Author Archives: Gigermann

Introduction to Legends of Generica

Once upon a time, in the land of Clichéa, in the Kingdom of Generica, in the twelfth year of King Jon XVII, the land prospered. It was a period of uneasy peace, ten years since the Late Unpleasantness, and one year since the traitorous Luzar Drakeburne campaigned to usurp the Generic crown and was defeated. The king faced troubles from all sides; vassals plotting to take his throne, or gain their own; raiders terrorizing outlying farms; and neighboring kings awaiting opportunity to strike.

But far to the east, dark clouds gathered over Firemount: after a hundred years of silence, the Overlord of Nefaria recently sent his armies forth from the Black Tower and seized the neighboring Kingdom of Poorland. There is no doubt he next will march on Generica, his ancient enemy, and trod under foot any who stand in his path.

Meanwhile, a group of young, upstart adventurers of the Heroes’ Guild has formed a company of brothers-at-arms, and is about to be sent on their first mission…

History

In 2006, one of the Core Group GMs (Zorgon) decided to run a quasi-continuation of another GM’s D&D campaign, in a generic (that is, not our usual Greyhawk) setting, which was jokingly dubbed Forgotten GreyLance (Greyhawk + Forgotten Realms + DragonLance). I think the “Generica” concept was first referenced at that time. In 2011, he made another use of the setting for an entirely new campaign, this time adding “Eberron” to the name: Forgotten GreyLancErron.

In 2012/2013 the Core Group had different membership, half of which were relative noobs to gaming in general, and had not GMed before. We decided to run a “GM Club” including all current members, a GMing round-robin of three to four session apiece, each stint ending in a cliffhanger where the next GM would pick up. We used a setting based on the old FGLE plus some new concepts, called Forgotten GreyLancErron – Heroes of Generica, the building of which was shared amongst all the GMs. The round-robin was quite a success, and some of the GM-noobs went on to GM their own campaigns. It was this version that began the use of TV Tropes as a design feature.

In 2015, I started working on a new campaign for the Core Group based on FGLE which I was referring to as Legends of Generica. I took over the FGLE setting and started reworking it, intending to run the campaign in D&D 3.5 (would have been my first D&D campaign); the reworked setting was the first use of the Core Group Wiki. Along with TV Tropes, it would feature the heavy influence of the computer game, Crusader Kings 2, as a “realm management” concept. The campaign didn’t see production, but I kept working on it anyway, intending to get to it eventually, in one form or another.

Now in 2017, an opportunity has arisen to run Legends, instead, in GURPS Dungeon Fantasy for the Olympus Group, though there is talk of some Core Group overlap with a different D&D campaign that may use the same setting.

Campaign Overview

See Campaign Info.

(For the record, this campaign is not an official part of the Daniverse-proper.)

I’m setting the tone of the campaign on the “silly-side of average,” like The Princess Bride or Stardust. I’m keeping the setting quasi-realistic, to the degree that I can, but allowing the basic cinematic abilities, influenced to some degree by TV Tropes. The original D&D version would have started at 1st Level; this being GURPS, that means 150 points at the start—definitely still “green”—with their focus on eventual fame-&-fortune. The adventures themselves will be intentionally clichéd and simple, which should telegraph events for the properly genre-savvy—knowing it’s coming should be part of the fun. For the future, I’d like to get into some small-time realm-management, and of course, the campaign will undoubtedly end up featuring a long journey to take some McGuffin to Nefaria to destroy it before the Enemy can use it. As a side note: due to the current circumstances at the Olympus Group, this campaign will likely be my first to be live-streamed and recorded for YouTube, though I intend to keep the usual post-session records as well, probably on the Olympus blog.

Should be a fun ride…

Table News, 2 Aug 2017

It’s been a while… As usual, my GMing situation has fluctuated since the last run.

At the moment, a run of Forgotten GreyLancErron: Legends of Generica is imminent, within a month or so, but is going to be for the Olympus group instead, and will be using GURPS Dungeon Fantasy. It will likely be a short-ish stint, to be squeezed in between runs of Traveller. I’ll be definitely glad to see it finally in production, though, and have been hard at work on the details. The Olympus group has been streaming the sessions on Twitch and YouTube for some months now, and is expected to continue, which means that the Generica run will likely be available online for your watching/listening pleasure, for those so inclined. In the meantime, my worldbuilding progress can be seen on the Wiki. The recaps will probably be posted on the Olympus blog, but I’ll post some behind-the-scenes insights here.

