Monday, October 26, 2015

Understanding Exalted 3E Crafting - My Opinion

My full review of Exalted 3E is coming later this week. I'll go into withering vs decisive attacks, the changed social combat mechanics, the art, the mechanical issues and improvements, etc. But that's then. Now I want to directly address a point of contention among some readers about the new Exalted crafting mechanic. To help, I'll give a little bit of background about how Crafting in Exalted works now.

First off is how abilities have changed. Gone is the artificial Craft Earth, Fire, Air, etc from 2nd Edition and individual Craft skills and specializations have returned. However the book is specifically loose about what these specializations are with the key exceptions of three skills. (I'll get to this.) The three being Craft Artifact, Geomancy, and First Age Wonders. These three are called out because they tie directly into applications of Lore and Occult skills as well as Sorcery which place a big part in Crafting Artifacts. But let's get back to that.

The core of the new system is a method to allow characters to have ongoing crafting projects that don't remove them from ongoing play for long periods of time while still having a method of tracking successes and quality of project. So how does it do this? Activity slots. Each player gets 3 free Major task slots. Crafting items take basic, major, superior and legendary projects. Basic projects don't take slots, but major and above do. And higher level slots can be bought by 'spending' multiple lower level slot and are occupied until the character finishes or abandons the project. To control the rate in which these project happen and to grant the ability to have even more than the 3 'free' slots there is a Crafting Exp system with tiers based on the level generated. Silver from basic/major, gold from major/superior, and white from superior/legendary. Each extra slot and project costing a # of these crafting exp to start and finish. Sound complicated, it's not once you see it in motion. And how do you get exp if you have none? Remember how Basic projects don't cost slots? That's how. The idea is to make crafters work on lesser ongoing projects to gain the experience and resources to carry on the bigger projects. Which makes sense in a narrative pacing for mortal character but seems to cause contention among players who expect Solar and Exalted crafts persons to not be bound by such limitations.

I've done some reading about the complaints and I think I can boil down some issues to key points and show how/why the current system address them and ways of cope where it doesn't. The areas I'll cover today are the following: Lack of flexibility and gadgettering style play for Solar crafts persons, skill bloat, why craft xp and how it causes an artificial divide to narrative play, and finally, how does a crafter character work with a more action oriented party.

First off, some folks had issues that crafting character couldn't pull inventions out of their hat Reed Richards style to solve problems. Why charms for Solars didn't allow them to craft instant artifacts like Batman's utility belt. My counter argument is: as a matter of fact they can (kinda) and that's actualy working as intended because that level of radical gadgettering is not the Solar's style. First off, a Solar can MacGyver their way out of most situations with a handful of charms. Craftsman Needs No Tools does away with requiring the players to have hardware on hand. Carve a ladder into a mountain as you climb, shape a sword from a raw ingot, etc and it cuts the time down by tenths. Mind you most of these 'on the fly' creations granting the user crafting exp as they help the party. Vice-Miracle Technique is a free(ish) 2 dot artifact a season the Solar can stunt into existence. Shattering Grasp turns defenses and traps to do much spare parts. Finally, Crack-Mending Technique allows a Solar to undo the ravages of time and use on standard objects. Basically turning the Solar into a whirlwind of in game action. If that doesn't scream MacGyver action I don't know what is.

But let's address the Reed Richards question. Crazy off the wall gadgettering. Thematically it doesn't mesh with the basic book Exalted, the Solars very well. Solars are paragons of excellence. Working faster, harder, pulling off the impossible using the tools at hand (even if it is ONLY their hands) fits their theme. They have the capacity to create the greatest of artifacts and do routinely. However the non linar, tangential discoveries of comic book characters fits more in with other Exalted. Lunars are masters of doing without, or making the dream like logic of the Wyld work for them, Abyssals are lords of destructive creation, and so on. Wild, spur of the moment gadgets seem more to fit with Siderals/Getimiean Exalted fate weaving tricks, Alchemical on the spot engineering, or perhaps the corruptive non-Creation friendly art of Infernals. You may not agree with me, but I see Solars are more paragons of existing engineering. They can conceive of the impossible but achieve it with planning, sorcererous works, and effort. Thematically the idea of them 'building up' to a massive artifact fits better. But let's move on.

