Monday, August 21, 2017

Gencon 2017--It Happened!

Despite some plot-twists at the beginning, this year was one of the better Gencons I’ve had. One Tuesday, the alternator on my truck went out, turned to a carbonized chunk. This is the third Gencon in a row where I’ve had car problems for Gencon. Last year, our break line broke as we were pulling out the driveway. The year before that, the sidewall on my tire went out somewhere near Ft. Wayne. Frankly, I’m starting to take it personally. Thankfully, a friend of mine came over Tuesday night, and we (meaning him) swapped out the alternator—a five-hour process that saved me $500 and, indeed, the day. Helluva’ guy!

It’s notable that this Gencon I decided not to worry about networking or self-promotion, and I wound up meeting more people than ever before. Who’d’a’thunk? Instead, I took a lot of pictures of Hex Games mascot Happy D20 in interesting situations. It was goofy but I had fun with it.
So here’s how the rest of the week shook out:

Wednesday

My wife, our son, and I piled into the truck around noon and drove the 4 hours to Indianapolis with no troubles, listening to podcasts the entire way. Like last year, we stayed at the Motel 6 in Franklin, about 20 minutes away from the con. It’s a Motel 6, but it was clean and comfortable, the staff was friendly, and I paid less for four nights that I’d pay for one night in Indy. I’d do it again.

After settling in, we went to the Convention Center, picked up our tickets and got dinner at Steak and Shake. I certainly deserved a strawberry milkshake. Afterward we walked around downtown a bit while Ivy hunted pokemon and I actually took the time to look at the sites for once.


Thursday

My wife and son are cosplayers. Today Ivy dressed up as Marceline the Vampire Queen from Adventure Time while Erik dressed up as Dr. Carlos from Welcome to Nightvale.

At the con, I went to the JW Marriot where all the Hex Games events were. The JW feels like a second home at this point. I met up with Ian “Dynateens: Surf Force” Engle to chat and catch up on things before he had to run his “Candyland Has Fallen” game.

Ivy and I made out first foray into the Dealer’s Room where I met up with my friend Brad “Nightlife”McDevitt at the Goodman Games booth. We chatted, caught up, and I bought some of his art originals. I also bought some prints from Doug Kovaks and some DCC books. Overall, Goodman Games got more money than anyone else this year.

I played Tunnels & Trolls “The Great Fairy Hunt” later that afternoon. I own, like, four editions of T&T, but this was the first time I had a chance to play it. Damn fun.

Finally, I ran my first session of Hobomancers in Time.” My players were all repeat players from last year and the game went very, very well. Using the Fantastical Time Spinner, they went to 1,000,000 BC, Sherwoood Forest, and Ape City to collect the Cosmic Tchotchkes and defeat VLHRG the Time Wyrm. One of the characters ascended to the Godhead. That was neat!

"Can I punch the Time Wyrm?"
"You can sure try!"

Friday

Today Ivy dressed as Dr. Girlfriend from Venture Brothers and Erik dressed as some guy from the dressed as a guy from the Yakuza video game I don’t play.

Sadly, my 9am Hobomancers in Time didn’t go off. Only one player showed up, and I assume the other five got stuck in traffic or something. Ian and I chatted with the one guy for an hour while we waited and had a pleasant discussion at least. Wish I could recall the dude’s name.

Steve “Death Cookie” Johnson rolled into Gencon today, and I talked with him for a good bit, having not seen him for a few years. He was running “Wet Hot American Monsters” today, using the Cinemechanix system. Cinemechanix, is the new system Steve’s writing and fans of Hex Games and QAGS should be super excited for its imminent production.

Since I had some free time, I went back to the dealer’s room, which wasn’t a great idea financially speaking. I bought more stuff and, more importantly, met Phil Foglio! Now anyone who’s seen my art can tell that Foglio was a HUGE influence on my style (especially the older stuff). I didn’t even know he was at Gencon until I was six feet away from him. I embarrassingly fanboyed all over him, but he was super polite and pleasant and patient.  I bought a collection of his Myth-Adventures comics as well as really cool print that Ivy liked.

