Wednesday, March 31, 2010


New ZuluPad Document:

It has been a bit since I've last updated so I figured I should mosey back on in here and type some stuff out.

To be brief: I have some concerns about last time. The PCs are blackmailing the head of a terrorist cell bent on bringing revolution to his hometown. He is not a god or a king, more on par with a mob boss. I feel like they're in over their heads and I don't know how to make that apparent without feeling like I'm picking on them. They, Martel in particular, seem to feel like those armbands make them untouchable.

The problem (as I explained it to Eric last night) is that they're walking around with an armband on their person and several hidden away on their various properties. Now, they can walk up to a reaver and say "Hey, I found these in a bank." and seal the fate of the city and Nakmander himself. Or, they could be walking around and get into a tussle with some folks in a bar and a reaver sees them with their armband. Or they try to cross into a secure area of the city and get searched. Or they enter the domain of a city official and get searched, their weapons confiscated, and their armband discovered. Or Nakmander says, "Hey Cenn, I've got some dudes that just robbed me and they've got some reaver armbands. I don't know where they got them but I thought I might let you know."

I don't know. I feel like some of them think they have Nakmander and the rebellion by the short hairs and it seems more like a Cold War-esque mutually assured destruction situation. Without evidence of who exactly killed the reavers (or if they are even actually dead) the possessor of such items has only their word that the items don't belong to them. It comes down to a situation of Nak's word against theirs, and Nakmander is better at Bluff and Diplomacy than them I think.

I dunno. This is a touchy issue because I want to reward the players for sticking to their guns and role-playing a bit. I also want to make it difficult for them because it is a difficult situation. The armbands aren't just a big red WIN button and I don't want them to feel like they run shit in Hell and whatnot. I want them to feel like they stand upon the edge of a knife and if they stray but a little, they're going to get fucked.

I guess I just need to find a way to keep them feeling empowered, but also punish blatantly foolish arrogance. Hopefully Eric and Jeremy can keep them civil, perhaps they'll share the events and timeline of my The One-Eyed Man story with the group. We shall see.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Some 101

Night fowls are a species of small bird native to Kusseth. They are about the size of your average quail, have black feathers and a glossy black beak. Their wings have a thin layer of chitin that runs across the front of their wings like a tiny blade and their bodies have actually been found to have an exoskeleton like a bug's beneath their feathers, they also have compound eyes like insects, this makes them a strange fusion of insect and avian features. They are The Known World's platypus. Night fowls gather together in small flocks of ten or twelve birds and have an immense attraction to shiny metal objects and this often leads them to nest in scrapyards or foundries, much to the irritation of metalworkers.

I need a big rubber stamp that says CANON on it for shit like this.

Also 1.0: The whole point of Kusseth is impracticality and inefficiency on a nation-wide scale.
Also 2.0: Am I the only one that considered the fact that a nation with a city that has living obsidian walls infused with magic in it might not possess the exact same banking system(s) as Earth and might not have something like bank insurance or an FDIC?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Brass Balls

I do not even know where to begin. We gamed Saturday evening and Sunday mid-day. Roughly nine hours in total. I had a lot of fun and I think everyone else did as well, which we usually do. The two part gaming sessions made things a lot more relaxed towards the end and when the end game appeared the group really had some time to figure things out and plan out what they were going to do. I was really pleased with the way the scenario went, there were some hiccups when Jeremy and I were attempting to role-play, but that's ok because we so rarely do that so some stumbling was to be expected. I also honestly think we (Jeremy and I) didn't plan enough or talk enough about what we thought D'alton's old friend's role would be in the scenario. I had always planned on him being a loose end, but I think that D'alton and the group were thinking that he would be kind of like an informant or quest giver about the heist and how to go about doing it.

We'll return to the scenario itself in a moment.

I really enjoy using the microphone, it has been pretty interesting to play with Audacity and clean up the files (somewhat) so I can give them a listen at my leisure. In our first part of the session we had the microphone right on the table like a giant metal phallus in our faces (Eric's in particular). When we reconvened on Sunday we put the microphone on the floor beneath the table. That seemed to cut down on the noise level, the background static, and it actually made use forget about the presence of the microphone (until Eric kicked it over). It has been pretty interesting to listen to us and how we interact and how I speak and convey information while gaming. Its also neat to listen to my actual voice and not the voice I hear when I speak.

Back to the scenario.

The stones on these motherfuckers. After being out of the game for eight years, Jeremy has D'alton and the group just wander back into town and go after the very same bank that he got put away for trying to crack open. They don't even really set foot in it to look around the place, except for Man and D'alton playing around in the vents at night and John going in to withdraw some funds. They get everything situated and do everything but investigate the bank itself and who their clients are. Things progress and they crack the vault and there comes a point where Jeremy realizes what D'alton has gotten himself and the group into, and just wow. I loved it. I could almost feel Jeremy's reaction to his realization. Just the whole last hour or so of the scenario was filled with tension, the chase, the rowed'hause, when they realized someone was outside their hideout.

