Vulcan Stev's Database

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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

My Top 5 RPGs

Zachery over at RPG Blog II is compiling a list of the top 25 RPGs of all time.  Thought I’d share my list with you and give the reasons behind those choices.

s2p100101. Savage Worlds Explorer’s Edition
The rules are simple and easy to learn.  This is the rule set that brought me back to the RPG hobby after a nearly 25 year hiatus.  It’s also given me something I share with all of my children.  It gets the top spot because it’s so easy (didn’t I say that already) and we (my kids and I) ‘Savage’ other games (Stargate, Serenity) to play using these rules

cwcover-lg2. Car Wars
My very first RPG.  Yes, I know that when it first appeared it wasn’t technically an RPG.  However, over the years it evolved into much more than a simple vehicular combat game.  I introduced PITs #2&3 to this game after shelling out big bucks on ebay to replace my flood destroyed collection.  My boys and I spend the off season of NASCAR playing Car Wars.  My proudest moment was when my 10-year old (PIT#3) built his own car and proceeded to (literally) smoke his old man in an arena.

3. Savage Worlds Pirates of the Spanish Mainpotsmcover
What started as buying fleets of tiny little boats for our in house pirate (PIT #3), morphed into a purchase of the RPG rules.  All three children took to it like ducks to water.  This got PIT #1 interested in other RPGs.  She joined a Sunday afternoon D&D group.  Three months ago I was invited to join this same group.  For all the good times I’ve had playing  this game with my kids, it will always hold a special place in my heart.

dadphb24. D&D 2e
This is the version of the game that PIT#1 started playing.  Because it’s the version I play with my children without my DMing it gets a high place in my list.  I fail to understand the lack of love for this game amongst the D&D community.  But then I’ve never played 3.5 and it’s been nearly 25 years before this that I played D&D

5. Stargatesg-1cover
I’m a science fiction fan.  If it’s SF, I’ll read it, watch it, play it.  My daughter, (PIT#1) and I are Trekkers.  She has watched every incarnation of Trek with Daddy all the way back to first run episodes of TNG.  My youngest, (PIT#3) prefers Star Wars and he will sit and watch the movies with me.  PIT#2 will watch NASCAR with Dad (he’s 14 and too big to say Daddy anymore) till the cows come home.  Stargate is ONE show we all agree on.  When I found the rulebook online and told the kids it was coming home, they all three camped out by the mailbox waiting for it to arrive.  This is the game I ran on Friday evenings at the Youth Center.  Granted I am running a “Savaged” version of the game but it’s still Stargate.

If you noticed the recurring theme of my reasons behind the whys for my top five, you saw that each involves my family.  My family is an importatnt part of my life.  Anything I do with my family is going to rank pretty high on any list.  The other thing is that I’m doing my part to make sure that RPG as a hobby is passed on to the next generation.

The remainder of my list as submitted to RPG Blog II
6. Mutants & Masterminds
7. D&D 4e
8. James Bond
9. Risus
10. Gurps
11. Champions
12. Necessary Evil
13. Serenity
14. Being Berin Kinsman

Why only 14 and not 25?  Honestly the top 13 are the only games I’ve ever played.  Number fourteen is on the list because I owe a lot to Berin Kinsman.  He’s the one who encouraged me to start writing my own blog.  Soon as I’ve got the extra money Being Berin Kinsman is joining my collection.

April 16, 2009 Posted by | News, Reviews and Culture, RPG | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Game Night 3-27-09: Stargate SG-21

stargate1Col Winston and Sgt. Sassy escorted the prisoner they captured in last week’s game out of Scatterpoint across the wastes and to the Stargate.

Meanwhile, Maj. Johnson along with Sergeants Kyle, Emo, Mystery, Steeleflex, and Meeker took the Spiral to Black Shackle to rescue Sister Canondale.  Enroute Sergeant Steeleflex attempted to make the trip on the boarding platform outside the car.  The conductor told Sgt Steeleflex to sit down and politely ordered his party to keep an eye on him.

