Category Archives: General

Going Semi-Mapless

Last Saturday, for the Olympus group, I ran another one-shot from our Supers campaign. I did a bit of an experiment I had been meaning to try for a while now.

Tactical combat—in pretty much any system, not just GURPS—tends to drag, for obvious reasons. We have experimented a few times with eliminating the tactical-map and going entirely theatre-of-the-mind. Sometimes it works. It does spare everyone some of the brain-cycles we use to process the tactical situation according to the grid, and reduces some weird meta-behaviors resulting from minding the rules. I’ve found that it helps—or maybe requires—some kind of graphic to establish the geography, to keep everyone on the same page about what’s where. But we’ve also done that, and in at least one instance, the confusion over who can see what, who can reach whom, etc., left a little to be desired. “Was he over there, or over there?” “How far is that?”

My experiment was to go “semi-mapless.” The players had no map, just an image reference of the combat area (in this case, first the alley, and second, the stairwell). But I, as GM, did have a tactical map, fully gridded and all that. I was tracking positions and moves based on the players’ descriptions, but I tracked facing, distance, etc., as usual, using my map grid. They had all the benefit of “mapless tactical combat” while I was able to keep everything (mostly) organized behind-the-scenes.

Afterward, I call it a success. There were a couple of places where I could have communicated the situation better—I think I need to remind the player-on-deck of the geography when their turn comes up. I felt free to fudge the details here and there, for simplicity, so it wasn’t too tedious, on my end. I definitely expect I’ll use it again in the future.

Table News, 7 Oct 2019

Well, it looks like the Sea Dogs is about to happen for the Olympus (Sat) group, finally. For real this time. I wrote up the introduction almost a year ago here. It should kick off at the end of October, or beginning of November. Unfortunately, that leaves me with very little time before the onset of the “Silly Season”—the end-of-year holiday season, where half the group tends to bail a lot for family reasons—which means either taking a break from the campaign (right after it starts) or dealing with constant delays and random player absences. At this point, my assumption is the former. Therefore, the current plan is to do the “Session Zero” planning session and campaign intro, and then break for the holidays, until the beginning of next year. Sad but unavoidable. But it does give me a little longer to prep, so there’s that. I’m feeling pretty good about it, though.

I have no idea what’s in store for the Core Group (Fri). I’m still leaning in a generally Car Wars direction, but any real effort there is still spinning its tires at the starting line.

Universe Reaction, Extended

grand_universe_by_antifan_real1

Some time ago, I introduced both of my player groups to my Universe Reaction idea. It has seen extensive re-use since then. We’ve found it quite useful. Along the way, I had planned to post some examples of how it might be used. I’m finally getting around to it now. (Since I don’t have much else to post about at the moment.)

Universe Reaction, Examples

Positive/Negative

Simple concept. Provides an answer to a yes/no question, like “Will it rain?” with a bit more granularity.

<=0 No, And+
1-3 No, And
4-6 No
7-9 No, But
10-12 Yes, But
13-15 Yes
16-18 Yes, And
19+ Yes, And+
Enough

This one is for questions like, “How much ammo do we find?” It depends on a rough idea, at least, how much is needed.

<=0 None at all
1-3 Hardly any
4-6 A little/half
7-9 Not enough
10-12 Almost enough
13-15 Enough
16-18 More than enough
19+ Plentiful
Timing

Actually, this is one of the earliest questions I was trying to answer that resulted in the idea of the Universe Reaction. It revolved around how early or late an “appointment” occurred, or what sort of delays a PC might experience in rush-hour traffic.

<=0 No-show
1-3 Really late
4-6 Late
7-9 A bit late
10-12 On time
13-15 A bit early
16-18 Early
19+ Really early
Match

This question originally revolved around “scrounging” and how useful a found item might be to whatever-it-is. But it could obviously have much wider applications as well.

<=0 Worst possible match
1-3 Very bad match
4-6 Bad match
7-9 Poor match
10-12 Not quite good enough
13-15 Good enough
16-18 Close match
19+ Exact match
“Interesting Times”

By “interesting,” I mean the Chinese curse sense—May you live in interesting times. This question evolved from an attempt to work out some “random events.”

<=0 Most interesting (negative)
1-3 Very interesting (negative)
4-6 Interesting (negative)
7-9 Not interesting (maybe a little negative)
10-12 Not interesting (maybe a little positive)
13-15 Interesting (positive)
16-18 Very interesting (positive)
19+ Most interesting (positive)

Table News, 3 Jun 2019

And the wheel keeps turning…

Due to one of the Olympus/Saturday players deciding to take a summer hiatus, I got a bit derailed. Now, instead of running Generica next, I’m going to be revisiting the After the End concept (previously a Core Group/Friday campaign) with a different “antagonist.” It won’t happen until the fall, most likely. As a proper Google Earth-powered “sandbox” like its predecessor, there won’t be a ton of pre-prep, so there’s nothing really standing in the way whenever the go-signal is given. I’m feeling pretty good about it right now. But there’s a fair amount of time between now and then, wherein anything can happen, so who knows? I expect the prep-work I did on Generica won’t go to waste, though; I had already discussed the idea of a concurrent campaign for Friday, and as I have nothing planned for Friday at the moment, that could become a thing.