What about skill bloat? Well, with the exception of the 3 Artifact/lore based skills this actually can be handled by a Storyteller easily. Define skills as professions. An Armor Smith is going to know a little about leather working, iron/steel work, etc. Encourage players to take 2-3 skills with a primary at the highest value and the others at 2 or so dots. This will represent the areas of expertise the Solar has. There is charms for Solars that let them swap skill points in one craft for another, and you can always stunt in situations where you lack a specific skill. What I guess I'm saying is it's no more or less bloated than before. I know some STs and players prefer the ultimate in reduction of skills, and to be fair a ST can rule that there are at most 3-4 skills. General crafting, artifacts, geomancy, and maybe the First Age craft. Done. Don't over think it the rules will work in both situations, a few ST approved skills or lots of player made ones. The cost exp wise is mitigated because of Exalted exp benefits and charms.

The next issue I see brought up is having 3 types of crafting xp involved in tracking what projects cost and what you earn from crafting things. While I agree that multiple types of crafting exp seems excessive I understand the attempt to show the scope and tier of crafting tasks via this mechanic. However don't discount the core of the idea. Crafting exp is no different than gathering motes for Sorcery. It's an abstraction mechanically to show effort.  You could unify the system and make one gold exp equal 5 silver, etc to reduce the system down to a single type of exp cost. But then you'd have to alter the costs of all the charms. Narratively think of craft exp as building action. Tony Stark build the Iron Man armor around his arc reactor, repulsor tech, and his heart implant. He went through revisions, building tools, Stark Tower, etc to finally come up with the current version of the Iron Man armor. In Exalted terms a crafts person will spend time building tools, components,  upgrading their workshop, dealing with logistical issues IN CHARACTER before there big Artifact 3+ project comes to fruition. The same mechanic can be scaled up to handle the social influence and large scale Exalted social engineering projects Solars love so much.

Finally, how does a crafting character interact with a more action oriented Exalted group? Well, to answer this there are a few things to consider. Is crafting the ONLY thing your character does? If the answer is yes, then there is your first problem. Exalted characters tend to need to be rounded. Not well rounded, that's what advancement is about, but rather having a collection of skills representing their diverse lives. That means a mix of social, combat, and various other life skills. You can still take Supernatural Craft as your primary specialty and get amazing discounts in exp costs for advancing it later, not to mention opening up all charms no mater the Essence requirement. And that's great, but not filling out some easy to acquire Essence 1 charms, excellencies, and specializations in other areas is singling your character out from more diverse play.

Alternatively when you have a hammer, all problems look like nails. Just like combat oriented characters offer combat oriented solutions, sorcerers look for the right working or summon, or a socialite will try to talk their way out of a situation...a crafter will look to make something to help. Remember when I spoke about using Craftsmen Needs No Tools to MacGyver a situation? Think of problems as engineering issues. Deathlord want's to take over a town? Build defenses. Want to impress a god? Make him/her beautiful gifts. Not enough Dakka? MORE DAKKA! Sorry, 40K reference there. It's all about player mind set and skill set. If you are an Exalted crafter you are the PRIME example of what I call a Magical Engineering Commando. Have problem? Apply technical know how. The right mindset and diverse skill build for a crafter character will keep them in the action with the rest of the PCs. Sell your craft ideas on the others. Solar crafters can bang out the defenses for a small town in hours, by themselves! And better yet? Think of yourself as a stunt generator. Anything the party crafter makes is a STUNT-ABLE object.

At the end of the day the Exalted 3E crafting system is a tool. A meta-narrative system to allow Storytellers to pace crafting action, allowing PC's to start multiple projects and keep them going during adventures. Beyond that it's open to hacking by STs to improve or enhance the rest of the game. The core of the 2E and 1E crafter issues was crippling over specialization and I don't think they'll ever fix that in Exalted without completely diverging from the Storyteller system in any fashion. Something I doubt they will do. But 3E's system is more robust than previous ones, and allows for a way to gauge the scale of a project. Understand that no Exalted system will be perfect, but keep an open mind to 3E's mechanics as being a tool kit to play with as you please.

Ta!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Bomb...she has dropped. Exalted 3E is a thing. Officially.

Backer PDFS have dropped. I need to read it.

My review will come out when I get time to read this final official copy of the game.

That said, I will continue to support my earlier projects with Fantasy Age, Cypher System, etc. So no worries. I just had a family vacation and then got sick. So minor delay due to well, life.

Geeking out so hard.

Sorry for tiny post. More, much more, to come!

Monday, September 28, 2015

A new system approaches....or damn it's a good time to be alive!

So, I'm in a happy place. I mean, dealing with depression and RL crap aside I have a LOT going on that I enjoy. Let me break it down for you and how it will impact the BLOG.

Ho Boy, I knew we had a lot of kickstarters coming due, but the last few months have been crazy. I've picked up PDF copies of Shadow of the Demon Lord, FantasyAGE, Cypher System Core book, and this week we have cMage 20th, and eventually the setting expansion for Numenera is going to hit. Not to mention all the FATE Core mini expansions.

