Wednesday, June 29, 2016

31 Days of Ghostbusters

I’ve written about Ghostbusters here a few times before, but I’m about to escalate that. The new Ghostbusters movie comes out on July 15, and to celebrate the return of the franchise to the big screen, I’m going to write a Ghostbusters-related post for every day of the month of July. That’s right, it’ll be 31 days of Ghostbusters!

I’ll aim to focus as many as possible on the roleplaying side of Ghostbusters—the original Ghostbusters roleplaying game, other similar games, resources for playing a ghostly RPG, and my own creations—but other posts will simply be about Ghostbusters. (Making this clear up front will keep me from feeling I have to end every non-gaming post with “Say, remember roleplaying games? I like roleplaying games.”)

As a sneak preview, here are a few things I expect to talk about during this series:

- The sadly-out-of-print Ghostbusters RPG from West End Games
- Ghostly music
- The new movie (duh)
- How to modernize the ghostbusting business for the 21st Century
- Setting a Ghostbusters game in your town
- Busting ghosts using other game systems

Don’t worry, I’ve got at least 25 more ideas, so I won’t run out. I just don’t want to spoil them all this early! (Having said that, I do welcome article ideas from you folks. Tell me what you’d like to see here.)

See you on July 1!

Monday, June 27, 2016

A Sampling of RPG Podcasts

Gnome Stew just put up my second guest post, A Sampling of RPG Podcasts. Please check it out, and take a look at the articles that the full-time Gnomes have posted, too!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Engage: The Official Star Trek Podcast

In case you hadn't heard, the first official Star Trek podcast launched last week. I've listened to the first episode, and though it's not very Star-Trek-content-heavy, that's OK with me because the guest is Weird Al Yankovic! I loved the discussion with Al, and learned a few new things about him.

I'm hoping this podcast will be a good way to learn things about the upcoming Star Trek series, and of course future movies.

Engage: The Official Star Trek Podcast

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Free RPG Day 2016

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Free RPG Day, and somehow it’s the first time I took part in the event. I guess the main reason is that, where I live, there’s not a lot of publicity for the event. Okay, that’s an understatement. You’d have to specifically ask someone who knows about it, because I never did see any signs put up in a game store or notices posted online.

Anyway, my friend Jeff told me about this year’s event at Mid-South Hobbies and Games, so I eagerly attended. The event at this store was run by a local gaming group called FORGE, and they recruited GMs for two time slots that day. Each 4-hour slot offered several games, and I picked Mutant Crawl Classics and Night’s Black Agents.

Mutant Crawl Classics

Jeff’s son Parker ran The Museum at the End of Time, a Mutant Crawl Classics adventure by Jim Wampler. I’m excited about this game—it’s the forthcoming far-future post-apocalypse game from Goodman Games, a companion game to Dungeon Crawl Classics. In this preview adventure, we played 0-level tribespeople who discover the titular museum and encounter its guardians, artifacts, and mysteries.

I love any opportunity to use lots of dice. Except Shadowrun.

Though it was Parker’s first time running a DCC-related game, he did a good job. We had about a 50% death rate, which isn’t bad for a game like this, though most of our deaths came from trying to understand artifacts we found. (You’d think we’d learn our lesson after a while, but our main objective was to identify artifacts and bring them back to our village.)

My favorite thing was our weird character types. Besides pure humans, we had mutants, manimals (including one buffalo-man and a frog lady), and plantients. Judging from the layout of our character sheets, I suspect that characters in this game will be able to acquire more mutations after character creation. I hope so. Mutations are fun.

Night’s Black Agents

For our other session, Jeff ran The Van Helsing Letter, a Night’s Black Agents adventure by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan. This was my first exposure to the Gumshoe system in play. (I’d read Trail of Cthulhu, but hadn’t played or run a game using the system.) The players took the roles of modern-day espionage agents trying to track down something valuable left behind by Van Helsing—something that might help in a struggle against a strange kind of vampire.

I was the driver. Definitely good driver.

You know, sometimes you get a great group of players who really work well as a team, make smart decisions, and get the mission done without a lot of arguing, missing clues, and wasting time on unimportant activities.

Anyway, this adventure had an interesting story. I learned later that GRH designed it in a totally open-ended way, providing sections on the characters, locations, and situation, but without providing scenes or encounters, intending that the GM and players drive what happens where, and leaving it up to the GM to decide which elements were true and which were red herrings. (Mmm, red herring. That’s what we had.)

Other Business

In addition to the gaming, I won raffles for a Free RPG Day 6-sider and a set of cool green dice! I’m proud of the 6-sider, because the first time I rolled it, it gave me enough damage to kill a sentry robot. Sweet!

They also gave out cleverly-themed pencils...

Did you attend a Free RPG Day event? Have you even heard of it before? Lemme know in the comments.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Rippers Resurrected Has Arrived

Okay, I promise I won’t brag about EVERY gaming purchase here, but this one is such a stunning package I just have to.

