Friday, December 23, 2016

Shared Sci-Fi Hiatus

I've been pretty quiet on my postings for the Shared Sci-Fi game that I spoke about a while ago. Which is a shame, as I was really excited about this concept, and a number of folks have done some really cool things with it. For me, though, it wasn't working. I think, for a couple of reasons.

The first was the narrative approach I was taking. While certainly fun, and a break from how I normally do a Solo game, it was causing difficulties. It's hard to both WRITE well and GAME well, at the exact same time. As a result, I think it failed as both a story and a game.

Secondly, the system. I was using the old Cyberpunk 2020 system, which I'm not terribly familiar with, so I had to teach myself what I was doing while playing, and it honestly isn't a game that works for me, as a Solo experience. Now, learning a game is one of the great reasons for doing a Solo game, but honestly I don't have a driving interest in learning CP--it's a cool game, and I'd love to play it for real some day, but I don't have enough people around me interested in it to make a real go of it.

So, the game kind of came apart even while I was doing it. I was tossing around various other systems that might work better--Palladium, Shadowrun: Anarchy, GURPS, D6, etc. None really worked for me. And then, it happened.

I got an email from Pinnacle, that the Savage Rifts books that I backed almost a year ago were finally shipping! I was incredibly excited for this Kickstarter when it first came out, but I've allowed my enthusiasm to damper over the months. I think that Savage Worlds is a great fit for Rifts, and I of course had the PDF's, but PDF's aren't really my "thing." They're wonderful for system prep, and even for quick look up while running, but I really can't use them to learn or dig into a system. I'm still something on an analog guy--I like have the books, and being able to flip back and forth with actual paper. So, I was waiting.

Now that they're on their way, I decided to wait until I have them, and do the Shared Sci-Fi thing with a game I actually WANT to learn and play with. I'll probably keep some of the elements of Krakatoa--I might just declare that this isn't happening on Rifts Earth, but instead on Rifts Phase World (their Space Opera setting), but other than that it will be a fresh start. I'm also going to do the game first, and then worry about writing it up all nice later on. Well, that's the plan of course.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Lucky to be Alive: Part One

