid role model for, not just a successful franchise, but successful re-examinations.  Each show has spawned new generations of fans, and the recent films capitalized on the collective fanbase, catapulting Star Trek to new heights of popularity and acceptance.

Like the many examinations of Star Trek through film and television, Star Trek role-playing gaming has gone through similar evolutions.  There was FASA’s early Star Trek game based on the original series.  There was Last Unicorn’s Star Trek brand which covered the original series, Next Generation, and Deep Space Nine.  Additionally, Decipher released a version of Star Trek that covered the original series, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise.  And like the television shows on which these games were based, they have each spawned their own fans and popularity.

In each case, these various game systems took their own approach to what made Star Trek exciting, intriguing, and playable.  All of them did an admirable job, providing thousands of fans the means by which to explore strange new worlds and to seek out new lifeforms.

Star Trek had always fascinated me.  The combination of social commentary and exciting space conflict, swashbuckling adventure and epic vessel combat all served to make Star Trek an enjoyable pasttime.  It provided countless hours of entertainment as well as even more hours of debate and conversation.  As an avid gamer and gamemaster and long-time game tinkerer, I had always wanted to try my hand at “reinventing” Star Trek for the gaming community.  About two years ago, I did exactly that.

After being introduced to the FATE system (by Evil Hat) via Spirit of the Century, I began to see a new possible approach to Star Trek and one that would provide an exploration of that universe in a method not yet touched by previous incarnations.  When Strands of Fate was released by Void Star (found here: http://www.voidstarstudios.com/strands-of-fate/) I found the final inspiration I needed to embark on my own Star Trek journey.

There was a great deal of thought and effort put into my Star Trek creation, but the final product is one which I am proud.  And now, proudly, I present the first section, with the following sections to be revealed in upcoming posts.  So, without further adieu, let us boldy go…

Star Trek FATE – Character Creation

Through the Perilous Jungles We Go

Hollow Earth Expedition

Hollow Earth Expedition (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Exile Games Studio (found here:  http://www.exilegames.com/) gave me an opportunity several years back to write for their exciting Hollow Earth Expedition RPG line.

The game’s creators, Jeff Combos and Sechin Tower, approached me about writing an adeventure for their game.  It was set in the Amazon and wanted to have a thematically blended feel as if Indiana Jones and Jason Bourne got together for lunch to swap a few stories. This wasn’t my first writing assignment, but it was one I was particularly excited about — the pulp genre has long been a favorite of mine — and I dove into the material headfirst.  Writing for the project proved to be truly enjoyable, educational, and exciting.  Sure, there were rewrites and edits (no good writing exists without either), but the entire process was an experience for which I am grateful and proudly boast about (obviously).

The adventure, Miracle Stone of the Amazon, existed first in PDF-only mode (found here:  http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product/84212/Miracle-Stone-of-the-Amazon?src=s_pi ) but has recently been bundled together with three other Exile Games Studio surface world adventures in a Kickstarter-funded book entitled Perils of the Surface World (seen here:  http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2085348754/perils-of-the-surface-world).  The reviews of Miracle Stone were solid and, much to my honor, I was nominated for an ENnie RPG award for Best Adventure.

If wearing a fedora, punching Nazis, and using an elephant gun on a charging T-Rex is your kind of thing (and really, who doesn’t enjoy a good punch-to-the-Nazi-face?) I urge you to check the system out.  Its a treasure.  And while you’re at it, take a look at the adventure I wrote, if the reviews and nomination are any indication, you’ll have a good time.

Slight Change of Plans

Today, I was going to post a link to an honest-to-goodness publication of mine as a means of self-promotion.  A gaming headline changed my intention the moment I read it.  Instead, I point folks to this:  http://www.margaretweis.com/creative-directions/pipeline-news  and this resulting thread:  http://www.margaretweis.com/mwp_forum/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=2263  So, yes, Marvel Heroic Roleplaying (MHR) is a defunct license for Margaret Weis Publications (MWP).  It is a sad day for superhero gaming and we are due a moment of silence…

My favorite RPG, due mostly to setting over mechanics, is Jorune (a bit of product information can be found here:  http://www.waynesbooks.com/Jorune.html, while a good chunk of setting information can be found here:  http://sholarijames.com/).  Its an oddball, older game that sported some of the greatest RPG art (by the phenomenal movie concept artist, Miles Teves) around.  It was an ingenious, inspirational setting that plagues me to this day — and it has been out of print since its last incarnation by Chessex in the early ’90s.  My point with this is that a love of a system or a setting is not contingent on recent publications.