Rippers Resurrected (by Pinnacle Entertainment Group) is out, and it’s beautiful. This is the product of a Kickstarter project from earlier this year. Though I never played the original Rippers, the subject matter is compelling (monster-hunters in Victorian England using the monsters’ own abilities against them) and the project details all looked great, so I bit. And did I bite! I opted for all three books (player’s guide, GM’s guide, and an expanded location book), plus the GM’s screen, plus the thematically matching dice, cards, and tokens. (I drank the Kool-aid.)

And, since most Kickstarter projects I’ve backed spread their resulting products out over a period of months or even years, I didn’t expect it all to arrive at once!

For some reason, my favorite thing about the game so far is the idea of lodges, which are hideouts that the players can create and develop as they advance. As it happens, my wife and I are planning a trip to England, and one of the country's points of interest gave me an idea for a new Ripper lodge of my own.

Rippers Lodge: The Bath House

Rank: 4
Location: Bath, Somerset, England
Modifier: +1
Facilities: Meeting & Dining Room, Sleeping Quarters (sleeps 16). Library, Ripper Lab
Edges: Chapel, Hidden, Medical Center, Mystical Location

Designed as a sanctuary for resting and recuperating, the lodge in Bath is hidden away in the ruins of an ancient Roman temple. Rippers must enter the lodge via underground labyrinth because the whole thing is both underground and underwater. Fortunately, many visitors find the sound of dripping water soothing, and soaking in it proves to be even better.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Original "Ghostbusters" -- Back on the Big Screen Again!

Every time Ghostbusters is showing in a local theater, and I have the chance to see it, I'm there. It was true in 1984, and it's true again tonight. (If you miss it tonight, it may be showing near you on the June 12 second showing. It's not showing in Memphis that day, sadly.)

I saw it the first time at the now-dearly-departed Mall of Memphis, when I was 14. I know I saw it more than once, but since I didn't have this blog at the time I failed to keep a count. (I'm deeply sorry.)

Then I got to see it again in 2011 with my dad, when it returned amid talk about a new movie involving the original cast minus Bill Murray...

...and again in 2014, for the film's 30th anniversary, with my wife and our special little guy...

Will you be seeing it on the big screen again too? If so, where?

Friday, June 3, 2016

Subsector Precinct Station 18: "The Donut"

Happy National Donut Day! Now that the sugar is flowing through my bloodstream, I wish to present a tribute to both Donut Day and CypherCaster Magazine's new setting "Sector Agents" (in issue 6, just released on As an added exercise, see how many donut references you can spot.

Subsector Precinct Station 18: "The Donut"

by Logan Garrett, age 13

Precinct Station 18 is one of many space stations that serve as precinct houses for the Sector Agents. The station, fondly known as the Donut, serves the Sector Agents of the region as a meeting place, armory, living space, repair bay, administrative center, and prisoner incarceration facility.

The station doesn't spin; the need for fighting weightlessness in this old-fashioned manner went away after the development of artificial gravity devices. The Donut is home to about a hundred Sector Agents and staff members, as well as ten police ships (ranging in size from shuttlecraft to light cruisers).

Areas of the Donut:

  1. The Hole. The inner ring of the station contains an interdimensional tuner that can generate a portal to a small pocket universe connected to our own. The Sector Agents use this pocket universe as a prison for its most dangerous inmates. Attempting to pass through the portal when it is active requires a vessel that has its shields tuned to a specific frequency; without this, any trip in or out of the prison universe results in a fatally krispy ship and crew.
  2. Landing Bays. The main method of entry to the station is flying a small ship into one of the landing bays. Each of the two bays features sufficient space to house and support a dozen ships. (The west bay was recently expanded, enabling it to hold a baker’s dozen.)
  3. Docking Ports. Made to accommodate ships that are too large to enter the station via the landing bays, the docking ports are rings on the outer hull that ships can connect to. These ports are useful when the bigger police or naval vessels deliver a large batch of convicts destined for the prison universe.
  4. Defenses. While the Donut is not a military installation, it was designed to both withstand and deliver high-energy punishment. On the protection side, the station features armored hull plating and heavy-cruiser-level energy shields. And in case any criminals are foolish enough to try and take on the Sector Agents on their own turf (whether looking for revenge or trying to break a fellow crook out of jail), the station is equipped with an array of lasers, missiles, and mines. In other words, any vessel smaller than a police cutter that comes too close to the station without permission will quickly find itself filled with holes.
  5. Communications Array. This equipment—critical for dispatching purposes—is mounted on raised metal scaffolds to prevent interference from the station's power systems.

Notable Personnel

Valorpa Glono, tvornica Chief of Police. Chief Glono is a 3rd generation Sector Agent, and speaks often (and proudly) of its parent and grandparent and their lofty positions in the hierarchy of the Sector Agent command. The chief holds its personnel to the highest standard, hoping that by doing the best possible police work Station 18 will finally be recognized this year in the sector-wide Agent Awards. (Level 5; visual perception as level 1; resists might effects, moves in zero-g, moves underwater, and conducts police work as level 7.)

