Thursday, 6 September 2018

Planescape Session 2: Leprecaun Murder and Dwarfnapping

Well, I guess we're due a session summary from the Planescape Campaign. Authorial credit to our fearless leader and DM:

Our group of tour-guide swindlers found themselves at the crushed portal of their dreams and had given up hope of finding the Thri-kreen delegation when suddenly two thri-kreens show up, talking to them with mental projections of hopes of turn the desert green.  Hope renewed, the team quickly got to work trying to find out something, and heard rumors that somebody had come through, three days prior, warning of a cataclysm and that everyone should get out.  After searching more about this person, they discovered that the unknown visitor had gone to the Dwarven mountain, where many souls go to find their last rest, and where the great iron of Ironridge is mined and forged into the best equipment of the outlands.

On their way to the mountain, the group found odd crystals that came out of the rift and which projected images of entrapment, masks, and feelings of freedom.

When the group reached the mountain, they found 3 dwarven guards (einherjar) who told them that since the rift exploded only the worthy may enter. After failing to solve some riddles, the group was sent back to Ironridge to find a lost petitioner.

In the market they found a gold coin that just kept rolling, even after being picked up and held onto.  They followed the coin to a green house with gold furniture, and also found a dwarf who was chasing the coin.  The house ended up being the home of a leprechaun and his hidden stash of gold.

In the leprechaun's house, they found surprise snakes, and while killing the snakes, they also damaged the floor enough to allow the crazed and highly focused dwarf to pry open the floor boards and find the pot of gold hidden in an inter-dimensional pocket.   The dwarf also turned out to be a petitioner, seeking the Dwarven afterlife, but cursed with greed and the rolling coin.

Confronted, the team killed the leprechaun and took the dwarf and gold pot back to the Dwarven mountain where they were granted access.

Sunday, 2 September 2018

Planescape Session 1: Hitching a Ride to Sigil

Well, we did it. We got our ragtag gang together and played some planescape!

Here is A's intro:

Some backstory before we do the first session.
You are already an adventuring group. Your group's main goal is to establish a network of tour guides for the Outlands, taking berks where they want to go, but relieving them of their jink along the way. To avoid a bad reputation, your group has been working to peel the berks into believing that you actually saved their lives, and their jink got lost in the tussle.   Some of you are in it for the Doom and Xoas, some see it as a form of Justice against the planers, and some of you see this as a mean to impart important life lessons that the sods wouldn't be able to learn on their own if they had lived 1,000 lives.
Recently you heard a rumour that a delegation from the Prime Material plane was headed to Sigil to get aid in resolving a never-ending war. Eager for the opportunity that this presents, you've decided to head to the Redmarch Inn in Ironridge to plan your trip, get supplies, and the quickly access Sigil through the famous Side Door to the Sigil, using a sprig of razorvine, and meet up with the delegation before they find other ways to travel the planes seeking the aid they need.

Learn some planescape slang here:  https://cold-blood.obsidianportal.com/wiki_pages/guide-to-planescape-cant

A recap of last night:
Hearing rumours of the Thri-kreen delegation from Athas, hoping to get the Society of Sensates to bring some greenery back to the desert planet and end the impossible war with the cannibalistic halflings (that's a mouth full!) our group of "tour guides" set off to Iron Ridge to use the door to Sigil.  But first they had to spend some time coming up with a plan, and the group decided that no plan is the best plan. (Long live Xoas!) 

The group went off to the market and bought some iron jewellery to wow the natives of Athas, as well as to harras a giant slug selling razorvine.  After finally deciding to just pay the 20 gold for the overpriced razorvine, our group encountered a rich merchant from the Minder's guild ( a group of bodyguards for hire) and had a long conversation about the theology of gold, and how it can help bring Cthulu.

During the conversation, a bright light and deafening roar suddenly appeared over the city of Ironridge and a giant rift opened up into the sky.  Out of the rift can a group of Astral seekers, undead spectres who kill and then posses the bodies of their victims to go out and kill some more.   Running for their lives the group was able to accidentally slay one astral seeker and then ran past a pair of majestic warriors who were fighting off hoards of seekers all on their own.

Finally reaching the Redmarch inn for a quick escape to Sigil, the group discovered a giant boulder-sized meteor, which had crushed the gate to Sigil.   <fade to black>  Till next time!