The Supers campaign has been bumped, but not officially back-burnered just yet—but I had worked steadily on that one for seven months or so, and it was certainly time for a break. I made a rather large amount of progress on my Rule of Drama system.

For the Core Group, I’m still expecting to do another stint of Steel Ships & Space Marines when my turn comes back around, but I haven’t actually given it a great deal of thought yet—that should begin in earnest some time after this run of Generica occurs. But that’s far enough out that who really knows?

In other news, I, and over half of both groups, will be attending the 50th Anniversary of GenCon this year. This will be my first GenCon (but not my first con, in general). Lessons will be learned, elbows will be rubbed, etc.

S³M Chapter One GM Retrospective

Overall GM Confidence: (starting) 3, (ending) 5 of 5.

I have to say, I think it all went really well, in spite of some (mostly behind-the-scenes) shaky bits here and there. The players all seemed to be generally engaged and responsive throughout. The characters were all interesting in their own way, and meshed well together, and gave me plenty of basic hooks to work with. My mechanical experiments got enough actual-play that I can use to make later refinements.

Some points-of-interest, in no particular order:

  • Actually, this marks the first ever campaign I’ve run to see a direct continuation into a subsequent run. A couple have continued with an entirely different set of players/characters in some form or another; and the Replacement Miners might count as well, though it had a more-or-less “hard” ending before moving on to the Sabo Affair with new crewmembers and ship.
  • As the first campaign of mine to benefit from a proper wiki site, I have to say that I found it really helpful, as GM. What I don’t know is how helpful it was to the players.
  • My current Plot Points/advancement system got a good workout this time. It was well-received, as far as I know; players didn’t seem to mind the lack of per-session awards or improvement, and they did get a mid-chapter opportunity to upgrade a bit. Plot Points didn’t get used as much as I had intended/expected; I will be overhauling the system based on that experience. Relationships finally got its first real test, and although it did see some use, it wasn’t as central as I had hoped—I have some refinements in mind. Same for the Paragon/Renegade mechanic. Mild success overall, with some useful lessons learned that should make it shine next time.
  • My long hours of work on the ship model paid off in being able to easily visualize ship-board situations. I’m definitely glad I did that. Aside from some polish on the ship, I need to work on Tamborro Station for next time, since it’s a central part of the story, and a number of situations that developed during the campaign could certainly have benefited from better definition.
  • My GMing strategy of late of only working on a given session in the week prior turned out to be more of a hindrance than I liked this time around—too many of those weeks found me lacking the necessary motivation, focus or inspiration to get it done right, resulting in a few sessions of rather low confidence at the start. Next time, I intend to put together a more solid long-term plan before the run starts. The “Save the Station” theme didn’t quite get the attention it probably deserved; that will be remedied next time as well.
  • Be it luck or design, the players didn’t push me too hard, nor did they truly surprise or stump me. Good and bad. What I had wanted from the (very) beginning was a Traveller-like sandbox, but the lack of established setting details makes that especially difficult, when the players don’t know where to go next without my telling them. This isn’t necessarily “bad,” it just means running a different kind of campaign. Before the campaign officially started, I had the players “create” a number of locations to visit during the campaign; I just need to build the pathways to those locations and let them follow—they (will) already know these locations are important.
  • The only time I really got “stumped” as GM was at the end, when I decided it was time to wrap things up. I really wanted a “satisfying,” climactic wrap-up to the chapter but I needed to compress things a lot, and I wasn’t sure how to do it. Even at the eleventh-hour, I didn’t have a solution I was satisfied with, and I ended up winging it, with only a couple of basic points to hit. In play, my “A > B > C > D” became more of an “A > E > G > D” progression—a bit out of order, but I had enough spare-parts to make it work, and in the end, they arrived where and how I intended, and it all worked out—and rather nicely, to my surprise and delight.
  • I suppose my biggest disappointment, overall, was not being able to do more with Zennith, as an “inventor.” The player didn’t really press, but there were bits here and there where it could have been highlighted, and I don’t think I did a very good job. Better next time.
  • Rigil thankfully spared me the extra headache of doing all the write-ups myself; I just handled the formatting and graphics. I still intend to go back through them and add links to the wiki, and “explain” more for those not in-the-know.
  • I really wanted to be able to run this “indefinitely,” in theory; I wanted to beat my 12-session longest run (Outlanders), at least. Ultimately, I suppose I could have gone longer, but I was being pulled in different directions by many other projects and found myself really needing to put this one down, so I wrapped it up a bit earlier than I originally wanted. Given the usual length of campaign runs in this group, and the number of GMs/campaigns in the current queue, it’s going to be quite a while before my turn comes back around, but it will, and I have no doubts at this point that there will be a Chapter Two (barring unforeseen changes to the group).