I'm not going to go over everything here and talk about the scenario in great detail, some readers like Shawn may attempt to listen to it. What I am going to say is that I've been gaming for fifteen years and the last hour or two of the scenario was literally hands down the most awesome gaming I've had in that time. Nice job guys. I just have to try and top it. Eek.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Tony and were talking back in the day (and by that I mean this past Wednesday) about some things I mentioned in my previous post, just basic chit chat about how to get players interested in the world of the campaign setting and whatnot. He had an idea that never occurred to me and I really like it.

If I remember correctly the gist of it is that you (the GM) create backgrounds for everyone, rather than let them willy nilly create whatever they want. Or at the very least you create the portion of their background that involves the why and when of their involvement in the campaign. This way you can rely on yourself, rather than a ragtag collection of heathens, to figure out why the group is a group and why they're saving the world or burning it to a cinder or whatever.

I think I might try this in my next campaign. The GURPS one-shot adventure is going to be just that, a one-shot, so I don't intend on doing too much background work for the characters other than giving them names and allowing the players to pick which one they want to play.

I might talk to everyone when the time approaches to start a new campaign, which could be quite a long time from now as it stands with our once every two months gaming schedule. I guess I'll just bring the idea up at the appropriate time and see what everyone has to say.

Music: Clint Eastwood - Gorillaz

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I Bring You...Fire!

Players don't care. Or at least they don't care as much about your campaign world as you (the GM) do. I read that in a DnD Dungeon Master's Guide once, not sure which edition though. It took me a long time to understand what it meant though.

Pro-tip: It means more work for you (the GM).

I had a rather robust talk with Eric the other day about GURPS and we discussed how easily he gets frustrated with campaigns and how his always seem to fall apart and get left behind unmourned. He cited his latest campaign as an example, we played once or twice with 4th Edition DnD and didn't even get through a whole scenario. Then we cancelled it for the GURPS thing he's working on now.

GMing can be a hard and utterly thankless job at times (especially if you're crazy like me and absolutely MUST have everything written down beforehand). Player's will ignore plot hooks and they will decide to kill the NPC you've spent the most time writing a background for and they do both on any little whim, that is their nature. They're players and generally they care about their characters more than the empires and NPCs you've put into the game. They want to do stuff and that stuff may not necessarily have anything to do with all the neat stuff in your world.

In short, you (the GM) have to make those homicidal/sociopathic ADHD little shits care.

I will cite Eric's campaign as an example, as I was a player in it. I know he put a fair amount of effort into it because I was right there with him talking it out and going over details and timelines with him. What I say now I do not say with malice, I found his world totally forgettable, and not because of the beets (or the lack thereof). I didn't feel like I was a part of it or that there was any depth to it, I felt like a sociopathic, robot, ADHD motherfucker. So I acted like one.

My players are notorious for not reading background material and not remember names and places. They just don't pay attention or care enough to pay attention as much as they need to or take down notes on a regular basis. At one time that would have brought on fits of GM Rage, nowadays I put on my big boy pants and create ways to sidestep what I perceive as their inadequacies. They never take notes or remember what happened last time? Logbook that I force feed them every scenario. No one does backgrounds? Backgrounds now provide in game benefits. No one cares about the details of my world? Hit them over the head with stupid little details about my world every chance I get and write out Walthuler missives.

Anyway, back to the point. To me, Eric's campaign was forgettable because I didn't feel like Junkpile was a part of it. To make players care you have to make them part of the world. You sometimes have to do stuff like call them by their character's names when you're at the table or fill their heads with useless bits of information about your world. Sometimes you have to drag them (kicking and screaming) into your head to roll polyhedrons. If you don't put your all into the game and the world, they're going to pick up on that and respond in kind by not caring too much.

My wife tells me that I get so passionate and amped up about DnD that she almost believes she could get into it with us. Not because she is intrigued by steampunk technology or wonky magic, but because I am so intrigued by it that it kind of infects her with my passion. I think that is the way GMs have to be, at least the kind of GM I feel I'm trying to be. You need to be the dork that won't shut up about his favorite deck/book/save file/etc. You as the GM are kind of the lens the players see the campaign through, so if every word I say or write about The New Empire is tinged with my contempt for the nation, the players are going to likely have a lot of contempt for it as well because all they know is the information I present to them.

I guess what I'm trying to say is a kind of given. If you're making a world, you need to find a way to make the folks wandering around in it see it as more than a collection of statistics that act as a loot and gold dispensing machine.

