Saturday, August 25, 2012

Return To Mars

Last night's game was a return to Savage Worlds: Space 1889.  The characters included  Logan (adventurer/wanderer), Scroupe (playboy/swordsman), Upthegrove (linguist), Boothe (assassin), and Stein (pronounced "steen" not "stine", and he was a scientist/technician). 

To recap: the group works for the Explorers Society in London investigating antiquities by obtaining and studying the ancient artifacts of past civilizations on Earth & Mars.  We were initially gathered to obtain an item found in Libya.  However, on arriving at the Foreign Legion outpost where the item and discoverer was last known to be, we found the place overrun with zombie Legionnaires and under attack from a Bedouin group.  We managed to defeat both the Bedouins and the zombies, only to discover that the item had been taken by a husband & wife team.  The clues pointed us back to London, so we gathered as much information as possible and returned home.  Once there, we kept just missing the husband & wife team at almost every turn.  However, we did learn that they were part of a group with the initials HC and were unscrupulous about gathering whatever they felt they needed.  We ended with knowledge that they were on their way to Mars in a large liner.  We used our connections to hire a faster, smaller ethership to get there ahead of them.

Last night's game:   So, in our investigations, we managed to get the luggage of the couple as well as learn about a connection between HC (which stood for Honorus something in Latin....whatever, Logan's illiterate) and a group called The Brotherhood.  The Brotherhood is a Martian organization working to rid the planet of the invading Earthlings.  Thus, with this little bit of information and no real clear directive, we hopped on the etherflyer and set off for Syrtis Major with all our companions (including three characters of players who were unable to play because of familial or work conflicts).  Also, Boothe observed the captain receiving a courier's pouch to take to Mars just before departed as well as lots of little "hidey holes" in various locations on the ship.  We were also strongly encouraged to take two NPC's, Miss Winters (an American government agent) and Miss Bottoms (the daughter of our supervisory professor and boss).  Because of the tight quarters, everyone had to pair up into the small staterooms and one had to go sleep with the crew.

The trip to Mars takes at least 30 days for a fast ship and longer for a slower ship (like the liner).  This was an arbitrary GM decision since Stan couldn't find the travel times in a quick scan through the Space 1889 book.  He figured Marshall (Upthegrove's player) would correct him if he was wrong, but Marshall said "whatever you say, works for me".  He also decided that the ether between the worlds was breathable which made the ships similar to Spelljammer ships in that there was a deck on top (like a real ship) where people could gather to feel less claustrophobic underdecks.  We did have a short discussion about the differences between "the aether" and "ether".  I pointed out that the proper term for the material allegedly filling in space is "aether" and somewhere I have an Electricity and Magnetism book from 1896 which had a short description of how the aether affected or was affected by electricity, magnetism, and light. 

So,we (as players) all figured some of our characters would not be able to stay out of trouble for 30 days in the close confines of the small ship.  So, rather than fast forwarding to Mars, we played out some of our silliness in space.  First instance, about halfway through the trip to Mars, Scroupe is up late on deck.  Miss Winters comes up on deck angry.  A short discussion with the application of a "nightcap", Scroupe hoped to have a romantic interlude with Miss Winters.  However, he learns that both Miss Winters and Miss Bottoms are attracted to the wild nature of Logan.  Knowing Logan cannot keep anything secret (he has Big Mouth as a Hindrance), he informs Logan the next day about the women's interest the next morning over breakfast before the women arrive.  Thus, after breakfast, Bottoms walks by Logan and drops her handkerchief.  He picks it up and follows her to the railing.  "You dropped this and we both know what that means", he leers at her.  A little bit of small talk led him to say, "let's find a bottle of champagne and a dark corner to get to know each other better.  Maybe even Biblically..."  She responded with "If you can find champagne and the dark corner, we can determine the rest."  Bottoms goes downstairs and Logan beelines to the captain to find some champagne. 