Major Johnson ordered Steeleflex to sit down.  Just as Steeleflex sat down the team heard the rending sound of the rear door of the car being ripped from its track.  Twelve Malakar marauders spilled onto the train and began demanding money from the passengers.  Sergeant Kyle had the brilliant idea to pull her Zat, put it against the floor and sending a stun pulse through the metal of the car.  Sgt Kyle called for her team to get up off the seats and then fired the Zat against the floor.  She managed to stun the first three quarters of the car but not the Malakar.

Steelflex successfully taunted that Malaker causing them to focus their attention on the team instead of their intended helpless victims.  During the ensuing battle the team discovered three things.  They discovered that Malakar have claws, ineffective against their Kevlar but claws nonetheless.  They discvoered that their P90s don’t deal out quite as much damage against the Malakar as the team is used to.  They also discovered that Zats are completely useless against the Malaker.

The team did manage to finally defeat the invaders and rescued the other passengers.  After the conductor regained consciousness he surveyed the damage to his train.  The team feared the worst having already become a thorn in the side of many of Scatterpoint’s residents.  They were pleasantly surprised when they were given free passes on the conductor’s train.

Next: Rescuing Sister Cannondale

March 29, 2009 Posted by | Gaming Notes, Other Systems, Play, RPG, Savage Worlds, Stargate | , , | Leave a comment

Game Night: 3-20-09

Last night all six of my regular players were there.  One player who had previously only attended long enough to make a character brought along two new folks.  So we had a total of nine.  There was some disappointment as I had stated earlier that we’d try to play Necessary Evil last night.  However due to Mrs VS chemo treatments and a long day at work I never got NE prepped correctly and I won’t run a game completely off the cuff.

The article about my efforts to homebrew RunePunk into a Stargate campaign is still in the works but one thing that needs to be brought out.  The Andari in RunePunk have become who they are from mishaps through accidents of the ring doors.  I have replaced the far doors in RunePunk with ring transports from Stargate.

Last week the team successfully helped out Lady Winterwood and received her recommendation for some work in Scatterpoint.

Last night Chancellor Peak IV summoned SG-21 to a meeting.  Lady Winterwood had informed him and (I hope that none of my players are reading this) unknown to the players hired them out as mercs to the Chancellor.  Chancellor Peak summoned them to Grey Mesa and “asked” them for their help in the mysterious disappearance of Sister Cannondale.  SG-21 accepted the job as Chancellor Peake dropped clues that the team might discover the identities of some of Scatterpoint’s government.

The team was directed to the Royal Crown Bar to a meeting of the Entropy Society, which is the last place Sister Cannondale was seen.  The team received a letter of recommendation from Chancellor Peake’s friend Lord Topper and off they went.

Gaining entrance to the bar the team began their investigation.  The new sniper, Chief Master Sergeant Meeker, climbed a building across the street to keep the bar under surveillance.  The team cautioned their leader to not pull a gun on the bartender.  After some quiet investigation the team determined that Lord Angst and Lady Ennui, the leaders of the Entropy society were upstairs.

Sergeants Mystery and Sassy bluffed their way upstairs with a forged note as the guard was not too bright.  Sgt Kyle bribed the bartender to allow her to bring drinks upstairs to the VIP lounge.  Sgt Steelflex attempted to taunt the guard after Mystery and Sassy had made their way past.  He succeeded and managed to get picked up one handed by the neck.  Major Johnson used the ensuing chaos to sneak past the guard.  All this happened while Colonel Winston continued to question the bartender.

The upstairs team was able to determine that Sister Cannondale had been moved to Arthur Shaw’s flat in Black Shackle.  The team downstairs continued to have fun with the guard as they discovered that stabbing him in the arm did not slacken his grip on Sgt Steelflex.  The guard kicked Sgt Emo away and finally threw Sgt Steelflex across the bar.

Sergeant Meeker tried to take out Lord Angst when it appeared that the upstairs team was in trouble due to Maj Johnson’s direct questioning of Lord Angst about Sister Cannondale’s whereabouts.  Lord Angst took a gut shit and direct shot to the head and still managed to call out for the guards to deal with the infiltrators.

