Sunday 27 November 2011

Why is Nature Wild?

Because its full of EXPLOSIVES.

In the modern world humanity is everpresent. Nature only rules fully in the margins left by our mistakes. The minefields go untouched. They can be cleared, and the mines will decay. But you can never be sure. Flooding and rainstorms move the mines around. There is no set period of decay. We can never walk there again with perfect certainty.

The DMZs, Minefields, Chemical Fields, Underground-Coal-Fires and Chernobyl Zones are the new wilderness, shaping the margins of the world with our mistakes.

So we ask the D&D Autumnal world. Why are there so many empty spaces? If empires fall and rise with such felicity, why only points of light?

Too many margins and too many mistakes. Over long epochs of human history the marginal zones invisibly expand and interlock. We are squeezed ever closer. The wilderness is empty because it is dangerous. We made it that way. We cannot remember why, and we cannot go back.

Sunday 20 November 2011

They find you in a Bad Situation

If a character calls their friend for help, should they always know how the help will come? In some ways NPC connections are a bit like resources, they can be invested in, expended and renewed.

But NPC's are also people and relations with people should be fluid and unpredictable. I made this table to try and keep friendly NPC's 'alive'. And also to balance out the equivalent table for enemy responses in Cyberpunk character generation.

You can roll on this when you develop an NPC relationship, or more interestingly, whenever you call on one an NPC friend for help. I tried to make them vague enough to be widely-applicable but also 'crunchy' enough to be useful. Not sure if I pulled it off.

If they find you in a bad situation, they will

1. Develop a counter-strategy with lightning speed. Add to your rolls if you follow their advice.
2. Find leverage on your chief opponent. (Or minor opponent if this is unrealistic.)
3. Match the badness, edge for edge.
4. Call down the thunder, if there is no thunder, call down the rain.
5. Bribe a muthafucka.
6. Pretend to be the enemy and mess with their shit.
7. Cross an unexpected class or cultural boundary to get help.
8. Immediately find the best escape route and tell you about it.
9. open fucking fire, right fucking now.
10. If noble, do something dark to help you. If dark, do something noble. If neither, do something extreme.

Monday 14 November 2011

How are you friends with this dude?

This was intended to be a sub-table to roll on if you roll yourself a friend during character generation. On looking back, most of the friend and allies already have a reason for being your friend. The game assumes that is you become someone’s enemy, only then do you need a special reason.

I wanted to make it because in most situations chaos and entropy get most of the glamour and creative energy. I also wanted to think about the kind of events and states that might lead to people becoming friends.

So this may not work. I suppose you could use is to roll on as addendum to the friend table if it made sense. (I don't think you really need to roll to see why your parent is your friend.) It could also be used instead of the main table.

Where there is a '/' that can mean 'or' but also 'and' if you like.

Here is a table of probably-redundant friendship-inciting incidents and states.

How are you friends with this dude?*
1. This dude saw you keep your shit together in a bad situation when everyone else was losing theirs. Respect to the nerve.

2. A powerful figure put you in a dangerous place and threatened your weakest point. You stared them down. This dude is the only one who knows you were bluffing.

3. You took advantage of a complex and rapidly changing situation before anyone else, This dude was the only other person to notice the same thing.

4. You told a joke at an important meeting/social gathering. This dude was the only other person to laugh. (If your character has no sense of humour then someone else told the joke and you and this dude were the only people not to laugh.)

5. This dude likes your attitude towards cybernetics/weapons, You respect their personal clothing style and wish you could carry off the same thing. (or visa versa)

6. This dudes taste in music/books/fiction is 95% the same as yours. If you've been watching/reading/thinking about something then there's a good chance they have as well. You argue constantly about the remaining 5%

7. This dude is a ghost that you invented. They were net-hacked and their I.D was totally expunged. You helped them get back on their feet and set them up with a new identity on the system. It could be argued that legally they no longer exist.

8. This dude was your closest challenger in a ruthless competition. You were neck-and-neck when you realised the game was corrupt. Even though you were far ahead of the rest, you both quit at the same time. Now you compete with each other instead.

9. You hated this dude for years and you thought they hated you. But when things went to shit and the children were trapped you both looked up to realise that only one other person had stayed behind to help.

10. You recognised each other through your work. This dude is the only other person to really understand what you're all about (and if you're a bastard, to still like you), you have corresponded but never met.

*Not sex-specific, girls are also dudes in the dark future

Sunday 13 November 2011

How you hooked up

A D10 table to connect characters to each other. Roll at the beginning of the session to work out how you know each other. Roll for the person to your right or left, then go round the table linking people up.

This is not original work. I took the most interesting entries from here-

And tried to Cyber them up a bit. The Cyberpunk tables are all D10, so I made these the same way.

