Thursday, March 31, 2016

Factions You Won't See in Predation

Smash-em-Up, Shanna, Smash-em-Up!

I recently mentioned the Monte Cook Games kickstarter "Worlds of the Cypher System" (expiring soon!) and its Gods of the Fall setting. Another of the three included settings is Predation, by Shanna Germain:
An asteroid will soon wipe out all life on earth. You know this—and you know when—because it’s in the history books your grandparents brought back to the Cretaceous period with them. Now your small society is trapped in prehistory, desperate to find a way back to your time. But at least you're not alone. You have tech, weapons, vehicles, and science from the future—you even have the ability to bioengineer the dinosaurs around you. Can you use these tools to survive a dangerous world on the brink of extinction?
Is that the sound of thunder you hear?

I know, so much potential, right? Predation’s designer, Shanna Germain, also wrote a cool blog post about two of the groups in this setting: SATI and the Butterflies. (That needs to be a band name.) These writeups gave me ideas for more cool prehistoric factions! I’m sure Shanna will love them.


While Space and Time, Interglobal (SATI) is all cozy inside the group’s time-travel bunkers, and the Butterflies are camping out in the trees or mud or whatever, a group called the Sleestaks are living in style in a place they call the Lost City. Hear that hissing sound? That means “Go away or we’ll eat you” in Sleestak. These handsome reptilian fellows don’t go out in the daytime, but at night they’ll be eager to find some unprotected humans they might take back home to sacrifice to their god.

Sleestak guard: level 2, intellect tasks as level 1; Armor 1; crossbow attack inflicts 3 points of damage; short-range immobilizing net attack


I hope you’re not thinking there’s only room for one batch of humanoid lizards in the prehistoric world, because a species known as the Silurians is also on the scene. Waaaay in the future (1970, man) they’ll cause problems for a time traveler, but in our dino-setting they’re still debating whether it’s time to go into hibernation or not. Considering themselves to be the masters of Earth, the Silurians don’t like the idea of sharing their planet with a group of time-traveling upstarts. With their advanced knowledge of genetic engineering, it’s possible the Silurians will give the humans a taste of their own medicine and perform experiments to see how versatile the human genome can be.

Silurian warrior: level 3, science-related tasks as level 4; Armor 2; immediate-range tongue attack inflicts 1 point of speed damage; venom causes the target to mutate on a failed Might defense roll; carries 1 random cypher


The SATI folks might be pretty proud of their time-travel base and cybernetics and iPods and such, but the true masters of technology in this era are the Flintstones faction. Led by an inscrutable warrior called Fred, the Flintstones have cobbled together an empire featuring engineering feats such as bird-tech audio sampling, massive-scale quarry excavation, and foot-powered cars. The Flintstones are not aggressive, but they can be protective of their scientific advances—and Fred himself has a legendary temper. Members of other factions have learned to approach the Flintstones with caution...and a giant offering of ribs.

Bamm-Bamm, warrior of the Rubble clan: level 1; strength tasks as level 6; club attack inflicts 6 points of damage

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Gaming at MidSouthCon 34

Memphis's oldest and biggest science fiction & gaming con is MidSouthCon. This year was number 34, and yes of course I went (like I've been doing since high school).

Most of my activities were gaming-related, so I'll focus on those. The con also featured seminars, writing & artist guests, kid-friendly activities, a dealer's room, an art show, video gaming, a dance, a banquet, and probably other stuff I'm forgetting, so this won't be comprehensive coverage. Hell, it won't even be comprehensive coverage of the gaming--just the things I personally played.

Shadow of the Demon Lord

Of course I had to get into a Shadow of the Demon Lord session, being run by Gaming Guest of Honor Rob Schwalb, the game’s designer. I’d read the book but hadn’t played the game, and I’m happy to say it’s lots of fun to play. Rob ran “The Apple of Her Eye” by Steve Kenson. He’s an animated GM, and skilled at using voices and evocative description.

I didn’t know until this game session that Rob had added a lot more playable races to the game than the ones featured in the core rules. Just from my choices from his stack of rogues, I could pick between a revenant, a vampire, and a pixie. I chose the latter, and had a blast. Another player made good use of a revenant priest. Our youngest player (who plays Catastrophe in my Numenera game) chose a changeling, which she played to horrific effect. (She took the form of a bartender, then killed him so he wouldn’t jeopardize her disguise.)


Playing Munchkin is a MidSouthCon tradition for me—at least in the years when my friend Kerry Jordan attends. He brings his huge collection of Munchkin games and runs a few slots to teach people to play it. Indeed, this is how my wife got her introduction to the game—and went on to win it, totally trouncing the young kids we were playing against.

This year we played the Guest Artist edition of Star Munchkin, while another table played the Nightmare Before Christmas version. (Kerry received this edition from a close personal friend who sees him every year at MidSouthCon.) My wife got close to winning this game, too, but another player—who had never played before—kicked our asses. We agreed he deserved the win!


