Vulcan Stev's Database

It's a BLOG Captain, but not as we know it.

Game Balance: Do you have it?

According to my friend Dr. Checkmate game balance is when your actual gaming matches your desire for it.  Unfortunately my desire and actuality are way out of whack right now.  Probably due in no small part to the new job.  I’d love to be playing more and getting the games in planning actually up and running.  How about you?  Have you achieved Game Balance?

Playing:
Quest for the Staff of Genesis (AD&D)
The Eerie Exploits of Ranger Company X(Risus PbP)

Running:
Stargate SG-21 (Savage Worlds)
The Omega Resistance – A Necessary Evil Campaign (Savage Worlds)

In Planning:
Vulcan Transporta Car Wars type game (PbP Risus)
TwitteRPGa D&D type game (PbP Risus)

May 3, 2009 Posted by | News, Reviews and Culture, Observations of a Noob GM, Risus, RPG, Savage Worlds | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Creating Characters for a 10-Year Old

s2p10011mediumI’m starting a Necessary Evil campaign (in addition to my weekly Stargate campaign).  In addition to my children we’ve got two additional players, folks I know very well but have never gamed with before.  Before my friend Grey Wulf suffers an aneurysm over my not using Mutants & Masterminds, let me say that currently, when playing with PIT #3 it’s better to use a system with less crunch.

So Sunday we began character generation.  PIT #1 wants to be a tech-enhanced assassin.  Styx is a woman I wouldn’t want to meet in a well-lit alley, let alone a dark one.  PIT #2 comes up with a Thing-like character who also has Kitty Pryde’s powers.  The other two players are developing a martial artist assassin and a cross between Storm and Gambit.

PIT #3 is having trouble coming up with a concept.  I ask him what kind of powers he wants.  “I want him to fly, shoot fire and able to do other cool stuff.”  Well you only have 15 points to spend on powers he is reminded.  “I know Daddy, but I want him to be completely different from everything else.”  OK, as a father I want to give my son what he wants, as a GM I don’t want Superman suddenly walking around in a Novice campaign  (that I could not build Superman with only 15 points to is completely beside the point).

So we sat down and gave “Heatwave”, as he was immediately christened, flight, ranged attack, and earthquake.  All at relatively low power levels to make sure we got it all in.  After spending 8 of the 15 points, I was then prepared to go back and extend some of Heatwave’s powers.  When PIT#3 got a gleam in his eye, 7 points what other power can we give this guy?  Don’t you want to make the powers you do have a little better?

“No Daddy, look.  If we give Heatwave a device that can mimic all the other powers than he could have every power in the book.”  At this point if I had brought this idea up with a my GM he’d have told me “No! absolutely not.”  But I’m Daddy as well how can I make this work using the points we have left and not have “Superman” in the game.

The concept we cam up with is similar to Ben 10’s Omnimatrix.  Basically this device stores any 7-point power that’s left in the book.  When activated, the device over-rides the current power set and gives at random one of the stored powers.  PIT #3 is happy and now I had a backstory to justify this thing to invent.

With input from PIT #3, we developed this.  His character, Sam Lacker was a research assistant for one Dean C. Simitts.  Dean was working on a way to have super powers while remaining undetectable to the V’sorii.  Dean developed the Supero Facultas with the idea that he’d be able to walk around as a normal human being until he activated the device.  Realizing that he’d need a bodyguard for the times he was de-powered, Dean convinced his lab assistant, Sam to undergo some genetic modification.  Sam, eager to fight against the V’Sorii as well, agreed.

During the modification process, a power surge caused the laboratory to explode, killing Dean.  Sam survived the explosion as he was in the sheilded modification chamber.  Emerging from the chamber, Sam found the Supero Facultas and placed it on his forearm.  It immediately bonded with his flesh.  Sam discovered that he had the power to fly by controlling air currents.  He could shoot fire from his hands.  When standing on the ground he could cause minor earth tremors.  When he was in the water he could form small tsunamis.  Sam is still experimenting with the Supero Facultas he does not know the extent of the powers contained therein.  He does know that when activated his “real” powers are superseded by the device.

What did I learn from this exercise?  First, that it’s worth the effort to find reasons for doing what your players would like to do.  Second, that it’s worth effort to bend the rules slightly as long as game play is not affected.  Finally, a good backstory can explain away almost anything.  I’m looking forward to our first game.