My third and final Hobomancers in Time game was in the afternoon. I got a different group of repeat players for this session—the same crew that went to hell last year to fight Stagger Lee. This year they travelled to Camelot, the distant retro-future of the year 2000, and ancient Greece to collect Excalibur, the Spider from Mars, and the Golden Fleece to defeat VLHRG the Time Wyrm.

At night, Ivy and I went to the Embassy to play Inferno Road with the Dungeon Crawl Classics crew. Like last year’s Punjar 50k game, this was a multi-group/multi-table event of high-octane energy organized by Doug "Darkest Chaos Shadow Master" Kovaks. Inferno Road is like Mad Max in Hieronymus Bosch’s Hell. We drank beer, we rolled some funny dice, and had a blast.


Saturday

Fatigue begins to set in on Saturday, but all my games are done, and I’m on my own schedule now, free to hang out and take things casual. Today was the big cosplay day, and Ivy busted out her Lapis Lazuli (from Steven Universe) while Erik dressed up as Nepeta from Homestuck.

I walked around for a couple of hours to look at the cosplayers and I ran into my cousin Kerwin, who was dressed up as Captain Hammer. We don’t get to see each other much, so we chatted for an hour or so in the concourse while people-watching.

Leighton “Laser Ponies” Connor showed up for his one and only day at Gencon 50. He ran a Laser Ponies game as well as a QAGS game based on his webcomic The Electric Team.

Pickle Rick!
Google Plus isn’t the best platform for direct messages, but luckily I checked my notifications at the right time to hook up with Jim “Jim—Yes That Jim” Ryan and Brian “Play on Target” Cooksey at the JW Starbucks. Gentlemen both of them.

After our games were over, Steve, Leighton, Ian, Ian’s brother Chris, and I went to dinner at High Velocity, a bar in the JW Marriot right below our game floor (decent food, and no waiting for seats!). After dinner Ian had a “Beau Hexed” game to run (French Foreign Legion vs Cthulhu). Steve, Leighton and I sat outside High Velocity for five hours talking about superheroes, movies, games, and brainstorming creative ideas. It was a good Saturday night and time well-spent.


Sunday

The fatigue has totally set in, and Starbucks is out of cold brew. Still I soldier on. Erik has no costume today, but Ivy is dressed in her Original Series Star Trek science officer uniform with sensible boots.
I start my morning by playing in the “Sky ov Crimson Flame” Dungeon Crawl Classics game run by Thorin “Son ov Thrain” Thompson. It’s just the adrenaline rush I need, as all my zero-level heroes die one by-one in heavy metal Sam Rami horror-action. Damn good time.

After I say goodbye to Steve and Ian (Leighton left Saturday night) Ivy and I spend the rest of the afternoon walking around the Dealer’s room with a couple of her cosplay buddies, avoiding the temptation to abuse our wallets further. Out of pure luck, I run into Skaught “Pathfinder Dad” Bowden and we get to talk for a bit before we all have to leave.

Eventually we leave to make the four-hour trip back. Despite the onset of exhaustion and visual hallucinations, we arrived safely back in Toledo. Now, today, I rest and recover.


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Gencon and Hobomancers in Time

Happy D20 is also totally stoked for Gencon!
The family and I leave for Gencon tomorrow. I've spent today packing and finishing the last bits of preparation for the trip. I am very much looking forward to seeing my friends and my tribe again.

Along with several other people from Hex Games, I am running games again this year. Specifically, I am running three sessions of Hobomancers in Time. Most of the Hobomancer games I've run center around a small town where an evil man summons some kind of monster. I wanted something different this year, so I decided to go a little cosmic. This time the Hobomancers have to hop around time and space collecting cosmic tchotchkes to defeat VLHRG the Time Wyrm. This game was largely inspired by the improved time-traveling Hobomancer game Leighton Connor and I ran last year. I've built upon it significantly.

