Dramatis Personae

  • The Commander (Doug) – telekinetic super-soldier with a really angry dog (Yukio). The dog is a powerful ally (250-300 points) and very intelligent and very, very aggressive.
  • Zephyr (Merlin) – Real name Murui; Shaolin Kung Fu expert and super-speedster.
  • Eamon Finnegan (Kyle) – smooth talking gravity-master; a lawyer so good he can actually prove a negative.
  • Ezekiel (Christian) – Techno Master, Genius, Esper, Super Archer
  • Maxwell Robinson (Richard) – apparently a mummy lord

Battle is Joined

When we ended last game, “remnants,” pieces of the void made manifest, are pouring through a rift in reality. We all spend all of our karma to move the “dead-o-meter,” which is the fraction of the population that will be destroyed in this disaster. I have banked lots of spare karma, so I drop 17 karma into the “ppl not dead” column, reserving 5 Wildcard karma (think of ’em as destiny points or bonus points) for special successes and stuff during the game. Zeke spends 13, also reserving 5. Zephyr keeps his for stunting, which he does a lot. Eamon throws down all 10 he has. So we drop 40 karma into the not-deadpool.

We also get asked what level of risk we’ll be taking. “Ludicrous risk” and “all the risk” are the basic answers. We all take the +3 risk pool. It’s BAD – “B-Team Awesome Difficulty.”

The remnants are nasty. Six limbs, black chitinous nasty, flying, getting bigger. Only kyberic energy works against these guys.

We need to literally put a lid on Yankee Stadium in order to contain the “locusts” that are coming out of the tear in reality.

The players make a quick decision out-of-game to keep all decisions quick and sharp, to mimic the panic and stress in-game. Yay.

Maxwell suddenly goes limp, and something black and wraith-like, or mummy-like, emerges from the deflating body. We knew something wasn’t right about him. Meanwhile Zeke turns on the broadcast booth remotely using ESP to keep all of the MAPS teams aware of what’s going on; and everyone else who can see it too. That doesn’t go over well. Continue reading “Aeon S4E11: The End of All Things”

ACKS of Dissection

So, I’m new to the ACKS game, in that I’ve now got a bunch of the books (Core Book, Player’s Companion, Domains at War, and one other). I’ve also developed a hellishly amusing friendship with Alex Macris, the author of ACKS and proprietor of Autarch, the company that publishes it.

Why hellishly amusing? Has to do with how we got to know each other. It was all very friendly, but one of those things where he was aware of my work through the ballistics part of gaming ballistic, and I was aware of his through Google+ and his publishing of an open gaming licence alternate rules set to his published domain rules. We discovered a mutual and growing admiration for each others’ design work.

Well, now I’m reading the ACKS Player’s Companion, and my admiration for his work is not a whit smaller for it.

One of the neat bits of the basic ACKS system is that it takes the table-based and fairly rigid Basic/AD&D schema and deconstructs it. Not literary deconstruction, where one looks for the inherent contradiction that weakens or undermines a general theme, but in actual “let’s take this apart” methodology. So perhaps “dissection” is a better phrase. Not just because he did cut it apart, but because hey, this is DnD, so taking things and rules apart with bladed objects is in genre.

I will doubtless be returning to this theme, because the work he did in ACKS is going to need to be repeated for the inevitable sequel to Dragon Heresy. I need something for my envisioned “next project” that has the kind of flexibility and kit-bash capability that Alex built into the ACKS system via the Player’s Companion.

I will also be returning to this theme because the number of puns I can make since ACKS sounds like “acts” and “axe” and “asks” depending on enunciation and accent is just vast, and I cannot resist drinking from that trough. You’ve been warned. Continue reading “A Class ACKS”

Preamble: Dungeon Fantasy

Steve Jackson Games is conservatively being bold. They are trying a purpose-built RPG, powered by the GURPS engine, that takes the self-contained model to its logical conclusion. They are supporting a high production value release that they funded in a successful Kickstarter.