Table News, 2 Apr 2019

It’s been rather longer than I intended since I last posted. Well, you haven’t really missed anything…

I’ve officially announced I’ll be running Generica after the current campaign on Saturdays—which doesn’t make it absolutely certain, but does increase the likelihood, at least. The only real change worth mentioning is that there’s been some discussion of running Generica on Fridays as well, in some form or another. At this point, it seems most likely it would be a separate concurrent storyline, centered on a different area of the kingdom, with maybe a little potential for some overlap. This one is, however, definitely not certain at the moment. Either way, I’ve been working steadily on the worldbuilding for Generica, and the basic skeleton of the Sat campaign is complete, minus a couple of extras I wanted to do for possible one-shots or filler/options. Running it on Friday as well means all that effort will pay off extra. So, it’s looking good, anyway.

Table News, 2 Jan 2019

I didn’t do much actual GMing in 2018, it seems, though I did a lot of work on various campaigns. Things keep shifting around.

For Olympus (Sat), I worked on Sea Dogs for a solid four months, and almost ran it, but it ended up being delayed for…reasons. I eventually tabled it in favor of the Supers campaign, Knight City Chronicles, after I ran a couple of one-shots (recordings available on Youtube: First, and Second), for which I never posted any behind-the-scenes stuff here as I had intended. (My dislike for blogging/journal-keeping has apparently not improved 😛 ) It looked like it was really picking up some steam until…reasons, again. Now I’ve restructured my intentions (and expectations) and moved on.

For the Core Group (Fri), we had a really long run of Pathfinder: Kingmaker that, along with the many “start-stop” interruptions along the way, took up most of the year. Toward the end of the year, we had a month or so of Star Trek before we ended up just taking a hiatus to close out the year.

The trend for me, of late, has been to enlist the players, more and more, in the campaign decision-making, but that hasn’t been working out like I wanted. Getting details for new characters and such has required a lot more arm-twisting than I’ve found I am willing to tolerate. That, combined with the constant “start-stopping” for absences, has caused me to re-evaluate how I develop the campaign, and I have a new procedure I’m using for the forseeable future. Here’s hoping it works a bit better for 2019…

Currently, the roadmap(s) look like this:

  • For the Olympus group, we’ve got around 4 weeks (maybe more) left of the current Banestorm run, and after that, GURPS Action: Consular Operations (basically, a “spy thriller”) for probably 6-12 weeks. After that, I currently intend to continue Generica for a full-length run.
  • For the Core Group, we’ve got a Fallout game at the start of the year, which I would expect to go from 6-12 weeks. I’m expecting a run of Night’s Black Agents after that. Then I’m planning to get Terra Nova going.
  • Assuming the new procedure works out, I intend to sketch out some material for Autoduel, and maybe Sea Dogs (after some retooling), as backups.

Table News, 1 Oct 2018

The Core Group (Fri) has roughly sorted out the GMing queue, and there won’t be an opening for me there for around a year, looks like. Work on the Sea Dogs campaign for the Olympus (Sat) group is ongoing. Nothing to see here, yet. So, I thought I’d discuss some of the mechanical issues I’ve been working on for that campaign.

Random Crew

I started a “recruitment” Skill Challenge test-run on the group’s forum, but it got a bit tangled up in the process of everyone trying to wrap their heads around it. At the time, Sea Dogs was next in the queue. Due to the confusion, I worked out a backup plan for generating new NPC crewmen in a hurry, based on something we did in the Core Group some years back. Barring adjustment, the current Random Crew generator is posted on the wiki. Now that the campaign is pushed back in the queue, we’re going to revisit the Skill Challenge thing, but this generator will allow me to wait until the last minute to do that.

Rumors

I think the vast majority of RPG systems or meta-systems just use a random-list of “rumors” with some kind of social skill-check to pick up one/some. That’s fine if the PC is actively trying to get information from a person or group, but if the PC is just eavesdropping for whatever is interesting, skill has nothing to do with it. Credit to Ronnke: he mentioned the Scavenging rules from After the End, which I re-wired for this purpose. The Rumors mechanic is posted on the wiki, such as it is.