To be continued… (For real this time. 😛 )

S3M Campaign Introduction

Steel Ships & Space Marines is my homebrew, mash-up GURPS Space setting, that has developmental history going all the way back to 1990, when I made my first purchase of GURPS (then, Third Edition). If you think of it as a mix of Firefly, The Expanse, Mass Effect, and Aliens, you’ll be in the right ballpark. This campaign is a continuation of a couple of one-shots in this setting, specifically, The Sabo Affair, which ran in 2005, my first run in GURPS’ Fourth Edition. The story starts around seven months after those events, with a few new characters and minus a few old ones. It was a long time coming, and we were all glad to see its inevitable (despite the delay) return. See the Wiki for more information about the campaign, in general. (This is the first of my campaigns to benefit from the existence of a proper wiki site.)

The Player-Characters


AJ Trent
The Pilot/Captain
Played by Rigil Kent

Calista Moss
The Gunner/Loadmaster
Played by Lab Rat

“JoJo” Jotaro
The Medic/Steward
Played by Frito

Steve Tulk
The XO/Purser
Played by Magman

Zennith Moss
The Engineer
Played by WxMan

Table News, 22 Jan 17

The last few months have been a little weird, when it comes to gaming for me. Due to the holidays and related absences, we ended up not gaming at all for either Friday (Core Group) or Saturday (Olympus) groups for about two months, and the Friday group for which I was up for GMing next was delayed a further three weeks due to bad weather, etc. During this extended downtime, my GMing situation also fluctuated wildly. As of two days ago, this is the current situation: starting this Friday I will be GMing my Steel Ships & Space Marines (which was previously to be ported into the Traveller setting, and has since been reverted), featuring a continuation from the previous one-shot (“The Sabo Affair”), for which two former-PCs will have moved on, but three more added (the player for one of which is not only new to the group, but GURPS as well); on Saturdays at some unspecified point in the hopefully-near future (after the S³M run has ended) I should be running a GURPS Supers campaign, which I will detail here as its time draws nearer—for now, the S³M campaign will have my more-or-less complete focus.

This means (a) I’m GMing again, and not a one-shot; (b) S³M will again see production; and (c) S³M setting stuff will get some needed updates and incorporate new sources. Session-reports will be posted here, though I’m not certain yet whether I will be doing that myself or someone else (Rigil Kent) will—in the latter case, I will likely be posting GM-specific insights on a per-session basis. So, there should be some activity here, coming up.

A One-Shot Across the Bow

edbabb_nassau_wide

GURPS Sea Dogs, Adventure ½

Overview

Another GM in my Saturday group found himself having to slap together a game from scratch with naught but the week before to prepare it, and it ended up working out pretty well, so I wondered if I could pull it off myself. Then the opportunity arose the week prior to this writing, with some upcoming absences from the regular game, and I decided to give it a shot.

I had been wanting to run (or play in) a proper age-of-sail campaign for decades (literally), and have been considering such a campaign for this group, as it has virtually no genre overlap with anyone else’s campaign. But I hadn’t actually put any effort into it yet, so I would be starting from scratch, with only the week to make it happen.

Execution

It took me a few days to finally settle on the basic storyline: a small insurance company based out of Port Royal was about to pay out on a client’s ship lost to pirates, when said client received a ransom demand for the safe return of the ship’s crew—an unusual occurrence—through which the company was able to track down the pirate and his expected location. It would be far cheaper for the company to send some guys with a particular set of skills to retake the ship than to pay out for the loss.