This release follows what I consider a pretty successful pattern for generic games. You see it for Savage Worlds, you see it for GUMSHOE, and you see it for Fate. (The various DnD games can be considered an inverted degenerate case – they were written specifically in this mold, and it takes work – like was done for d20 Modern – to break out of that mold.)

In any case, it distills all of the material from the many Dungeon Fantasy subsystem releases and many potential candidates from Pyramid issues and says “this is what you need to play Dungeon Fantasy.” The game will be released with five books, each somewhat thin, but enabling simultaneous at-the-table consultation. That’s the same pathway I’m taking with Dragon Heresy, and for the same reason (though with three hardcover books rather than five softcovers). Here’s the text from the Kickstarter page:

  • Adventurers (128 pages). GURPS is famous for letting you play any character you can imagine. Dungeon Fantasy keeps this flexibility while trimming away unnecessary details, concentrating on just what matters to monster-slaying, treasure-hunting action: Pick from 11 classic professions and nine playable races, customize your alter-ego using quick-start templates and a powerful point-build system, and gear up with an equipment list that offers dozens of weapons and lets you assemble exactly the suit of armor that fits your image.

  • Exploits (112 pages). Learn how the heroes actually use their abilities and gear. That means combat, of course – and dozens of other activities, whether your thing is sneaking around, swinging from the scenery, exorcizing evil, or getting rich through cunning deals in town. This book also describes countless bad things that can befall adventurers (poison, traps, dismemberment, lava pits . . .), as well as good things, namely loot. And it’s full of practical advice to the Game Master who leads this three-ring circus: challenging the players, keeping the action moving, settling arguments, and much more.

  • Spells (80 pages). What would fantasy be without magic? Adventurers features four spellcasting professions (bard, cleric, druid, and wizard), and this volume describes over 400 spells to help you customize them. It also includes complete rules for how spells work – whether their power comes from the gods, Nature, or creepy tomes of forbidden wizardly knowledge.

  • Monsters (64 pages). Once the adventurers are ready, and armed with weapons and magic, it’s time to test their mettle! This catalog starts you out with more than 80 things that want to bite, claw, grab, sting, and curse the heroes – not just the predictable orcs and zombies, but also several Dungeon Fantasy originals. Each offers notes on tactics and variants, and the whole collection comes with advice and rules for adventurers dealing with monsters . . . and monsters dealing with adventurers.

  • Dungeon (24 pages). I Smell a Rat is a simple (but not simplistic!) quest designed to show new gamers the ropes. Like any classic hack ‘n’ slash adventure, it starts at the inn. From there, the heroes will find themselves facing traps, enemies, and unexpected twists – and finding treasure, although not necessarily gold and silver. Advice and “adventure hooks” let the Game Master challenge advanced players or spin the tale into a series of adventures.

The Kickstarter raised over $175,000 within Kickstarter itself, and then hit more stretch goals based on external orders. The stretch goals funded delivery of several more PDF-based support releases in the coming years. I also have to wonder now that SJG has embraced CreateSpace if they’ll make the new titles available via POD as well. Once you have the InDesign files, and once you say from the get-go “I will design to the annoying CreateSpace margin requirements” then providing POD is pretty easy, and would satisfy those that want physical copies of GURPS releases without forcing SJG to do offset runs that tie up inventory and funds. Win/win.

In any case, this is a long preamble to say that this post covers the first of the promised releases – the Welcome to Dungeon Fantasy issue of Pyramid Magazine, which features articles by some fairly big hitters in the Dungeon Fantasy space. Matt and David both provide adventure support, and Peter reflects on his multi-year Dungeon Fantasy campaign and distills wisdom. Christopher offers up some creatures to kill and eat the PCs. Continue reading “Sunday Review – Pyramid #3/98: Welcome to Dungeon Fantasy”

Here we are again, this Saturday, end of March, marks roughly the seventh month, sort of, since Gaming Ballistic was incorporated. While that might be the official incorporation date, it probably makes far more sense to date the birth of the company from roughly October 1, 2016, which is when I really decided that Dungeon Grappling needed to happen, and proceeded to plan and launch the Kickstarter by November.

