Category Archives: Roleplaying

Happiness Jars #4&5 for 2017-02-27

Got so busy I completely forgot to make happiness jar posts for the last two weeks, but since they’re related, here are both.

Happiness Jar #4

As planned, on Saturday the 18th we had our first meeting about the GURPS Fairy Tail campaign. I’d been bouncing around between which type of magic to use, but hadn’t been able to think of an actual character yet, until the GM told us about our guild. With my memory issues I can’t remember any actual details, but the guild’s focus is on time, and that led me to thinking about clockwork. Putting our heads together, the GM and I came up with the idea that my character might want to duplicate magic with technology.

Since then I’ve expanded it into this:

At some point in his past, he witnessed a non-mage getting mugged by a mage, and swore to come up with a way to give non-mages a inexpensive way to protect themselves from mages. His ultimate goal is to be able to build them cheaply enough that nearly everyone can afford one, and yet make enough profit to be able to give them to those who can’t.

We’ll iron the details of his invention later since that’s not something he’s going to have at the beginning anyway. Likely enchanting something like a bracer that grants the wearer Magic Resistance (making it harder to affect them with spells) and DR limited to Magic (so they’ll take less damage from fireballs and the like) and is powered by Lacrima.

When defending himself or someone else in combat, he relies on Requipping guns that he uses to fires magic bullets (or possibly enchant bullets/shells as he fires them, or simply uses the guns as foci through which he channels his magic; not decided yet).

That’s what I’m working no now. I’m going to build it as both Imbuements and Innate Attacks built as alternate abilities and see which I prefer. I knocked out most of the former sitting in the doctor’s waiting room this afternoon, and expect to finish shortly. The IAs won’t take me more than half an hour because I’m so prolific an IA builder (I even made Elmer Fudd’s gun (sometimes a rifle, sometimes a shotgun, even in the same scene) just to see if I could).

Happiness Jar #5

I had coincidentally been working on adapting Fairy Tail to GURPS purely for the fun of it for a couple of weeks before the GM announced the campaign, so I have pages of stuff for it now. To get things organized and to make it easier for everyone else to sift through, I posted as much of it as I could to a new section of my campaign wiki Friday afternoon. There was too much for me to be able to type it all up in one go, so I still have a good bit to do, but I got more than half of it posted.

GURPS Extra-Lite Finalized

I just uploaded what should be the final version of GURPS Extra-Lite. Other than the font and some formatting, the only thing that changed was that I finally made it compliant with Steve Jackson Games’ Online Policy for fan-made websites and game aids.

It used to say this:

The material presented here is my original creation, intended for use with the GURPS system from Steve Jackson Games. This material is not official and is not endorsed by Steve Jackson Games.

But in re-reading their policy several times we realized that was meant only for fan sites (which is why it remains on the Web version of Extra-Lite, and has been added to my Munchkin compatibility chart). Instead they want this for game aids:

GURPS is a trademark of Steve Jackson Games, and its rules and art are copyrighted by Steve Jackson Games. All rights are reserved by Steve Jackson Games. This game aid is the original creation of Frank Wilcox, Jr (fewilcox) and is released for free distribution, and not for resale, under the permissions granted in the Steve Jackson Games Online Policy.

They’ll also allow you to use most of their art as long as you follow their Online Policy. So if you ever see a game aid or other fan-work for any SJ game that doesn’t have one of the above disclaimers, send the author that link. Whereas some companies are really stingy with their IPs and actively discourage fan works (I would literally be in violation of Pokémon’s online policy if I were to even link you to it), SJG welcomes them, so the least we can do is give them their due credit.

Happiness Jar #3 for 2017-02-13

This is actually last week’s jar, but I’ve only now had the time to write it up because the good news itself has kept me busy – which is further good news since that busyness means I’ve only had one major Depressive funk in the past week or so, and that was Saturday night). After a several-month unintentional hiatus, we are finally going to be roleplaying again, in the Fairy Tail campaign I mentioned in “Happiness Jar #2“. The GM’s books should be arriving tomorrow, so we hope to be doing character creation before Pokémon League this Saturday, so that will probably be this week’s HJ.

Last week’s jar is that I finally settled on how I would do the Requip ability if I were the GM, meaning that as of Saturday I was able to make Natsu, Gray (mostly), Erza (and by extension the gun requippers, but their attacks are my current project since that’s the kind of character I’m leaning towards), and had a rough idea of how to do Lucy (Allies (Summonable, +20%, Magic, +10%; Must have the spirit’s key, -25%; Pact (??), -?%)), but don’t know enough about celestial mages’ contracts with their spirits to create their Pacts, so that’s probably as far as I’ll go on that.