My old Sea Dogs campaign that never saw production started in Nassau, which was also the primary location in the Starz TV series, Black Sails, and a notable spot in the Assassin’s Creed IV game. I chose to set the game there, as there should be plenty of material to work with. The target ship was a 100-ton sloop called McGuffin’s Prize, based on the ship in GURPS Supporting Cast: Age of Sail Pirate Crew for its GURPS 4e stats, captained by the silver-tongued Hans Olof, accompanied by his first-mate, a large African fellow named Chwengwe. Their opposition was a no-name French pirate called La Cage, who captained the brig, Antagonist (which I had to fudge some stats for, in the event they were needed); a brig was featured prominently in the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, the Interceptor, for plenty of visual references. Captain Olof had convinced the pirates to send the ransom note in order to keep them from killing himself and the crew, knowing that it was highly unlikely that the ransom would actually be paid. Also noteworthy, La Cage had been recruiting crew for the new ship.

To expedite the inevitable planning session, I would use a mechanic I had employed once before, that is, “Planning Points”: a number of Impulse Buys for adjusting the tactical situation with the caveat that the changes had been “pre-planned.” I wanted to do a bit of social engineering in town and that sort of thing, but in order to keep it simple, and enough for one session only, I just stuck with a couple of combat encounters, which, with the planning that would involve, would be a tight fit.

For the characters, I really didn’t care too much what we ended up with. I was going to recommend GURPS Action templates until I remembered Pyramid 3/64 “Pirates and Swashbucklers” issue had a few Dungeon Fantasy “swashbuckler” templates. I created a basic character for everyone to use, at the 250-point DF standard; two of the players created their own, but they were both based on the same template. They were all Weapon Masters—serious badasses—and I knew they were going to wipe the floor (deck) with whomever they encountered.

Other minor points of interest:

  • I decided late in the process to use Nicholas Cage as the bad guy, thus named La Cage; I have a long-standing dislike of him as an actor (it’s nothing personal, really), and I like to work him into my campaigns to get punched in the face 😛
  • Rigil’s character was an homage to his now-retired Banestorm character, Gabriel
  • I had a hard time finding stats for the Antagonist. Low Tech has smaller and larger ships than this brig, but not the same, and 3e Vehicles has a smaller version of both the brig and sloop. I probably could have worked it out properly from Vehicles, but it wasn’t really worth the effort since I wasn’t planning any ship-to-ship combat (though a pursuit was possible).

c-1750-nassau-harbour-long-shot

Synopsis

I started the PCs off at sundown, approaching the handful of pirates holding watch over the ships’ boats on shore, the McGuffin and the Antagonist, anchored together around 75 yards out in the Nassau harbor, just off Potter’s Key. Just trailing the PCs was the former crew of the McGuffin which had been rescued some time before, led by Captain Olof and looking a bit worse for wear from a couple of months neglected in the pirates’ custody—they elected to hang back until the all-clear was given. The only PC with skill in Tactics made the roll, with the others attempting to support; the support didn’t amount to much, resulting in three Planning Points to spend, which they held back for later. One of the PCs brought some bottles of rum, and the four PCs walked right up to the sentries and offered to share, claiming to be recruits. The sentries were caught completely by surprise when their new buddies produced their weapons in a flash and took them all prisoner, binding them and leaving them behind some nearby rocks, before making off with the boats. As GM, I was a little surprised the PCs let the sentries live, but whatever. 😛

After a bit of discussion—which pleased me not to take all night—the former-crew ended up taking two of the boats and rowing out ahead, taking cover in the darkness and waiting for the signal to approach, while the PCs took the third and rowed straight up to the brig, again pretending to be new recruits. I rolled 6d6 for the number of pirates aboard the two ships, and the PCs spent a Planning Point to reduce that number by 1d6, resulting in twenty; around half of them had muskets to hand, the rest cutlasses. La Cage was also aboard, arguing with the men over something-or-other.

