Monday 16 December 2013

RPG Software and Semi-Structured Data

My work has me dealing with a lot of data. Customers send us data and we use our software systems to help us analyse it. Now there are two types of data customers send us: Structured Data which is easy to input into our software systems, and Semi-Structured Data, which requires some messy work on our part to convert it to Structured Data.

Now 90% of the data that comes in is semi-structured, which means that it's harder for us to plug it in to our software. Why is that?

Because computers only know how to work with structured data, while people can just as easily work with semi-structured data. Not only that, but keeping your data fully structured takes a good deal of effort, so most people don't take the trouble until they are forced to.

RPG Management Software

So what does this have to do with Roleplaying Games? Because there are all these Virtual Tabletop and Campaign Manager computer programs out there. They can help you manage your game, but on the other hand, they often force you to move your game material from semi-structured to structured. When they do that, they are incurring a cost on you in order to get the benefit the software provides. And sometimes the cost exceeds the benefit.

Just look at your character sheet. In most cases, you don't even need a printed character sheet. You can just write down your character on a cocktail napkin and play just fine. But then, when you need to put your character into the Virtual Tabletop, suddenly it complains that you didn't fill in your saving throws or some other field. Or you are playing a homebrew class that isn't supported. Or you have an item that doesn't appear in the master list of items.

I'm not saying that you can't write the software in a way to allow semi-structured data. But it's not the most natural choice and anyway many of the features you will want to implement may require you to impose structure.

So, next time you're writing or considering using RPG software, keep this trade-off in mind. One of the great things about Pen & Paper Roleplaying Games is that they can be run quickly and easily with semi-structured data. So when your software imposes structure, you need to ask yourself "Is it worth it?"

Well? Is it, punk?

WFRP Empire Campaign Session 17: Halfling Boudoir Busters

Picking-up from last session, the party decided to send a few members up to the door of the reputed necromancer Italka's stronghold to request a parley.

Said door happened to be unlocked with two Goblin guards sleeping on the floor. The party first attempted to strong-arm them into taking us straight to Italka. But one of our Dwarves lost his cool and the cheeky bastards sounded the alarm before dying horribly.

The party decided to make their stand in the adjoining room, rather than in the hallway. We barricaded the doors with the room's tiny furniture, but when Seigwart smashed his way into the closet full of tiny ladies' frilly things, they heard a squeak from under the bed. A female halfling was hiding there, but much too terrified to converse. She indicated that Italka is away.

A wild melee ensued with goblins smashing down the barricaded door and pouring through the other. Well, things really heated-up when a fully armoured Chaos Warrior came running in. He and Sigyn took one look at each other and both went berserk(Sigyn as a result of her magic sword which is dedicated to some other Chaos god). Well, the party took some hits(especially my PCs) but made it through.

When the Chaos Warrior finally fell, Siegwart asked Sigyn if she was OK. She replied in a spooky voice "There is no Sigyn, there is only Midgar├░sormr", continuing to insist on the new name even after the berserker rage has left her.

Sunday 15 December 2013

DnD Next: Joseph and the Technicolor Broadsword

So D ran a mini-session for us with DnD Next which will likely become a longer campaign. The PC roster was:

  • Sir Manly of the Divine Turnip(my character)
    • Halfling Paladin
    • Born to a noble family
    • After a local farmer found a turnip in the shape of a popular Halfling saint, Manly pledged himself to the service of the relic, carrying it as his oracle and holy symbol
  • A Half-Ogre Smith
    • Captured and enslaved by Dwarves at a young age
    • They eventually let him go as he seemed relatively harmless and was getting too big for working in the tunnels
  • A Drow Ranger
    • Lawful Neutral and good with a bow

The party headed South with a caravan of wagons from Icewind Dale on a diplomatic mission to Hetman Nixon, Lord of Watergate. Their goal: to convince the lord to send food relief to the Northern realm so that the Northern border may be maintained against ice demons.

Sir Manly offered to use the power of the Divine Turnip to interpret Hetman Nixon's dreams. A skill-check later, the Paladin received divine inspiration and gave the interpretation. Nixon was partially convinced, but insisted that, as payment, the party return after the grain was delivered and serve a year in the Watergate militia.

On the return journey, the caravan was ambushed by Yetis. The Half-Ogre smashed them all to bits, with an arrow or two to help from the Drow Ranger.

Thursday 12 December 2013

Cyber-Mods for Kill, Cyborgs! Kill!

 Oh, boy. You know when you've put a lot of time into a project and you just need like a few good hours of no distractions to go over everything and you'll have a completed first draft? And those few good hours just aren't happening? (I haven't had time to blog lately, much less edit/complete an adventure module)

Anyway, that's sort of where I'm at with KCK. But I still haven't stat-ed up the PC cybermods, so let's make it happen. The system, is old school DnD, with slight modifications for a Cyberpunk setting.

Note that this is a first draft, so ideas are welcome.

  • Reflex Boost
    • Dex is increased by 1d6+3 points for 5 minutes. Cannot be used again until character has rested for at least 1 hour.
    • Side Effect: whenever characters smells a strong smell they make a willpower save. Failure means that they will do their best to ingest the source of the smell as fast as possible(gaining the Dex bonus until it is ingested). If they are restrained and cannot ingest the object, they will fall into a severe lethargy, being unable to do anything for 4d6 hours.
  • Neural Augmentation
    • Int is increased by 1d6+3 points, permanently.
    • Side Effect: character has difficulty relating to people. Cha is reduced by the same amount.
  • Pain Editor
    • Cannot feel pain at all. If incapacitated, due to injury, make an additional Fortitude save. Success means character is not incapacitated.
  • Olfactory Boost
    • Character has an excellent sense of smell and gets a +2 bonus to not be surprised, as well as a bonus to tracking and other relevant skill checks.
    • Powerful smells require a fortitude save to prevent dizziness, vomiting, difficulty breathing, etc.
  • Microwaver Implant
    • Short range ray mounted in chest.
    • 1d6 burn damage. Roll 1d6 for each piecor of electronic equipment(including cyberware) to see how it malfunctions
      • 1-3 no effect
      • 4- don't work for 1d10 rounds
      • 5- activates erratically
      • 6- completely fried
  • Micro Missile Launcher
    • Mounted in shoulder. Cavity opens and a missile missile protrudes and fires, guided by eye movement tracking.
    • Holds a single missile. +4 to hit. 1d8 damage per HD of target.
    • Reloaded manually
  • Backscatter X-Ray Eye
    • 10m range. Spot hidden weapons, cyber-mods, etc. See what's on the other side of thing walls.
    • +4 Bonus to search for hidden objects.
    • -1 to initiative due to tendency for eyes to wander
  • DataTerm Link
    • Port in back of neck. Neural computer interface.
    • +4 to hacking checks and other complex computer interactions.
    • Internal disk for storing downloaded data.
  • Sub-Dermal Micro-Recorder
    • Audio recorder implant.
    • Electromagnetic cloaking fools metal detectors.
  • Contraceptive Implant
    • Activated/Deactivated via voice recognition of pre-programmed keywords(have fun choosing your own!)
  • Storage Space
    • A small compartment, opened and closed via voice recognition of the pass-code. What does it contain?