Since I’m not the GM I’m not going to actually post any of that anywhere until he gets a shot at making his own versions, especially since he’s getting Thaumatology, which is near the top of our trpg wishlist, but I used Powers, which he isn’t getting, so our results will be quite different. In fact, everything I have made for the game is an Advantage – even Erza’s armors are Advantages like Limited DR, IAs, and Flight added onto armor purchased with money – and about half of them are Innate Attacks.

Once the campaign actually gets going (next week, with any luck) I’ll post everything, and with the GM’s permission I’ll also post his versions so it will all be available to anyone who wants to use or adapt it. If you do so then please leave a comment on that post, and leave a link if you posted your version somewhere. I always love to see how others build upon my work, which is exactly why our Constitution tasks the government with giving people patent and copyright protections “for limited times” to “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts”, but I’ll go into that in a future post.

Happiness Jar #2 for 2017-02-03

After struggling to come up with happiness jar #1, this week we’ve got two candidates. I’ll start with the second one first.

A few minutes ago I was picking up a stack of books that had fallen over and were keeping our elderly Australian Shepherd from getting to their water dish. Near the bottom of the stack was our second copy of GURPS Basic Set: Characters, which has been missing for months. The timing could not better since we’re getting ready to start a new Saturday afternoon campaign and the GM only has one copy of his own.

Earlier this week something amazing happened: my wife finally got health insurance. She’s had to do without because we couldn’t afford the premiums (even with subsidies) and NC’s Republican Congress decided not to expand Medicaid. Given how many pre-existing conditions the two of us have, we’re happy beyond words that she’s finally getting insurance before the US Senate makes it impossible again.

If you live in Buncombe County and have a low income or still don’t have health insurance, visit the WNC Community Health Service (WNCCHS, or “Winches”), a Federally Qualified Health Center in Asheville. They have been our primary care provider since 2010 when they partnered with Buncombe County government to provide primary health care to low-income residents like us. Because I have Medicaid most of their services have been free – even dental – and the rest are very inexpensive because they charge on a sliding scale.

Thursday is #GURPSDay – Our Houserules

  • Bang Skills Cost Double Instead of Triple
  • Costs FP/ER is -10% Per Level, Capped at -40%
  • DR With Absorption (B46) Costs Less
  • Age-related Traits Cost Half, and Unaging is 5 CP

GURPS is pretty much the perfect roleplaying game for our needs. Its only major flaw is that once you get enough skills tied to one attribute it becomes far more cost effective to simply increase that attribute, gaining everything else that goes with it, instead of increasing the individual skills. Other than that and a few minor annoyances, it has served us very well since 4e released back in 2004, and remains our go-to game to this day. We’re actually about to start up a Fairy Tail game in which I’m looking forward to being on the player side of the screen for once.

I solved the skills-attributes problem in two ways:

  • finding reasons to use characters’ skills with other attributes (which is why GURPS has you record the Relative Level), and
  • encouraging players to take “Bang Skills”.

Here’s how we deal with that one big problem and those few minor annoyances:

Bang Skills Cost Double Instead of Triple

Learning to play GURPS is dead simple if someone else makes your character: Roll 3d6 under the target number on your character sheet. That’s oversimplified a bit, but you really can learn everything you need to play the game on one sheet of paper, like on my own GURPS Extra-Lite.

But making a character is another story and best done with the help of someone experienced (the sheer number of options can be overwhelming, so I encourage GMs to come up a list of what they will or won’t allow in that campaign) – especially when it’s time to buy skills. That remains the most difficult thing to explain to new players, but is easy once it finally clicks.

One way to make it even easier is with “Bang Skills” (“Wildcard Skills” sidebar on B175). Bang Skills cover vast numbers of skills with one super skill, and are very expensive as a result: Very Hard x 3.

As an example, the Professor on Gilligan’s Island would have Science! as his main skill. It would cost him 24 CP to get it equal to his IQ, and then 12 more per level after that. As a 150-point character, that’s asking a lot. Since I want to encourage my players to take Bang Skills, I only charge them double the VH cost instead of triple even though our games usually start at 200-250 points.

Costs FP/ER is -10% Per Level, Capped at -40%

For advantages that have to be maintained, you may take:

  • Costs 1 FP per 10 seconds, -20%
  • Costs 1 FP per second, -40%

Take note of the -40% limit. The same also applies to abilities that use Energy Reserves (Powers 119).

In digging through my old notes it appears that at some point in the past I was convinced that even -10% per level was too little, and that this was even better:

  • Costs FP’s value decreases with level: CFP 1 is -25%, CFP 2 is an additional -10%, and each additional level adds -5%. So it goes -25% / -30% / -40% / -45%.