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Planescape is Weird



Well, A is planning to run a 5e Planescape campaign for us. He got five of us together last night to create characters. One of the new players in our group summed up that session as follows:

So my character rocks. I told my wife last night yeah so im half devil spawn that plays a flute and molts skin and believes in reincarnation. Theres a man with a fish head who gets powers from his god chatulu. Theres a horse with a womans upper torso and ram horns who as a monk partcularly finds peace of mind and meditates in the middle of battle and chaos. Then there is a cubic shaped fighting macine thats animated and loves to slash his flesh and others and watch the decay . Oh then there is just a plain old elvish wizard who aspires to cast fireballs for breakfast lunch and dinner and she was like gaping in shock. Id have to say its an ecclectic party.

It is a rather rag-tag bunch. I think there is something about the Planescape setting that really brings out the gonzo in people.

As for my character, I am the fish-headed lad:

Sardinius is a Kuo Toa agent living in Sigil. As a particularly talented young acolyte among his race, he was selected to dwell amidst the planar nexus to help further the ultimate mission to return Great Cthulhu to the Prime Material Plane. Since the performance of the great ritual that sent him to Sigil, he is occasionally called upon by the Kuo Toa clergy to perform minor tasks. Most of the time, however, he is left to fend for himself. He sustains himself by working for the Xaositects, acting as a guide for visiting Chaotic Primers. He occasionally double-crosses them for the loot. He has become cynical with the passage of time and his long absence from the city under the waves, but deep down he is still a true believer. He would love an excuse to visit the elemental plane of water.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

R. A. Salvatore and the Time Machine

My father brought me a box of my old books a few years back and there were a number of Salvatore titles therein. I've mentioned before on this blog that R. A. Salvatore was my favorite author towards the end of high school. I started working my way through his Cleric's Quintet this year and I just finished reading the second book, In Sylvan Shadows. I have two observations:

First off, this is really good YA fiction. Oh the DnD is about as Vanilla as it gets, but the characters, their struggles, and their relationships are so familiar, so relate-able for the book's target demographic of nerdy teenage boys. As an aspiring computer-Wizard, I related quite a bit with Cadderly, a Cleric-scholar who finds himself in dangerous adventures he doubts he can handle, as I navigated the Orc-infested woods of the Southern Californian public school system. Cadderly's run-ins with dangerous villains and attractive women who could definitely lick him in a fight, rang quite true to the experiences of my teenage self.

Secondly, I realized that I am utterly incapable read these books objectively. The Drizzt and other Salvatore books I read meant quite a lot to me during that formative period of my life, and re-reading them brings on powerful feelings of nostalgia and even loss. Since 1996-1998 were still the early days of the Internet, there is very little recorded from that period of my life, and even my school Yearbooks were misplaced when my parents split up in the early 2000's. As such, I'm going to let the rest of this post be a memorial to all that I loved during my High School years but that was lost to the tides of time:

I could make this whole post about my Mother, may her memory be a blessing. About how she didn't really get her nerdy, reclusive child, but she loved me anyway... But instead I'm going to focus on school, since anyway adolescence is that time when we tend to create distance ourselves from our parents and focus on the world outside of the family.

Woodbridge High
As for school, let's talk about Art Class. I started taking Mrs. Posvar's art class in High School in Freshman year and I continued taking it most semesters more or less until graduation, probably 5 or 6 semesters out of 8 in total. That class was the high point of my day, and I still have a few paintings and drawings from that period.

I made a friend, that first year, in gym class of all places. Tom Speed and I formed a bond over a common goal: surviving our mandatory Physical Education requirement, with it's assortment of Gorillas, Spastics, and Bizarro Gym Teachers. And we did survived, somehow--but then his parents moved away at the end of the year. To Texas or Arizona or some other barren wilderness, I don't remember.

I joined an Anime Club early on in my High School career. Twice a week during lunch hour, the Foreign Animation club would congregate to watch the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Japanese Ani-Manga. Whatever Rob, our manga-guru, was able to get that week. This wasn't such a social venue for me, but I loved it, and felt like I was getting away with something wicked-watching cartoons during school time!

My third year of High School, my brother got me into Magic: the Gathering. I bought a bunch of cards and would play with the Magic Club during lunch breaks when there was no Anime to be seen. I was really bad at Magic--I couldn't win a game to save my life, but I enjoyed the hobby quite a bit for a while. But then, just as I was just starting to suspect that I would never get good at this bloody card game, I got sucked in to The Loft...

The Loft

The Loft Club were half a dozen guys who would eat lunch together on the rear balcony("The Loft") of the science building, overlooking the football field(and in close proximity to the Magic Club and Foreign Animation Club). Tony, Jesse, Byron and Sam were all Seniors. There were a couple Sophomores who joined late in the year, a guy and a girl, whose names escape me after all these years, I'm sorry to say. I was the odd-man-out as the only Junior in the group. Well, it all started when one of these guys(maybe Sam?) invited me to come sit with them one lunch-period.  By the end of lunch, I was hooked!

