Sunday, July 22, 2018

Deindustrial Future, Session 3

Our Story So Far

After the eventful night, our heroes decided to set off back to town in the morning in order to do some research on the copper fragment, the German manuscript, and Joe's property. Since he had things to do in town, Joe offered to give them a ride, which the characters gratefully accepted since Caleb is not a strong walker and Billy was still suffering from the stabbing he received in the saloon fight. The ride into town was uneventful.

Deciding to split up, Caleb decided to look into the manuscript at the library while Billy and Clem went to the local blacksmith to see if he might have any ideas on the copper fragment. The librarian, Charles, offered a letter of introduction to a woman named Ursula who he thought might be able to read the manuscript, as she came from Germany when she was a young woman. This turned out to be the case, and she discussed the nature of the manuscript with Caleb: it is a book involved with summoning particular spirits.

Meanwhile, Billy spoke with the blacksmith. It turned out, conveniently, that his hobbies included chemistry and metallurgy, so he was able to give an analysis of the metal fragment and indicated that it was nearly pure copper. Unable to find out much more, Billy and Clementine decided to check in with Joe, to make sure that he was OK.

As they approached the general store where Joe had said he was going to be for much of the day, they realized that there were three men, one at each end of the block and one leaning against a post across the street from the general store. As Clementine approached the doors of their destination, a fourth man stepped in front of her and barred her entry. Clementine tried to ask why he was in her way, but the man only told her to get out of town and that she wasn't welcome. Around this time, Billy noticed that the man at the far end of the block had disappeared, and the other two were walking toward the pair.

Clem, realizing that she wasn't going to get much further, attempted to shove the swinging door into Gordo, the man blocking her, and knocked him a bit back into the general store. He pulled out his gun and took a shot at her, but missed. Billy turned to face the two other men. Suddenly, a shot rang out from a building in the next block and one of the men fell down, shot in the back by a mysterious benefactor. Billy swung his staff at the other man, knocking the pistol out of his hand and pretty seriously injuring his arm.

Deciding that Gordo had upped the stakes, Clem drew her own pistol and planted three bullets in his chest, running inside to make sure he stayed down. When she went in, she managed to avoid being hit by another gunman inside, Alfie. After making sure that his opponent was running away, Billy decided to follow Clementine inside. As he did, he noticed a mystery man, hopefully their mysterious benefactor who stopped one of the attackers, approaching from a hotel in the next block.

Once inside, Billy chased down Alfie, but decided to charge him directly. Alfie put a couple of rounds into Billy's chest, knocking him out. Meanwhile, Clem and the mysterious stranger flanked Alfie and took him with only one more shot fired. Tying up the two prisoners, Gordo and Alfie, they took care of Billy and found Joe and the general store's owner hiding behind some shelves. They were discussing what to do and how to send for the town's Marshal, Marnie, when I started getting exhausted from the heat and decided that I needed to end the session. The mysterious stranger vanished in the confusion. Billy was taken to the town's doctor and given some healing elixir. Experience points were portioned out.

On the whole, I was happy with this session, though I am not sure how the players felt about it - they seemed happy enough. I was happy that we got to see how missile combat works in GURPS, and I offered an important tactical tip to Billy's player: don't get in front of a gun. Billy was fine and behind cover, and even had a good path to flank Alfie, but his player decided to run six yards straight into Alfie's gun's sights - a full move with no attack allowed that turn. That led to his character going into negative HP, in part because he was still injured from the knife wound of a couple of days (game time) ago. I suspect that this was left over from the player's extensive history of playing Hero System, which is perhaps a bit more forgiving of such heroic, direct charges.

I've talked the players into letting me run a Top Secret game as well, so that's what we'll be playing next.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

An Observation And A List

I don't have much to say right now. The holiday meant skipping a week for the game I'm running. Still, I have thinky thoughts.

First, I haven't seen anyone say this as bluntly as I think it needs to be said. Games that don't have skills, and even some that do, should be run with one major principle in place: characters succeed. If it's in question, roll a d6 (or maybe a Saving Throw in Swords & Wizardry and related games). If it involves people's reactions, make a reaction check.