Lucky to be Alive
The Shocking True Story of a Galactic Gangster
Part One

Mankind had no business being on Krakatoa. It was mean, nasty, god awful hell-hole of a planet, full of lava and volcanos and damn near constant earthquakes. The only scrap of the place that you could reliably set foot on was one giant island in the south. Even there you weren't sparred the noxious air and ruined sky.
The only reason anyone was even there was because know else wanted the damn place. Way back in old days, when we were first starting to colonize space, people found this goddamn place, and everyone with half a brain steered clear of it. But there was this group, called themselves The Way or something, real religious nut jobs. No one wanted them around, and they wanted a place where they could oppress each other in peace, so they got Krakatoa. They got to live out their lives in misery, and no one else had to hear from them. It's what they call a win/win situation.
Well, about two hundred years back they found that it actually had a point. See, there's this thing called agrathicite. It's something you mix in with clear aluminum they use for ships and stations and the like, makes the sunlight better or something, easier to grow crops or work on your tan or whatever. They can make it a factory, but apparently Krakatoa was just full of this crap. So, the Crops came knocking, and pretty soon the guys in charge started thinking that maybe ascetic misery wasn't all it was knocked up to be. So, anyway, now it's a rich planet. I mean, they don't do anything with the agrathicite, they’re too lazy or stupid to make stuff there. They just dig it up and ship it off and pocket the money. 
Still, there's a lot of money there, and a big old port for the ships, and a lot of rich bastards with expensive tastes, and a group of religions police who hate the idea of anyone enjoying their lives. Also, a bunch of monks barely able to survive didn't know a damn think about the 'verse, so they had to open their borders, let in people who knew what they're were doing. They call them Lao's. So, that was how I got there. 
 See, I grew up on a green planet. Blue water, open air, real dirt, and rivers that didn't want to kill you. I hated Krakatoa--living underground, the fake air, the hydroponic gardens. Everything about the place is fake, but I was stuck there, and it was "home." My Aunt and Uncle went through the process of becoming citizens of the place, took them years, but when the paperwork finally came through, we were one of the lucky ones. Full rights, medical benefits, everything. I mean, we were still outsiders, but we were bona fide.
 I think that's why Dehaan liked me. I was a citizen, so I could get anywhere, so the cops wouldn't harass me. But I also wasn't a Follower, so the religious cops didn't have anything on me either. Dehaan was the boss--anything the government or the church or the corps didn't like you doing, he helped you out. Most of it was legal, to one extent or another, just not, you know, 100% legal. Rest of it, well, that's where the real money was. For a price, Dehaan and his Organization could get you just about anything you wanted.
 I was a fixer, someone who  righted things when they went sideways, someone who kept the kiddies in line. Sometimes all it took was a sympathetic ear, others a slap on the wrist. Others, well, I did whatever needed to happen to keep things running smoothly. Anyway, everything really didn't start getting odd until about a year after the Galban War. You ever heard of it? Nah, of course not. Almost a hundred thousand men dead or disfigured, and no one wants to talk about.  Drop in the bucket. Just one of those things. Anyways, I had gotten out the hospital and was ready to get back to my old life. There had been a "restructuring" while I was gone, and now Dehaan was in charge, and I was his guy. He had a lot of guys now, though, and I wasn't entirely sure where I stood with him. So, when my phone rang one day, I was ready for anything.
(The game begins. Initial inspiration is “The main character must [Fight] [Technician], at [Entertainment District], but have to contend with [Trap] while being confronted by [Corporation]. My initial scene is "Move Toward A Thread, Betray/Dispute.")
It was Trong, one of Dehaan's messengers. Nothing was ever really spoken over the cells, unless we could arrange it with scrablers and point to point lasers. There's too many people who like to listen in. He invited me to a noodle shop for luch, and I think it was around lunch time. Anyway, I knew it wasn't an invitation, and we weren't going to meet at some noodle place. I headed over to the tube--the tube was the only way to really get around Krakatoa. I mean, I had my own car, everyone who was anyone had a car, but it took you three times as long to get anywhere trying to get through all those damn tunnels. The tube was faster, and a lot more subtle.
I sat on the right train for about half an hour. Most people on the tube shut everything out with their SmartGoggles or implanted music players or something, but I hate the distraction and the noise. So, I sat there, and waited. I wasn't impatient, this run around and wait thing was just part of the job. If you have a problem with it, go do something else. Anyway, eventually Trong sat down next to me and told me what was going on.
There was a problem down at the docks. One of our techs down there was screwing things up. See, getting stuff on and off a planet is tricky--everyone is looking at everything and every damn kilo matters, so no matter what you're bringing in you gotta make it look legit. And that means a whole mess of people--people who can ship it with the right documents, people who can scan it and verify, pack it, ship it, scan it on board, scan it when it lands, scas it when it leaves the port--all this so that the Soma we actually are shipping looks like dog food to anyone who isn't supposed to know. That's a lot of steps, and a lot of people who need to work together and not know any more than they need to. And all it takes is one of them screwing up to bring the whole damn train to a crash.
So, this tech of ours, Gerritt Thein, had been "misplacing" shipments. Hey, you lose one or two, no big deal. No point risking your neck for the law, and our margins are good enough that we don't need every shipment to come in. But you keep misplacing them, and we start getting worried. Are you stealing to line your own pockets? Selling us out to a rival concern? Or are you just a damn idiot? None of these are questions you want me asking about you. I told Trong I'd take care of it, got off at the next station and grabbed a different Tube to get me to the docks.
(First scene is Lucky getting is quest. Chaos Factor is 5, and I get an Altered Scene "Waste/Status Quo")
There were over a dozen different ways to get into the docks, and I knew all of them. But today I was just there for a chat, so I went through the main entrance like a good citizen. I knew a bunch of guys there. Some from when I actually worked there, back when I was still trying to be straight. Others I met later. They knew me, so it didn't take me long to find out where Thein was. Or, at least, where he was supposed to have been.
The area he worked should have been a quiet sector, where non-critical and non-perishable items were stored while they were inspected. But as I walked down there, there was noise, and lots of it. And lights. Lights are never a good thing in my line of work, especially the red and blue flashing variety. I kept going forward, just a nice ordinary citizen being naturally nosey. For some reason people never seem to believe there's "nothing to see here." At least, not when its spoken by five or six guys in armor and assault weapons with sirens and lights, and I certainly wasn't the only one trying to see what was going on.
The cops who weren't looking at the crowd were busy tearing through boxes, and smashing every piece of contraband they could get their hands on. And it wasn't just the normal cops, the religious ones were there too, giving the whole scene their "blessing." This was bad--we can afford to lose a shipment or two but not this. This was going to be expensive, and you can probably guess what Dehaan thought about things that were expensive.
I took my gaze from the breaking bottles and burning piles of 'lace, and saw the man I had come here to have a chat with--Thein was sitting in the back of the cops armored vehicle. At first I thought they had nabbed him--stupid idiot had tripped up somehow. But no, he was just sitting there, uncuffed, talking to one of the religious cops. If the raid was bad, this was worse. I don't know how much this Thein knew about the entire operation, but if he gave them this, there's no telling where else he could point them.
I hung to the back of the crowd, waiting to see how everything turned out. These guys weren't just going through the motions, they were serious about their work. Eventually most of the rest of the crowd either got bored of the scene, or started taking the armored boys more seriously, or their lunch break was over. Now, I was a citizen, but the cops knew I wasn't exactly what you'd call an upstanding one, so when the crowd began to fade, I faded too. I had seen enough.
I got out without attracting any attention, but I knew I couldn't just leave. Dehaan was going to be pissed, and want answers. Answers I didn't have. Yet. I asked around down at the docks, talking to the folks I knew. Apparently, there had been some kind of fight or something between Thien and someone else, his supervisor or something. Things got out of hand, security got called in, and everything went from bad to worse. Something about this didn't seem right, but I wasn't going to accomplish much more nosing around with all the cops around, so I headed over to one of our friends to make a call. Like I said, communicating anything important on Krakatoa was a pain, and in the docks more so than anywhere else. But, we had friends, and certain ways to communicate that we knew the cops couldn't over hear in case of an emergency. This was definitely one of those.
(CF 6. Chaos roll: 3 ALTERED SCENE Move toward a thread -- Abuse/Realities)