How you hooked up

1. Characters each feel the other "has his uses."

2. Characters met in the highly protected vault of the most powerful local organisation; both barely escaped with their lives.

3. Characters met when one accidentally invalidated a contract that had been placed on the other.

4. Characters got up in each others faces. Fought to a standstill. Either physically, or by other means. Now friends.

5. Characters were hired muscle for a Corporation who turned on them; now on the run.

6. Characters were originally hunter and target, now friends and peers.

7. Characters have a weird resemblance, if your didn’t know them well, you could easily mistake one for another, though not blood related.

8. Characters met on an mission that went to shit, both deserted their group. So far as they know there were no survivors.

9. Characters were each one of a team of seven, hired for a pittance to protect an isolated hab-block in the slums from drug-fiend bandits. 

10. Characters each secretly convinced the other is playing a double game. Each are quietly playing along until the other reveals their true colours. Both too worried about being stabbed in the back to leave the other alone for long.

Saturday 12 November 2011

Cyberpunk 2013

Less drunk now.

There is a quasi-random generation system. That is sort-of good. Like all divisions between random-roll and points-buy it feels like an uncomfortable child in a darkened room. The door a slant open, a yellow bar of light from the hall outside. Too scared to close the door, too ashamed to turn on the lights. Trapped between things.

There is a skill list. Not sure how I feel about that. If you don't know the game already then choosing skills is a hopeful grasp towards the kind of game you hope it'll be. But it might not be the kind of game it is, or will be. And there you are trapped in the dark future with your Dinosaur-hunting skill and fuck all to do.

Improving in skills looks like it takes fucking ages and its totally under the control of the GM. You can train yourself and be taught in-game but the rules for this are highly conservative. So, right now, it looks like the energy of the game is going to be generated between the almost-story-game encouragement of flair and style in the colour and the dark-bastard plan-or-you're-dead, “no you can't, you don't have the skill” have-you-been counting-your-ammo? mechanics.

The game tells you to play like a carefree cheeky bastard, the mechanic kills you if you do this. If this generates interest then it is a good game. If it simply annoys then it is not.

Resolution is based around 'tasks', so the GM has to go through the whole fucking world and try to decide how difficult everything is.

Story-game hippy bullshit I would to with this.

  • Only self-created skills, start at zero or one. Advance like Mouse Guard when you have one success and one fail in each skill.
  • Let players set their own difficulty level for tasks. If they set low and win, they get fuck all. If they set high then they get x-tra cool. (Not sure how this would actually work.

'You must roll lower than your education chance on 1D10 to enter the school of hard knocks' aaand I'm back in love with it. (And drinking again)

The lifepath tables are very cool. The enemies table has two nested sub-tables, the friends table is all on its own. The romance table has a tragedy sub table. The personal disaster table has more detail and is larger than any of the others. This tells you something about human nature. Or at least how we think about human nature.

But there is no table to link the players to each other! Why not?

I will do two things. I will create a lifepath thing to connect the characters to each other and I will add sub-tables to the friendship table. I will lend energy and creative power to the force of fictional friendship and thence bring balance to Cyberpunk.



Friday 11 November 2011

Cyberpunk 2013

I am reading the first edition of this game. 

Writing about this as I read it.

And Drinking

Use of the words tough and grim in the same sentence in the second paragraph, yes.

'Heroes of a bad situation' YES. Tagline to a film I want to watch.

I have to play a character with a 'cynical-yet-idealistic-style'. That's how I LIVE man.

'Use your best "I'm bad and you aren't" smile.' Haaaahhhhggnn. Yes. Always.

Rule three is 'Live on the Edge'. And that's only because the first two rules were MORE AWESOME.

Also, brief sanity check. How can it be a rule to live on the edge? Enforcement? Will Kanye and Lemmy arrest you? (Note so self, idea for a new tv show. Edge Cops. Lemmy and Kanye team up, fight crime, boredom. e.t.c.

(Further note to self, remember to close brackets after use

Oh my fucking christ there's a class where the description goes 'if you live to rock, this is where you belong' HOW DID ANYONE GET TO THE OTHER CLASSES??! Who reads an RPG and thinks 'well, I do like to rock. But I will read the other classes just to be sure they do not rock more' Nerds. Nerds do. Question asked, question answered.

In the cyber future, IBM, Sony and Apple are mentioned. But no Microsoft.

In cyber slang 'Input' is girlfriend and 'Output' is boyfriend. Someone could write a thesis on that. Not a good thesis.

One class is essentially Frank Butcher, or Lou from Neigbours. The special skill is 'Streetdeal'. Another class is being homeless. In the dark future of the 1980's even being homeless is kind of awesome.