Ya, I've had a Lot read over and it got the creative juices flowing.

I've had a few massive brainstorms and project ideas I'm going to lay out for the blog:

FantasyAGE - 

Expanding on the universe from Titansgrave. I have an idea in the far southeastern wasteland surrounding a massive series of swamps and islands and Fallen Mangkar - The Dragon City which once flew in the skies above before the heavens fell and Chaos War knocked it into the swamp. The region is collectively called the Frothfire Swamps (named from the slow leak of fuel from the city that occasionally makes the water 'explosive').
Various factions vie for control over the city and crash site because of the relics and fuel which is a hot commodity to the north and further away.

However, rather than fighting an open war over such precious territory the gangs and salvage operations that vie for control hold a grand race every decade to decide prime holdings over the swamp's relics. And each abide by the results of this race, however many are not above cheating. One faction is desperate, a smaller but 'mostly' upstanding salvage family the Grimpots want their airboat team to have a chance but recent sabotage and bandit attacks have pushed the family's inner circle to hire adventures as muscle and backup during the race. Little do they know that there is more at stake than some relic sites in this years event.
Adventure will features:
  • Crazy race festival feel to swamps and the various 'race' cities propped up in the muck and mire.
  • High speed races where the characters get to ride 'shotgun' on airboats trying to prevent attacks by native wild life and rival factions.
  • Lost tribes from the city and their weird beliefs and dangers.
  • Politics and backstabbing factions vying for control of a precious commodity.
  • A mysterious group using the chaos of the race to uncover something far more dangerous than explosive water in the Frothfire Swamps.
  • Lost Water temples, a massive broken 'sky city' and it's defenses.
  • A nightmare from the dawn of the Chaos War left dormant for an age about to wake up.
I call it "The Fires of Fallen Mangkar"

I'm going to cook up: New Talents, New Specializations, A new race option, and spell out what I think is a 5 part mini adventure taking place in the Frothfire Swamps as an expansion to the adventure in Titansgrave. Expect things like tinkerer, sniper, and stunt driver talent, and Engineer, Pilot, Archaeologist, and Guide specializations.

Cypher System -

My experimental Numenera game fell apart, but that was logistics issues and Roll20 and kinda my fault. HOWEVER! Ahem. I loved the experience. Now that I have the Cypher System core book in hand I've been pondering doing something with it more my speed. The old super's itch is coming back and I think Cypher is damn perfect to do something lower powered and urban.

I have a prototype idea using the subtle cyphers from the book to do 'dramatic editing' where the player does power/skill stunts using the cyphers as groundwork for one shot dramatic OMPH during critical scenes and action. Ya, basically re-engineering the cyphers for hero point like drama systems!

The setting itself is in flux. I'm debating using some variation of my Mad Science Wars idea (in which every few decades human genius blooms and causes stories of people with powers, etc caused by the burst in creative experimentation. The 60's cold war era spy/supers boom the last one.) or something darker like my Prometheus/Lazarus universe where a process to raise the dead accidentally creates a supers boom. I'll have to ponder that.

Either way expect some various creative Cypher System support as Ideas and ways of handling it come to me. No working title yet.

FATE Core -

So my current game is an online FATE Core using Fantasy Game. I'm running a mix of ideas. One of them is a hybrid western/Japanese rpg setting with anthro characters. However the races exist due to a setting reason and it's less a reason to run a Furry game as a way to explore fantastic racism. I present my world of Novomir!

Here is the con-pitch.

The world of Novomir, home to the Divine Guardians and the tribes that worship them is rife with politics, dark magic, and the glimmering potential of a new age. The earliest legends speak of an old world before this one, when all the tribes were one race and the Guardians were dormant. But a corruption in the form of Chaotic magic bleed into the world tainting the people and the land itself. Some legends say it was the first undisciplined attempts at magic, or unsealing of a primal force the guardians once tamed in the first forging of the world that was the source of this chaotic energy; but whatever it’s origin it had a malevolent drive behind it and it slowly consumed the old world. Then when the first tribe almost lost all hope the Divine Guardians arose and gathered up followers to their banner, carving a path out of the madness fighting those driven to darkness and corruption. Eventually a hard won battle allowed the Guardians to gather up their followers and forge a new world, or escape into a new world, accounts differ.

Once settled the Guardians blessed the tribes who followed them with unique gifts and ability, offering safer paths to magic, and the tools needed to rebuild their societies in the Guardian’s images. Quite literally as the tribes slowly took upon the physical aspects of the Guardian spirits. Not exactly and some tribes were only blessed with partial aspects forms eventually diverting into sub tribes and mini families. Some tribes were not so lucky, the battles against the Chaos cost them their Guardian to death or madness. Others were so touched by corruption before being saved that it’s mark remains among them no matter how many years have passed. These eventually became known as the lost and forsaken tribes.