These dudes were into nerdy stuff like computers, and Anime, and Dnd, but they were cool and confident and knew what they wanted out of life and lunchtime was always accompanied with an interesting conversation. Tony was the coolest since he was British(from Leeds) and his favorite author was R. A. Salvatore, so I naturally visited Barnes and Noble and got every Salvatore book I could find. Jesse was already a living legend in A. P. Computer Science since he had taken the course his Junior year and left an actual working physics game(written in Pascal) as a legacy for future students to play. Sam and Byron were a bit more approachable and we developed friendships outside of the Loft and kept getting together now and again in subsequent years. In any case, the Loft quickly became an important venue for me. It was the first place in this massive school of nearly 2000 students(probably in my entire K-12 education) where I felt truly ok with who I was, where I was accepted and understood by other like-minded souls. The Loft was a big deal for me, even if that period only lasted half a year or so.

Fourth year was hard, because the older Loft guys had graduated and I was left with the two third-years to try and keep the glory alive. We kept meeting for lunch, first in the Loft itself, then later in a different location, but it was never quite the same.

a Model Gundam
But, fourth year I made another friend, a fellow Anime fan, a Junior, Garret Keta. Garret lived with his mother really close to school, like literally a block away in a neighborhood of tiny two-bedroom condos. He was 1/4 Japanese and his room was mostly full of model Gundams he had painstakingly build. He was a quiet, smart, sweet kid and we had a lot of fun hanging out together, playing computer games, and talking about whatever adolescent boys talk about. I'm trying, for the life of me, to remember if he had a little sister. Maybe. I can't remember- 1998 was a long time ago.

Well, like I said, we had a lot of fun hanging out together, but there was a shadow hanging over that house. Garret was sick. And though we never discussed it much, I got the distinct impression that it was the kind of sick you don't get better from. I think he only had a few years to live. We avoided the topic-what's the point of dwelling on that sort of thing. But there was a gloom in that house, a Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go sort of gloom, that manifested in Garret's occasional silences, his Mom's worried glances, his Dad's high-strung nerves during his frequent visits.

Garret and I lost touch when I moved-off to college. I tried dropping by once, but they didn't live there anymore. I've tried googling him, searching for him on Facebook, but to no avail. He probably died years ago. A nerdy kid like that would definitely have had an Internet presence, some massive website dedicated to Gundam models and other highly-specific Anime fandoms. Maybe he would have gotten into Warhammer 40K, he would probably have discovered it at some point. It's his sort of thing: lot's of minis to meticulously collect and paint and Conventions to attend in LA or San Diego. Heck, he'd probably be running his own Convention by now.

It just bothers me that I google his name and nothing comes up, not a thing. It's as if my friend never existed, like he's been swallowed-up by Time itself.

Well, now, this post will come up, with it's short record of who he was and why he mattered to me.

Anyway, that's the stuff that comes to mind when I read old Salvatore books. I guess reading really is a subjective experience. If you give In Sylvan Shadows to someone to read, they probably won't be struck by melancholy reflections on their long-lost High School days. They'll be like "Yeah! Ents vs. Goblins!" or else "Ugh, another Tolkien Pastiche!" But for me, this book is a Time Machine.

Monday, 4 June 2018

SW2020 Session 10: A Plan Comes Together


The Lineup
  • Art- Ithorian Force user, tech Rock gardener, healing(Avi)
  • Lucky- a Gran with many natural talents, good at dodging, explosives, stock market, interstellar navigation, leadership, pharmaceuticals(Lauren)
  • Jonah- a space fighter pilot with a revolver from some primitive planet. Han Solo meets Dirty Harry(Michael)

Last session left the party with a couple wounded Mandelorian Bounty Hunters and their craft. This session, Art used his force healing to patch them up and send them on their way with a stern warning not to mess with his crew again.

The party jumped to Squab System and ignored a small fighter craft heading down to the planet. They connected with a large shipping company. They hired a Heavy Freighter to transport several hundred thousand Insectoid Aliens from Yoberra to Hinda system in a week's time. Art and Lucky visited the office to make a 6000 credit down payment on the 20000 fee.

On the way, Art sensed a disturbance in the force. The two encountered two force sensitives asking about the First Order and a Lambda shuttle. They spoke to these two, but then attempted to mislead them and depart. But when they got back from the transport offices, the two were waiting for them.

The two turned out to be Jedi, Bora and Leila. They agreed to help the party with their plan to use the Yoberra as a super-weapon against the First Order. The party headed off to Yoberra while the Jedi agreed to scout out the First Order Cruiser's movements. They agreed to meet in a week's time when the transport would be ready.