More later

Thursday 3 November 2011


Probably the most interesting definition of combat rounds I've seen. From The Marvel Super-Heroes Basic Set.

'Turns are not a precise measurement, they take about five to 15 seconds each, which roughly translates into one panel of a comic book. Your character can perform in one round whatever can comfortably fit into a single panel of a comic book. That's why heroes can deliver a long speech and clobber the Red Skull in a single turn, but only the fastest of them can take multiple actions in the same turn.'

I've noticed in playing D&D and story games that the exact division of time during rapid actions, especially when player opposes player, has a huge effect on the nature of play. Time must be both exact, (because at the momemnt to moment transaction, time is a diminishing resource) and also flexible, in order to allow the narritive power that helps charge events with meaning.

If time is measured too ferociously, events become very closely described in the game, both by the players and as a general consequence of play. This granularity seems sometimes to rob actions of wider meaning. If time becomes too 'fluffy' or soft, then tension is lost and meaningful decisions become harder.

Generally speaking, during a game, the closer you measure time the more Hobbsian and conservative it gets. People play to safeguard and horde whatever they have, both as characters in the game and as players. They play to limit negative results. They can also get much more creative with the things they do have. When you go the other way, things become more relaxed, players improvise, invent differently and add energy to the game in a different way, usually by connecting things over a wider context.

These are both good things and lend emotional and intellectual counterpoint to the game.

(I am not just talking about having losts of small, little, sharply defined events vs a few large fuzzy events but about the level of mixing between the two.)

The decription above of time as a meaningful, but limited dramatic unit is one I will keep in mind when I play next. It also makes immediate intuitive sense.

(But I suppose only really makes sense if you think about is as superhero comics from the 50's to 80's though. Any other kind of comic or even comics from a different period might produce something quite different.)

If I ever get round to statting up the Hours for Balach, I will probably have them each have a differrent approach towards narritive time. Like one has turns like comic panels, another has turns like lines of poetry, another has turns like cuts from a film, another has turns like memories e.t.c. So you will know what time it is in Balach by how time is decribed in the game.

i.e 'Hmm, we're moving from clear moment to clear moment with a straight 4th edition division of Standard, Move and Minor actions per turn. It must be three O'Clock. Should I get this battle done before it turns Four O'Clock, or extend it so we can kill the orcs while counting time as moving from decison to decision rather than second to second?'

The New Death Review

The New Death is an e-book by James Hutchings.

At its finest it recalls Dunsany, and Dunsany would not be ashamed to acknowledge it.

(For anyone who doesn't know who Dunsany is, if you took Lovecraft, dragged him out of the cellar, gave him a decent meal, took him for a walk in the hills in summer, got him laid that evening, got him a bit drunk, then smacked him round the face a few times and told him to pull himself together, then what he wrote next would be a bit like Dunsany. But not quite, and not as good.)

There is whimsy. The whimsy trips readily and rapidly from the authors mind. Like the weird bits of cereal being the first parts to leave the box as you pour it out. The work is spread between pieces of various lengths. Because the whimsy flows quickly, like strange cereal, it becomes the dominant factor in the shorter pieces.

Your attitude to this will depend very much on your reaction with, and tolerance for, whimsy, and that is a thing governed by strange and fleeting reaches of time and mood.

The cover illustration has two skeletons, arm-in-arm, wearing 19th century period costume, so no-one can claim they were taken unexpectedly by the contents .

In the longer pieces the imaginative flow is deeper and more sustained. The whimsy is still there, but, other things seep into the fiction and the relationship between the parts changes. Characters emerge and clever lightness from a character is quite a different thing than clever lightness directly from a writer. A sense of time and consequence emerges. Few of the stories are fully tragic, though the endings are often sad.

I think the word is 'picaresque'. This is no bad thing.

The concentration and imaginative depth of the work improves with length and these were my favourite parts of the book. I think if they were submitted to Weird Tales in the 1920's (or 30's, I forget when) then they would have a strong chance of getting in. I consider this to be a high standard of praise.

There are two poems about the sea which are good. The other poems are good if you are in your early 20's, a bit clever, and a bit left-wing. Since your are reading a blog about D&D on the internet, there's a good chance you are.

There are several longer poems based short stories by Robert E Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, Dunsany and Lovecraft. I think that if any of those writers read the poems inspired by their work, none would make any objection to their quality.

If you have any love for the above creators, or any affection for fiction in the vein of the weird, then you would certainly make a fair bargain by purchasing Mr Hutchings book. I believe the price is 0.99 something, so regardless of the currency (which I cannot recall) the New Death is well worth the money.

(Edit) You can get it here. And it was American cents.