I crafted a Fantastical Time Spinner from an old Twister spinner. In each session, the hobomancers will have to travel to three different time eras. I have nine eras prepared, but I won't know which ones they'll travel to until the players spin the spinner. Nine different periods of history, nine different tchotchkes. There are some they might never go to. I'm excited by this random element.
Behold, the Fantastical Time Spinner!
Of course, with time travel there;s always the danger of Chrono-Distortion. In the case of distortion, the Hobomancer crew will have to roll on the table that I am going to share with you now:


1d12
Chrono-Distortion
Game Effect
1
The crushing ennui of the nonlinear traveler
All dice rolls made with 1d30.
2
The sublime competence of mediocrity
All dice rolls made with 1d16.
3
Behold! The Bell-Curve!
All dice rolls made with 3d6.
4
Mirror universe incursion
All players give their character sheet to the player on their left.
5
Now I am become the Song!
All Yum-Yums spends are twice as effective.
6
Windfall of Synchronicity
All players get 4 Yum-Yums!
7
This is the darkest timeline
+3 to all PCs’ Weakness scores.
8
Fluctuating visions of the future
PCs use a predetermined number array instead of rolling dice.
9
Reflection of choices unmade
PCs switch Job and Gimmick scores.
10
Memetic reconditioning
PCs rearrange Skill scores.
11
I sing the song of the Songlines
+2 to PCs’ Hobomancer Jobs.
12
The Song is silenced
-2 to PCs’ Hobomancer Jobs.

Fun right?

We're supposed to pull into Indianapolis on Wednesday, and we'll be there until Sunday. If you're going to Gencon too, feel free to hit me up on G+ or Twitter.

All set? You bet!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Star Trek with Fate Accelerated (Part 3, Badguys)


Let's keep talking about Star Trek with Fate Accelerated. Any Star Trek game is going to need some badguys to torment your PC crew.

I put together a bunch of stunts to help make characters from some of Star Trek's iconic enemy aliens. I've also included the stats for mooks typical to each enemy. The Klingon and Orion stunts are re-posted from Part 1, Characters. Stats for enemy starhips can be found in Part 2.

Klingon Stunts

Because I am physically stronger than a human, I get +2 to forcefully overcome obstacles or create advantages when using brute strength.

Because I have several redundant organ systems, I get a fourth stress box.

Because I am a space fascist full of plots and schemes, I get +2 to cleverly create advantages related to lies and manipulation.

Klingon Warrior
To live and die for the empire
Good (+2) at: Murder, Lies and Schemes
Bad (-2) at: Impulse control
Stress: OO


Romulan Stunts


Because I command disciplined troops, I get +2 to cleverly create advantages when issuing orders to characters under my command.

Because Romulan disruptors are the deadliest in the galaxy, I get +2 to quickly attack opponents at least one zone away.

Because everything is going according to my carefully orchestrated pan, once per session I can automatically create an aspect (with one free tag) representing some contingency I had previously prepared for.

Romulan Centurion
Those who march under the Raptor’s wings
Good (+2) at: Disruptor fire, Working as a team
Bad (-2) at: Improvisational thinking
Stress: O


Gorn Stunts

Because I have sharp claws and deadly teeth, I get +2 to forcefully attack in close combat.

Because I have thick hide and dense muscles, I get +2 to forcefully defend against physical attacks.

Because I am cold blooded and have a faint heat signature, I have +2 to sneakily overcome or defend against being detected by sensors and scanners.

Gorn Warrior
Giant, menacing lizard-man
Good (+2) at: Intimidation, personal combat
Bad (-2) at: Moving quickly
Stress: OOO


Orion Stunts

Because, as an Orion female, I produce irresistible pheromones, I get +2 to sneakily attack receptive males in social situations (consequences from such attacks will put the target further and further under the Orion’s sway).

Because I am a sexy beast, I get +2 to flashily create advantages in social situations where I use brazen physical seduction.

Because I am part of the Orion Pirate Syndicate, once per session I can locate an allied underground contact willing to give me aide and/or succor.

Orion Raider
Space pirate
Good (+2) at: Manipulation, Brawling
Bad (-2) at: Remaining loyal
Stress: O


Credit where credit is due!
Influences

Resources
Star Trek Online wiki: http://sto.gamepedia.com

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Star Trek with Fate Accelerated (Part 2, Starships)

Today I continue talking about running Star Trek with Fate Accelerated. Let's get to some starships!