Well, Dehaan wasn't happy when I told what was going on. He made it very, very clear that I wasn't too leave the docks until the damn mess had been cleaned up. I had no idea what he thought I could do--this was a job for the lawyers and accountants. I handle employees going behind our back, not half the Inspector Squad combing through out prized possessions. He didn't care, he wanted it done. And what Dehaan wants done, gets done.      

Friday, December 9, 2016

Shared Solo Experiment -- Background and Character Information

I've been talking a bit with some of my fellow members of the Lone Wolf RPG group, and we're going to try something a tad different for Solo Gaming--we're going to try doing something shared. We each start off in the same genre and with the same prompt, and then let our games spiral from there. They might cross over, they might not, but we'll all have a shared point of origin. I'm just in it to see how others handle their games.

If anyone's interested in following along or joining in, the core thread is located HERE.

As for me, the first thing I want to do is come up with a character. All I know at this point is that it is a Science Fiction game, set in a nebulously defined universe, so people can go where they will. Also, I have the initial prompt: "The main character must [Fight] [Technician], at [Entertainment District], but have to contend with [Trap] while being confronted by [Corporation].” And that's that!

I don't know what the details of my universe are. I don't know know what rules system I want to use. Heck, I don't even know who my character is! So, I want to start with that first. Figure out who my character is, how he approaches things, and what his place in the world is. I don't want to go too far into the Science Fiction milieu for my character, I want him to be somewhat grounded. Not a psychic space night, or a genetically enhanced super-soldier, or a trans-human. These very well might exist in this world, but the main character should be someone more grounded. Ideally he'll be something of a "professional adventurer"--someone who is a mercenary, or an investigator, or something.

Since I'm looking for ideas, I decide to turn for one of my old classics--Central Casting. I'll be using the "Heroes for Tomorrow" book to help me come up with the character. It's a series of random tables that flesh out a character, so I will have to apply a good bit of interpretation and editing to work things out.

First off, I need to determine what "genre" of Tomorrow I'm in--Central Casting has four options-Tarnished Tomorrow, Final Frontier, Imperial Space, and Post Apocalypse. I like cyber-punk, and I'm probably leaning that way for most of my stories, but the setting we decided on is a bit more than that. Final Frontier is too optimistic, so I'm going to go with Imperial Space. Mankind has been in space for a while, and the future isn't what we were promised.

Next, race. I know I want to be a Human, so I just pick that and move on. Then, I need to determine my "technoculture"--a lot of time has past since man took to the stars, and different planets stand at different levels. I'm at the "Third Interstellar Age"--pretty common for Imperial. Energy Weapons, FTL, communication is faster than ships. After that, I look up the actual Culture my character is from, and I get "Decadent," described thus: "Decay, particularly moral decay, has begun to set in at all levels of society and the people have become pleasure-seeking and jaded." Yeah, that's the cyberpunk vibe I was hoping for.

Rolling a bit more, I discover the following. My character is an only child, and was raised by his Aunt & Uncle, and is middle class. He was born on a Core World, which is known for its volcanic nature. He nearly died while being born--perhaps mom didn't make it? His Aunt & Uncle have an unusual career--they have a "hobby" for a job. I rolled "partying." If they were higher class, I'd say they waste their days partying, but since their social status doesn't really allow for that, right now I'm thinking they're "party planners"--the kind of ridiculous career available in a decadent society. Things might change later, perhaps instead they've wasted his once vast inheritance for their own pleasure. We'll see.