Despite MWP’s business actions, MHR lives on, and will continue to do so, so long as gamers everywhere make use of its fantastic, narratively-driven system.  MWP no longer holding the Marvel license does not mean we, as consumers, gamers, and ravenous fanboys, have to shelve those books and put away our dice.

In honor of the game’s early and untimely demise, I am reposting an early post I made concerning the game’s very unique economy and methods of working with and within it.  It is my very intention to eventually post Events, Characters, and Alternate Rules for Marvel at some future point in time.

MHR is a very unusual RPG in that, by the nature of the system, has a tendency to balance itself. A good portion of the power of the system comes in automatic narrative influence via an economy. In this case, that economy is Plot Points (PP) for players and Doom dice via the Doom Pool for Watchers. One of the means that this economy is acquired by either player or Watcher is the roll of a ‘1’ on any given die during an action. Following simple mathematic principles of probability, the larger a die, the smaller a chance to roll a ‘1’. Therefore, having several D10s (or even a D12 or two) might look really cool in your die pool but is minimizing your chance of getting that desired plot influence. No matter how many D12s you roll, if you still fail your reaction roll and have no PP to spend, you can’t trigger Invulnerability, and those typed words are left to mock you with their inaccessibility. Evil typed words.

Anyway, my point with that is to say that on the surface, what looks like an easy target could become very problematic or a real challenge could wind up with minimal plot influence and ability to show off their cool tricks.

There are, however, a few means of gauging general effectiveness. The more dice that can be put in to a pool, without using small dice (lots of opportunities to roll opportunities there), the greater (in general) your result will tend to be. Thus, while not always (and there have been, and likely will continue to be, many debates concerning this), two power sets offer a bit more versatility and baseline power than one.

Likewise, power sets that cover all bases are, obviously, vastly more effective than those that focus. If none of your villains have any means of mitigating telepathic assaults, then a player running Emma Frost will probably rake them over the coals. Similarly, if none of your heroes have any means of resisting mind control, then someone like Controller or Mentallo could prove far more potent than their datafile might indicate.

Additionally, take a look at SFX. Combinations, like Area Attack and Afflict-type SFX can be incredibly debilitating to an entire table of heroes. That isn’t to say avoid them, just be aware of them and try not to overuse them.

Also, Specialties have a great deal of influence, both in their general use and, more specifically, their creative use via Resources. While less present for villains than for heroes (although that is far from
always being the case), resources tend to be the “Bat-Shark Repelant” that solves a particularly challenging problem.

In the end, a lot of it will work out via play and feel and character selections will surprise in their performance in the hands of folks looking to have fun.

I do have a few recommendations, however.

First, to assist yourself in your scenario design, I would suggest putting some limit on available characters. If you intentionally include zero telepaths, then you don’t need to worry about your villains being a wet paper bag in the mental department, and it lets you focus on the brawl. Conversely, if you are worried that Mr. Fear will have little opposition, make sure your selection of heroes include one or two that stand a good chance of resisting his effects.Second, avoid stepping up villain affiliation dice if you want the fight to move along quickly. Affiliation dice are, really, the only dice a character is absolutely, unequivocally guarenteed to have. Thus, if you have one “boss” villain at 10/8/6, a few lieutenants at 8/6/4 and then a couple of mook/mobs (specialty characters, often at D8 or D6, and whose job it is, ultimately, to soak attacks and build the Doom Pool), you will, most likely, find it to be a perfectly adequate conflict.

Third, I touched on this one briefly above, but it really does warrant a bit of extrapolation: include minions and/or cannon-fodder. Not only are these excellent to allow heroes to showcase their arts of ass-kickery, but they serve to build the Doom Pool. Have them roll Distinctions at D4 whenever possible (and narratively appropriate, of course). Have them grandstand, threaten civillians, and break potted plants all to build that Doom Pool. You want that Doom Pool buffed so you can make use of your villain’s extra cool stuff. Things like Invulnerability cost Doom Pool dice for Watcher characters and nothing is sadder than being out of Doom early in a fight and watching the main bad guy pop like bubblegum. Likewise, don’t keep the Doom Pool high (unless you’re building to that 2D12 Scene Ender) as a powerful Doom Pool in Transition Scenes means it is less likely for the heroes to recover from stress…and really, you want them to be able to go into the next fight refreshed, fresh, and ready to dish out justice on a platter.In the end, though, there really is only one piece of advice that matters when running MHR (or any RPG, for that matter): play to the fun of everyone involved, not to the letters typed in a rulebook. Gauge your success not off the number of rounds in a fight, but the number of smiles around your table.