As the PCs’ boat passed under the brig’s stern, Ronnke’s character slipped into the water and climbed up to the open gallery windows. They had spent another Planning Point to have an “inside man” disable the rudder—owing to my introduction of Hans Olof and Chwengwe, the players declared the inside-man to be a short, round fellow, wearing blue and white and whistling a lot. Once Ronnke’s character had entered the gallery, the inside-man handed him a dry pistol, while he reloaded one of his.

niccage-piratesI gave La Cage’s men a Reaction check against the newcomers aboard; I interpreted the “Bad” result as the pirates being unappreciative of the the interruption. But they also failed a Perception check to notice the ruse, so I declared Partial Surprise; the PCs won the initiative, and the pirates froze—only one round, though. The PCs went immediately to work butchering them mercilessly, with some minor, flashy heroics combined with some surprise Crit-fails/successes to make things a little more interesting. La Cage fell back across to the McGuffin to regroup but took a nasty spill running down from a cannon and face-planted on deck; Andricus’ character ended up stabbing him twice at random hit-locations: once through the back, the other through his manhood—this was actually unscripted. 😀 The fight lasted around seven seconds, with the enemy casualties a bit over half, the other half choosing to surrender.

Afterward, the signal was given for the old crew to join them. Some of the pirates were recruited to assist as well, and both ships were readied to depart, in no hurry since the pirates were no longer a threat.

Aftermath

The experiment worked out well enough. I managed to craft a decent night’s entertainment from scratch in the allotted week’s time, and probably had enough time to spare that, if I had wanted to spread it out over multiple sessions, I probably could have done more. Now I know, for me, it can be done. There were a few rules bits that I probably could have worked out beforehand, but that was pretty minor. My pacing was spot on; ended exactly when I intended. I was actually a bit surprised that the combat went pretty smoothly and quickly despite the numbers, though that was helped by only having four players to manage. I was also pretty happy with this second playtest of the Planning Points concept; this will undoubtedly be used again.

While I had already been considering a regular age-of-sail campaign, I don’t have any intention of it being a sequel/prequel to this one at all, though some of the characters or ships might certainly reappear in some form or another.

Universe Reaction

grand_universe_by_antifan_real1

AKA “The Universe hates/loves me”

Some time ago, I ran a Traveller one-shot that focused on a race-against-time to complete a rush-job. But as GM, I dislike arbitrating little things like how long someone has to stand in the queue at the bank, and in the case of this one-shot, it feels a bit like GM “cheating” anyway. So I came up with the concept of the Universe Reaction Check, to circumvent my arbitration-guilt. It works like this:

First, you mentally ask the question, “What is it the PCs are trying to do right now?” Then you figuratively turn to the Universe and ask if it will help or hinder their efforts, at which point you roll (for GURPS) an unmodified Reaction Check (B560) and consult the appropriate Request for Aid entry for the answer, as if it were an intelligent being with the power to smooth things along or get in the way. Simple.

In the case of the aforementioned one-shot, I translated this effect into minutes/hours/etc. of delay or acceleration of their timetable—because that’s what was at stake (a “base” time-increment will be required, though, to use it this way). But the effects would probably differ in other situations based on the PCs’ intentions. For example, if some post-apocalypse PCs are scrounging through some ruins for food, a “helpful Universe” would mean that some food is available at that location (the amount dependent on how helpful the Universe is feeling), and an “unhelpful Universe” would mean there is none to be found, or worse, an ambush awaits—this might be independent of whether or not the PCs are able to find that food, only indicating how much is available to be found. As some of the other GMs in both of my groups have started to use Universe Reactions in their games, I’ve seen it used during chases to determine if “suitable terrain” exists for a stunt. As it is, the concept is widely adaptable to any number of situations, but the more industrious GM could also build out more situation-specific Reaction tables for greater detail or less improvisation of effects.

Of course, the standard GURPS Reaction system allows for modifiers to the check, and that can still be incorporated. In the Traveller one-shot, a PC with Bad Luck insisted on penalizing those checks in his case. Conversely, “good” Luck is really just a favorable Reaction result, so one could reasonably treat is as an Influence success against the Universe. There’s no reason one couldn’t assign modifiers based on PCs “karmic” status, or add cumulative penalties as the adventure progresses to increase the stakes. Using GURPS Action 2, BAD could sensibly be applied as well.

Lastly, it is easily possible to use the same concept in other game systems, either using the GURPS check/table as-is or a similar mechanic from whatever system is being used.

Table News, 5 Jul 16

Work on the Traveller campaign continues, maybe less steadily than I’d like, but making progress. I expect I’ll be able to manage a short-term series without too much fuss, and perhaps more.

