Learning to Fly

At the very beginning of December last year, the superhero MMOing community lost a home.  The much loved City of Heroes ceased to be.  The doors were closed and an eight year old world continued to exist in memory alone.

This was an upsetting occurrence for many people.  Certainly, it was a “game”, but for many of its fans, City of Heroes (as well as its wicked counterpart, City of Villains, and their linking intermediary, City of Rogues) was a virtual community.  Relationships, quite real and intense for some (several marriages stemmed from meetings through the game), had been formed out of the community that this environment provided.  Naturally, when those doors were shut, there were emotions of frustration, anger, and disappointment.

WE CAN NOW REJOYCE!

YokoTexture-Steel

City of Heroes is back…sort of.  Its “spiritual successor”, City of Titans is coming to life.  Created by fans and followers during the final breaths of the original, City of Titans (it wasn’t always called that) came into existence.  Over the past year, these volunteers (yes, they work around their own day jobs — these people are incredibly dedicated and, clearly, this project is a labor of very real love) have put forth their talents and efforts to bring a new “City” to light.  Collectively, they call themselves “Missing Worlds Media”, and through their, and the other thousands of dedicated fans of the game and genre, hard work we have seen a new Kickstarter project bound to life, full of vigor, want, and passion.

Having loved capes and tights for as long as my eyes and imagination functioned, something enabling me to play a cloud-soaring superhero is a gift I treasure.  Naturally, I will be supporting this endeavor.  I urge you to go check these folks out.  Like any Kickstarter project, there are risks involved, but nothing will be created by passive observation.

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/missingworldsmedia/the-phoenix-project-city-of-titans

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We Went…WHERE?!

nexus-stvii

Discovering and uncovering other dimensions, by purposeful experiment or accidental stumbling, is another Star Trek staple.  Whether alternate universes (such as the much-loved Mirror Universe), parallel existences (like fluidic space, home of Species 8472), or smaller “pocket” dimensions (ala the Nexus from “Generations”), these “other worlds” are a common source of mystery and adventure for the crew of any Starfleet vessel.  It was only natural, then, that we eventually get to one of our own.

This episode (actually an intentional two-parter) did exactly that.

Like many others, I was fascinated by the Borg.  I had found, however, that what history was known of them, either through speculation or actual reveal, was left wanting, and I wanted something different.  That is one of the beautiful aspects of tabletop roleplaying — you can explore alternatives, options, and different directions at a whim.  In this particular case, I wanted to explore the Borg’s ancestors, so to speak, and that’s what this episode was all about.

From a game mastering and adventure writing standpoint, I was entering a phase of improvisation with my group, hence the shorter page count on this episode than others.  Improvisation is something that exists in roleplaying games no matter what, but there are varying degrees to its implementation.  For this two-part episode I went much further to the “little prep” side of the spectrum, and for what I had in mind, it worked well.  The group got to really explore this “other where”, and I was able to react immediately to the emotional cues my players sent.

It worked well.  In fact, I seem to recall a series of “No!”s when I declared, “To Be Continued…”

Episode 14 Space Between the Stars pt 1

They’re Coming To Get You, Uhura

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

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

Of the many fantastic things about Star Trek, it is a license where anything can happen.  Episodes can be intense, they can be light-hearted, they can examine social issues, they can be straight-up space shootouts, they can be comedies, they can be horrific.  This diversity lends itself very well to the roleplaying table, affording creative GMs and players alike the opportunity to tell stories as they want, not those confined to a handful of genres.

Due to the general isolation involved in Star Trek (despite how populous the galaxy happens to be), horror is a common element.  Whether this is a stalking, “misunderstood” salt vampire, a vampiric, sentient cloud, or a microorganism that devolves its host to primal beasts, horror is a common theme throughout Star Trek.

So it was so for my game.  In this case, I had always wanted to see zombies in Star Trek beyond the Borg.  The Borg were an obvious zombie analogy, and one done so well they became fan favorites, whose appearance spanned multiple series and spawned a movie in which they starred.  But they needn’t be the only Star Trek zombie, so I put my hand to another one.

And the Genesis Expanse provided ample means and grounds with which to plant the seeds of my Star Trek zombies, as this week’s episode reveals.  So, without further delay, I happily present the latest Star Trek episode:

Episode 13 Garden of Eden

Post GenCon 2013 Report

Gen Con

Gen Con (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

GenCon has come and gone.

For me, at least, it was a great time where I got to hang out and game with friends, despite having a horrific head cold.  It was a crowded con, GenCon is already reporting breaking numerous attendance records — and you could tell.

Unfortunately, my illness (and, from which, my daughter was just recovering) activities were minimal, but there is always next year!  The dealer hall (our favorite feature) was as filled with innovative and intriguing ideas as ever.  The big wins for us this year:  getting to see our “extended family” at Exile Games (always a tremendous highlight), all things Numenera, a good friend of ours getting “devoured” by a ten-foot tall balloon Cthulhu, and getting to game with my best friends (sans one who was unable to make the con this year) in our hotel room.  Game of choice this year:  Lacuna.