Millennia have passed and the tribes have grown into nations and states. Mixing together in unique ways and offering a diverse take on their backgrounds, natures, and magical blessing. This new age has seen the advent and growth of two world changing sciences. The first is magical. The art of wizardry has grown, built out a study of magic unrefined by the Guardians it offers more diversity of art at the cost of potential chaotic corruption. Previously shunned if not outright illegal, a more enlightened egalitarian mindset in some modern nations have started to accept limited and careful study of this new art with sometimes draconian promises or oaths to bind the users. The raw benefit of crafting unique magical items and spells outweigh the risks as some nations find themselves in a climate of global tension of territory and resources.

The other advent is the rise of steam technology, and a hybrid of magical and technological prowess which is pitting the martial might of old rivals against each other as they race for more and more powerful and complex tools of magictech might. Airships, canons, magical weapons and art is pushing more traditional magic to the sidelines of battle fields and has created tensions between older well established powers and rogue nations looking for an edge. Once the Kingdom of Sukaiwa ruled the skies with their airship and bountiful float stones, only now to be edged out by the small but technological powerhouse Fayer Danser who has combined cutting edge steam tech and risky Wizardry. Other more established and sizable republics like Chetyrebrata find their borders encroached by rival empires such as the Glanberg Collective. The power struggle throws the players into a world at the brink of the first global war, unless they can find a way to stop it.

Worse yet, the rise of new cults and mysterious societies studying the lost lore of the old world have grow in power and number. These groups undermine the power of established social order and pit the various world powers against each other in a grab for access to lost lore and forbidden secrets of the old world. The Guardians no longer act directly, but their shaman and clerics receive dire warnings and ill omened missives.

I plan on fleshing out this setting more with optional rules for FATE Core. Might use FAE, but I think Core works better because I like the idea of a more complex skill system. I'm also adding a new aspect layer where race matters, and it colors how others in the setting look at you and racial abilities.

Along with this I'm going to brainstorm the more modern shojo/shonen inspired Radiant Soul Garden game from my previous posts.

MAGE 20th -

This is an old idea of mine based on how I use to play my MAGE games in the past. I'll go into more details later but the project is simply called: Battle Stations Neptune. The old cWOD 2nd Edition worlds book hinted at mages flying around Neptune with Sons/Adepts vs Void Engineers/It X fighting what amounts to a mecha war. I actually played this back in 2E days of Mage. Now how about MY take on this?

Ya. MAGE cWOD mecha rule-lites. That will be fun!

EXALTED 3rd Edition -

Well, DUH! I'm still 100% behind this game I just had to expand my output so I don't mono game and burn out. And MAN did I almost burn out from gaming in general until I got over my online hang ups and founds some good friends to game with.

  • Expect Updated Random Gen tables.
  • 3rd Edition Review
  • Tips and tricks for 3E parties.
  • Exalted Combat 301 if I can pull it off. But I may need help writing this.
ETC- 

I'll do some thing with Shadow of the Demon Lord, Numenera, and other games as I get some to play with. Keep in mind full time job, family, and crpg backlog is happening too. But this gives me a year of material to work on.

Either way I feel great and have a massive number of projects to tinker with!

See you soon!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Core Of An Idea (Radiant Soul Garden)

Welcome back labyrinth lovers.

So my Numenera game is kinda in a slow down as half of my online group bailed on me. Mind you I was sick again and my daughters birthday party threw me off. But I'll see if I can wrangle up some new players and keep it going. Numenera is a fun game and it has a lot of anti-whiff factor plugged into spending of effort and I like that. That said, it can turn deadly REALLY fast with a few bad rolls. So keep that in mind new GMs. Looking forward to the Cypher Generic System later on this year. 

In other news I'm tinkering with FATE Core. I know I don't normally like meta-narrative games like FATE but I think I can make this work. Because the game I want to run only works on a meta-narrative level and frankly this is one of those weird times I think I found a system that fits it damn perfectly.

I've mentioned this before...I think but let me introduce you to the concept of RADIANT SOUL GARDEN!

Radiant Soul Garden is a mash up of shoujo, tokusatsu, and monster tamer genres in a game about spiritual beasts that come over from another universe into our own and choose living hosts to act as their vessels so they can experience this world and manipulate it (or save it) because their home plain is a harsh and dictatorial place. There is more to the backstory but that's it in a nut shell. Player characters have a spirit companion that grants them powers. I wanted to use the FATE fractal to build for them 4 unique power 'styles' to represent the 4 manifestations of the companions. Let me give you an example:


Physical Transformation/Magical Powers - As per FATE Core Extra Powers rules. Physical uses Super Extras, Magical powers use skill extra/stunts.

Summon Item - Gain 1 Aspect Power, and the rest as per FATE CORE Extra. If item is successfully attacked it is banished and a Fate Point or One level of Mental stress must be spent to re-summon in the same scene.


Summoned Beast - 3 Aspects Powers and 1 Stunt. All damage to Spirit Beast translates directly to summoner's mental stress.


Maxed stress causes beast to be dismissed and related consequence on summoner.All bonded individuals have the following story aspects: Bound Spirit Companion. (This allows them to 'see' the spirits of other wielders. Makes them open to ritual magic attacks from others that are aware of the companion. And the aspect Bond Markings that happen when using spirit companions powers. This allows even unbound to deduce possible weaknesses of the spirit.

The spirits are a unique set of 2 aspects and 1 weakness (negative aspect). 

For example:

Banished Warrior the Iron Cricket Legion
Honor stronger than steal! 
Never backs down from a challenge. 

The spirit and the host need to work together and sometimes their aspects run into conflict. Imagine a cowardly kid getting such a spirit who constantly tries to urge him/her into fights. And the mental stress that mounts when the kid accepts a loss from being provoked indicating the headache and disharmony from the spirit and host as they fight over actions. Be a great way to get fate points.

Now, I'm obviously going to have to get out my notebooks and sit down hashing the costs and way the fractal plays out in this...and frankly I know there are others out there more versed in FATE Core than I. But it's a beginning.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Depressed GM's Lament Part 2. (Numenera Game Update)

So it's my birthday...or was a day ago. Yay...

And well, I'm having a funk of it again. I'm better now, but the last few days have been rather nihilisticly delicious. The less I talk about my personal drama here the better, but I did want to explain a few things and talk more about how depression can impact a game master and player.

I've been trying to write more for Exalted. Not just in this blog, but submissions I want to send into Onyx Path to see if they like them, and my ideas, for publishing. However I've gotten out maybe a page of material before a mild form of depression and writes block stymied me. To this day I'm stuck, and I'm admitting to myself that writes block IS a form of depression, at least to me. Which is weird because I can run games all day and night long. Work up NPCs, and interact with players with little to no problem.

How is that you ask? Especially if I'm suffering from writers block? I call it my 'give a damn' boundary. You see, organizing a game, building characters, etc. That's so easy in this day in age with computers and online tools. And daydreaming up games and 'talking' through them via Skype or chat programs is not a big bother.

But writing something, getting my ideas out in a large format like written stories and game mechanics? Like pulling teeth. The 'give a damn' boundary, the depression flairs up and I grow more and more distracted. Which is funny because I can drag myself out every few weeks to sit down and write on this blog with little to no issues.

The ideas are there. Like behind a glass wall. I can see them all day and night, but getting them out feels like Mission Impossible. Perhaps it is just being lazy, but depression makes lazy feel a better than it should.

As a GM, it's very easy to be able to do XY, but then you reach Z of participation and game development and you crash. HARD.

Being depressed does some other things. Horrible things.

Being depressed can make you HATE game system and settings you use to like. Take Exalted for instance. I've been obsessing about it for a while now. And I still like the game, but I had to take a hard break. Otherwise, I would have kept grounding my depression and the game into each other and eventually you start associating your depression, your low moments with the game in question. So the more I feel funky,the more I'll feel funky about Exalted. So the only solution is to take a break. Really, walk away for a few weeks and then come back when feeling better.

Also depression can be triggered by events in the game itself. Things like long downtimes, character interactions that go bad, and in party sniping can mount up turning a depressed GM or player away from the game. If you as a player are feeling depressed you need to consider if going to 'that' session is important enough, of if a week off will help you recover you tolerance for the group play.

That's the catch, anyone suffering from chronic depression needs to weight their tolerance. I know some folks use spoon theory, but I have my own for depression. Static Theory. Depression for me is like static. Most the time bad moods are minor like little snaps and pops on the radio. But as depression moves in the depression grows and so does the inability to filter out the noise of depression from daily life. Until finally the 'noise' level, the depression/anxiety/frustration is ALL you hear and you need to isolate or sooth to get control. Otherwise you just lash out because all stimuli seem harmful to you.

So I weigh my daily static and think if I have enough bandwidth to deal with a game that day/week. Most the time I do. Sometimes I do not.