Sam Marlowe, antarean Space Patrol Captain. Though he is not from Earth, and in fact never left his home planet until he joined the Academy, Captain Marlowe grew up on Terran hardboiled crime dramas. He was initially disappointed to discover that the reality of the Sector Agents is much different than he expected, but like most antareans, the Captain resolved to make the best of the situation, and he brought his favorite fictional trappings with him. Fortunately for Captain Marlowe, Chief Glono doesn't even realize that the antarean speaks almost completely in archaic slang; since Glono must use a translator to understand non-tvornica, words like "fried" and "dough" are converted to the same tvornica translations as "killed" and "credits." And as far as Captain Marlowe's trench coat and fedora, the Chief doesn't think they look any more silly than "pants" and "shoes." (Level 5; interrogation as level 6; archaic Earth culture as level 7.)

Than’vo'tok, rekan’choc Detective Lieutenant. Than'vo made a name for himself last year by achieving a record number of busts in his previous position of data-crime investigation. He accepted the promotion to his current position, leading investigations into violent crime, but so far he’s not fitting in to the new job very well. Than'vo sees every problem as an excuse to do some electronic hacking, and this is causing friction with the Chief. (Level 4; engineering and technical tasks as level 5; hacking and programming as level 6, social interactions as level 3; Armor 1.)

Shuff, shardfolk Sergeant. The senior sergeant at the station tries her best to fit into the mold of the grizzled police sergeant, but she frequently slips and reveals her concern for the patrol officers under her charge. Shuff makes sure her people are well-trained, well-fed, and well-armed, and is often hands-on in doing so. Her officers appreciate her skill at police work—her cooking, not so much. (Level 4; social interactions, climbing, police work, and teaching as level 5; cooking as level 2; Armor 3.)

Jack Simpson, human Patrol Officer. Unlike most of his fellow officers, Jack sees the Sector Agent thing as just a job, not a calling. Jack had been happy living on Earth, in Berlin, until his family moved to New Germany with the latest colonization boom. Jack had always been pretty tough, and naturally fell into a job as a security guard in New Bavaria. When he learned he could do similar work on other planets for better pay, Jack signed up with the Sector Agents. No longer identifying as an Earther or a New German, a Berliner or a Bavarian, Jack often feels adrift, like a man without a home. Also, and on a less existential level, Jack is sometimes annoyed by the fact that he's the only one on the station who really knows what a donut is. (Level 2, tough-guy tasks as level 3.)

Avaroo, kiln Dispatcher. Avaroo is good at her job, but she’s become more excitable lately. The reason is simple: coffee. Avaroo’s coworkers introduced her to the beverage, and she was delighted to discover that coffee produces spectacular color changes in kiln, much different than those caused by drinking water. (Level 2, Armor 1, inability to resist cold environmental effects.)

Zemm Orayu, ponchiki Animal Control Officer. Zemm was a zookeeper for the biggest zoo in the Galactic Union before joining the Sector Agents, so he thought the job of Animal Control Officer would be a piece of cake. What he didn’t realize was that in his new job he would encounter animals that Galactic Union biologists had never even seen before. How can you tell if a pet without pain receptors is a victim of animal cruelty? How do you contain a rampaging helium-beast that can turn into a mist? Should a sentient powdered narcotic be considered an animal or a drug? Zemm would like the answers to those questions, too. (Level 3, zoology tasks as level 5.)

Oliekoek, yanathalaspan Technician. The inhabitants of yanathalaspa are not monkeys, and not every one of them is a programming expert. But because a lot of humans think they look like Terran monkeys, and because a lot of yanathalaspans are programming experts, the nickname “code monkeys" has stuck. Oliekoek doesn’t mind it. He’s happy enough that his skills are so in demand on the station that he’s willing to overlook the occasional joke about his lack of height or his affinity for a yanathalaspan fruit that looks almost exactly like the Terran banana. Sure, his coworkers’ eyes glaze over when he tries to explain his work to them, but he knows they value his work. And maybe the Captain complains sometimes about Oliekoek scratching up the consoles—after all, his fingers DO still bear claws—but the technician doesn’t let it bother him. Where else in the galaxy could he work on secretly solving the problem of keeping a dimensional gate from destabilizing and swallowing an entire star system? (Level 3, climbing and computer tasks as level 5.)

Sprinkles, feline Mascot. Sprinkles the cat has lived on the station since it was built around a decade ago. Nobody remembers when he first arrived, or who he arrived with. But surely it doesn’t matter. When Sprinkles knocks over a drink with his tail, or jumps up on a console and lands with one paw on a specific button, it’s obviously an accident, right? Of course it is. Sprinkles just likes to sit around the station and watch the Sector Agents come and go, come and go. (Level ?)