The illness kept us from a great many activities we had hoped to do:  Walk of the Dead dance on Saturday night, midnight movie on Friday night, Exile game marathon, and the Numenera launch party, to name a few.

There were a few things I was not too pleased about at this year’s GenCon.  Chief amongst them:  Fantasy Flight Games’ booth access.  Without going in to great detail, let’s just say that standing in a 20-45 minute line just to wander through your booth is a huge turn-off.  They have great products, I am (mostly) a fan of the new Star Wars RPG line, but come on, there has got to be a more consumer-friendly method of allowing access (just for browsers) to your booth.

Anyway, you all will see posts begin to spring up here concerning Numenera when the Star Trek episode posts come to a close, so keep your eyes peeled for those.  And now we go in to planning mode for next year’s “Best Four Days in Gaming!”

Till then, roll on…

GenCon 2013 — Are You Ready?!?

Well, its finally on us.  After a little over a year of waiting, the big geek con is back in Indy!

I don’t know about you, but I am pretty psyched.  Not only is this a break from work (and I love my work, but I still need to get away from it every now and then), but its a chance to hang out with some very dear friends, while wandering around the coolest, largest game store in the world.

There are so many new releases each year that I go in wide-eyed and spend way too much money.  But I can’t help myself; its an opportunity to support small publishing companies, independent artists, and local restaurants.  Its like nerd charity, and I love every minute of it!

If you are going, I hope you are well-prepared, coming equipped with everything you need.  If you aren’t going and you wanted to, I am sorry…maybe next year.

Otherwise, see you at the Con!

Tying Things Together

English: Logo from the television program Star...

English: Logo from the television program Star Trek: TOS (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The campaign, at least if you have been following what’s been presented of the one I ran, has been building for a while.  In fact, we’re now hitting our twelfth episode.  Most of the episodes took about two sessions, so we’ve been playing for a while.

During that time, many elements that make traditional Star Trek stories Star Trek have come to pass in our own tales.  There have been exciting discoveries, challenging social situations, villains to thwart and out-maneuver, and downright alien moments.  There has also been plenty of character development, interaction — both internal (with other PCs) and external (with NPCs), and possibly a change or two in the cast.  Space can be a dangerous, deadly place.

Few things in tabletop roleplaying games validate play experience like bringing them up (or better making them a central aspect) in an evening’s adventure or episode.  The same can also be said, when cementing verisimilitude, about consistency amongst locations and characters.  This is especially true if you happen to bring back an escaped foe.

This episode is all about exactly those two elements, and because of that, it took extra care, both in preparation and in execution.

In its typed format, it is one of our shorter pieces with slim references to game mechanics.  This is intentional.  At this point in the campaign, the mechanics became second nature to myself and the players, and should likely be there for you.  Determining difficulties of tasks and results of foe actions should, at this point, be nearly rote.

Because of the scant mechanics, however, the material is rich in story.  This was a key episode in the campaign — it highlighted a traumatic change a PC had recently undergone (in this case, it was as Trill junior science officer who had been infected by Borg nanites and where the Trill symbiote and the Borg nanites had come to something of a controlling “stalemate”, enabling the PC to play a Borged Trill).  At the same time, we re-introduced an old foe that had caused the PCs a great deal of misery.  Simultaneously, while bringing back this old foe, we also took a sidelong look at the “mega-story arc” that had been running through the entire campaign.

This was an episode of some revelations, but of greater questions.  It was an episode that moved the story forward, both for the group and for a specific PC.

Now, because of that, I had to do some minor re-writing to make it as “generic” as possible.  In the end, this was not entirely possible.  For the episode to truly work, it almost requires a Borg-infected PC.  It is my hope, however, that for those games that have not, do not, or will not go in that direction then perhaps the framework provided can inspire in other ways.

Regardless…Episode 12 Mudd In Your Eye

In Space, No One Can Hear You Scream…

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

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

Sure, its may be the tagline for Aliens, but horror has long been a component of any sci-fi, including Star Trek.  Granted, slasher-horror is rarely the subject, but psychological horror, and even alien/mutant horrors are not unheard of in the Trek universe.  Salt vampires, blood-sucking clouds, insanity-inducing parasites, zombie-like assimilating cyborgs, and many more have plagued and terrified crew members of Federation starships in nearly every iteration of Star Trek.

We’ve already had a few of these crop up in our series, and horror is a genre I enjoy, so it was inevitable that it would pop up again, and this time as a central focal point.

The majority of Star Trek episodes also tend to highlight a particular crew member or two, and this one is designed to focus on empathic/telepathic crew members.  Of course, every other crew member will have things to contribute and accomplish; this isn’t a one-person show!

We also maintain the season’s sense of discovery (in this case, the horror of the unknown versus the thrill of the unknown) and again showcase the unpredictable effects the Genesis Event had on this entire region of space.

For my group, this was a tense episode with potent moments of terror (as much as can be induced at a well-lit gaming table) and personal touches.  In many ways, we continue the trend discussed in our last post about making things personal.  Of course, this also serves to heighten the horror.

This was also a good episode to highlight that, sometimes, “victory” can be as simple as surviving.

Episode 11 Q is for Quarentine