Interestingly enough at the same time switching systems helps get me past funks. My dive into Numenera has produced an easy to run and quite enjoyable game. I even had updates!

My team consists of the following:

Essafel the Mystical Nano who Fuses Flesh & Steel

Jenner the Graceful Glaive who is a Master of the Blade

Rowan the Mllox Jack Who Exists Partially Out Of Phase

Talon the Mechanical Nano who Talks to Machines

And I have the plot intro:

Convergence Proctor Licar Moter'su of Empty Sanctum began recruiting a team of explorers in Thaemor. Offering a decent pay in shins and a bounty of possible cyphers and artifacts if his team proves useful and trustworthy. He keeps a keen eye out for people with enough numenera experience and combat skill to keep alive. He was delighted to find two nanos who show such familiarity, if vastly different ideologies, over numenera. He seem rather neutral on the nature of numenera as magical or mechanical. For him it's about the utility and power they offer.

Proctor Licar seems to be on the up and up. He makes no quibles about the danger of attempting to enter the Beanstalk and offers a nice ongoing pay of 2 shins a week for peaceful travel, plus expenses, and then 10 shins a day of hazard pay during the dangerous phase of exploration and excavation. Then a nice 10 shin a week during the defense and transport of discoveries made. And his accounts seem to be good. He offers you a holding bounty of 100 shins in Auspar before heading out, only to be claimed if you return with him.

The voyage itself took close to a month using a few gathered cyphers that the Proctor had in his employ. You had to hike the length of Cedryn's Pass throug the Black Riage avoiding the Violet Vale as much as possible. Then you took a glider skiff he had stashed at the end of the pass to reach the border town of The Beanstalk. Once there he advised you NOT to say in any of the local inns, as they tend to over charge explorers and pilgrims that visit the strange tower. He unpacks an impressive but modest set of tents and tools and sets up your first base camp about an hour away from town to the east in a quiet valley not easily spotted from any of the dirt roads.

He sits you down and pulls out a dusty old map that shows the main structure of the base of the bean stalk and a series of isolated ruins and structures around it. The Proctor points out his theory that it's actually all interconnected and accessing a few potentials he's circled might grant access to the underground layer of the Beanstalk itself and his 'key' he keeps talking about will if brought to the right place open up the main tower itself!


So more to come!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Building my "Numenera" Beanstalk!

So ya. I've had the pdfs for Numenera for quite a while now. Well, I cleared out some old books in my collection and gave myself a very, VERY, happy early Birthday with all the current Numenera/The Strange books in print. (And the GM Screen.) So...ya.


I've got new toys to play with. And I must say they are quite awesome. But now that I have these books and tools it's about time I do something with them.

In my case I want to hit up the Planes of Kataru in the Beyond (think eastern frontier) and the massive enigmatic tower called the Beanstalk. Anyone savy with sci-fi tropes knows a Beanstalk is another name for a space elevator. Typically equatorial in design, but thanks to the techno-magic of the 9th World this one is located quite a distance south of the 9th's World Equator. This paradox is powerful enough to cause a number of small mountain sized rocks to float around it most likely to gravity distortions keeping it upright.Wicked!

Now I've read some stories of prior GM's playing up the whole Jack and The Beanstalk story as a place to mind ideas and quite a few sound awesome. Me however, I like the idea of playing with the concept of  "Giant" and instead cook up a more Norse inspired adventure. I'm going to call my proto-campaign "Mimir's Tears".

Now I don't want to talk too much about my general plans for the adventure to spoil it for potential players, but I did want to talk about my process of using the Beanstalk as a narrative adventure tool. First off the Beanstalk being a space elevator allows me to not only build the 'base' dungeon/lab/base of opreations and then detail out all the various stops along the way.

This allows me to build little micro dungeon/cities/locations the PC's can visit on their way upwards along the elevator. Think of it like Ronald Dahl's Charley and the Glass Elevator but with more blasters and mutant things. Waystations, space colonies, maybe even little asteroid bubble worlds tailed for lost civilizations now a half ruined and ripe for claiming? If you think about it the Beanstalk might be a more obvious entrance to an orbital Menzoberranzan full of mutant space colonists worshiping dark space goddesses.

And it allows me to play up the concept of Giants in all sorts of playful ways. I might be using Norse mythology for my current project but nothing is stopping me from peppering in Greco-Roman or perhaps Jinn, Formorians, Asuras, Hekatonkheires, or Nephilim if I like. I could build a pantheon of Giant themed things up there. Machine, Mutant, or even completely alien. How Stargate of me?