During the discussion, the captain becomes quite upset and refuses to help.  Logan however determines where the champagne is and won't take no for an answer.  Scroupe steps in and challenges the captain to a duel.  While they argued, Logan goes downstairs, finds Bottoms, takes her to the captain's quarters, locks & bars the door.  When the captain comes down to get his dueling saber, he finds the door locked and barred.  "Go away!  You can get back in in 20 minutes!" Logan hollers back through the door.  The captain is livid, returns upstairs, duels with Scroupe to first blood.  Captain wins.  (Here's the flaw with SW.  Combat is counter-intuitive in some ways if you're used to the simple streamlined system of D&D.  The rules make it sound like it should be cinematic, but I find it difficult to follow with target numbers, raises, exploding dice, parries, and conditions mixed with damage.)  Logan leaves with Bottoms after the duel is over.  Winters threatens to shoot Logan because of jealous anger.  Logan spends the next two weeks attempting to push Winters into Scroupe's embrace. 

Second Encounter: as we enter orbit around Mars, we are attacked by "pirates" looking to steal the courier's pouch.  In the first week of the trip, Boothe had snuck into the captain's quarters, taken the pouch, rifled through it, and stole a few government documents.  Scroupe tells the pirate captain that the items he's looking for are not there.  The captain is again surprised by our lack of regard for laws and boundaries and the pirate captain is initially confused by the items' disappearance.  At this point, Logan shoots the pirate captain and kills him.  The group opens fire on the pirates in the hallway, and kill a couple more.  As we move upstairs, the pirates open fire on us and end up severely wounding Scroupe.  Winters, Boothe, and Stein lay a barrage of fire into the pirate vessel and incapacitate or frighten many of the pirates away.  Upthegrove attempts to patch up Scroupe.  The captain grabs the helm and does a maneuver to pull away from the pirates.  Boothe and Stein throw overboard several small kegs of black powder which had been placed about the aether engine.

We ended at that critical point, wondering if we could land without crashing or if we could survive a crash which may be coming.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Last Night's GURPS Attempt

I wonder if I'm going through a "mid-life crisis" or something.  I'm more interested in reading about games and gaming than I am in reading a novel, or in getting work done around the house.  I'd rather sit and visit with friends than work on what used to hold my interest.  Or maybe I'm just stressed and need a break.  I don't know.

I do know that I had a good time at the game, though we didn't get much playing done (much to our GM's chagrin).  We had a lot of fun being silly, talking, digressing, and eating.  We attempted to play a version of Fallout using the GURPS Lite rules.  However, I don't really know anything about Fallout so I needed an introduction to the setting.  Three sentences in, I said "Oh, okay.  It's basically Gamma World merged with Paranoia.  Got it."  A not serious post-apocalyptic setting with the huge potential for puns, bad jokes, and mayhem.  The GM had prepped 6 PCs to save time on rolling up characters, which is good because it's some odd point buy system.  (Too complex, even for "lite" rules for my taste.)  We were a group of folks who were tasked with finding some machine parts needed to keep something else running.  This meant going "Outside" and hunting through the ruins of civilization.  We had a practice combat against 6 creatures which I kept calling orcs.  Then we went into a ruined city and had to deal with a 5' long radioactive cockroach, which exploded when his hp dropped below 0.  At that point we headed toward two buildings which looked relatively intact; a residence and a "pub ic s hool".  And we stopped there because we had gotten a late start (almost 8pm) and two folks had rough weeks (literally nodding off in combat). 

It looked like an interesting if a bit overly complex system.  I liked the setting and look forward to playing in it more.  The key part of the system is trying to roll low on 3d6, which took some getting used to.

Side note:  Before everyone arrived, we had some discussion about where we were in this game.  This is the Sky Pirates group, or the Pathfinder group, depending on how you have categorized us.  We had essentially achieved a major plot goal and now we're a little lost.  Where do we go from here?  We had talked about using the ship to attack the groups which had enslaved our townsfolk, friends, and families.  However, in real time, that is so far removed from our starting point that it doesn't motivate us anymore.  We could just become pirates of the skies, but our characters are inherently lazy.  In fact, one of the gang of 3 pointed out that the Veggie Tales' Pirates Who Don't Do Anything song could be our theme song.  And we (the players) need to find a common goal because the DM cannot force one upon us.  We're too contrary for that.

In the midst of this discussion, one of the group pointed out that all we really enjoyed doing is being handed a situation and then we break it.  We enjoy finding the paths through left field, which may or may not lead to the goal handed to us, as well as kicking any fire ant mounds on the way.  We refuse to take any game seriously because "it's just a game" and because we need to vent after our fortnight of stress since the last game.  So, we're both very easy and very difficult to GM.  We can be led with a simple "here's something to break" clue but we cannot be led with "this must occur for the story to go on".

