Tag Archives: rpg

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.

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.

Items

  • 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.

Moves

  • 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.

Tie-Breakers

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.

Old Family + New Friends + New Games = Great Vacation

Because my family is shotgunned all over the southeastern US, my parents rent a vacation home for a week every summer so we can all get together. This year was at Carolina Beach a couple of weeks ago. Overall it was great, and I especially enjoyed getting acquainted with the new boyfriend of one of my nieces, even more especially because he’s a gamer, too. He introduced us to an amazing Czech boardgame called Dungeon Petz.

Sadly, my wife Lura got sick on Tuesday (our “not-quite vegetarian” diet doesn’t work at all with my family’s standard American diet, which we inevitably end up eating on vacation) and didn’t recover until after we got home, so she didn’t get to play. Before that, however, we finally got to play Mr. Card Game with more than just the two of us for only the second time, so that was cool, even though my niece got bored and her boyfriend won, just like the last person we taught to play the game (who also happens to be the best board game player we’ve ever met). I am also happy to report that our FLGS can special order Dungeon Petz for us just as soon as Lura’s new job makes it possible – the first job she’s had in two years, I should add. We’re really praising God for that one!

It also would have been more fun if I hadn’t fallen up the stairs and twisted my foot the first morning, forcing me to miss out on the aquarium trip, but an Ace bandage got me up and moving again, so it wasn’t too bad.

One advantage of needing to keep my foot propped up while Lura was too sick to do anything and the rest of the family was at the beach is that I got a little bit of work done on my various game aids. I may even have finally finished my D&D character library spreadsheet, but I want to use it myself a bit longer to be sure since I keep finding things I need to add to it (most recently an XP box). I am nearly done with my GURPS character creator as well, but just learned that Steve Jackson has very strict rules about how they want to be cited in fan projects, so I’ve got to go back and change that section in my two GURPS spreadsheets, and figure out how to unobtrusively add it to my character sheet. I also need to find out if Wizards of the Coast has a similar policy.

Now that I’m back from vacation and mostly recovered from it I can get back to work writing and finishing up game aids. I decided to add boxes around the various sections of the top matter on my modular D&D character sheet, and am also experimenting with edge-to-edge printing of some of the pages in order to maximize how much space players have to work with, but so far my test prints have failed because our printer is behaving oddly.  I assume it’s due to needing a new color cartridge even though what I’m printing is black and white. I suspect it’s trying to use blue for the faint grey lines and text, and that’s why they aren’t showing up. Once I get that tackled I should have what I hope will be the final version of my character sheet unless Wizards releases another class with a unique mechanic that would benefit from having a custom sheet.

On a related note: would a sheet with a dedicated section for a pet/familiar be useful? On the front or back? If I don’t put it on the front I will have to either make multiple backs again, which I won’t since it defeats the purpose of my adaptable sheet, or simply make a back that includes the animal with the inventory. It would be easy enough to free up sufficient space above the right-hand column on the two-column inventory sheet (page 4).

GameMaster – What’s in a Name?

Our first roleplaying purchase was GURPS 3e Basic Set, but the first one we played was HackMaster 4e. These days HackMaster 5e is my system of choice for combat-heavy fantasy, and GURPS 4e for is for everything else. One thing they have in common is the term “Game Master” (GM), so I tend to use it rather than the game’s specific term. Even though I have run or played D&D Encounters since season 1 back in 4e, coming up is the first time I have ever used the term “Dungeon Master”.

Players who started with Dungeons & Dragons frequently use DM regardless of the system, and I’ve known World of Darkness fans who nearly always use “Storyteller”. There are lots of other terms used by various games, but those are the most common I’ve seen, with GM dominating the pack.

The nice thing about those three terms being so prevalent is that you can use whichever you prefer and everyone will know what you’re talking about. But have you ever thought about what they actually mean?

Let’s start with original: Dungeon Master (DM). Since the game is called “Dungeons & Dragons”, the term makes sense, especially because back in the game’s early days the DM’s primary job was to create the dungeons and control the monsters within them. What I don’t understand are the multitude of games that use DM yet don’t feature dungeons – some of them aren’t even fantasy games.

One of our friends runs World of Darkness as exclusively as my wife does GURPS (he ran a single session of Shadowrun 4e once) so I’ve played it quite a bit. It refers to the GM as the Storyteller (usually abbreviated ST if at all), which has always bothered me. Why? Because it makes it seem like the GM is the only storyteller at the table, when in fact all of the players are telling a story together.

At its simplest the GM’s job is three-fold: to create the setting, to put obstacles in the PCs’ way, and to be the final arbitrator of the rules. So the GM must master the rules of the game and act as a bit of a ring master, making sure each player has a chance to show off in the spotlight. That’s another reason why Game Master has always been my term of choice: it succinctly describes the GM’s job while not tying it to any particular genre.

While I may inwardly cringe when people say “Dungeon Master” when talking about my latest GURPS sci-fi game, I’m not going to deny them their right to use whichever term they like – Shield Monkey is one of our favorites – as long as they extend the same courtesy to others. Many of our D&D Adventurers’ League players use DM simply because D&D is the only system they know, while Lura and I use GM exclusively, but no one ever so much as bats an eyelid at the difference. So in the end it doesn’t really matter what term you use as long as everyone’s on the same page.

D&D 5e Character Library Finished

I have uploaded to scribd what I hope will be the final version of my Character Library spreadsheet. All it is lacking is an XP box. As it will take quite a bit of work to squeeze that in, I will only be adding if there is demand for it. In the meantime just list the character’s XP in the “Character Background and Other Notes” box.