In any case, what’s been going on?

Mostly trying to get back on to a regular posting schedule again. I got very, very head-down on working some of the projects I’ve been working, and noticed that I’d not written any real content on the blog, certainly not much of value-added nature, in weeks. Well, frack that.

My new intended posting plan is something like this:

So tomorrow I’ll either review the latest Pyramid, or I just got a copy of Cirsova Magazine #5, and I can throw down some game-inspiration notes from that. Means I need something OSR/ACKS-ish for Monday . . .

Beyond that, the only real question right now is which project gets far enough along to Kickstart first. Continue reading “Gaming Ballistic – March Update”

While the song continues “absolutely nuthin’,” and proceeds to say it again, this isn’t so for GURPS. After I posted today’s GURPSDay script pull, someone asked in a seemingly non-trollish way why play GURPS instead of the other seemingly eight billion games out there.

It’s a good question.

My RPG History

Like most, I got my start with D&D – specifically my friend Howard introduced me to AD&D, and he had all the books (and he was one of the first to have an actual IBM PC, which meant we would gather at his house to play Wizardry, as well). That was my introduction to RPGing in general. We did try (very briefly) Star Frontiers as well. Then I started collecting at home. I got the Red and Blue box D&D games from my parents. I was given the Top Secret RPG as well, which I was fascinated by because it had a gun on the front, and the art seemed very edgy to my pre-teen self.

After a while, I fell in with a fairly serious gaming crowd, helmed by a future art director for Accolade, and a bunch of other good guys, including one who would be the best man at my wedding. We played what seemed like darn near everything, and made up characters for many more games. I remember D&D, Twilight: 2000, Robot Warriors, Champions, Bushido, Lords of Creation, a ridiculously epic Warhammer RPG campaign, WEG d6 Star Wars, Ringworld, and MERP. At least.

And then Mark came over with a game called GURPS. One game, he said, could do everything. No longer would need to learn a new system for each setting we wanted to play.

I was hooked. This was 1989.

I went off to college, then, and I continued my RPG habit, picking up the next generation of RPGs, including Dark Conspiracy, the second edition of Twilight: 2000, and Shadowrun. But all in all, none of them – with the exception of the d6 Star Wars system – held my attention like GURPS did. I tried to run Dark Conpiracy, I really did. But wow, was it incoherent and hard to run. So in a game with 15 players, I took nearly every GURPS book I owned, so it would seem, and ran a great campaign.

Oh, it was fraught with newbie GM errors. Too many sourcebooks, way too much “let me look that up.” But it was glorious, and was consistent in a way that other games weren’t.

In grad school, I really discovered the internet, and started on usegroups, such as rec.games.frp.gurps. I became a regular abuser of the GURPS Vehicles rules, and my first practical use of multivariable calculus was to design proper hull shapes for spaceships built in the Vehicles system. I even got one or two modules in to the game, and started receiving my first playtest credits.

When I wound up in Minnesota in 2000, I started writing for real, contributing a few articles to Pyramid magazine. Playtested more. Then Lead Playtested, and got some nice compliments for my work on High-Tech and Tactical Shooting as lead playtester.

By that time, I was basically playing GURPS, GURPS, and nothing but the GURPS.

Which brings us to the basic question again: Why?

Why GURPS for Me?

Of all the reasons to play, what are my top few? Continue reading “GURPS, HUH! What is it good for . . . ?”

This is a repeat of an SJG Forums post made by Assistant Line Editor Jason “PK” Levine.