The final think to consider is this is one of the prefect jumping off points for a Numenera space game. Sometimes later this year Monte Cook Games is going to publish the "space book" and well, I'd love to lay the foundation and well..'camp' for the PC's to have access to this new realm and maybe give them something mind blowing like a old rogue spaceship that flies around the local system going to lost worlds, etc. Phantasy Star in all but name.

So you can see why I'm excited about this games potential. Later posts about it will cover exactly what I did with a 'Norse' themed game. And my personal review and experience with playing Numenera as the game goes on.

For those interested I plan on running it via (correction) Hangouts and Roll20 on Thursday nights around 8pm EST/EDT.

As well as: D20 LFG Listing For Mimir's Tears!

See ya then!

Monday, April 27, 2015

The change tech of my game space.

Hola Labyrinth Lovers,

This week I wanted to talk about the changing nature of my technology I'm using or allowing at my game tables. Were this a decade ago I'd nod my head at detractors who said they wouldn't allow cellphones to be on during game time...but these days that actually has turned into a liability for some players.

I'm not sure exactly when I happened at my tables, but the information age finally took over. We kept hearing about how RPGs were going to become an online only industry but as far as I'm concerned? It already happened. These days at games I seen half the players with a laptop or tablet up filled with their character sheets, game books, and notes. I personally was the hold out at my game tables until recently. Blame the ease of use of pdf or ebook format for searching, which then reduces the need for the 100~ pound bag of books for big games. And with internet access the ability to send notes, keep sheets updated, and share maps is amazing.

For me it was a gradual process but it started just after I got my first big (non-proprietary) tablet. Overnight I was catching up on a lot of smaller press books I would have normally never had as well as honestly picking up a pdf copy to share with potential players so they can look over the material as a reference. However a few things changed very quickly.

These days I have multiple folders of material up on my Google Drive and Dropbox dedicated to various game resources, pictures, maps, books, reference documents. I build shared folders for characters to pass back and forth updates and notes. I use IM services to send things like in character and out of character updates. The list goes on.

Roll20 and Skype tend to be my go-to for choice for online games. However I still attempt with the occasional IRC game. The biggest benefit I get is ease of access to information. However this new technological revolution at my table is not with out it's own drawbacks.

Recently I picked up a Google Chromebook to use as a word processor and game center. And it works, well enough but I have the issue of endless distraction. As a GM being distracted is dangerous, as a player, it's horrible. However life has thought me that most of those issues are related to stress and I would be distracted at the table even if I didn't have the PC or tablet in front of me. So that's more a case of 'find the root cause', than blame the technology.

Ahem!

The big push for online tool and technology upgrades is the add all end all of this little generation change. Online gaming! The catch is up until the last half decade (or less) the technology was not robust enough to run a full table experience. But we now have Virtual Tabletops dropping out on Steam, roll20, and various other online stores. I know of at least 3 decent ones in recent memory and the number grows based on the technology. All they need now is a friendly iPad/Android Tablet app top that plugs into Skype or Hangouts and you are golden!

Will I make the final transition from offline gaming to online? Kinda. I still think my offline table games are great social events and help me keep my in person skills flexible. That said, if I can find robust enough online tools to run my games I'm going to keep experimenting until I find that right mix of chat and play with folks. Heck...I'm looking into a series of online Exalted 3E and Numenera/The Strange games this summer into next year!

More on that soon.

Monday, April 6, 2015

New Domain, New Details, and New Focus

Hola folks, I'm not dead! But man I almost felt like it a few months there.

Let's just say I caught the funk and the funk did NOT want to let go. 2+ months of various bugs and viruses is not fun.

Also, I did post a blog updated a while back and deleted it. All I'm going to say about it is: It was a mistake. It was not fair to others and I didn't think it through. But it doesn't exist anymore and if you did see it then please don't mention it. However mistakes are life and I'm moving on. (Honest, it was a small thing, don't think too much of it folks.)

A bit of good news! I have an easier to use domain now! www.lovethelabyrinth.us yep. Not a .com or .net sadly. But this time around just point your browsers at this domain for now and you can reach my blogger. Google's new domain service is quite handy. Now this WILL impact previous comments on my blog posts. However the comments still exist out there but only show up if you are on G+, which is what it is. Oh well.

So what's new? Not a lot in some ways, but plenty in others. I'm writing on projects I can't talk about because I'm going to submit them to gaming companies. I am however going to outline some of things this blog will feature down the road.

Exalted 3E Review - When the pdf drops I'll be talking about it.

Exalted 3E Combat Tips and Tricks - My take on a Combat 301 course for new Storytellers and Players. Stuff to make it run faster.