April 18, 2009 Posted by | Fluff/Inspiration, Observations of a Noob GM, RPG, Savage Worlds | , , , , | 1 Comment

Role Playing: where my hobbies meet

I have been asked a few questions about other aspects of my blog.  For example who is Goober?  Why Vulcan Stev?  I was writing a reply to these questions and getting ready to tag it as non-rpg blog post when I realized that answers to both of these questions involve RP after a manner of speaking.  It was after this realization that I came to the conclusion that Role Playing is where my various hobbies meet.  The skills I use in my puppeteering and creative writing serve me as player and GM as well and vice-versa.  Thus the rewrite of a simple behind-the-scenes Q&A into a full blown article about RPG skills.

gooberGoober is the lead character for my puppet team.  He is at his core, a Dennis the Menace/Calvin type character.  We don’t use scripts when Goober is on stage as dealing with Goober is a form of free associating role play.  Most of the “skits” involving Goober are based on a one-line riff, with Goober and his straightman verbally sparring with each other building on the last line spoken.  How is puppeteering role playing?  I cannot “do” Goober unless I am physically talking in his voice.  Once I’m doing the voice, Goober comes naturally.

Stev is a character that I write for the Starships of the Third Fleet writing club.  The “Captain” writes a prologue and it is then up to the members to write their mission report.  I’ve been writing Stev off and on for the better part of two decades.  I’ll stare at the prologue and be unable to write unless I’m “in” Stev’s mind so-to-speak.

How do these two completely different pursuits tie-in to becoming a better player and/or GM?  In both instances I am not the one providing the starting spot.  With Goober, I’m usually riffing off of the Pastor’s sermon that morning, or along whatever “theme” we have for that night’s puppet show.  In Stev’s case, the Captain provides the problem and I have to come up with the solution.  Step outside the box for the moment.  What difference other than tropes and semantics, is there between Goober talking about Pastor Gary’s sermon, my writing Stev’s solution, or trying to figure Nevets’ way out of the trap that the DM just described?  Really? there is no difference.  It’s all Improv, different disciplines to be sure.  But in each I need to be quick on my feet.

Now flip the whole thing on it’s head.  When Sergeant Steelflex of SG-21 suddenly wants to question the conductor of the train the team is riding, I need to be able to step into character quickly even if the character wasn’t supposed to do anything beyond collecting the tickets.  I need to quickly find the Conductor’s voice and let my improv skills come to the surface.   I have discovered over the years that I have a very strong talent in building off of another’s foundation.  Every time I exercise my improvisational skills it only improves that talent for use.  The three hobbies build on each other.

My advice for honing your RPG skills is to find something else that stretches your creative thinking.  Creativity is creativity whether its puppets, RPG, writing, drawing, whatever causes you stretch your thinking.  Stretch and excercies your thinking and your RPG skills will improve as well.

April 8, 2009 Posted by | Fluff/Inspiration, Goober's Place (One Way Express), Observations of a Noob GM, RPG, SS3F, Vulcan Stev | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

I Do….

Per Jonathan’s idea over at the Core Mechanic

What do I do?  Am I defined by my actions?

I do watch movies with my children
I do review those same movies with the kids as well
I do RP with my kids and their friends
I do Savage Worlds
I do prep for my games well in advance
I do obsess over having the “perfect” scenario done before I GM
I do Pirates, Super Heroes, Sci Fi, D&D, and Car Wars
I do prefer hardcopies of the rules over a .pdf
I do still read comic books
I do puppets
I do creative writing
I do Mike’s Hard Lemonade and Cherry Coke but not together
I do pizza.

What do you do?  Leave a comment.

April 2, 2009 Posted by | Observations of a Noob GM, RPG | , | 1 Comment

A Hearty Thank You and Welcome to the Network’s Readers

Thank you for adding my blog to the network.  I would like to introduce my new readers to the RPG section of the Database.

I am not as avid a D&D player as some of you.  My D&D gaming during high school fell victim to the “Devil’s Game” scare of the mid-80’s.  It was only recently that I’ve been playing again, thanks to my daughter (PIT#1).  I actively play D&D 2e on a weekly basis with her gaming group.  My first experience with 4e will be this Saturday when I cover world D&D at my FLGS.  So although I enjoy D&D I am not very conversant in it at this time.

