Friday, 3 November 2017

First game setup

As this is SGAM, I thought I would detail the process I use to get going, often one of the problems I have is simply getting to this stage.

I begin by drawing a table 7 x 7 (actually I put it in a spreadsheet).

I label the first column 1 to 6, leaving the top cell blank for the other column headings.

Next I label the second column headings onwards, Name, Location, Organisation, Item, Threat, Event

If you've followed along you will see I will generate six of the above each numbered 1 to 6. These correspond to a d6, and can (and will) be generated in play.

To generate these first, I use Everyone, Everywhere to generate 6 names, randomly male or female. I then assign them jobs using Two Hour Wargames New Hope City game line (5150 and NHC PI).

Next, I generate the locations using Kellri's City Blocks.

Organisations I generate using the charts in Stars Without Number.

Items I come up with myself (if anyone knows a good broad sci-fi/cyberpunk item generator let me know!).

Threats, again I usually come up with these myself. These tend to be dangerous people or groups.

Finally Events come from Kellri's City Blocks again, just using the last page.

I will call each of these entries Clues for ease of reference.

Now I start by randomly generating 3 Clues, these form the nucleus of the mystery 1 to 6 for category then 1 to 6 for each item in that category. I write these in the middle of a sheet of paper, and connect them with lines. It will look like a pyramid.

I then have a think about the connections of these Clues, and write each in pencil on the corresponding line. Until I am assured of that connection it could change.

Now I have that mystery I introduce my character(s) and the mystery in the first scene. Each scene I gain another Clue and connection to the mystery no matter what. I connect it as it makes sense, the category also being chosen or random. If I select an already connected Clue then I can link it, or ignore it and select the following one down, rolling around to the top if necessary.

Eventually you get a weight of interconnecting Clues, and it just makes sense. Play out the denouement, or solidifying the connections as time/whim demands.

This may sound automatic, and to an extent it is, but my character's interactions determine sometimes the nature of the Clue, and also how certain I am of its connection. Once a connection is certain I write it in pen, so it can't be rubbed out.

Sorry if the above sounds a bit Mickey Mouse, or is unclear (it could be either!). I will show my workings when I get into my mystery proper.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Aurum PD Setup

So, Solo Gaming Appreciation Month is here once again.

I thought I'd use it as a motivation to actual solo game for the first time in ages. I had a bit of a false start with designing the characters, but I'm over that now.

I thought I'd lay out my characters and the initial setup, plus list the tools I will be using and maybe a little background on my setting, the planet of Aurum.

Because I just wanted to get on with it, I thought I'd grab the most intriguing and trustworthy tools and just do it, they are:

Freeform Universal
My quick RPG of choice it turns out. I had considered others, but FU had speed of use and narrative encouragement that the others lacked.

5150 New Hope PI
This has the tables I wanted for initial crime setup, plus a great people generator and a quick building type generator. I'm adjust the initial crime table by replacing 7 with 'In progess' and re-rolling. If I get another 7 I'll consult Mythic instead.

Judge Dredd Traveller edition
This has details on the weapon used/armed/committed with, which is the only table I'll use.

Kellri's Sci-Fi City Blocks
Great random tables for location generation, plus a very good city wide event generator for good measure.

The Everyone, Everywhere List
My stock names generator. I generate a list of names and then randomly select from there during the game. In fact, I do this with most of the generators I use. I just generate enough that I don't know where or who is going to come up during the game.

Technoir
I'm not using this one exactly, just ideas from it, notably the mystery/investigation structure. Of all the investigation structures I've looked at, this is the one that makes the most sense. I have run it for my kids in a Scooby-style game, and it worked really well. While I will work through the others, as a quick pick up, this is the one that grabbed me.

Fate Core
Again, not really using this, I just like the nice, compact skill list. Sticking to these skills removed my character creation block.

Mythic
Finally, I will be using Mythic - mostly. What I will actual do is substitute the Mythic dice mechanic with a d20 based table while rolling a d10 independently for generating random events. I've then streamlined the focus table to a d20, so I can roll 1d20, and 2d100 simultaneously.

Homebrews/downloads
I've got a few other tables I've either copied from somewhere, or come up with that I'll use as appropriate.

That seems like a long list of tools, but during play it actually only amounts to a list of people's names and locations, in addition to the details for Technoir mystery, the Mythic charts and a few tables, maybe 4 sheets of paper.