Now that I've typed this out, I'm not sure what the answer is.  A sandbox which is dynamic is my best guess, with lots of whimsy.  Minimal  rules.  Practically any setting.  And God help the GM, because he's going to need it.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Not a Game Report

Last week I was in Philadelphia for a week long workshop on producing planetarium shows using Starry Night as well as Photoshop, Audacity, and various video editors.  We were treated to two major announcements from Spitz, Inc. in relation to the ever-growing digital planetarium field.  The bigger of the two announcements was a demonstration of a new program that will work in tandem with Starry Night, called The Layered Earth.  It had a very new interface which looked an awful lot like a Star Trek: Next Generation phazer.  The device projected a spot on the dome which allowed you to spin the large Earth or to point toward the edge of the dome (which popped up menus) and choose a new overlay.  The overlays could show earthquake epicenters or political areas or geographic features or demographics or whatever.  It was amazing....and it will be a standard part of any new planetarium order. 

The second announcement informed us of a new partnership with Spitz and a company named ChromaKey which makes lights for the planetarium (the lights to brighten the room).  ChromaKey is programmable bundles of LEDs which allow for quite a colorful show on the dome.  I can't wait until we place our upgrade order in a few years.

So, as you can see I was focused on this instead of gaming.  I did wonder how I could use some of the features in a game...or how to run a game in the planetarium.   Maybe I need to work on that aspect for a special game some day......

Sunday, August 5, 2012

A Less Fun than Normal Evening

There was supposed to be a game on Friday.  Most of the 7 of us had answered in the affirmative in the email roll call sent out on Tuesday.   However, when the usual meeting time rolled one showed.  Half an hour passes and one shows up.  One who is usually one the of the last to show up because of traffic and work.  About 15 minutes after that, the DM shows up just as our Tennessee player chimes in on Google+.  So, it's almost an hour past the usual gathering time in which we usually try to get ready to actually play, and we're missing our two fighters, our ranger, and our cleric player.  What is there is the sorceror, the rogue (me), and the psionicist...none of whom like to lead.

We putz around because the two fighter players indicated that they might be late; one due to a garage sale he's hosting and the other due to a training session.  The ranger we knew would not be present because he was involved in a wedding out of state.  News arrives to the DM that the cleric will not be present because of personal issues at home.  Great....

So we go ahead and start, sort of.  In the last session, the base camp had been attacked by drakes and at least 90% of those present had been injured or killed.  The only recourse for us is to reincarnate the necessary dead, but only two NPCs can cast the spell for a total of 5 times per day.  The DM hands us a list of the dead and says, "write out the order of who all you're planning on bringing back".  We just look at him and then at each other.  He might as well as asked us whether we wanted round ice cubes or square ones in a drink.  We just don't care....not one jot.  So, we reincarnate our boss first.  He comes back as a faerie dragon.  Then we dump the decision on him, make a list of the important ones to bring back because we couldn't care less.  And, he does...sort of.

It was the most boring thing I have had to do in a game.  Ugh....I really don't care, didn't care, and not sure if I ever could care.  We finally set up enough of a plan that the DM's happy.  Everything works okay for the first 6 days; in that, we get the essential NPCs up (though a few are useless animals) and the lizardfolk shaman (who is helping) gets a batch of his back.  On Day 7, he has 4 failed reincarnates. 

Alarm bells in my head.  Something's wrong....but this is also so boring that I can't care enough to make myself try to solve it.  Mistake, big mistake.  That night, we're attacked by 8 plague zombie lizardfolk children (it's as wrong as it sounds) and 4 lizardfolk skeletal warriors.  Remember, no cleric present and no fighters.  In the first round of combat, the finesse fighter's player shows up.  He was able to get away.  It helps, but not a lot.  And we get a boring PF fight, that goes on for 9 rounds of game time and 2 hours of real time.  Yep, 2 hours because there are 12 monsters and 6 NPC's that the DM runs in the same combat with us.  Ugh....

We figure out that something's tampered with the bodies of some of the lizardfolk undead.  We load up the dead that might still have use and aren't tainted as well as all the living onto the boat.  It's ready to fly.  We start to lift off with the goal of getting to the castle to loot it of the ballistae and we stop the game there.  There is some RP and possibly more combat before we can truly be underway.

I don't know when we'll be all together again though.  School's starting soon and two of us have kids who are involved with high school football in some way.  We'll see.