I actively GM games for the open game night at our local youth center.  My system of choice is Savage Worlds and we currently have a running Stargate campaign using the Savage Worlds conversion for that fine game by Alderac.  I have a Necessary Evil campaign in the works for my players at their request.

I struggle with coming up with my own ideas, apparently I’m not alone.  One of the exercises that I’ve been attempting recently is to start thinking outside the box.  My children and I have been reviewing movies for a number of years, so recently I’ve been looking at the movies we’ve reviewed and trying to figure out how I’d use the universe from the movie in various gaming scenarios.  I’m also flipping things on their heads and looking for inspiration in some not so obvious places; fortune cookies, commercials, TV.

Thanks for stopping by.   It is my sincere hope that you find something here worth reading.

What movies would you like to see the family review with a subsequent article about gaming in that universe?

March 19, 2009 Posted by | Observations of a Noob GM, RPG | , , | 5 Comments

“Unfortunately…” new hooks for your game.

Stuck for a hook for your next gaming session?  I came across this idea on someone’s blog while I was meandering around while being sick.  As a novice GM pressed for time because of RW constraints, I am constantly looking for ways to make my role as GM easier.

Simply type “Unfortunately, [your name]” into Google search and then stand back to enjoy the results. Remember to include the quote marks around your search, or you’ll be all over the place.  We’ll use my name and then we’ll see how we can use the results for the game.  These are the top ten results.

Unfortunately Steve is dying…
Almost to cliche to be used as a hook.  Perhaps Steve is the PCs sponsor and needs something to save his life.  Immediate quest material.

A rivalry that may cool down – unfortunately Steve might not be around to see it
Whose rivalry?  Are the PCs going to help Steve or his rival.  Is Steve even part of the goings on or is he an innocent bystander?

Unfortunately, Steve will be incarcerated the entire time
Why?  Maybe Steve, through intermediaries, is hiring the PCs to find the evidence to prove his innocence or frame someone else.

Unfortunately, Steve doesn’t provide examples of Apple’s crappy products
This was actually a post about Steve Woznieck complaining about software.  I had to include it.  The hook I came up with is that co-founder of the kingdom is disillusioned with the current leadership and wants the PCs to expose the fraud and corruption.

Unfortunately, Steve, the barley straw trick requires bright sunlight to break the humics from the straw down into algicidal by-products
The PCs are called upon by the locals to fix a problem caused by an apprentice.  As the apprentice, his master, the laboratory and most of the town have been sucked into a limbo like dimension.  The locals want their loved ones saved but figure the PCs are an expendable lot if everything goes to crap. 

Unfortunately, Steve could not come due to a “last minute budget freeze”
The PCs were expecting some local help.  But Steve couldn’t make it do to monetary shortfalls.  The PCs now have to strike out on their own without help.

Unfortunately Steve didn’t make it into professional football
Depressed he turned towards mind-altering substances and unwittingly unleashed the dark power within.  The PCs must cope with the new villain/monster

Unfortunately Steve died a second time after foiling the plot in question
What caused Steve to die the first time.  What caused his resurrection?  Will he be back to seek vengeance?

Unfortunately, Steve only had the car (vehicle/horse) for three months before it was destroyed in a racing accident
Now Steve is stuck without transportation.  Steve is the village protector.  Without his “car” Steve cannot protect the village and needs the PCs to help him acquire a new one.

March 10, 2009 Posted by | Fluff/Inspiration, Gaming Notes, Observations of a Noob GM, RPG | , , , | Leave a comment

Game Night 2-27-09: Stargate SG-21

I have been waiting to to write this up for three weeks.  After the first open game night at the youth center in town we had some setbacks.  The second week was scrubbed due to a basketball game between the two high schools that account for 90% of the teens who hang out at the youth center.  The following week the youth center was open for a Valentine’s Day Dance, no game night.  Last week was inclement weather that kept most everyone at home.

Last night, I had six of the original thirteen interested players show up ready to play.  We played Ron Fricke’s Savage Worlds adaptation of Alderac’s Stargate SG-1.  I had two main reasons for using the SW ruleset; the first was that I find SW to be one of the easiest systems to explain to new players and two I’ll be able to use Reality Blurs’ Rune Punk SW setting as a Stargate world.  I’ll explain that more in a later blog.