OK, with all that set I needed a character, and decided a new detective, fresh from Arcturus Prime, and a veteran detective to show him the ropes would be good options. Why ditch the stereotypical cop show tropes? Here's the details for both:

Joe Blacklock
New recruit to Aurum Police Department
Skills
+ Athlete
+ Investigate
+ Rapport
- Resources - an apartment in the poor part of town
Description - Scruffy

Henry Benfield
Veteran Aurum Police Department detective
Skills
+ Contacts - built up over a long career
+ Drive
+ Investigate
- Athletics - Overweight
Description - Short & overweight

They both have significant help from the Aurum PD HUD and Standard issue firearm, giving
+ Notice - Aurum PD HUD, a face recognition and environment analyser
+ Shoot - Aurum PD issue PKD Special 'handcannon'

Here's the quick overview of Aurum:

A mining colony on the fringes of human space, rich in gold deposits, which are essential for electronic component construction, particularly in 'andys'. The planetary government leases the rights every five years, ensuring no company has exclusive use of it's valuable resources.

Incapable of being terraformed, a small 'bubble' outpost exists comprising three inter-connecting domes and the attached starport. The atmosphere is unbreathable to humans, although a few hardy creatures do exist on the meagre vegetation.

Enormous mining vehicles scour the planet's surface, sifting the rubble and gold before dumping the spoil behind it. These vehicles can mine at the rate of 1 mile per hour, or travel to new sites at 20 miles an hour.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Adventure Starters

If the title is not enough to give it away, I've decided that I'm going to pursue my Adventure Starters goal.

One thing I have thought about is getting some support, either something like an editor to keep the pressure on me, or at least ask me how I am getting on occasionally, or some people to split the work out amongst.

So what exactly are Adventure Starters?

Basically, random tables. To be more precise, genre-based, but setting specific tables. The idea is that when you want to run a game you pick up, open, or print out an Adventure Starter and it includes all the random tables you need, hopefully not just for an adventure but a whole campaign.

Each Adventure Starter is based on a particular setting in a certain genre. So Nexus City in the street level superhero setting, with the people and places that make that particular setting unique.

There will be an element of generic locations and people, but the specific answers will give the overall flavour of the setting and make it more than just another set of random tables.

They won't include any game system details or any form of GM emulator, these are things you provide yourself as tastes differ so widely.

I have a number of genres I would like to produce, but I would like to get someone, or some people, onboard and then we can make a decision from there.

So if this sounds like something you would like to help with please let me know!

Monday, 16 January 2017

2017 Goals

It's that time of year (well, sort of) when we reflect on the year passed and look forward and set goals for the coming year.

So what can I say about 2016?

It was pretty rubbish.

Well, at least as far as gaming is concerned. On a professional level my company is doing well and it is clear that I can make a pretty decent living after all. In truth I always thought this would be the case, but it's just been confirmed in the last few months.

And it is that trade off of work versus hobby time that has killed 2016 for gaming. Work will always be prioritised, but hopefully this year I can actually do something on the game related front.

So what are my goals this year?

Solo Investigation Gaming
This was my Solo Gaming Appreciation Month pledge for last November. In the end I got nowhere with it, but I still want to see it through. I've got the setting decided, and just need to line up each game. Blogging about it too will add a layer of complexity, but we'll see how that goes.

Kids' Adventure Gaming
As a gaming Dad I've often run games for my two daughters. As time's go on I've honed the gaming into something we all enjoy and quite simple. As there's nothing else out there quite like I run, I thought I'd try and put something together and possibly release it as Pay What You Want. I'd use the money generated to improve it over time, especially adding artwork. The trouble started when I wrote down everything I wanted to include, which was larger than I imagined it would be, this sort of stole the wind from the sails, and with no time or energy it's still becalmed.

Skirmish Gaming
I've always been a wargamer and a role-player. As a role-player I'm pretty satisfied with what I've got, but as a wargamer there's always something shiny to catch my eye. Add in my kids also like skirmish games and the wealth of solo systems and it's something I'd like to do. Put 15mm minis into the mix and it becomes super cheap too.