*** *** *** ***

A wise company looks to the future while carefully minding the past, and it’s in the latter spirit that we’ve offered back catalogs of our classic magazines. Roleplayer, which started as a newsletter and then evolved into our in-house magazine over a run of 30 issues, actually predates GURPS. The “house organ” position was later filled by Pyramid Classic, our full-color, 96-page magazine that also went for 30 issues before transitioning from print to online as “Pyramid Volume 2.”

In addition to being filled with useful articles and interesting editorials, these these magazines offer a window into the past of Steve Jackson Games. As such, we’ve had them available on Warehouse 23 for some time now (see links in the paragraph above). But we know that some people are completionists — they want it all or want nothing! — and it is for our fellow obsessives that we’ve created two new half-priced bundles.

The GURPS Roleplayer Bundle gives you all 30 issues of Roleplayer for just $30, and the Pyramid Classic Bundle similarly delivers all 30 issues of the first volume of Pyramid for just $75. You can think of these as “half off,” “buy one get one free,” or “a 50% savings” (well, okay, a 49.75% or 49.99% savings if you want to get technical), but it all adds up to the same thing: a way to snag ’em all without breaking your budget.

So strap on your archaeological ludographer’s jacket and delve back into a time when physical skills cost more and carrying capacity was linear. For only by understanding the past can we move forward!

GURPS Roleplayer Bundle

Store Link: http://www.warehouse23.com/products/SJG30-8399
Preview PDF: http://www.warehouse23.com/media/SJG30-8399_preview.pdf

Pyramid Classic Bundle

Store Link: http://www.warehouse23.com/products/SJG30-8899
Preview PDF: http://www.warehouse23.com/media/SJG30-8899_preview.pdf

Welcome to the second year of GURPSDay, and here’s the final pull for you guys.

We’re currently drawing content from 81 blogs. Only 19 more to go until we’re pulling from 100! But we’ll need your help.

How? Two action items: post more, recruit more. It’s really that simple. More posters is more posts, and more interest in GURPS.

Below you can find the blog activity for the last week. There’s a whole lotta awesome GURPS going on.

Not every blog posts about GURPS every week, but some are ridiculously prolific! The list is randomized, so different bloggers will be highlighted at the top of the post each week.

As always, if you’re interested in having your blog consolidated here, navigate over to The Instructions Page and drop me a line.
Continue reading “GURPS Day Summary Mar 17– Mar 23, 2017”

As reviews happen regarding my products, I have tried to keep up, and post links Thus far, Dungeon Grappling has been very well received critically. This might be because those that bother to review it are already part of its target audience – confirmation bias. The other side, that everyone knows grappling sucks, grappling rules suck harder, so why bother, is confirmation bias of a different sort.

I will still maintain my contention that grappling needs to be part of any game that features combat, though much like I mention in my Violent Resolution column To the Last, I Grapple with Thee, those rules need not be custom. Night’s Black Agents has its combat rules at such a level of granularity that it would be odd to treat grappling any differently than melee, and that logic is stated right in the book, explicitly. In fact, the less the grappling rules deviate from the regular combat rules, the better they are as an option that can be integrated easily with the normal flow at the table.

Shane was gracious enough to invite me on his program – my first “big” podcast on Dungeon Grappling, undertaken when the Kickstarter was still going, and when I wasn’t used to podcasts, and also before I got comfortable just getting out there with my message: grappling is awesome in real life, deserves to be awesome in games, and adopting a rules set that makes it that way will increase the potential energy of fun available for games.

In addition to having me on Shane Plays, he also independently reviewed the play of the game. And by that, I mean he actually played out some combats using the grappling rules and reported on how it worked for the game. This is great, not just because of the investment, but also because theorycraft is great, but some rules that you’d think are cumbersome by reading them just aren’t, and some that seem great on paper just suck. You can’t always tell until the dice hit the table. (Of course, sometimes you can.)

So to the end first: I think is review is both favorable and accurate. But I also think it presents a take on things that invite comment, so I’m going to indulge in a bit of quote-response.

First, head on over to Shane Plays and read the full review. I’ll wait, but I’m also going to quote selectively, so there may be missing context, and there will be definitely be missing text. His words are in quote-boxes, and mine follow.