It makes good sense because CFP 1 means you immediately go from infinite uses to at most 7-8 per battle – a pretty significant difference. But CFP 2 only drops you to 3-4 uses, and CFP 3 to 2-3. Since I forgot about it I haven’t actually tried it yet, but will in my next campaign.

DR With Absorption (B46) Costs Less

  • Absorption: Heals HP or FP, +40%
  • Absorption: Heals HP and FP, +60%
  • Absorption: (One Trait) xY, +5%
  • Y is the level of Absorption for that particular entry.
  • Absorption: Every Trait, +50%

In Rev. Pee Kitty’s article “Absorption Revised“, he details why absorption is too expensive, so I won’t duplicate that, but here’s Natsu from Fairy Tail as an example:

[6.5 * X] DR X (Magic, -10%; Limited (fire), -40%; Absorption: Heals ER, +40%; Absorption: ST x5, +25%; Absorption: Burning Attack x3, +15%)

In short, that means Natsu takes X less damage from fire-based attacks, and when he does he can use that energy to restore his ER, increase his ST (and therefore damage), or add dice of damage to his fire spells. It costs his player 6.5 CP per point of DR.

Age-related Traits Cost Half, and Unaging is 5 CP

From Rev. Pee Kitty’s House Rules “2. Reducing the value of ‘flavor’ traits”:

The values of all age-related traits (Extended Lifespan, Longevity, Self-Destruct, Short Lifespan) are halved, except for Unaging, which costs 5 points. Terminally Ill no longer exists, except when granted via an Affliction.

From the day GURPS 4e released I thought that Unaging was overpriced simply because it is mostly flavor and almost never has any mechanical effect, so I was happy when I found out that I wasn’t the only one only charging 5 CP for it. Halving the cost of other age traits hadn’t occurred to me, but is a good idea.

Pokémon Video Game Tournament Standard Format

From Play! Pokémon VG Tournament Rules & Formats (Revised 2015 December 23)

Only Pokémon Omega Ruby and Pokémon Alpha Sapphire game cards or downloadable versions are permitted.

Format uses Double Battles: each player selects four Pokémon from his or her party of six. At the start of the battle, players send out the first two Pokémon in their party, making a total of four Pokémon on the battlefield. Gameplay continues until a player makes all four of the opponent’s Pokémon faint.

Pokémon players may use Pokémon from the National Pokédex, from No. 001–719, that are caught in the game, transferred from a previous Pokémon title, or received at an official event or distribution.

The following Pokémon may not be on a player’s team:

151 – Mew 490 – Manaphy 647 – Keldeo
251 – Celebi 491 – Darkrai 648 – Meloetta
385 – Jirachi 492 – Shaymin 649 – Genesect
386 – Deoxys 493 – Arceus 719 – Diancie
489 – Phione 494 – Victini 720 – Hoopa

A player’s Battle Box may not contain more than two of the following Pokémon:

150 – Mewtwo 384 – Rayquaza 644 – Zekrom
249 – Lugia 483 – Dialga 646 – Kyurem
250 – Ho-Oh 484 – Palkia 716 – Xerneas
382 – Kyogre 487 – Giratina 717 – Yveltal
383 – Groudon 643 – Reshiram 718 – Zygarde
  • Pokémon must be placed in the Battle Box.
  • Pokémon are allowed to Mega Evolve.
  • Pokémon above level 50 are permitted, but they are auto‐leveled down to 50 for the duration of battle.
  • Players may use Pokémon with Hidden Abilities.
  • A player’s team cannot contain two Pokémon with the same Pokédex number.
  • A player’s team cannot contain two Pokémon with the same nickname.
  • A player’s team cannot contain a Pokémon nicknamed with the name of another Pokémon (for example, an Unfezant named “Pidove”).
  • Pokémon must have a blue pentagon in the Pokémon summary screen to indicate that the Pokémon was acquired in Generation VI.


  • Pokémon may not hold the item Soul Dew.
  • Players may use items that have been officially released via Pokémon X, Pokémon Y, Pokémon Omega Ruby, Pokémon Alpha Sapphire, the Pokémon Global Link, or an official event or promotion.
  • Each Pokémon on a player’s team can hold an item, though no two Pokémon may hold the same item.