Music: Ozzy Osbourne - Fire

Sunday, March 7, 2010


Is it wrong that when I converted Spineplate to GURPS I gave him what amounts to a machine gun mounted on his shoulder? (Gear driven of course.)

I feel I should explain a few things about the short story I finished up the other day, if only because it is relevant to some other things at the moment. The first and foremost is that it is a continuation of The Last Blade. You might not know that because I changed the main character's name from Cromm to Keroen when I began editing The Last Blade. The story also shows Cenn's death in Hell, and that is a big part of the latter half of the d20 campaign I'm working on at the moment. It also sets the stage for the next campaign I plan to run in The Known World because Cenn the Reaver is hoping to lure the Nel to The Known World so he can lock blades with them and whatnot. This sets up a lot of opportunities for a new campaign because if the Nel do make war on The Known World there's going to be a lot of bloodletting, which adventurers typically excel at. There are also going to be political role-playing opportunities as various countries make pacts with each other (or the Nel) for mutual protection and such. Dwen might delve too deep and/or too greedily as they attempt to kick their own industries into hyperdrive. Etc. I designed The Known World as a relatively boring place for the group to cut their teeth on and grow accustomed to the nature of my world, not necessarily as a place all their adventures take place on. I think the possibility of a Nel invasion is a really good way to stir things up in The Known World. There are already a few places where the pot is about to boil over so to speak, but I think the Nel invasion coupled with all the rebellions and plots and secret societies already in place all over the continent could reinvigorate The Known World with a hot beef injection of utter Chaos.

I'm not even entirely sure that the Nel invasion will occur. As Callifay said, they have no knowledge of navigation or astronomy, so they may very well end up stuck on the shores of the Abraxen homeland, or miss The Known World entirely and end up east of it on The Island of Crystalline Towers. Landing in those places would have an impact on The Known World as well, how would Kusseth fair if they were suddenly without Abraxen support in all their endeavors? What would happen in The Old and New Empires if Eldumans suddenly received a psionic distress signal from who or whatever still lives on The Island of Crystalline Towers?

Should I roll a d20 or a d6 to determine whether or not the Nel leave Grenaldeen? What should I roll to determine where they land? Is a critical failure their poorly constructed ships sinking into the ocean or them landing successfully on the west coast of Kusseth/The Fell Peaks/The Beast Lands?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Job Posting?

So, I bought a reasonably priced (and hopefully effective) USB microphone. Hopefully it will work with Audacity and I can do some recording(if not, I'm sure I can find another program somewhere to do that). Oh, yeah, that is the intent. I want to record our gaming sessions as I believe I said before in a previous post. The intent is not to begin podcasting or anything of that nature, I just want to hear the sessions and interactions rather than be part of them. I'm hoping to listen to what goes on in our sessions and see what I can do to make them better and just generally run smoother. If I can go back and listen to where people are having trouble or where I kind of stutter and stammer and get sidetracked I think I can get some insights into the sessions. Plus it'll be hilarious to listen to our antics, and useful to have them in a portable format that would allow Shawn or Josh to be part of gaming even though geography is working against them. Although I suppose since we are moving into the FUTURE! some sort of video chat could be instituted that would make them actually part of gaming. Scratch that, eight players and a GM would be too much.

On another topic I need an intern, anyone interested? Seriously. I've joked before that Eric and Tony have been my co-GMs at times, but I think I may need help. I've been busy with work and school related things the past three days, which has made it impossible to do any GMing or writing type stuff because they're not as important. I had wanted to do a once over of the scenario this morning to tighten up the final details, but I also wanted to work on the microphone thing, and finish up a scenario-adjacent story. I also wanted to get a hair more work done on the GURPS thing.

Instead of all of that I got a microphone and added some skills to "Savage" Doc Managan (a GURPS character). Oh, and I'm blogging. Anyway, it would really be handy to have another person around to be like "Hey, look up USB microphones and their prices and effectiveness and get back to me before we game. Thanks." It would also be nice to expose another person to the mechanics of GMing and perhaps giving them some experience with it and perhaps get them interested in running stuff as well.

I dunno. Those are the thoughts of the morning I guess.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The One-Eyed Man, Part 6

Fourthmonth, 9996 DK

A time came when I could no longer put the deed off. Nakmander set his plans into motion and my men that had been named disappeared from the streets of Hell. I had managed to keep my presence within the city a secret and l heard rumors among the patrons of the Jigging Jackass about the fate of those men. They said that their removal by rebels was a plot to wring favors from the master of the reavers.

Callifay and I sat in our suite doing little. My armor and dozen bronze swords were put away. I would not be taking them with me when I left the room. Their presence here in the Jackass would add to the mystery of my death and show I had come to the city in secret. Callifay had taken his possessions and booked a room at a lodging in another district days ago. He would leave the city before nightfall and return at a later date to find me.

"I," Callifay began. He cleared his throat and rubbed an eye with the heel of his hand.