My “obsession level” regarding the Sketchup model of the PCs’ ship has diminished somewhat, but is certainly not gone. The model is nearing a sufficient level of completion (that is, it doesn’t leave a whole lot to the imagination anymore)—not that it’s a requirement for the campaign, just feeding my need to create/build things. I’m actually fairly excited about the results. I figure I’ll keep fine-tuning it for quite a while after. I’ll make the model available for download soon. After that, I expect I’ll be cleaning up the model I made a long time ago for Tamborro Station—needs a lot of work.

There was a bit of a surprise for me this month, with regard to the Olympus group. I was tossing some ideas about with Rigil, when I thought how interesting it might be to do a Stargate campaign based on the SG-1 TV series, but “rip off” the series, episode for episode, and see how PCs would do things differently, knowing that the resulting story would diverge entirely from the show at some point. Later, we ended up discussing the idea with the Olympus group in the pre-game downtime, and I discovered that the players there were all pretty big fans of the show, and were definitely interested. It wasn’t my original intent, but I decided it would be doable for me to GM it, so I ended up making an official pitch.

As it stands now: the TV show, SG-1, is the “Wormhole Extreme” (the parody show within the show) of the campaign, and the campaign itself the “true events” the show is loosely based on. The characters will differ: some will be playing show characters or amalgams, others new ones. The episodes will essentially be the same (for starters), but I plan to give them a more sensible and realistic treatment. As an actual Daniverse campaign, I will be replacing the show’s alien races and situations with mine—it will present some challenges, but the Daniverse has a lot of Stargate in its pedigree anyway, so it should all fit together nicely. This also means it’s going to transition to X-Com later. For research, I’ve got lots of TV show to watch—should keep me busy for a long time.

I want to do a short intro for the Stargate campaign as soon as possible, but the next opportunity looks like it will occur at the same time as the opportunity for the Core Group’s Traveller kickoff; given the respective table situations, Traveller is going to win out (I won’t run two at once), so the Stargate kickoff will probably be delayed. Inception will, of course, be back-burnered for now, but I definitely still want to run that at some point, so it isn’t dead.

Table News, 7 Jun 16

My prep-work for the upcoming Traveller campaign continues.

The last few weeks have been consumed by my work on a 3D model of the PCs’ ship in Sketchup. I’ve done this for the past two Traveller campaigns for the Olympus (Saturday) group, and they’ve proven to be very useful for visualization, and I’ve wanted to model this ship in particular for years, just because. Unlike the last ones, however, I plan to go into much greater level of detail in the model, if for no other reason than to see what I might be capable of. I’ve made a lot of progress, though there is much still to be done.

badomen-wip4

badomen-wip1

badomen-wip3

badomen-wip2

The original design was a bit vague on some of the details, which I’ve had to make up as I go—part of the process. The “green” interior is a bit of an accident, though it’s grown on me, and I may keep it. I made a few minor mistakes in the original dimensions and such, which at the time I discovered them, were far too difficult to correct, so I just left them—you’d probably never know unless I pointed them out.

Table News, 9 May 16

Yeah, really late. Sue me 😛

I’ve been working on the new Traveller campaign for the Core Group (Friday). We had a get-on-the-same-page session in April, where we worked out the overall campaign issues and figured out the main characters. Essentially, it’s to be a more-or-less direct continuation of my S³M stuff, mixing Firefly and The Expanse, set in the Spinward Marches, with a “home base” on Denotam/Vilis; a bit of an underworld-focused techno-thriller. As part of my prep, I’ve been researching the upper-level politics of the area, and plan to feature more of the back-and-forth between the Imperial dukes than (most) other Traveller games I’ve played in. Also, I decided to use a lot of background material from our Olympus (Saturday) Traveller campaign, and will be coordinating with the regular GM for that one.

I was actually supposed to start running the week after the same-page session, but I just wasn’t ready. We decided to go ahead with the Pathfinder continuation, and I’ll step in after that (maybe a one-shot in the middle if we need a break).

Meanwhile, I haven’t had much to do with GMing for the Olympus group. We’ve got a lot of material to work with over there, and more potential GMs, especially now that we’ve established the concept of guest-GMs in regular campaigns. I suppose I’m still planning to do Inception there, but I haven’t even looked at it in ages, and I’m well past the point where I usually start waffling over what to run. That said, I expect the Core Group Traveller campaign will occur first, so I’m throwing all my energy into that one.