Part 1, Characters HERE!


And once again, credit where credit is due...

Influences


Resources
Star Trek Online wiki: http://sto.gamepedia.com



STARSHIPS

Starships are created like Fate Accelerated characters. Thank you, Fate Fractal!
A Starship has aspects, refresh, stress, and consequences, but it has no approaches.


Aspects
A starship has four aspects
  1. Classification: This is the ship’s class and primary purpose. Nova class science vessel; Constitution class heavy cruiser; Danube class runabout
  2. Assets: What makes your particular ship special, above and beyond its standard classification? Experimental transwarp drive; A distressing large number of phaser banks; Just damned massive
  3. Weakness: No ship is perfect. What problem plagues your starship? Constant maintenance problems; Weak shields; Unresponsive controls
  4. Reputation: What do people think about your ship. What have they heard about the ship and its crew? The pride of Starfleet; The scrappiest little frigate in Alpha Quadrant; Ragtag crew of misfits.


Approaches
A ship has no approaches of its own. Crew members will make all the rolls for their ship using their own Approaches.


Refresh and Fate Points
Like a character, a starship has refresh and Fate Points. These Fate Points can be used by any crew member to tag or invoke the ship’s aspects or aspects that have been placed on the ship or its crew. Refresh starts at 3 and can be reduced in order to purchase extra stunts.


Stress and Consequences
Like any character, the ship starts with 3 stress boxes and 3 levels of consequences. This is adequate for most cruiser-sized ships, the most common size of ship in Star Trek. Unusually large ships like a Borg Cube or the Doomsday Machine may have considerably more stress boxes, and maybe even an extra mild or moderate consequence available.


Typically, stress represents shields and other ablative defenses, while consequences represents structural damage, system failures, and crew casualties.


Example Mild Consequences: Sparking control panels; Crew knocked around
Example Moderate Consequences: Casualties reported on decks seven through twelve; Shields collapsed
Example Severe Consequences: Reactor breach; Life support off-line

Stunts
A starship starts with 2 stunts and can purchase more by spending Refresh.


Example Starship Stunts
Because our overcharged phasers are deadly at long range, our ship gets +2 to quickly attack  another ship that is at least two zones away.


Because our quantum torpedos devastate unshielded hulls, our ship gets +2 to forcefully attack another ship that currently has at least one consequence.


Because our starship has many luxury accommodations, the crew gets +2 to flashily create advantages while impressing visiting dignitaries and other VIPs.


Because our ship has expert emergency engineering crews, once per session the ship can clear out all its stress and/or its mild consequence.


Because our ship has reinforced shields, it has an extra stress box.


Because our ship has an advanced sensor array, it gets +2 to carefully create advantages when discovering aspects on a planet or another starship.


Because our ship has point defense lasers, it gets +2 to quickly defend against torpedoes.


Because our ship has a Romulan cloaking device, it gets +2 to sneakily create advantages related to stealth or invisibility.


Example Starship
U.S.S. Avalon
Classification: Miranda class science vessel
Assets: Highly-adaptable deflector dish

Weakness: Doesn’t carry torpedoes
Reputation: Nothing escapes the Avalon’s eyes


Stunts
Because the Avalon has an advanced sensor array, the crew gets +2 to carefully create advantage when discovering aspects on a planet or another starship.


Because the Avalon is fast and scrappy, the helmsman gets +2 to quickly overcome obstacles when moving from zone to zone.


Refresh: 3
Stress: OOO



NPC Ships

Instead of statting out the complete bridge crew for an NPC ship, you can just give each important bridge position a score (captain, tactical, engineering, communication, helm). On the NPC ship’s turn, each position makes a roll using its score. Tactical makes attacks, and helm defends against attacks from other ships.