The Space Ball jumped straight to Yoberra, only to find two ex-Imperial corvettes circling the planet. The party attempted to impersonate a university craft and order the corvettes away, but a fighter was dispatched to hush them up. When the heavily armed shuttle chased it away, the corvettes came in for the kill, but by then the party was landing, hoping to find help with the Yoberrans. They landed in the same spot as the previous session and waited to be drawn into the Yoberran tunnel system, as he Corvettes loomed closer...

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Pledge of Security

The Pledge of Security is an Arquitens-class light cruiser. It is the flagship of the Skor IV, the Squib home world. It's primary mission is planetary defense, however it may occasionally be called upon to protect Squib interests elsewhere in the system.



It has a crew of 750 and typically carries:
Pledge of Security
  • 3 X-Wing T70
  • 2 Y-Wings
  • 2 Shuttlecraft
  • For dangerous missions, it may be escorted by two D5-Mantis Patrol Craft

The ship's stats are as follows:
  • Speed: 30MGLT
  • Hyperdrive: 3(10)
  • Hull: 2100RU
  • Shields: 2500SBD
Armaments:
  • Turbolasers: 8
  • Heavy Laser: 16
  • Proton-Torpedo Launchers: 2
  • Concussion Missile Launchers: 2

Captain Kurdeebledop

Captain Kurdeebledop is a sly tactician of the traditional school and a subtle leader.  His frail physical stature is made up for by a willingness and ability to outmaneuver his enemies, his allies, and even his fellow officers. He has spent years patrolling the Squib trade network, but would love to try his meddle in a major military conflict.

Stats:

  • Ref: 6
  • Int: 9
  • Body: 1
  • Tech: 6
  • Cool: 7
  • Emp: 6
  • Force: 0
Skills:
  • Oratory: 4
  • Leadership: 6
  • Social: 6
  • Education & Gen. Knowlege: 7
  • Navigation(Interstellar): 7
  • Hyperdrive Tech: 3
  • Pilot(Starship): 9
  • Fencing: 7
  • Dance: 8

Monday, 23 April 2018

On Sandbox Settings

One of the reasons it's been so easy to run a Star Wars Open Sandbox game is that there is so much material available on the Star Wars Universe. This is thanks to the Expanded Universe(now called Legends).

Since the first film was released in 1977, LucasFilm has produced numerous films, novels,  comics, books, computer games, and role playing games, with the requirement that the setting for these works be internally consistent. The result of this coordinated, multi-decade project is a fictional world comprising an entire galaxy of inhabited worlds, it's millennia-long history, and detailed descriptions of significant personages and technology. This provides a wealth of material for contemporary creators to build off of.

This is important for running a sandbox game pen and paper RPG. In a sandbox RPG, the Game Master has no idea what is going to happen in a session. The players' choices during a given session are ultimately what determines the direction of the action. The GM's job is to respond to those player choices in a way that is consistent with the game world, as well as just generally bringing the world to life for the players. As such, the GM needs a really strong grasp of the game world, it's current events, and each NPC's motivations. Being able to build off a deeply developed world, be it real or imaginary, helps the DM bring his own game world to life.

My WWII sandbox game All Zombies: Polish Resistance, had a similar benefit since there is tons of information about World War II Europe. Wikipedia and Google Maps provided most of the background for the game world and as GM I just had to choose a specific location, create NPCs, stat up weapons, and come up with the specifics of local events.

The process for a Star Wars game has been remarkably similar. I've gotten 90% of the background material from Wookiepedia, plus some of the local details from Tramp Freighters.

But recently I got stuck. The party has been looking to acquire a large merchant freighter, and while Star Wars wiki has articles on a number of them, these articles have minimal content and no gameable stats. This makes sense since the various official Star Wars games generally have you interacting with military ships, not boring old freighters.  As GM I could just make up some quick and dirty ship stats, but I'd rather use something with a bit more basis.

So I was feeling pretty stuck until I stumbled upon this list of complete stats for Star Wars Heavy Freighters.

What is this wonderful site, you may ask? It is a free, community-driven Star Wars MMORP with player-created content. That's right, where the Expanded Universe leaves off, StarWarsCombine picks up in order to provide a fully gameable Galaxy Far Far Away. Needless to say, this is a great resource for running a Star Wars Sandbox. In fact, I've already been using their Nav Computer tool for calculating hyperspace distances, without realizing what SWCombine was.

Needless to say, I'll be visiting the Combine again in the future for high quality Star Wars game content.