The Death of Captain America

The Death of Captain America (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

RIP MHRP

The Littlest Things

Day 175...One Ring

Day 175…One Ring (Photo credit: bandita)

There are some stories that have enduring and tremendous mass appeal, often bridging multiple media forms.  Some are based on real world (often tragic) events, most are fictional, guided and maintained by the imagination.  For the geeks of the world, a vast menu of appealing delicacies exist.  Whether science fiction like Star Wars, Star Trek, Firefly, or Doctor Who or fantasy like The Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones, we geeks have choices.  On this particular occasion, it is the tale of a Ring that grabbed my interest.

Two years ago, at GenCon 2011, a fascinating and exciting print release hit the market.  Spinning off the feverish fandom of The Lord of the Rings, while taking the brave (and so very appropriate) approach of the novel rather than the more modern media of film, was a Hobbit-oriented role-playing game publication called The One Ring:  Adventures Over the Edge of the Wild.

Published by Cubicle 7, and found here on the web:  http://www.cubicle7.co.uk/our-games/the-one-ring/, The One Ring took an intriguing approach to classic fantasy gaming.  Some of the staples were there to create the classic adventure:  warriors, rogues, monsters, treasure, and travel.  However, some expected staples were missing or altered significantly in their presentation.  This was not a deterrent, this was a boon.

Magic, as it had come to typically be expected in gaming circles, present as arcane auras, fiery blasts, and otherworldy summons, was altogether missing.  Certainly, some of the special powers that player heroes could acquire would be branded as magic, but the expected “norm” simply was not to be.  Similarly, while ancient tombs existed to be examined and plundered,  The One Ring’s gameplay — much like the literature from which it was derived — largely focused on the journey (and companionship) rather than the destination.  These differences set the game apart from other fantasy role-playing games instantly and became a source of pro- and con- debate for many admirers and fans.

The game, as should be apparent from my words above, interested me.  As always, never one to be satisfied with things as they are printed by another, I found things, “small things” that I felt should be added to, enhanced, and otherwise subjected to my creative stamp.  This came primarily as new talents, some additional conflict maneuvers, and a handful of weapons gathered together in a relatively brief document titled “Woven Shadows”.

So, with a modicum of pride, I showcase this Rules Addendum for The One Ring:  Woven Shadows Rules Addendum

The Beginning Is a Very Good Place to Start

I’ve been writing, both personally and professionally, for many years.  In all that time, I have written things both exciting and terrible, things over which I have been jubilent and things about which I have been embarassed.

The majority of my writings have long-since disappeared.  Some were written longhand and the paper upon which they were written vanished into some unknown corner of the cosmos (possibly where extra socks go and where cats hide remotes).  Some were written on computer files that faced the foolish doom of hard drive crashes whose data had never been backed up.  Some were simply too poor to allow their continued existence and were deleted, thrown away, or otherwise willed from existence.

screenpanel5The Chronicler Papers was a role-playing game campaign I ran approximately three years ago.  It occurred within the Dresden Files universe — a modern world where magic, faeries, wizards, and vampires are very, very real (Google it for more; the novel series, written by Jim Butcher, is one of my favorite story cycles and the role-playing game, published by Evil Hat, is FATE-derived and phenomenal) — and focuses on a group of Librarians who protect the world from “bibliomantic aberrations”.  Bibliomantic aberrations are monsters fabricated from the indomitable powers of collective, creative thought, that is created and driven by the very powers of belief.  As their name implies, these creatures were culled from various forms of media, with the oldest and most powerful finding their roots in print.  Classic heroes and villains from aged tales, such as Captain Hook, Peter Pan, and the Big Bad Wolf, could spring to life in this magical world and stalk the very real streets of our world.

The heroes of our game, the Librarians, hunted and re-bound these aberrations via mystical implements to the Book, a literary prison contained within the Athenaeum, the Librarians’ headquarters.  As hinted at by their base’s name, the Librarians stemmed their own power from the Greek goddess, Athena, and many aspects of her worship and faith had trickled down to form the foundation of the Athenaeum and the Librarian agents.

There is a great deal more to this than the very slight preview related above.  So, to read more, check out the actual play document itself located at the end of this post.  It is not a complete game and does require the FATE-powered game, Dresden Files RPG (mentioned above) to run.  You should be able to find that at any FLGS or directly via Evil Hat’s website, here:  http://www.evilhat.com/home/dresden-files-rpg/

These Chronicler Papers serve as an example of my writing and a creative endeavor of which I am quite proud.  Comments and opinions are desired, so please reply freely!

Chronicler Papers download link:  Chronicler Papers The Athenaeum