Major Johnson jumped out the window.  Sgts Sassy, Mystery and Kyle ran back downstairs.  Colonel Winston ordered a retreat.  Sgt Emo dragged Sgt Steelflex’s unconscious form outside.  The team regrouped and made their way to the Spiral for the trip to Blackshackle.

March 21, 2009 Posted by | Gaming Notes, Play, RPG, Stargate | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Game Night 3-13-09

Open Game Night @ the Youth Center ( I REALLY need a cooler name for that).  We had 22 folks show up.  The RPG table ran our ongoing Stargate campaign.  Below is a synopsis of Friday’s game.

Stargate SG-21– The team has gated to P4X-514 or Scatterpoint as it is known by the locals.  Led by Lt. Col. Winston, the team consists of Major Johnson, Sgt. Emo, Sgt. Mystery, Sgt. Sassy, and Sgt. Kyle.  The gate on P4X-514 is located in the mists approximately 10 miles SE of the city proper.  The world is rich in Naquadah.

SG-21 is tasked with determining who the planetary ruling body is and then negotiate with them for the mining rights.  The problem? SG-1 spent a week on planet and was unable to determine if the was a unifying planetary government.  SG-21 is on extended assignment to determine as much as possible about the planet.

Sg-21 gated in and made their way to Pitchpit.  After determining what the local currency was and discovering that the local law enforcement is not all that observant, they hopped the Spiral to Grey Mesa.  The team determined that the best way to learn about Scatterpoint was to go to a local bar.

Sipping their drinks in the Broken Arm Bar, the team witnessed a nicely dressed woman come into the bar and then leave by the back door.  Four thugs followed immediately behind.  Major Johnson and the four Sergeants immediately stood to render assistance.  Col. Winston gave them permission to go while he stayed inside to question the bartender.  Three of the thugs were attempting to separate Lady Winterwood from her amulet.  The team rescued Lady Winterwood in the alley while Col Winston pulled a gun on the bartender.

While Col. Winston discovered that pulling a gun on a bartender in Scatterpoint is not a good idea, twelve Bluecoats demanded that Lady Winterwood give them her amulet.  Before fleeing the scene she threw her locket into the trash and told the team that if the returned it to her she would reward them.

After defeating the Bluecoats and finding the amulet, SG-21 found Lady Winterwood and returned her locket.  SG-21 now has a lead on ‘work’ on the planet so they can earn some of the local currency.

I’m using Reality BlursRunePunk as the setting for P4X-514.  I’ll be commenting further in upcoming game logs about my homebrewing this setting for use in my Stargate campaign.

March 14, 2009 Posted by | Gaming Notes, Other Systems, Play, Stargate | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Gaming in the Universe of: The X-Files

x-files-logoLooking over the vast array of online fan-run rpgs that haven’t been updated in years, I came across the only system that could remotely be called gaming in the X-Files universe.  I was singularly unable to unearth an “official” tie-in.  Though I did find this X-Files like Savage Home Brew called Bureau 13.  Though a quick read through of the 11 page pdf, makes it sound more like a cross between MIB and X-Files.

Delta Green from what I’ve read is a modern day setting for the Call of Cthulhu RPG.  Since I do not own this rulebook I am unable to comment personally on how it works.  The publisher claims that it adds a modern setting, government conspiracies, and more mundane horror aspects to their Call of Cthulhu game.  Sounds like the X-Files to me.  If anyone has a copy of Delta Green they’re willing to loan (or sell cheap) let me know.

How would I add the X-Files to my RPG game?  In my Stargate campaign, I’d have some Mulder-esque (I know there’s a recurring FBI agent from at least two episodes) FBI agent tripping over the PCs on Earth.  Either that or transplant the entire X-Files onto a world at approximately 1950’s tech.  There the agent would be the one to help the SGC team see through the official story from the planet’s representatives.

Without resorting to purchasing a completely new ruleset.  To play an an X-Files type game you’ll want lots of government conspiracy, alien and horror threats some of which are real and some of which have alternate explanations.  It’ll be up to your PCs to determine which is the real evidence and which is not.  Never make things easy for your PCs.  Even with the “real” evidence there should be at least one plausible theory of why it’s not evidence at all.  That’s how I’d game out a PC X-Files game.