The players ranged in age from 10 – 17.  The youngest is PIT#3, through a fore-knowledge of the hook the GM (me) was suing to determine rank in the SGC ended up being a Lt. Col.  The other players weren’t happy with it but are at least giving him a chance to prove he can be the team  leader.  Kudos to the other players for showing the maturity necessary to keep the peace.

SG-21 teamed up with SG-18 and went off to provide backup to SG-1 who had been overrun by Jaffa.  Upon exiting the Stargate, SGs 18 & 21 faced off against 24 Jaffa wielding staff weapons.  Showing a remarkable unity for a team that had just been brought together, SG-21 along with the NPC team of SG-18 defeated all 24 Jaffa with only minor injuries.

Just as the last Jaffa fell to a tossed hand grenade, Colonel O’Neil’s face came across the radio, “Col. Winston, dial up Earth we’re coming in hot.  Jaffa on our tail.”  SG-1 appeared over the rise on the run followed by another two dozen Jaffa.  The PCs secured the gate and wiped out another platoon of Jaffa.  After returning to the SGC, General Hammond told then job well done.

48 hours later SG-21 was called to the briefing room.  Daniel Jackson and SG-1 had retrieved a parchment containing the gate address for a planet rich in Naquada.  SG-1 made a first contact to the P4X-514, designated Scatterpoint by the natives.  SG-21 has been ordered to Scatterpoint to determine the societal mores and ruling body of the planet so as to strike a bargain for the Naquada.  Next week we go through the gate.

Scatterpoint is of course the world in Reality Blurs’ Rune Punk.  I’ll talk more about how I’ve home brewed that setting into the Stargate universe.

February 28, 2009 Posted by | Observations of a Noob GM, RPG, Stargate | , , | 3 Comments

Gaming in your favorite cinema universe

I’ve been writing movie reviews for my blog here and over at the Dire Cafe for the past year.  When Uncle Bear asked for some guest bloggers over at his blog I adapted one of my movie reviews to be used as an RPG centered blog rather than a straight movie review.  This got me thinking, how would I adapt the settings and play in the universes of some of my favorite movies.  I realize that there are a lot of RPG adaptations of movies I’ll touch on a few of those here.

My goal here is to write up an RPG synopsis of the universe for each movie (or series) that the family reviews.  The Pirates of the Caribbean RPG overview is in the works.  Harry Potter will be done once we’ve reviewed all five movies.

How would I game in my four favorite universes?

Star Trek: There are actually RPGs already set in this universe.  FASA’s Star Trek RPG, Decipher’s Star Trek, and Task Force Games’ Prime Directive were some of the more widely recognized.  Wikipedia lists several others as well.  I have not actually ever used or played any of those games.  Though, I actually do role play in the Star Trek universe but not in a way you might be thinking.  I belong to a creative writing group called Starshipsof the Third Fleet.  The captain authors a prologue every three months or so and it is up to the crew members to write a mission report on what their character would do during the mission.

If I were to run a Star Trek game I’d run it where the GM was the Captain of whatever ship the PCs served on and run it in a similar manner to the Third Fleet doctrine.  I guess I’m seeing the Star Trek universe as more TNG era where the captain stays with the ship and allows his officers to actually do the dirty work.  I’d steer clear of the “Heroes” of the Federation.  It’s a big universe and not everyone gets to meet Captain Picard.

Star Wars: This isn’t news to anyone but Wizards of the Coast has the current license to Star Wars.  However West End Games’ Star Wars material provided much of the material for the expanded universe.  The one time that I did play in a Star Wars game, the GM had us playing Luke, Han, Leia, et all.  I can’t say as I particularly enjoyed that.

If I were to run a SW game I’d skirt the events that happened in the movies or explore how the events in the movies affected my PCs.  Ideas which I’d like to explore in SW; a garrison of Storm Troopers on a backwater planet after the Emperor’s demise,  Bounty Hunters (but then who wouldn’t?), an enclave of Jedi that managed avoid Palpatine’s genocide are just some of the possibilities that I’d like to play.