Speaking of Kerry...another of his traditions is running Paranoia. That’s how I first met him! This year he ran “Stealth Train,” a wickedly clever adventure where we had to test an invisible train that wasn’t really there. Kerry is great at running Paranoia, right down to his extensive use of handouts and props. He made a custom notebook for the Loyalty Officer, gave us Bonus Duty lanyards to wear, had name placards on the table to remind us of our character names—all superb details.

The game started out with plenty of the usual shenanigans: sabotaging each other, finger-pointing, tattling on each other to Friend Computer, things like that. One player got a little too hostile, taking things a smidge too seriously, and the rest of us came down on him hard. It was a surprising display of cooperativeness for a Paranoia game. After he lost two clones (and the rest of us hadn’t lost any), this player said he had to go. (#ragequit) For a while, the rest of us continued being cooperative, and actually managed to reach the mission site! Then we remembered what game we were playing, and the backstabbing resumed with a vengeance. One of my favorite moments was when my (former) friend Jerrod used a mutant power to control my hand, making me draw my laser and kill a teammate. Well played, Jerrod. Bastard.


Rolling double sixes in Toon is bad. Doing so on Demon Lord dice is more so.
I’d never played Toon before, so jumped on this chance. The GM ran an adventure where we were auditioning for the Muppet Show. We made characters, which went pretty fast. I was proud of my character, a hippo who aspires to lose weight and thus become a unicorn. In the adventure we ended up having to search for Gonzo’s “friend” Camilla. The search led to Colonel Sanders, but we got confused and ended up meeting Bernie Sanders. Then we flew to Kentucky, and someone gave us directions to Norm McDonald’s house. Eventually Camilla made her own way back to Gonzo, but we (of course) took the credit.

I want to play more Toon, so I’m disappointed it’s out of print. Come on, Steve Jackson Games, bring it back!

The Con's Over. Go Home.

Yep, four games. That's all. There were others I wanted to play, but they either conflicted with the ones I did play or conflicted with my need for sleep. I saw that people ran Call of Cthulhu, Savage Worlds, 3 editions of D&D, and even playtests of Pugmire and the next edition of Paranoia.

I'm curious about what games people are running at other small cons. If you've been to any, please share in the comments!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Are You a God?

Monte Cook Games has a Kickstarter running right now for "Worlds of the Cypher System," featuring three setting books for their Cypher System game (which I love). All three sound great, but today let's check out the Gods of the Fall setting, by Bruce Cordell:
The old gods are dead. Burning and crumbling, the divine realm dropped from the sky and smashed into the world like a vengeful star. The earth was plunged into darkness. Hope shriveled. Life has become cheap, brutal, and short. But from the ashes of this catastrophe, you can awaken your own divine spark. Claim a dominion; declare yourself the god of War, of the Hunt, of Winter, of Fire, or of the realm of your choice. And if you can complete your divine labors, fulfill prophecy, and throw down the despots that rose in place of the fallen gods, you might redeem a world fallen into evil. You might truly become—a god!
How cool is that! You can eventually play as a god!

Now, I know you’re already thinking of the possibilities. “I could become the god of war,” you think! “Or the god of time!” What power!

Slow down there, Mr. Deity. Here’s my suggestion: Don’t aim for the top right away. It’s a lot of responsibility being, say, the god of death. One little slip-up and you might depopulate the wrong continent! So start small. Be a god in training, and roll a d20 on the tables below to see what kind of junior god you should be.

(It may turn out that your power doesn’t match your divine domain. No matter. The gods work in mysterious ways.)

You are the god of...
  1. Cookies 
  2. Crippling back pain 
  3. Déjà vu 
  4. Facial hair 
  5. Food spoilage 
  6. Goosebumps 
  7. Hangovers 
  8. Hiccups 
  9. Homonyms 
  10. Ladybugs 
  11. Nearsightedness 
  12. Odors 
  13. One night stands 
  14. Oversleeping 
  15. Profanity 
  16. Puns 
  17. Rainbows 
  18. Static electricity 
  19. Underwear 
  20. Vertigo 
Your signature godly power is...
  1. animating leaves on a windy day
  2. avoiding spoilers
  3. communicating using only your eyebrows
  4. creating "to-do" lists
  5. decreasing the calorie count in foods
  6. detecting sarcasm
  7. finding that itchy spot on a dog that makes him kick his leg
  8. healing damaged clothes
  9. leaning back in a chair and balancing it on two legs
  10. levitating balloons
  11. motivating toddlers
  12. playing both sides of "good cop / bad cop"
  13. purring like a kitten
  14. scintillating conversation 
  15. sleeping through anything
  16. speed reading
  17. spelling
  18. summoning slugs
  19. turning things purple
  20. ultrasonic yodeling

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Edge of the Empire Dice: Film Examples

I've heard Edge of the Empire players say that the game's narrative dice system helps recreate the action-packed feeling of the Star Wars movies. With that in mind, I thought I'd imagine how the die results line up with example scenes from the movies. Feel free to share your own ideas in the comments!

No Successes, No Advantage or Despair

  • "Better bluff this Imperial on the comm." (Rolls) "Boring conversation anyway."
  • "My tauntaun is upset, but I don't see anything." (Rolls) *Wampa fist*
  • "You will bring Captain Solo and the wookiee to me." (Rolls) "Your powers will not work on me, boy."

No Successes But Some Advantage

  • "Do, or do not. There is no try." (Rolls) "Moved a tiny bit, the X-wing did."
  • "Master Luke! You're standing on..." (Rolls) "Crap! Well, at least this guard is getting eaten with me."

No Successes But Some Threat

  • "Our snowspeeder is gonna crash! Gotta try to land!" (Rolls) *Crash* "Dak?"
  • "Vader is here!" Zap! Zap! (Rolls) "Hey, where's my blaster going?"
  • "I'll just sneak up on these scout troopers..." (Rolls) *Snap!*

No Successes But Despair

  • "Oh my, stormtroopers, here? I'm sure they'll listen to reason." (Rolls) *Droid parts scatter*
  • "Just gotta slice into this bunker's back door..." (Rolls) *Extra door closes over the first one*
No Successes But Triumph
  • "Boba Fett is around here somewhere...but I'm blind!" (Rolls) *Burp*

Success, No Advantage or Despair

  • "These aren't the droids you're looking for." (Rolls) "These aren't the droids we're looking for."

Lots of Successes (or Success + Triumph)

  • "Use the Force, Luke!" (Rolls) "Great shot, Kid, that was one in a million!"

Success + Advantage

  • "Never tell me the odds!" (Rolls) Asteroid: 1; TIE fighters: 0.
  • "Bleep bloop bleep!" (Rolls) Blast doors open, and the computer mentions that the hyperdrive was disabled.
  • "Leia...hear me..." (Rolls) "We've got to go back. I know where Luke is."

Success + Threat

  • "Gotta close that blast door..." (Rolls) "Aha!" *Blast* "Now, where are the bridge controls?"
  • "I'm going to find a way out of the detention block." (Rolls) "Into the garbage chute, Flyboy."
  • "Luke is gonna freeze to death out here. How can I save him?" (Rolls) "*Sigh* Really?"
  • "Let's find a place to hide on this asteroid." (Rolls) "Yeah. That'll do nicely."

Success + Despair

  • "Now to unfreeze Han so we can get out of here..." (Rolls) "I know that laugh."

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Edge of the Empire Profession Quotes

When she was picking out a D&D character to play from the excellent pregenerated PCs on the D&D website, my favorite player (and wife) found the character quotes to be extra helpful in getting a feel for each character. A few days later, when I mentioned wanting to start an Edge of the Empire campaign, she said she’d like to find something similar for characters in that game. We looked around and didn’t find anything like that, so I wrote the ones below, one for each profession. If you find them helpful, or you think of fun quotes of your own, let me know in the comments!

Bounty Hunter: Assassin
“Oh, you want to surrender? That’s a good one."

Bounty Hunter: Gadgeteer
“I’m sure I can squeeze a little more power out of this thing."

Bounty Hunter: Survivalist
“Let’s take a different path. I’m pretty sure those are rancor droppings."

Colonist: Doctor
“It was close, but I managed to managed to patch you up. Now, let’s talk about what you owe me."

Colonist: Politico
“Put away your blasters. I’m sure we can work this out."

Colonist: Scholar
"Don't trust these guys. I've seen those forehead markings before. These are cannibals from the Unknown Regions."

Explorer: Fringer
"If we can make it to One-Eyed Lev's cantina, we'll be safe. Well, safe-ish."

Explorer: Scout
"Womp Rat to Treehouse. Target spotted. Three walkers--correction, four walkers--inbound. Over and out."

Explorer: Trader
"I KNOW what you sell the REGULAR customers. I want to see the special stock."

Hired Gun: Bodyguard
"Trouble. Get behind me. All of you."

Hired Gun: Marauder
"Nah, keep your blaster. It would only slow me down."

Hired Gun: Mercenary Soldier
"Form up. We'll soften them up with missile fire first."

Smuggler: Pilot
“Hang on…things are about to get bumpy."

Smuggler: Scoundrel
“Why are you people so jumpy? Don’t you trust me?"

Smuggler: Thief
"Hey, if they didn't want me to have it, they should have protected it with something better than a G3-series Shock-Lock."

Technician: Mechanic
“I KNOW the hyperdrive is smoking. Just give me one more minute with it."

Technician: Outlaw Tech
“This won’t hurt a bit, Cee Cee. You’ll like having a built-in flame projector."

Technician: Slicer
“I can get us past their security if you can keep those guards distracted."