Navigation

GURPS Swashbucklers (3e) has some guidelines about sailing distances and times within the Caribbean, but they’re pretty broad, and don’t take into account other destinations than those listed, or the differences between ships and their individual performance characteristics. I wanted to remedy that, not only for this campaign, but for potential future use as well. For now, I’ll be using Google Earth for drawing out the paths and calculating the distances involved. Toward the cause of doing all the math behind the scenes so the players don’t have to on game night, I combined data from Vehicles (3e), Vehicles Expansion I (3e), Swashbucklers (3e), Low-Tech, and others into a spreadsheet designed to manage the navigation process—distance, course, wind, currents, and the sailing properties of the ship/rigging are all accounted for, in as accurate a manner as I could manage.

Travel Logistics

Sea-travel is going to be a focus of this campaign. GURPS has a number of sources dealing with long-distance travel in general, and sea-travel in specific, the best being Dungeon Fantasy 16: Wilderness Adventures. I am combining that with the “mission planning” stuff from Action 2, and adding in my own Preparation Points, Impulse Buys aspected to travel preparations. I’m still sorting out the details on this one.

Trade

At least one of the players had specifically requested to not do “trading” in this campaign. Although “travel” is a focus of the campaign, “trade” is not. I would usually prefer to go into detail, for the simulation’s sake, but I opted to go with a greatly-simplified system rather than eliminate it entirely. This will be loosely based on Sid Meier’s Pirates! combined with a little inspiration from “Medieval Sea Trade” in Pyramid 3/87 Low-Tech III. This one is still being worked on as well.

Random Traffic

It’s simple enough to randomly determine what appears on the horizon at any given time at sea, but it’s another matter for that determination to be realistic. This issue has resulted in the largest number of research hours, I think, to determine what an appropriate amount of sea-traffic is for the 18th century Caribbean Sea. My research has not been fruitless, though maybe not as specific as I would like. I have the basics worked out, but I’m still working on it (at a lower priority than the others, since I could easily wing it, and nobody would know).

Table News, 7 Aug 2018

Not much to report just now.

Work continues on Sea Dogs for the Olympus Group (Saturday). Technically, I should have been starting it already, but there was a bit of a communication hiccup that resulted in my delaying the campaign until the next in the round. It is my intention to start posting some rules and mechanics I’m planning to use, in case someone else can benefit from it. If I manage to self-motivate in that direction, I will likely be exceeding my usual once a month-or-two posting pace (which will happen anyway once the campaign starts). I’m still pretty excited about this one.

I haven’t given GMing for the Core Group (Friday) much thought in quite a while. Things have been progressing in stutters there. That said, I’m still expecting to run Autoduel at some point in the future, I just couldn’t say when.

Table News, 3 Jun 2018

It’s been a while. Meh. No excuse, really. As usual, things have changed

Not much in the way of news for the Friday (Core Group) team. There has not been a great deal of progress on preparations for the Autoduel campaign for the Friday (Core Group) team. I don’t have a specific schedule to begin, so I’m not sure when it will occur, but I know it won’t be for a while, at least—a couple of other campaigns ahead in the queue. We are supposed to do a bit more Car Wars this week, though, due to some absences.

For a number of reasons, I decided against Generica for my next offering for the Saturday (Olympus) group. Instead, I successfully pitched a full-size campaign of Sea Dogs. This will be unrelated to the previous one-shot. It’s actually supposed to be next in the GMing queue, so it should debut within the next couple of months. I’ll post a full introduction to the campaign in the near future. But for now, I’ll say that it is meant to be a sandbox/open-world with minimal GM “leading,” and will be (only) the second official Daniverse campaign for this group (after The Crusade). Preparations are going pretty well so far, and I’m fairly confident.

Table News, 5 Feb 2018

“Crime and politics, little girl. The situation is always…fluid.”—Badger, Firefly

The Friday (Core Group) group wasn’t making a great deal of progress toward a playable Terra Nova campaign, though it was making some. We had a few more weeks to fill after the start of the year before the next GM was in a position to take over. With nobody else ready to fill in, I said “To hell with it” and offered to ref some Car Wars, as it would take very little prep to set up, and should scratch the itch well enough between “real” RPG campaigns. It would be the first time in well over a decade for me, and the first time ever for most of the players.

They liked it. They liked it so much they demanded more. I suggested maybe we should look into my GURPS Autoduel campaign—it was number two in the “what’s next” poll, after all, and it would use Car Wars mostly as-is for the vehicle combat. They agreed.

So, my Friday GMing efforts have now shifted from Terra Nova to Autoduel. As before, I’m pushing to get enough work done to actually be able to run something on a moment’s notice, but in this case, I only need enough for some “campaign-relevant” Car Wars content, so it should be a little easier. But ultimately, this means more characters/campaign-setup discussions, so I’m not under any illusions about how soon that will occur. The next time we have need, I can just run a bit of as-is Car Wars, at least, so that’s something.

I really haven’t given the Saturday (Olympus) situation much thought lately, except that the release of Dungeon Fantasy RPG has been followed by some campaign material that I may be able to make use of for Legends of Generica, so I’m planning to pick it up. If I can use it more-or-less as-is, I’ll have content ready for the next opportunity.