James Bond: Victory Games held the license during the mid-80s.  I forget my agent’s name but he was able to successfully conceal a sniper rifle (he was 6’5″).    This was one of the more enjoyable games I played in high school.  The GM we first had insisted on our agents running into EVERY Bond villain that had ever made it to film.  It wasn’t until I started gaming with the college crowd at SMSU that I ran into a GM who created his own villains.  That is when I started really enjoying the game.  I wanted my own arch-Nemesis not 007’s.

Super Heroes: Champions, Mutants & Masterminds, Marvel, DC; I’ve played Champions and in both the Marvel and DC universe.  My preference is Champions.  Though from what I’ve read, I’d probably enjoy Mutants and Masterminds as well.  I dislike playing established characters.  I don’t mind interacting with Batman, or Spidey, but to quote the old song “I just gotta be me” or least a character of my own creation

What is the common thread here?  If I’m gonna play in someone else’s universe, I’m gonna do my own thing.  I enjoy RPGing in established universes because there’s less exposition that GM has to do.  However, I’ve seen every Star Wars movie and read most of the books.  I don’t want to be Luke.

Your mileage may vary of course.

February 17, 2009 Posted by | Fluff/Inspiration, Observations of a Noob GM, RPG | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inspiration where does it come from?

Inspiration, The Muse, that sudden flash of “Ah-ha”, where does it come from?  Mine is hard to find.  I’m amazed at the consistency that I can immediately see possibilities in the ideas created by others but have difficulty coming up with my own ideas.  Dr. Checkmate came up with a RPG setting that combines elements of Robin Hood with your favorite post-apocalyptic settings.  I immediately saw how I could rework some of my Car Wars material into this setting.  But coming up with the original hook awes me.  I could list a number of my on-line buddies who have come up with ‘orginal’ concepts or mash-ups that I could immediately see how to implement but I have difficulty arriving at the same flash of inspiration.

I marvel at the ability my Captain over at Starships of the Third Fleet has in coming up with new prologues every three months.  I can immediately grasp how Stev will handle the proposed problem.  I’ve written a number of Stev stories but haven’t been able to write a successful prologue as yet.

My GMing experience runs the same gamut.  My gaming group wanted to run a Stargate game.  I spent  a lot of time working with Ron Fricke’s conversion of Stargate to Savage Worlds.  The I picked up a copy Sean Preston’s RunePunk for Savage Worlds and have successfully used that as a major Stargate campaign.  I’m doing something similar with the Serenity RPG and Slipstream.

My inspirational forte seems to be in seeing how I can best use the work of others to achieve what I want on my own.  How about you?

February 15, 2009 Posted by | Fluff/Inspiration, Life near an Iowa Cornfield, Observations of a Noob GM, RPG | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Getting a new group started ain’t as easy as I thought.

Friday Jan 23rd, I had my rulebooks.  I had my GM notes.  I had everything I needed to run the inaugural open game night at the local youth center.  I got there at 5:30 and set up.  By 7:00 I had 13 players and we spent a fun evening generating characters for the Stargate-SG21 game I had set-up.

Because it took us awhile to get 13 characters generated, we didn’t get much into the actual game.  Everyone seemed anxious to come back on Jan 30 for a game continuation.  Jan 3o rolled around and no one showed.  Turns out that the two area high schools where 90% of my players attend were playing each other (high school b’ball is big in Iowa).

Last night I was ready for round two.  Once again no one showed.  Called the players, everyone was at a B’ball game.  The first thing I can hear is folks telling me that I need to run a game night at a time that fits my players schedules.  That’s the rub.  The local youth center is housed in the church where I’m the Children’s Pastor.  Automatically, Wednesday and Sundays are out because the youth center is closed as church is in session.  Tuesday and Thursday evenings, my business is open to the general public.  That leaves Monday, Friday, and Saturday and I want to stay away from gaming on a school night.  I  plan on asking my players which works best for the schedules, Friday or Saturday.

Small town Iowa doesn’t have a local comic book store where I can post flyers for the game night.  In fact the church is starting the youth center because there’s no place for the local teens to hang out.  I know the interest is there.  I just want to get it running on a consistent basis.

February 7, 2009 Posted by | Connection Ministries, Gaming Notes, Observations of a Noob GM, RPG | , , , | 4 Comments