Continue reading “Shane Plays Review of Dungeon Grappling – Comments”

Dramatis Personae

  • The Commander (Doug) – telekinetic super-soldier with a really angry dog (Yukio). The dog is a powerful ally (250-300 points) and very intelligent and very, very aggressive.
  • Zephyr (Merlin) – Real name Murui; Shaolin Kung Fu expert and super-speedster.
  • Eamon Finnegan (Kyle) – smooth talking gravity-master; a lawyer so good he can actually prove a negative.
  • Ezekiel (Christian) – Techno Master, Genius, Esper, Super Archer
  •  (Richard)

The Train to Cairo

When we last left, we’d come up with a list of potentially actionable items, and established we were on a train to Cairo. The list?

  • Interrogate/interview Blue Skies CEO for any info on a rival factions (Nazis, etc)
  • Track down skulls
  • Figure out Zero and what’s his history; why does he hate the US Govt so much
  • Find out what’s going on with Arc Light’s wife, her crystal skull, and her anti-meta campaign
  • Discredit Pres Blackwell since his plans seem to defeat the metahuman “antibodies” to the Void Creatures
  • Research history of Atlantis and ancient Egypt (Osiris) to see what we can pull together from those clues
  • Grill Rosencrantz and Legend and Basilisk about what the hell happened with the Nazis

But . . . to the train.

We’re going along, and then something happens to the train. We all take 5 points of damage, mitigated by DR (minimum 1), which leaves us dazed but alert. The train has derailed, and is sitting on it’s side. Zephyr goes to see if we’re under active attack, while the rest of us prepare to either fight a bad guy or help the injured on the train, of which there are many. We set work on the “helping” front, and while we probably save about 50-60 people or more.

As we work, we come across a shortish guy wearing a white linen shirt, with a wide-brimmed hat. He looks about 70, and he’s staring at a dying baby, in the arms of a dead mother. Zephyr calls out “who are you,” and the man looks around as if “what’s going on, are you talking to me?” Marcus, the VAST intelligence, is there, dying as well; the prophecy woman Alyssa Kerrigan is dead – she was the mother.

What brought these two – prophecy and all – to Cairo, on this train? Oh, and by the way, the baby is Katana, who will be the ghostly 4-yo that we meet, and is currently my girlfriend in present day. Zephyr crit-fails a reaction roll, and the crying baby BLASTS Zephyr through three train cars, inflicting 78 points of damage (!), and sits there floating in midair.

Children of this age – less than a  year old – almost never develop powers at all, much less that kind of control.

Oh, this kid and the terrible twos are going to be fun. Continue reading “Aeon S4E10: Trains, Rituals, and Endgame”

Monster Monday is a feature that will occur every other week. It will feature an excerpt creature from the working draft of the Dragon Heresy RPG.

A wight is the restless corpse of a warrior, animated by bloodlust and hatred. The wight is created when a warrior is so fond of killing, maiming, and fighting without a good cause that upon its death, the Valkyries not only reject the spirit, but deny its passage to Dauthaheim. Clinging to its lust for violence, it rises each night to claim more victims.

They are typically withered husks of fallen warriors, but with plenty of flesh still remaining. They do not rot naturally, but nor do they heal. The wounds taken in life (and in undeath) lie gaping upon them. They are grey-colored, with tattered, wispy hair. If they wear armor (and many do), it will typically be a hodge-podge of pieces—treat the DR of any more interesting armor as half it’s usual value.

Not all wights are human, and it is not uncommon to encounter lizardfolk and human wights alike at the location of long-forgotten battles during the wars that plagued Tanalor and Torengar alike over the last few thousand years.

These restless dead dwell in ancient burial mounds during the day. They have an instinctive feeling for how from from their barrow-home they may roam until they cannot return before the sun rises.

Continue reading “Monster Monday: Vaettr (Wight)”