Sunday, December 23, 2007

For whom the bell tones

This is the first in a series of "letters home" from the front lines of DM-ing. Something like quick dirty tricks that enhance your game, or a toolbox to mine for ideas.

The other day I was reading Yax of Dungeon Mastering fame, solid read by the way, and I read his article about 30 minute prep sessions. It has a nice bit about not writing out descriptions but picking a mood, and focus on it.

Mood is a very funny thing to play with, in my writings I tend to gravitate to a darker mood. I see moods divided into two categories, positive and negative. In a Role playing game setting I think that the darker mood is what is required to start gnawing at players. Yax had the fantastic idea of writing out a mood for a game session and doing something you normally don't do, he uses constant rain for example, and keep it in mind during the game session. This is fantastic and quick, but what if you want the mood to stick with the players?

In addition to picking out a mood for a given session I have started to jot down a list of complementing words, nothing to fancy, but at least 5 words that in and of themselves are harmless. They don't need to be flashy or expensive, just outside of your normal vocabulary. I like to slip them in as though I have been using them all along with no added emphasis, the players might not pick up on it consciously but it will plant the seeds of uncanny.

Using this technique I have had players call me two days after a session with the implanted mood hanging over them. Give it a whirl you might like it!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Another one bites the dust..

So five weeks later and my mek20 game has run out of steam.

The first session I thought went well. However the next week I found that two of my players quit, they also forgot to tell me. The third week another player told me he was not interested at all in the game, and quit. Three down, four to go. Last night I had a grand total of two (no you didn't miss read, that is a 2) players. I was less then enthusiastic to run, to say the least.

So I think I will take what worked for this game, the first session worked very well I just had very little fluff to spread on the giant robots, and I will pack it away and spruce it up every once in a while.

And just like that my dream of a working mech game dies again. And so does my hope that we will ever play a sci-fi game more then 6 weeks in my group. For now I will retreat into finishing the rules I started out, with the hope that someone will use them and receive more fanfare then I did.

Look for more Mek20 coming soon!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Live fire exercise...

I have two games per week. One on Wednesday nights from 4:30pm to 10:00-ish, and one on Thursday from 6:00pm to 1 or 2:00am. That sounds like a lot, but until last week I was playing in one and running the other. The one I played served as a quiet time with friends that I used to plot out the next days session. At any rate I had a 5-hour session once a week that I used for adventure prep time, and life was good.

Last Wednesday around noon-ish I received a call at the office from the regular DM, asking me if I can start a campaign later that night. Of course I said yes, and went back to my day. Quite like it always happens I started mulling about my scrapped ideas. My main campaign has a vast untapped potential for gaming material, but most of the players in one game are players in the other. On top of that I am sick of running fantasy (ancient magics and hokey religions are no match for a good blaster at your side).

At about 2:00pm I decided to run my pet project, a Mecha campaign. This particular brain child of mine has had several iterations, all of the priors failing in anticlimactic fizzles. But this time I have an idea. not that the last attempts did not have ideas, quite to the opposite in fact. Each time I ran this type of campaign I found what did not work. I wish I could say I also found what worked, however that is not the case.

The next step is deciding the system. Most of the players in the wednesday game are casual gamers: so Mekton requiring a new book (hard to find at that) is out, Gurps I have never played in let alone run, d20 is the clearcut choice. The downside is that the already built d20 mecha rules are trash, and my kit-bash is rough and ill equipped to be played in right?

At about 3:00 I arrived home with a new vigor to finish Mek20. I pounded out the armor rules in record time. That still does not leave me with a polished system, but its a hell of a start. A quick, and I do mean quick, hash out of the players Mobile Suits as well as the Mook Suits and slight conversion of the d20 modern SRD to a Kinkos friendly .pdf and a hexgrid overlay of normandy puts me at 4:30 and done with most of the prep I can do. So I'm going to be late sue me...

A rushed Print shop worker and a bit of speeding later and I'm at the local club house. Sliding in under the wire at 4:58. Alright lets get some gaming done.

After character creation I came out swinging. The play started with a quick bit of exposition on the world as it is now, promptly followed with a hard drop-pod into a hot LZ. Some high octane later and its time to wrap it up. All told It was a sweet session. I have a warm fuzzy feeling that this time I will go the distance!

P.S. I now have a real excuse to finish the Mek20 kit bash in double time. look out for it.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Armor: not just for foot soldiers anymore!

At last its here! The armor bit of Mek20! And you thought it was never going to get here... The armor should work mostly the same as the servos the major difference being the HP's (I think in the last installment of Mek20 I will add that to servos anyhow..) and the hardness. The hit points will come right with the size armor plating, but the hardness I think I will base on material used for more options at construction. all right lets dive right in.

I think that Mekton has far to many types of armor as well, more of the same mega-ultra-hyper-adjective-heavy names. So I will be taking from the d20 modern SRD, for armor names and ability's. In no particular order alumisteel, Duraplastic, duralloy, Resilum, Crystal Carbon Armor, neovulcanium, neutronite, megatanium, and Reactive Armor.

Each has its own quarks, but it boils down to this quick excerpt from the d20 modern SRD (with hardness and point cost tacked in).

Armor can be welded or otherwise fixed securely to a mecha’s superstructure, providing an equipment bonus to the mecha’s Defense. Mecha armor does not impose a maximum Dexterity bonus upon the mecha operator (as worn armor does) and does not require a special proficiency feat to use.
Installing armor on a mecha requires a Craft (mechanical) check (DC 20). The check is made after investing an amount of time determined by the mecha’s size: Large 3 hours, Huge 6 hours, Gargantuan 12 hours, and Colossal 24 hours. Armor can be removed in half the time with a successful Repair check (DC 20).
Different types of mecha armor are presented below, along with the following statistics:
Equipment Bonus: The equipment bonus that the armor provides to the operator’s Defense.
Armor Check Penalty: Mecha armor applies this penalty on its operator’s Balance, Climb, Escape Artist, Hide, Jump, Move Silently, and Tumble checks.
Speed Penalty: The amount by which the armor reduces the mecha’s base speed.
Purchase DC: The cost of the armor.
Restriction: Since mecha require a license to own and operate, mecha armor does not require a special license to purchase.

This easy-to-acquire alloy is lightweight and reasonably strong. Alumisteel can also be used as a building material for mecha superstructures (see Mecha Superstructure, above).
Hardness: 10
Equipment Bonus: +5.
Armor Check Penalty: –6.
Speed Penalty: –5 feet.
Cost: 2

Duraplastic armor is made of advanced plastic polymers, such as carbon fiber and high-grade fiberglass. Although relatively cheap and light, it doesn’t offer tremendous protection.
Hardness: 5
Equipment Bonus: +3.
Armor Check Penalty: –4.
Speed Penalty: None.
Cost: 1

Duralloy is harder, heavier, and more durable than alumisteel. It can also be used as a building material for mecha superstructures (see Mecha Superstructure, above).
Hardness: 15
Equipment Bonus: +8.
Armor Check Penalty: –8.
Speed Penalty: –10 feet.
Cost: 4

Resilium is a more malleable alloy than duralloy, although not as strong.
Hardness: 12
Equipment Bonus: +6.
Armor Check Penalty: –5.
Speed Penalty: None.
Cost: 3

Grown in orbital laboratories, crystal carbon is a composite fiber material that narrowly outperforms neovulcanium (see below) on the battlefield.
Hardness: 25
Equipment Bonus: +10.
Armor Check Penalty: –8.
Speed Penalty: None.
Cost: 7

Similar to duralloy, neovulcanium uses plasma-forging techniques to create an alloy of surprising resilience. It is also used as a building material for mecha superstructures (see Mecha Superstructure, above).
Hardness: 20
Equipment Bonus: +10.
Armor Check Penalty: –10.
Speed Penalty: –5 feet.
Cost: 5

Sandwiched layers of crystal carbon and neovulcanium held in a magnetic matrix, megatanium is exceedingly hard and durable. It can also be used as a building material for mecha superstructures (see Mecha Superstructure, above).
Hardness: 30
Equipment Bonus: +12.
Armor Check Penalty: –10.
Speed Penalty: –10 feet.
Cost: 8

Consisting of layers of insulating gel or compressed gas between cerametal sheets, reactive armor provides the same protection as crystal carbon armor but is considerably cheaper and easier to produce.
Hardness: 25
Equipment Bonus: +8.
Armor Check Penalty: –5.
Speed Penalty: None.
Cost: 6

As well the point cost is multiplied by the number of servos you are armoring (all of them)

End Excerpt, that was not so bad huh? as well in reading over this i will be going back over the earlier post's to add and edit them.

Until next time...

Monday, October 15, 2007

Great Expectations...

Today is Monday. Like most geeks I was pasted to the television watching Heroes. it was about halfway through that I spotted the largest plot hole I have seen in a while. It's not often that one slips through the cracks lately, so mostly I turn a blind eye. However, todays hole shattered my suspension of disbelief in the Heroes continuity.

-----Heroes Spoiler ALERT-----

You have been warned. Our humble little story starts in the way backs of season one. The writing was solid, the acting was exquisite, all of it was good. late in the season a villain was introduced, not a full fledged villain mind you more like a special henchman. Anywho, her power was to create illusions in the minds of others. She was also quite adept at manipulation. She proves herself to be a very careful person, kidnapping and controlling another character that can bend machines to his will, through wits and well placed illusions. Much to my dismay her actions in season two are starkly inconsistent, as she is put in a position of captor over Syler. Another villain with the power to take other peoples powers by means of a close study of their brains. As well the higher ups in the organization that the illusion girl works for show full knowledge of Sylars power. I know this is a long build up. It's then that Sylar is able to subdue the overly careful cunning manipulative woman that we know is an expert at containing other people with powers, with nothing more then an outright physical attack. There is no conceivable way that she could be bested with such a base attack, from someone she KNOWS KILLS OTHER PEOPLE FOR THEIR POWERS...

As an analyzer of story's I know I am naturally hard on weak plots, but come on. I know I for one will not be watching the rest of this season.

look for Mek20's next bit someday!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Servos and you...

Servos and you, with pancakes! In part two of our ongoing look at Mekton into d20, or Mek20 or whatever, I will be breaking down servos. Servos are what make Mekton so versatile; literally the limit on combinations is in the absurd range, something that does not work well when adding crunch. There are servos for (in order mind you /me points finger): the Torso, the main fuselage; the Arms, y’ know the wiggly things that help bring food to the mouth or do pushups; Arm Extensions, hands, claws, pincers, in some cases shotguns… ok I made that up, but it sounds cool… and talons; the Legs; Leg Extensions, the foots (robot ninjas from the best cartoon ever…); the Head; the Wings; Tails (but not sonic); and Pods, backpacks and the like. That’s a lot of stuff, so I will recap in list form and with out the bad jokes.
1. Torso
2. Arms
3. Arm extensions
4. Legs
5. Leg extensions
6. Head
7. Wings
8. Tails
9. Pods

That’s nine (9!) things to mix and match, add to that eleven (11!?) options per servo type. I will let you roll that around for a bit. Staggered yet? I know I am. Ok lets dive in. Each of those eleven options per servo has its own size. This is the first obstacle, as d20 only has 9 most of which are very small. In thinking about this little (I couldn’t resist) problem my first thought was to add sizes, simple. The more you think about adding sizes to d20 the scarier it becomes (what’s bigger then colossal for Pete’ sake?). The only other alternative is to use the sizes native to the d20 rules. The only sizes that seem applicable are: large, huge, gargantuan, and colossal. Large is still a maybe at this point. The best way is with multiple Mekton sizes fall into the different size categories in d20. But wait there’s more. I thought up a spiffy naming convention, in Mekton the sizes have various descriptive adjectives as names, to me that’s not standardized enough. I think the new sizes should be named after the 2d0 size they fall into as well as their relation to the smallest of that d20 size. Did I lose you yet? It works out to the name being Huge-1 for the smallest Mekton size we put in the d20 huge size.