We sat next to each other on the bed and I put one arm across his shoulders and leaned close to him.

"I will be fine," I said.

"I know that, I have seen you wounded and near death before. Nonetheless, I desire very little to see you broken and bleeding on the floor."

"Nakmander's agents will retrieve me and deposit me into the proper place. We will be reunited before the week ends."

He nodded, "Find me when you are whole, I will not see you as a corpse. I have seen you bleeding and wounded before, mobbed by warriors, or laid low by Loria and her guardians. I cannot see you as a corpse. I will not. Thinking of it sickens me and brings tears to my eyes. I will not find you, you will come to me when you are as you are now, whole and handsome."

I cleared my throat, my tongue felt thick, I stood.

"I cannot put it off any longer. I grow more hesitant the longer I wait."

He rose from the bed and we smiled at each other.

"We are fools," he said.

I nodded and our lips met and time paused briefly while we said goodbye to one another. I left the room. It was silly for us to be so emotional, we had been apart for longer stretches of time before and I would not truly be dead. I suspected that might be impossible, it would still hurt though.

It was dark outside when I exited the Jackass, Callifay had leapt out the window of my room so that he could avoid the sight that was to come. The nearby streets were noisy and the air stank of shit and dead plant life left too long in the sun, it was an odd smell that had always been ever present in Hell. I took a long drag off my pipe and closed my eyes as I exhaled. I opened them and heard their armored boots crack against the brick road. They were quiet and stealthy, but they moved with a purpose. There were ten of them armed with pistols and various swords and knives. Callifay had hired ten bards to kill me. At least it would look real.

Their first attack as they approached was to lob a pot of lamp oil at me that broke against my face. It tasted foul and stung my eyes. The next impact I felt was an automatic match of brass that bruised my cheek. The lamp oil made a hissing noise as it lit. I grimaced, it would take some time, but eventually my flesh would begin to run like wax.

My brow split and I could hear my blood begin to boil and hiss as the lamp oil truly blazed. I caught the first knife that arched towards my throat with my fist and broke it and the arm it led to. Four pistols roared and lead hammered into my chest, my bones creaked under the blows but they would not break. I clenched my fist and its impact broke the throat and neck of the bard that had first tried to stab me.

Three swords cut at me, a knife whistled through the air, and four more guns roared. The knife struck my thigh and I could feel fire burning along my veins as whatever it had been slathered in tried to lay me low, the pain was my body's defenses boiling it away. The bullets hit my chest again and I could feel my ribs crack, not broken, but hurting more than I cared to admit. One sword caught against the bone of my upper arm, the second skewered the meat of my thigh, and the last one was torn from the grasp of its owner by my bloodied hand.

I impaled him with it and swung the steel blade in an arc that had the bards leaping away from me. Now it was my turn. I rushed in among them, whipping the blade about with a speed they couldn't match, I impaled three more and roared as the fire finally began to melt my face and eyes. My left was gone before I could blink and as the pain drove me mad all I could feel was the agony and ecstasy of my brow splitting wider and wider and my grin stretching painfully across my face.

All I felt was the fire melting my flesh and burning right down to the bone, I could feel dull impacts against my flesh but my mind ignored it all as I tore three more bards limb from limb with nails that were suddenly black daggers and the twisted ruin of a broken blade. A sword smacked against my back and bent as the bony plates of my shoulders refused to give in, I whirled around and the jagged stick of metal in my hand split his torso from clavicle to abdomen. The metal that had been a sword twisted out of my hand as the bard fell to the pavement.

I could still almost see out of what was left of my right eye, the last bard was bloodied and had a broken nose. As I was turning from his comrade he put a heavy revolver to my chest, I could see the massive rounds, the cylinder only had room for four of them. I moved and the hammer came down just as my fingers grazed the gun.

I couldn't hear the thunder of the round flying from the gun but I felt the weight of it against my chest. My ribs had already been broken and even if they hadn't, this bullet would have torn through them with ease. I thought he was aiming at my heart, it wasn't where he thought it was though, but it was close enough. I jolted backwards from the force of the impact and stumbled to the ground. He shot me again and I didn't even have the strength to groan or bellow, my forehead was going numb as the flesh was eaten and my grin sagged into a tired scowl.

I could feel an itching sensation everywhere at once, the phantom pains of a broken nose and a shattered skull. My body was at work attempting to heal me, but my reserves of Gifts were far less than they had ever been before. If I was to be reborn, it would take time and almost certainly longer than a week. The bard shot me again, in the face I think, and I passed out. My last thought was of Callifay waiting and wondering, not knowing where my half-corpse lay in the catacombs of Hell and not knowing how to find it.

...and so it was that the reaver Cenn was put down like a rabid beast by the dogs of his arch-nemesis, Smiling Jack.