Now, let's see what events shaped him as a child:

At age 6 -- Rivals force family to move to another world.
At age 11 -- Fateful event occurs: Something Wonderful--disease almost kills character, but miraculously he is immune to all disease.
At age 13 -- Learns head of household occupation (great, I'm a trained party planner...)
At age 17 -- Learned unusual skill -- Professional Gambling
At age 18 -- Fateful event occurs: Tragedy --Imprisoned for a Crime He Did Not Commit. None of the results appeals to me, so I decide it was Manslaughter--a teenage prank went wrong, and it was an accident, but he served time regardless. He was kept in a Medium Security Workcamp, and while there three events happened: 1) Disease ravages prison, but character becomes a hero by tending to the sick (ok, that makes sense). 2) Character learns thieving skills. 3) A general amnesty is declared. Character is freed after serving 40% of his sentence. I assume his sentence was for 10 years, so we pick up with the character age 22.

Education. I originally rolled really well for this, but decided it didn't fit his ex-con past, even with amnesty. I rolled again and got average with "office worker" as his career. He has a degree from a minor university in Business Administration or the like. Enough to get him a boring job pushing papers somewhere.

Events of adulthood. I don't want my character to be a kid, but not too old either. I'm thinking late 20's to early 30's. Old enough to be taken seriously, young enough to still be "starting out." I get 3 events for the events of his adulthood.

I figure college took 4 years, and assign the first even to that--I get, Ah, Love! My character is pulled into a romantic triangle, the romance ends, but we remain good friends.

2 years after college -- becomes Involved in Illegal Activities. Why? Needs money to pay off debts (run of bad luck at Gambling, maybe?). Type? Organized Crime. He commits murder, burglary, smuggling, whatever the boss needs. Events: Becomes a Leader, Jailed for a Few Days, Joins a Gang.

Final Event: Joined Military. Drafted. Branch: Army. Recon. Rank: Private. Events: Disease ravages the army. (Heh, lucky me). Conflict: Carnage is awesome. 70% of his unit is killed. Character survives, despite grievous wounds.

All these events have given him the following traits: Drunkard, Cruel, Impatient, Amoral, Liberal, Honest, Rude, and Sober.

Given all that, here's my character. He was born on a distant planet, and his parents died when he was young. Due to the vagaries of politics, they emigrated to the volcanic world he calls home (Krakatoa I decided). His Aunt and Uncle worked hard as caterers. They weren't quite servants of the wealthy, but close enough. At least they were able to provide for him. Through them, he associated a bit with the children of the wealthy, and supplemented his meager allowance by conning them through games of "chance." He was an all right student, but he stole a car as part of a stupid prank, and ended up killing a pedestrian. He was sent to prison, one ravaged by disease. He was unaffected, and took care of the sick. This earned him some respect among the more hardened members who took him under their wing. The conditions were so bad that eventually a public outcry forced some changes, and everyone with "good behavior" was released early.

He went to college, and did well enough to get a job at the local space port, pushing papers. He was bored by the tedium of his life, and turned to gambling and drink to fill the void. One drunken game wiped him out, but he was approached by some old friends from prison who said they could help each other. He used his position at the port to facilitate their smuggling, but was eventually caught up by the police as part of some investigation that didn't originally, involve him or his friends. They couldn't convict him of anything, but his job was over.

With nowhere else to turn, he threw himself wholeheartedly into the mob. His intelligence and fearlessness made him a favorite of the boss (I decide he's not in charge, but a top lieutenant), and was willing to do whatever needed to be done. When Krakatoa went to war over some petty nonsense with a neighbor, many "undesirables" were "enlisted" to fight. Bad leadership at home made the army weak from disease due to lack of food, medicine, and basic supplies. Bad leadership in the field left the army victorious, but practically wiped out. They won because the other side was as poorly led, and the Krakatoans were the ones left standing a few days after the battle. The war was ended through negations, and despite all the fighting and death, everything went back to normal. At least Krakatoa's "pride" was still in tact.

The story begins a few months after he is marshaled out, with new skills and fresh cynicism.

Personality wise, he's a cruel, violent man with no thought about "right" and "wrong," only what is "necessary." He doesn't like killing, not out of moral squeamishness, but because it's messy and mucks things up.  He like to drink and gamble, but only when he's "off the clock"--he never drinks while working, afraid of how it affects him. He doesn't care about what personal choices people make (liberal), only in that they don't rock the boat for the Organization; though he does get annoyed and impatient with how often people insist on "explaining" themselves and their actions to him. For his boss, he's honest, sober, and dependable. For everyone else, he's the last person they want to see.

I like him--a good, cynical, hard-boiled criminal who gets the job done. For his name, I decide on Alan Dogan, going with an English/Turkish combo to represent the future mingling of culture. But everyone knows him as "Lucky."

Vampire 5th Edition, After Action Report

I was finally able to run a game with the 5th Edition play-test rules , using the provided scenario The Last Night .  I've posted previo...