  • Pokémon may only use moves that have been learned through one of the following methods:
  • By leveling up
  • By TM or HM
  • As an Egg Move, through breeding
  • From a character in the game
  • A move already known by a Pokémon received at an official Pokémon event or promotion

Match Resolution

  • A player wins by knocking out his or her opponent’s final Pokémon.
    • If a player’s final Pokémon used Selfdestruct, Explosion, Destiny Bond, or Final Gambit, and both players’ final Pokémon faint as a result, the player who used the move loses that game.
    • If a player’s final Pokémon used Double‐Edge, Volt Tackle, Flare Blitz, Take Down, Submission, Brave Bird, Wood Hammer, Head Smash, Struggle, Head Charge, or Wild Charge, or was holding Life Orb, and both players’ final Pokémon faint as a result, the player who used the move wins that game.
  • If both players’ final Pokémon faint due to a weather condition, such as Hail or Sandstorm, the player whose Pokémon faints last wins the game. This includes the effects of Perish Song.
    • If a Pokémon’s Ability (such as Rough Skin, Aftermath, Liquid Ooze, or Iron Barbs) or held item (such as Rocky Helmet) results in both players’ final Pokémon fainting, the player whose Pokémon had the Ability or held item wins the game.
    • A player who selects “Run” during a battle will count as the loser of that game, whether selected intentionally or not. Players may not intentionally play a match to a tie nor agree to record a match as a tie without playing.


Should the time limit expire before a player makes his or her opponent’s final Pokémon faint, the winner of the game is determined based on the criteria below.

  1. Remaining Pokémon
    a. If one player has more remaining Pokémon than the other, that player wins the game.
    b. If both players have the same number of Pokémon remaining, the result of the game is determined by average percentage of HP remaining, as described below.
  2. Average Percentage of HP Remaining
    a. If one player’s team has a higher average percentage of HP remaining, that player wins the game.
    b. If both players’ teams have the same average percentage of HP remaining, the result of the game is determined by amount of HP remaining, as described below.
  3. Amount of Total HP Remaining
    a. If one player’s team has a higher total HP remaining, that player wins the game.
    b. If both players’ teams have the same total HP remaining, the result of the game is a tie.

Technical Issues

Over the course of a tournament, a player’s game connection may become disrupted in a number of ways.

Single Frozen Game State

If one player’s game system is stuck in an unfixable frozen game state, the player whose game system is frozen will receive a game loss.

Double Frozen Game State

If both players’ game systems are stuck in an unfixable frozen game state and it cannot be determined which player’s game or system is responsible for the frozen state, both players will receive a tie for that game.

Game State Disruption

Players should attempt to fix any game disruption by checking their 3DS systems and making sure they are aligned properly. If issues persist, contact a judge for immediate assistance. If consistent disruptions are determined to be due to actions on the part of a player, the judge may issue an appropriate penalty as outlined in the Pokémon Penalty Guidelines.

Helping Players Cooperate

Time and time again I have recommended that people sign up for Roleplaying Tips Weekly by Johnn Four, but most especially GMs.  It is full of tips and tricks for GMs, plot hooks, and character inspirations. This particular issue is all about getting players to work together as an actual party of adventurers rather than a bunch of characters that happen to have the same goal or be traveling in the same direction.

One particular section of it especially appeals to me because it’s an adaptation of something I’ve been preaching to other GMs for years: that no non-combat dice roll should ever be boring (attacks never missing would also be boring), and a failed roll doesn’t mean that nothing happened. The article even uses my favorite example: the locked door. If the PCs have to get through the door in order for the campaign to continue, then they will get through the door, thus rolling to see if they can get the door open is pointless. It is far more interesting to use the player’s lockpicking or door smashing roll to determine how things progress (a failed roll could indicate that they’d made too much noise and aroused the guards, for instance), rather than whether the door gets opened.

The spin guest columnist Christopher Sniezak puts on it is using the failed roll as a way to bring another character in to share the spotlight. It’s absolutely brilliant and I’m a bit ashamed of myself for not thinking of it years ago.

Since discovering a free rules-light game called FUrpg (af) (Free, Universal RPG), I’ve started thinking in terms of its success/fail terminology, and it seems Christopher may have been likewise inspired. FUrpg’s core mechanic uses varying numbers of d6s, from which the player chooses the most beneficial (or least if the pool size is negative). The GM then describes what happens based on the result (even is good, odd is bad, higher is better):

6 Yes, and… You succeed and something else good happens.
4 Yes… Basic success.
2 Yes, but… You succeed, but at a cost.
5 No, but… You fail, but it’s not a total loss.
3 No… Basic failure.
1 No, and… You fail, and things get worse.

If I’m ever having trouble deciding how something turns out, or especially how an NPC reacts to something a PC just said or did, I can just roll a d6 or two and go from there. I still haven’t gotten around to actually using FUrpg for a pick-up game, but it has already helped me be a better GM for GURPS, HackMaster 5e, and D&D 4/5e.