If government conspiracy can be added to your campaign, then Mulder and Scully could conceivably be added to the mix of NPCs that the party encounters.  As always Savage World stats follow:

fox-mulder-dana-scullyFox Mulder: Veteran
Attributes: Agility d4, Smarts d8, Spirit d10, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Skills: Fighting d4, Investigation d8, Knowledge (FBI procedures) d8, Knowledge (Paranormal) d10, Lockpicking d6, Notice d8, Persuasion d4, Shooting d4, Streetwise d6, Tracking d4
Charisma +4; Pace 6, Parry 4, Toughness 5
Fame: +10 inside the Bureau
Edges: Investigator, Level Headed, Charismatic
Hindrances: Enemy (Major) The secret Government Cabal fronted by the CSM, Delusional – sees the paranormal even when it is not present, Habit – addicted to internet porn

Dana Scully: Veteran
Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d10, Spirit d6, Strength d4, Vigor d6
Skills: Healing d10, Investigation d10, Knowledge (FBI procedures) d8, Knowledge (medical) d10, Notice d6, Persuasion d4, Shooting d6, Streetwise d6, Tracking d6
Charisma +4; Pace 6, Parry 2, Toughness 5
Fame: +4 inside the Bureau
Edges: Healer, Investigator
Hindrances: Cautious (Major), Loyal, Quirk – must explain away any and all evidence of the paranormal

March 7, 2009 Posted by | Fluff/Inspiration, Gaming in the Universe of..., Gaming Notes, Other Systems, RPG | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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

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

Confessions of a Noob GM 1-23-2009

Written as a guest Column for Uncle Bear.com published there 1-30-09

I was nervous.  I’ll admit it.  I’ve gamed with people my own age.   As a high school student I gamed with the local college group.  I’ve gamed with my kids.  I’ve GMed for family sessions, but I had never before GMed for anyone else.

The local youth center has wanted to have an open game night for some time.  I volunteered to be THE adult in charge and supervise the activities.  I figured most of the kids would play pool, ping pong, or foosball.  PIT #1 suggested that Daddy run an RPG game for the teens that night.  Sure, why not? My kids seemed to enjoy it when I ran Pirates of the Spanish Main at home.  I agreed to be the GM for this new game group.  Now I just needed to decide what game and system to run.

I personally have the core rules for PotSM, Stargate, Serenity, GURPS and Car Wars (I know CW isn’t technically an RPG but it’s close).  I decided on Stargate as I had already done a lot of work “Savaging” that universe.  I prefer the Savage system as it is easy to use and very versatile.  The PITs were ecstatic; I knew I had three players for sure.

I had my sparse notes, my 5×7 dry erase board, my bag of bennies and I thought I was ready to go.  The inaugural night was canceled due to weather.  The next Sunday at church I had 2 other teens express disappointment that game night had been canceled.  I was informed that at least five other teens were anticipating the game.  Five additional teens, my three kids, eight people? I began to panic.

The next week I developed out my sparse notes as I wanted this to be something special as some of these kids were experienced gamers and some were complete newbies.  I took advice from many of my online buddies about what I needed to do and really got as prepared as I could.

I developed my own GM screen so I wouldn’t have to thumb through the Savage Explorer’s Edition for combat rules.  I bought a larger dry erase board.  I photocopied off character development rules so we wouldn’t have to pass around the rulebook.  Friday night came and I set up the table for eight people and my GM seat.

6:30 came and went and no one other than my kids had shown up yet.  My nervousness increased.  7:00 arrived and teens started streaming in through the door.  They kept coming.  I had to set up another table.  Eventually I had eleven young people ages 10-17 all looking to me for answers.  We started character generation at 7:15.

I learned three things from my first non-family GM event:
Character generation takes more time when there’s more people, even with a simple system like Savage
Even with all the work, I still wasn’t as prepared as should have been
Teenagers have crazy imaginations (I thought I was strange)

Yet even after an hour and half of character generation, we got started and played the introductions.  The kids had a blast.  I had fun as well.  I’m looking forward to getting to the actual game.

January 29, 2009 Posted by | Gaming Notes, Life near an Iowa Cornfield, Observations of a Noob GM, RPG | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment