And… we’re back.

Posted in rambling with tags , , , , , , , on July 29, 2010 by caduceusiv

So, a combination of a lot going on, a lack of motivation, and Starcraft 2 contributed to the recent hiatus. I’ll try and be a little more consistent from now on, but no promises. Still, I feel refreshed, so on with the show. A few thoughts below:

Starcraft 2: is AWESOME. I mean, we all knew it would be, at least those of us who don’t have an unreasoning hatred for Blizzard or RTSes. The campaign is reminding me why I loved Warcraft 3 so much; nearly every mission has something unique and interesting about it, and the plethora of unbalanced (for multiplayer) campaign-only units and upgrades is simply a treat. I also really enjoy one-off games against the computer—I have a sad internet connection that can’t handle actual multiplayer games, so that’s out, but the game seems as splendidly balanced as the first, and I really love a lot of the new units, particularly the Colossus and the Void Ray with the protoss. I’m already confident of my ability to win a one-on-one match against a normal difficulty opponent, and plan to take on multiple opponents next. My goal is to be able to take one hard opponent or two normal ones on my own, consistently and without that much stress.

The Fuller Memorandum: Charles Stross’s latest Laundry novel is fantastic. For those of you not familiar, the Laundry novels are a combination of joke-filled, nerdy spy novels and Lovecraftian horror. Imagine Delta Green where all the protagonists are programmers. They’re something else. In fact, the combination of this and The Benthic Wars (basically alt-universe Laundry fan fiction) inspired me to try and design a Risk-like board game. I’m already mostly done with the Alpha version, which is a mod for Risk 2210, though I won’t post it until I’m done with all the new cards.

I’ve always loved Penny Arcade, but the way to read them is really the books. The Halls Below is new and hilarious—it’s Tycho’s commentary that does it. Recommended.

Scott Pilgrim and the Totally Awesome Ending

Posted in rambling with tags , , on July 21, 2010 by caduceusiv

If somehow you’re reading this and haven’t read the Scott Pilgrim series of graphic novels by Brian Lee O’Malley, what the heck is wrong with you? Get out there and read them! I bet they’re at the library, seriously.

Anyway, I just finished the last volume, Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour, and it was everything it needed to be. I’m not sure it’s my favorite, but it was a perfect ending to the series. I don’t really want to spoil it quite yet, and I’m not sure I’m prepared to analyze it properly (my analysis muscles are pretty atrophied anyway), but I enjoyed it quite a bit. More than the last Harry Potter, certainly. There was less camping.

Spirits and the Metaplanes

Posted in roleplaying with tags , , , on July 19, 2010 by caduceusiv

I’m trying to get to a certain point in the campaign before one of my players leaves for school in the autumn, and so I’m crazy busy trying to get the next run ready by this Friday. So I don’t have a lot of time at the moment. At some point I’m going to talk about Charles Stross’s The Fuller Memorandum, and possibly about urban fantasy in general, but right now I’m a bit squeezed. Instead, you get the results of a datasearch Panzer recently made. During the last run the players were attacked by what seemed to be the ghost of the vampire from On the Run, who they killed. Panzer’s player told me in an email that “Panzer will … run a search on information relating non-awakened metahumans entering the astral; if he’s going to have to go to another dimension to fight a vengeful vampire spirit thing, he wants to know what to expect. He’ll run some paralell searches using other parameters: 1. how to kill spirits, 2. spirits of vengeance, 3. vampire spirits, 4. astral beings and non-awakened metahumans, etc. He’ll spend as much of his free-time (whenever he’s not training, Running, spending time with Breagh, or buying shit) trying to figure out how they’re going to kill that vampire dead; if the Matrix doesn’t yield anything promising, he’ll meet up with either Breagh or Rook (possibly both) and see what they can contribute.”

Behind the jump is what he managed to gleam from his Matrix searches.

Continue reading

Run Report 3

Posted in roleplaying, Sixth World Saturday with tags , , , , , on July 17, 2010 by caduceusiv

So yesterday we wrapped up the longest run I’ve written so far, which ended up taking three sessions. My players had to deliver several packages to several unusual locations, where, it turned out, there were large, powerful spirits waiting to accept said packages. In each of the locations, though, there were packs of wild, territorial critters that in between them and the coordinates for the package drop off, which they had to get past. I discovered several things this session.

The first is that characters built for tanking can be incredibly difficult to hurt in Shadowrun if they have a chance to put on their armor and get prepared. Riptide, the oni-ork, when he’s in his security armor, throws something like 30 dice against ballistic attacks and 26 dice against impact when resisting damage. And his armor is completely legal according to the rules in the core book and Arsenal. Without some seriously armor piercing attacks, I can’t actually do physical damage without killing him outright (well, knocking him out and putting him into the realm of bleeding to death), because of the rule that any physical damage attack that is less than the character’s armor is downgraded to stun. It takes something like 17 or 18 damage to actually get past his armor. I strongly suspect he can laugh off a monofilament whip. This means that while I can still send the characters on missions where they get a chance to gear up and prepare first, I need to put them in situations where they’re unprepared as well, otherwise Riptide is never really going to feel threatened. It’s actually possible, when he’s fully decked out in armor, for him to drop a frag grenade at his feet to get a bunch of melee combatants off him and not take any damage. This is compounded by the fact that the team has two magicians, and they have somewhere in the realm of 9 or 10 counterspelling dice which together they can apply to the whole team, as long as they can see everyone. This means only very powerful magic can get through and hurt even the characters who, without the counterspelling, would be relatively vulnerable to magic.

The second thing I learned is that large groups of critters are kind of a pain in the ass to run. I sort of knew this already from the initial devil rat encounter. The problem with critters is that, while I think they’re neat and fun to use as opponents, unless I run large, powerful critters which are harder to explain the presence of, it takes large groups to really cause any threat to the characters. A group of 20 or so leshy (a type of sapient, territorial awakened humanoid) was one of the encounters, and leshy tend to set traps and pelt intruders in their territory with rocks and sharpened branches. The runners spotted the pit trap far too easily, and the rocks and branches were not very effective. They had several casters, however, which could summon spirits and use combat spells, but again, only one combat spell actually hit anyone because of the counterspelling.

The problem with rolling attacks for 20 leshy is that it takes a long time, because each leshy has to attack, and then the target gets to dodge, and if they don’t entirely dodge, they get to soak damage. The second initiative pass I decided to roll once for the entire pack of leshy, and then simply have the players roll their defense and damage resistance tests in quick succession. It sped things up significantly compared to the first round. In any situation where you have a large number of antagonists with the same stats and relatively low threat attacks (small critters, gangers who aren’t very good with their weapons, etc) I highly recommend this shortcut. You could even simply buy hits using their dice pools, eliminating the role entirely, but the danger of this is that you need at least a dice pool of 8 to get more than one hit. I don’t recommend letting the players buy hits in a combat session, because that takes all the suspense out of combat; it’s always possible they could glitch or crit glitch and take some actual damage, even if, like with my leshy, they’re only being pelted with rocks.

Riptide notwithstanding, both encounters were relatively effective. I caused physical damage to one of the magicians when a dour (a dwarf-like awakened chimp) shoved some rebar through her stomach, and in the leshy encounter two of the characters were only a box or two of stun damage away from being knocked out. All in all, I’m satisfied with the session, but I need to figure out a way to make Riptide sweat that won’t result in most of the other characters being it too much danger.  Suggestions would be welcome.

(It’s going to be a while before I actually get around to posting this adventure, for which I apologize. Next Wednesday, I think, I’ll be posting the first part of the first adventure I wrote myself.)

Seven hours of hauling around hay bales is really tiring, guys.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on July 15, 2010 by caduceusiv

I got nothing today, sorry. Game tomorrow, so I’ll try and update on that Saturday or Sunday.

A Rigger

Posted in roleplaying, Sixth World Wednesday with tags , , , on July 14, 2010 by caduceusiv

Okay, I’m tired and not feeling great, so this is going to be short. GG is another NPC I put together, just in case I ever ran an adventure in which my players desperately needed a rigger (the SR term for someone interfacing with drones or vehicles with their mind to better pilot them). It hasn’t happened yet, but you never know. She’s a Korean-descended ork-changling, is Washuu’s roommate, is a huge fan of Korean pop, and is dating Riptide (who is, if you’ll recall, an oni and one of the player characters). That’s just my game, though. She could be used as a guest character (as she’s a little overpowered for a starting character) or, really, however you want. She and Washuu should work well together for Matrix based scenarios; when my players want to hire one of them and I don’t want them in the adventure, I generally conceive of them as a duo, taking runs that can be done mostly with drones and the Matrix.

Also it’s looking like it will be a busy week until next Wednesday, at least. Running another game on Friday, so Sixth World Saturday will probably be a run report.

Ork Rigger

Warhammer Fantasy 8th Edition or whatever the hell edition this is

Posted in rage, rambling with tags , , on July 13, 2010 by caduceusiv

In keeping with their usual pattern of game design, Games Workshop has released a new edition of their Warhammer Fantasy miniature-based war gaming system about four years after they released the last edition. They spent those four years releasing increasingly overpowered army book updates, and now with the new rules, they have done serious damage to the best tactics for most of those overpowered armies, so they can start releasing new, increasingly overpowered army book updates all over again. Being into Warhammer significantly reduces my sympathy for roleplayers who have to deal with a new edition of their games every 8 to 10 years.

I play Vampire Counts, which used to be a pretty good army. They have some nasty monsters, some cool magic, and because the entire army is undead, the entire army causes fear and terror. These grant various advantages, but the biggest one, in the old edition, was that if a fear-causing unit won a round of combat, and also outnumbered the enemy, they would cause that enemy to run away automatically, which made sense; when a scary horde of the walking dead shows up and kicks your ass, you’re much more likely to say “fuck this noise” and make a run for it than you are if your opponents are elves or dwarves. Unfortunately, both fear and terror were significantly nerfed. Since most of my ordinary units, the ones that make up the bulk of my army, are not really great when you discount that they cause fear, it does a lot of damage to the viability of my army.

Not all the changes were bad. The changes to the magic system significantly buffs the power level of one of my units, a black coach that absorbs magic, as there are generally a lot more magic dice floating around. However, the more magic dice also makes one of my regular opponent’s super-spells way easier to cast (for those in the know, it’s the Skavan’s 13th Dread Spell). It’s much more likely to hurt the wizard casting it now, but it can destroy an entire unit of my best type of infantry, and he can still probably cast it several times a game. All in all, the changes in the new edition, despite what GW said in the lead up to it, don’t make magic that much more dangerous, and also makes it easier to cast, which all in all is bad for my army. I can’t get any of the new improved magic spells without spending a lot of build points, my old, weaker magic is easier to counter for high level enemy wizards, and overall I can’t repair my army quite as well as I could. The whole thing is very frustrating, and they may well lose me as a customer. Not sure yet, but it’s not looking good.