Exalted 3E Social Combat tricks - How to use the new social influence system and how to stage your NPCs and settings as a Storyteller

And a whole bunch of Exalted 3E Stuff...soon. But not until the PDF drops okay? I'm also going to do a massive random generation table update and try to get in touch with Urs Reupke to do a massive 3E update for the Exalted Random app. Sound cool? Ya, thought so!

But there will be updates to other systems as well. I've been focusing on Exalted a lot and well I feel a few other games need some serious loving. Numenera/The Strange, Dungeon World, 13th Age, and some of the bigger titles like D&D will get features. I'm also going to do a full court press for the upcoming Trinity lines and the Sardonyx system. I use to love playing Aeon/Aberrant/Adventure! and wish to support Onyx Path in this venture.

That said, I have other projects in the background, lots of writing to do and well, a daughter and life to deal with. So expect some weird delays. So follow the site and G+ for updates. I'll also try to post updates to Facebook down the line.

I hope later today/this week to have my first update in this new era.

Oh, as for the new Focus? The focus is going to be on just enjoying the games. Helping out new players and GMs and making sure folks understand this is a hobby to love and share with others. So I want to be a facilitator, not a critic.

Until then!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Depth charging the mental reef.

So I've had a mega hiatus so far and it's for a number of reasons. The first big one was new job! Yay! And the crazy amount of training involved. The second is well, life. Family, trying to get things done, etc. The last one is the topic of this blog: BURN OUT PREVENTION.

Burn Out is all to common among gamers. You add the pressures of life, family, and obsessive hobbying and eventually you'll just get sick of the gaming lifestyle. This is a natural cycle of being a hobbiest. Don't think there is something wrong with you if you get tired of gaming. The key here is to do things in moderation. There has to be more to your life than just gaming, if not I'd look into why there isn't anything else going on and that might take professional help. (But I digress.)

Burnout tends to go though stages.

The first is frustration. Nothing you are doing seems to capture the essence of what you think you should be doing. No system, variation of a story, or your players seem to gel. Eventually you look at the prospect of new or ongoing games with disdain and/or worry. Is my game falling apart? Are my players bored? Is my GM in a rut? Etc.

After frustration comes melancholy. You just stop caring. Sure, you go through the motions of going to games, or meeting with friends (It's you excuse to go.), and so on. But you tend to leave games early, or show up late, or just sit on your phone or tablet through the whole process. You are there in body only. When asked about your games you tend to play them down and focus on other things.

Finally there is avoidance. You come up with excuses not to go. New activities, TV shows, online games, etc. This is the make it or break it point between total and normal burnout. Total burn out is if you progress to the final stage and just quit gaming or take a much needed break.

A few things: There is nothing wrong with taking a break. At all! It's great to refresh you batteries and it helps with dealing with life issues so when you do return to gaming you can focus and enjoy yourself more.

So how do I prevent Burnout? Let's talk about what I'm currently doing:

1. Catch up on my favorite TV shows. I have a backlog of Flash, Arrow, Agents of Shield shows to watch. These are great and easy relaxing things that tickle my inner geek.

2. Catch up on my novel reading. I had a VERY good Christmas in gift cards for Google and Amazon. I kinda went nuts picking up book series I've been meaning to read. I've got a lot of books to read, re-read, and enjoy. I'm also on Goodreads now! Posting reviews, generally being a goof.

https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/37567421-joey

3. Try not to fixate on gaming. I'm casually watching the Exalted 3 news. If/when the book exits layout and heads towards the pdf drop I'm going to shift gears and prep for a few things I'll talk about at the end of this blog.

4. Get my house in order. I needed time to put my daughter into daycare, clean up the house, and try to keep my family happy. It's been exhausting but rewarding.

5. Goof around online. I'm surprised but I'm not focusing on video gaming this downtime. I'm mostly just chatting and being social with some friends. Trying to hang out in the semi-official Exalted IRC channel more. Btw, if you want me to talk about IRC/Skype games I will soon.

So there you go. Normal geeky things to take my mind of gaming. Now once Exalted drops this blog is going into review mode. I'll break the book down in a couple of ways:

1. Overall Review (post reading)
2. Combat Testing (yay. I'm going to build Bob Mortal and Bob Exalted and showcase how combat works. I'm going to take my hand at Exalted Combat 301 advice and make it a series in this blog!)
3. Talk about how to zero in on the new Creation as a ST.
4. Fun breaking the system! Showing examples of me breaking a system for fun and profit!
5. A look forward.

Until then I'm going to casually post thoughts on other games like Star Wars, Supers, etc.

And a mild rant, sad beef I have with FATE and other 'light' games. But that is later when I can formulate my thoughts on the subject well enough.