I think its time for a table, or two, maybe three.

Large-1221 ton
Huge-1442 ton
Huge-2663 ton
Huge-3884 ton
Huge-410105 ton
Huge-512126 ton
Gargantuan-114147 ton
Gargantuan-216168 ton
Gargantuan-318189 ton
Colossal-1202010 ton
Colossal-2222211 ton

Arms and LegsCostSpacesWeight
Large-1220.5 ton
Huge-1331 ton
Huge-2441.5 ton
Huge-3552 ton
Huge-4662.5 ton
Huge-5773 ton
Gargantuan-1883.5 ton
Gargantuan-2994 ton
Gargantuan-310104.5 ton
Colossal-111115 ton
Colossal-212125.5 ton

Head, Wings, Tails, and PodsCostSpacesWeight
Large-1110.5 ton
Huge-1221 ton
Huge-2331.5 ton
Huge-3442 ton
Huge-4552.5 ton
Huge-5663 ton
Gargantuan-1773.5 ton
Gargantuan-2884 ton
Gargantuan-3994.5 ton
Colossal-110105 ton
Colossal-211115.5 ton

Otay, now we have that out of the way... The new bits you may have noticed are the spaces on the servos. Those are used later in the equipment stage, and thats where I will elaborate on them more. Until next time...

Monday, October 8, 2007

Shiny Space Robots!

Over the next few articles I will be kit bashing the Mekton mech construction rules into d20. I want to do this for a few reasons, the first of which being cool facter, and the next is after watching a lot of Gundam lately I birthed a campaign idea.
I chose the Mekton rules for mechs because of its versatility, and I want to morph it into d20 because I’m a crunch whore. The game system that Mekton is built on is not crunch heavy. Its more about the fluff. Whilst I do like my fluff nice and puffy, I love crunch just as crisp.
To fire this up right I will start off by breaking down the servos that make Mekton so versatile, and putting them in d20 terms and sizes. This requires a breakdown to basic bits, and a restructuring to something altogether not quite the same.
The next article I will tackle the armor in d20 terms. The key here is converting kills and SP to HP and hardness respectively. Oh boy, won’t that be a gas!
Stage three is to add in equipment: weapons, sensors, drag chutes, shields, thrusters, and anything I didn’t cover. Once again breaking it down and building it back up.
Last, but not least, polish this all up. Mostly editing and tying up all the lose ends into a nice streamlined construction manual. And add in some examples for good measure, after all what’s a process without results.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

First Impressions

Well to start this up right I will need to introduce myself. I am a Dungeon Master (yeah I said it). I have been for quite some time, and this is an attempt to bring good habits to my table. That’s not to say I have no good habits in my gamming, however, more cannot hurt. Right?
At any rate my current campaign is going quite swimmingly (more or less, a story for another time perhaps), we are 21 sessions deep, and the party is just about level 8. Now for the detail heavy bit, the story thus far.
It all started on a sunny spring day. I ran the party through some low level hoops, fleshed out the world nicely, and set them up quite well. The first big reveal hit somewhere between 3rd and 4th level, it was that the continent the party had come to know and love was not the only one. I also tore apart the landscape of the first continent thereby introducing the first villain. And boy is she a villain, never have I seen such animosity develop so quickly. The next big reveal is that the redhead (the villain) can kill gods. Making her both hated and feared, the party then found the Empire. It is now year 79,941. In the shaky 300 years following the betrayal of the Brotherhood the Empire is trying to rekindle the fires of civilization, as most of the continents have reverted to barbaric feudal states. The party travels to the Imperial city, there they learn that the redhead that has been dogging them the whole trip is one of Barga's (the BBEG and head of the brotherhood) 4 lieutenants and carrying out his nefarious plot. A captured princess and a few good sized plot hooks later and the party is off to find the sorcerer, some 40+ continents away. Leading us to the next big reveal, that Barga has set up an industrialized slave society. Now we have rifles.