Bridge Position Descriptions
Captain: Issues orders, rallies the crew, makes tactical decisions
Tactical: Makes attacks
Helm: Moves the ship around, avoids attacks
Engineering: Buffs the ship, repairs damage, does weird things with the deflector dish
Communications: Runs scanners, analyzes data, and coordinates crew activities

If your PC crew has less than five players, you might want to reduce the number of stations on an NPC ship, so your players aren’t outmatched.


An NPC ship should only have a Reputation aspect if the specific ship is notable for some reason.


Example NPC Ships

ROMULAN WARBIRD
Classification: Vas Hatham-class cruiser
Assets: Powerful plasma torpedoes
Weakness: Overtaxed power core


Bridge Positions
Captain: +3
Tactical: +2
Helm: +2
Engineering: +1
Communications: +1

Stunts
Because the Warbird has a Romulan cloaking device, it gets +2 to sneakily create advantages related to stealth or invisibility.


Because the Bird of Prey is equipped with disruptors, it gets +2 to sneakily attack while under the effect of a cloaking-based aspect.


Refresh: 3
Stress: OOO




KLINGON BIRD of PREY
Classification: D7-class cruiser
Assets: Burly workhorse of a ship
Weakness: Weak belly plating


Bridge Positions
Captain: +2
Tactical: +3
Helm: +1
Engineering: +2
Communications: +1

Stunts
Because the Bird of Prey also has a cloaking device, it gets +2 to sneakily create advantages related to stealth or invisibility.


Because the Warbird is powerful and well-built, it has an extra stress box.


Because the Warbird is bristling with weapons, It gets a +2 to forcefully attack another ship under a “Focused Fire” aspect.


Refresh: 2
Stress: OOOO




GORN DESTROYER
Classification: Naga-class destroyer
Assets: Unusually powerful shields
Weakness: Slow to maneuver


Bridge Positions
Captain: +1
Tactical: +2
Helm: +2
Engineering: +3
Communications: +1

Stunts
Because the destroyer’s deflector screen are incredibly powerful, it gets +2 to cleverly create advantages when creating “Increase shield strength” or similar aspects.


Because the destroyer has powerful, long-range disruptors, it can make ranged attacks from up to 4 zones away, instead of 3.


Refresh: 3
Stress: OOO




ORION SCOUT SHIP
Classification: Drell-class corvette
Assets: Incredibly fast
Weakness: Small and lightly armored


Bridge Positions
Captain: +2
Tactical: +1
Helm: +3
Engineering: +1
Communications: +2

Stunts
Because the scout ship’s hull is made of high-density trititanium, it gets +2 to carefully defend or overcome obstacles when resisting detection from ships’ sensors.


Because the scout ship can enter combat at Warp Factor 10, it gets +2 to quickly defend against beam and torpedo attacks.


Refresh: 3
Stress: OOO



Space Combat

Unlike personal combat, in ship-to-ship conflicts all crew characters on one ship will take actions, then the crew an opposing ship will act. To determine the turn order, the captains of each ship make Clever rolls. The highest result goes first, followed by the second highest, etc.


A ship can only make one attack roll per round. This attacks is usually made by the tactical officer and opposed by the target ship’s helmsman. Other crew PCs make create advantage or overcome rolls and take other support actions. Typical bridge orders like “Reroute power from lise support to phasers,” “Execute defense maneuver Delta,” “Readjust shield harmonics,” are all create advantage actions. Once every character has taken an action, that ship’s turn is over, and we go to the next ship in the turn order.


A typical ship-to-ship exchange goes something like this:
  1. The captain issues orders and rallies the crew, making create advantage rolls.
  2. The helmsman moves the ship--one zone for free or he makes and overcome roll to move further. Alternately he might make Create Advantage actions to set up his crewmates. Communications, engineering, and other stations make Create Advantage or Overcome rolls to set up or remove aspects.  
  3. The tactical officer makes an attack. Hopefully he’ll have some nice new aspects he can tag for free. The opposing ship’s helmsman makes a defend roll.
  4. And then we switch to the next ship...



Zones in Space
Each zone is about 100,000 kilometers (about half the distance from Earth to the moon).
Starship weapons have an effective range of 3 zones.
Teleporters have a range of 1 zone.