The Veil
This is the working title for a role-playing game setting I've got milling around my mind currently (it will have to change due to a recent cyberpunk game called this). It's a swashbuckling game with supernatural elements, in either Fudge or FU (or possibly both, I can't decide). I've got a basic plan, and it's rules light so it isn't too heavy to write (potentially), but then even a rules-light game takes a long while to slog through.

Adventure Starters
I'm not 100% set on the details of these (or the name). What I initially wanted to do was create genre appropriate random tables that enabled someone to pick one up and get going with a minimum of fuss (both regular GMs and solo-ists). In essence I wanted to include the people, places and other bits that make somewhere great for gaming. I'm starting to wonder if I can't modify it to become simple RPGs in their own right, which have everything needed for an evening (or many) of fun.

A novel
The big one. I've got an idea (amongst many) that seems pretty commercial and somewhat unique (at present). This would probably be the biggest slog of the lot, and I'm not sure I'll ever get around to writing it. Still if I leave it on the list I haven't given up on it completely.

The next challenge is to prioritise my goals so I can concentrate on one (or two) and actually attempt to complete them.

Friday, 25 November 2016

SGAM 2016 - Progress, or lack of!

Hi all

November hasn't been a good month for me. It started fairly well, the first few scenes of my Unity-based game were hustled through but then it hit me that I was playing a chase scenario and not immersing myself in any mystery - which was the whole point of my SGAM challenge!

So, what to do, rather than shoehorn a dramatic change of direction for my existing game I decided to start again with a different setting and character. It just seemed easier.

Now a few (many SGAM) days later I'm in a position to start again. This time I'm taking a slightly different approach and immersing myself in a cyberpunk city as a rookie detective - this should allow me to have a mystery defining opening scene from the off.

I've just been assigned from the regional academy to Aurum, the planet of gold. I'll fill in more details as I go through my exploits (hopefully) although more work commitments mean this may be a longer burn - for which I apologise.

If only my damn boss would stop arranging these appointment! Oh, hang on, that's me. Yes, working for myself does mean that I have to put it a very big first, maybe one day I'll be able to retire (only 30 years to my official retirement date!).

Still I will get these done, and I'm sure once I'm into the swing of it it'll come quickly and easily, it's getting it started that's the problem.


Friday, 28 October 2016

SGAM 2016 - Investigation Systems

So now towards the meat of SGAM as the month draws closer.

I want to detail the various investigation systems I plan to game with. These are all what I would call plot systems, that is something to hang the characters, setting and game system on to give it structure.

Let's give you an example, in the brilliant Danger Patrol Beta John Harper espouses a story structure that follows:

Introduction
Previously on Danger Patrol...
Action
Interlude
Suspense (then back to Action>Interlude>Suspense until the adventure is over, usually with an Action scene)

This fits in perfectly with the pulp 50s genre it is trying to emulate. This style of structure is also brilliantly demonstrated in John Fiore's 9Qs, which is made for solo gaming in particular (but not mysteries).

So I could just stick to this style of structure in my mystery games, I'm sure there are masses of mystery plot advice, let's have a quick look...

OK, so I could use the tried and tested:

Mystery>Introduce the suspects>Plot twist>Progress>Plot twist>Progress>The Reveal

Unfortunately, I'm not so sure that this would be satisfying in a solo role-playing game however. The puzzle pieces that make the great reveal are not necessarily hidden from me, and while Christie can have great fun leading the reader astray only to reveal that X is true in the end is only possible because of her complete control of certain story elements.

OK, so despite all of that there have been a number of attempts to re-create mystery style games for solo-ists. Here's my list:

Mythic (Mystery Theme)
That Grande Dame of solo RPGs Mythic has a specific mystery theme in it's Variations book. Ultimately this is a different random theme table. In case you don't know when a random event occurs in Mythic you have to roll on a table to determine the type of twist.

Random events are incredibly important to me when I game because they make the game take a different direction, or provide a different viewpoint or angle that I wouldn't have injected myself. This makes the game seem alive rather than a series of questions I have generated myself.

While I can see the potential, the very nature of random injection means that they could come at any time and short circuit the plot or, as is the cae with Mythic lead to numerous threads that never get closed.

I would run this completely as intended, which means that I would ignore my usual solo system of FU and Mythic.

Two Hour Wargames Larger than Life/New Hope City PI/New Market Round
Two Hour Wargames make skirmish wargames that are playable solo. They have a number of products out, covering a wide variety of settings. One of the game styles they cover is investigations, either in pulp, the future or during the renaissance (respectively).