When a character in D&D in any of its varieties before 1.5E tries to do something, it should generally just work unless it's ridiculous. This is even more true in versions that don't have a variation of the Thief class. No Thieves and you want to pick a lock? Did you buy lockpicks? Then you do it. Maybe a roll of 5-6 on 1d6 will cause the lockpicks to break after opening the door. Want to bust down a door? You do it (with a wandering monster check). If the DM says that the door is particularly tough, roll 1d6 with a modifier for your Strength, and a 5 or higher busts it down. If it's particularly complicated (hunting through a library for a particular manuscript, for example), maybe refer to the character's background and make a ruling based on that. In fact, setting a general background (Conan the Librarian!) might be the one thing you could add to character creation, where AD&D 1E has Secondary Skills for much the same purpose. Something technical like forging a sword would require an appropriate background, for example.

The same principle applies to other games. You're playing Traveller and you want to rappel down a wall? Do you have some rope? Then you do it. You want to convince someone to help you? Roll a reaction check (if you have some appropriate skill, maybe that will help modify the roll).

The general idea is that characters are generally competent to carry out the plans that their players make, for the most part.

Anyway, for the second point, here's a list of games that I have come to think have really stood the test of time, as it were. Games that I still like on the whole. A lot of these games work a lot better if you apply the above idea:

Amber Diceless Roleplaying
The Arcanum
Call of Cthulhu (up through 5.5E or so)
Chivalry & Sorcery (1E and 2E, though there have been some recent unofficial versions based on those that are great too)
Cyberpunk (2013 and 2020)
D&D/AD&D (up through 2.0E/Rules Cyclopedia; after that, it gets weird; retroclones and similar variants elsewhere)
Empire of the Petal Throne
GURPS (3E revised and 4E)
In Nomine
James Bond 007
Lace & Steel (I think; I only played it once, still it looks good)
Lords of Creation
Pendragon (I prefer 4E, unlike other people apparently, but the other editions are great too)
Rolemaster/Spacemaster (I guess they're calling the good edition "Classic" now)
RuneQuest (never met a version I didn't like, yet)
Space 1889 (the GDW version, and I actually like the system; it's pretty much the only time other than WEG Star Wars that I don't mind dice pools)
Star Trek RPG (FASA; I can't say that it's great, but it does the job well)
Star Wars (West End Games; one of a very few dice pool games that don't suck)
Star Wars (WotC, though it isn't as good as the WEG one; nearly the only use I have for D20 system)
Stormbringer (4E is the best, after that they messed it up)
Top Secret (original, the 1981 second edition, and the Companion)
Traveller (classic LBB77/LBB81/TTB/ST and MegaTraveller)
2300AD (I actually like the system)
Unknown Armies (I can't run it, apparently, but the ideas are great; maybe I'd be better at running it today)
Villains & Vigilantes (I haven't played Mighty Protectors yet, so I can't speak to that edition)

Games that I haven't played, but look good:

Big Eyes, Small Mouth (specifically Sailor Moon, Ghost Dog, and Revolutionary Girl Utena)
Celtic Legends
Dungeon Crawl Classics
Silent Legions
Stars Without Number (I'm pretty excited by the Revised Edition)
Starships & Spacemen (2E looks better than 1E)
Swords & Wizardry (White Box mainly, but the others are OK)
White Star (S&W: White Box in a galaxy far away that isn't Star Wars we promise)

Games that would be good but need development:

Fantasy Wargaming
Realms of the Unknown

You'll notice a distinct lack of White Wolf games, Shadowrun, and Burning Wheel. That's because dice pools are dumb, in general. No Hero System because it's just too scattered for me these days. Also no Savage Worlds, which I might be being unfair about - I suppose that I have to play it more. And no goddamned FATE.

I might have missed some. If I didn't include your favorite system, ask me why I didn't. It might be an oversight.

NOTE: As time has gone on and I remember more games to include, I have been adjusting these lists slightly. I've also removed one because the author chose to associate themself, even if outside of gaming, with alt-right personalities. The alt-right may be "just joking" about their white supremacy, but I don't find it funny. I've removed another pending the reaction of the company to abuse allegations in regard to a particular individual.