Basically it is a numbers game, you need X clues to solve the crime in Y amount of time, then a framework to find and solve those clues against a time use element. This is why it can be ported so easily across genres.

This is a fairly simplistic structure, but that doesn't mean that it won't work.

Scarlet Heroes (Urban Adventures)
SH is a solo fans' favourite. The Urban Adventures structure requires you to go from one semi-randomly scenes, based on what happened in the scene before, to another.

There seem like a lot of combat scenes/options in this structure which had made me think about using it for a one off Judge Dredd style adventure, but I want to stick to my setting for SGAM so if it goes that way, it'll just be an action episode.

GMless Mystery Explainer
This recently popped up on the Lone Wolf G+ and looks to hold promise. It was created for group GMless games where the designer noticed that groups were happy to create mysteries but not to tie them up. This system is directly applicable to solo-ists, basically you create 8 mysteries/mystery elements, you then create a connecting solution for two of those mysteries and when you have two or more connections you solve the overall mystery.

Technoir
This one I think also holds real promise. You start with a table of six elements in six categories, you begin by generating three and connecting them on a sheet of paper, this is the initial mystery.

As you investigate you draw new elements into the mystery and connect them to existing elements. Eventually the whole structure becomes apparent and then you have reached your conclusion.
I have actually used this one on a holiday with my kids when I came up with a Scooby Doo adventure on the fly. It worked pretty well.

The Department of Fabricant Management
This is another skirmish wargame centred on an investigation style of play. The bad guy is determined at the beginning and then you use police budget to attempt scenes which generates evidence that you can use to attempt other scenes. I'm not totally sold on it as a system, but should time allow it might get a run out.

Tianxia
This is an example of the Fate fractal and how it can be applied to most situations. It has three skills, Secrets, Lies and Shock. Each has a slightly different function, and it becomes a task to 'attack' the mystery and solve it. I get the impression that this may work better as a side quest, but if I get the time I will give it a try.

Location Crafter
This is another Word Mill games product. This time it is set around generating locations and things present in those locations.

As any fan of police procedural's knows often the detectives go from place to place interviewing people and finding clues. So a system that generates those places and things present could be used.
I'm not entirely convinced of my own logic, so this one is on a back burner, but if I get the time I would like to see if there is any mileage in this system.

I've had other systems mentioned, but lack of time and immediate pick and play-ability has somewhat stymied this. I will give each a look and play through as I intend to continue with my investigation games after SGAM has finished, although at a slower pace.


Friday, 21 October 2016

SGAM 2016 - Setting


So one of the first things I decided on when I first thought about doing an investigation SGAM challenge was the setting.

Here's 'the pitch' complete with logo and optional theme tune!



In the far future man has colonized the planets encountering numerous cultures and aliens, grown to enormous proportions bureaucracy and inflexibility have rendered the mighty Unity of Planets both terrifyingly powerful and faceless.

Enter Dexter Krupnik, or Dex to his very few friends, a Unity Enforcer on the fringes of the galaxy - driven by revenge. His task is to protect Unity from deadly Orange-class aliens, and one in particular is the focus of his attention.

Onboard the merchant-disguised Princess of Mars, Dex and his crew hunt Orange aliens, hoping to finally catch the deadliest alien in the sector.

It's based on (almost wholly ripped off) Nordic Weasel Games Five Parsecs from Home and Every Star an Opportunity, plus I'd just finished the 40k Eisenhorn novels when I first thought about doing this originally. What you get with Five Parsecs and the supplement is a very loose space opera setting, detailed more through it's random tables (of which there are quite a few) than through any explicit setting section. The oppressive/supportive central government gives the setting a certain flavour.

On a more general tone, I wanted there to be an over-arching plot/hunt, and I've got the idea for a cool villain, which you'll learn more about as the game unfolds hopefully. I've decided on an episodic campaign style, akin to a TV series, both because this will enable me to tell discrete stories, but also because it will enable me to switch around the various investigative frameworks I use, and it's just how I envisage it.

I think my next post will be about the investigative frameworks that I hope to use.


Music excerpt based on:
'Numinous Shine' Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 Licence
http://creativecommons.org/licences/by/3.0/