Thursday, April 23, 2020

Ceteri B Team Recap Session 10, Season 3

This week the team has its big fight!

Amos figured out where the next attack was going to be and the group staked the house out, turns out to be the former house of Timothy a member of the team who vanished and was Dillon's brother. Unfortunately when the team arrives Henry sees the bad guy drinking tea in the kitchen and the residents tied up in the garage., so much for stealthily saving them.
Henry informs his companions and they go through a side door with Dillon picking the lock. As they enter they trip a magical trap that hits them for 5 HP, except for Lorenzo who avoids it entirely.
The bad guy seems not to have noticed so Henry cuts the prisoners loose and escorts them outside while the others prepare for a fight. Henry warns the family to get out of here and go to a hotel or something and the place is likely to be a crime scene and secured by the police -if they can stop the killer and to keep low if they dont stop him.  They needed little encouragement and head out in a hurry.
Note: Some of this recap will include mechanics for GURPS readers to follow along and others to get a feel for the system. This is basically a Boss fight, so its going to be extra hard. Also, as my narratives are this is from Henry's point of view as hes my character. See the GM's recap here

A Tea Party?

Henry has been keep his ear open for sounds of fighting so knows he has time to see the family off.  However as he heads back into the garage he finds it empty and the door into the house ajar. Looking through the walls (lovely ability, Penetrating Vision 2 for seeing through up to one foot of material) he sees the others talking with the bad guy in the kitchen. That's odd...
Henry approaches (gun drawn) to hear them talking, sees a dead body on the floor and the villain introducing himself and discussing his plans and how he laid this trap for the team. His name is Billy Bedlam and hes been killing people for hundreds of years (see Jack the Ripper). Also the reason he looks so much like Timothy is they have the same father-Caine (as in Caine and Abel), meaning Dillon isnt just a distant relation but a direct son of Caine himself. Yep, this guy is one bad dude and probably impossible to kill. He tells the team as Henry comes into the entrance that his boss says not to kill them and his mission was just to summon his boss which he has already done. As Henry here's this Billy finishes his tea and politely asks if were going to let him go or if hes going to have to kill us. Amos seems to err on the smart side and is inclined to let him go, and Henry is trying to figure out a way he can try to stop him without getting everyone else killed when Billy brags how he scattered the cursed objects around as part of the trap. That seems enough to push Dillon over the edge, which is noticed by Billy who he really seems to want to fight.
At that point everyone seems to have decided there is no choice...


William (Billy) starts things off by fast drawing his knife and trying to slash Dillon's fingers (not going for a lethal strike seriously showing his confidence) but Dillon Fast-Draws his own knife and Parries then counter attacks with a strike to the vitals, also Parried.
Lorenzo whips out his shield and tries to smash William in the head but gets Judo parried for his efforts. Henry fires three quick shots at Williams face (Targeted Attack Guns!/Face),his revolver was loaded for a spirit or Doppelganger fight so hes just hoping to blind him. Salt Rock, Holy Water filled round than a Baton round, all dodged or parried. Amos fires off a Reactive Ward but William's amulet counters it. 
Turn 2: William follows up his Judo parry and throws Lorenzo to the ground between him and Henry. He then slashes at Dillons neck but is parried, Dillon counters with an attack that is again parried. Lorenzo opts to stay on the ground to give Henry clear line of fire and tries to stab William in the foot with his spear, but of course William defends. Henry fires his remaining two rounds (5 round shotgun revolver) this time rifled slugs but they are dodged, his remaining attack is used to empty the revolver (Henry has Extra Attack with same weapon and can be used as a Ready and uses one of his attacks as a Ranged Rapid Strike, he can fire 3 rounds at full skill). Amos figures out the necklace is an Aegis Amulet which is a very effective magic defense.
Turn 3: William tries to kick Lorenzo in the nuts but is blocked, then slashes at Dillon who parries then counterattacks and gets himself Judo parried. Henry Crits his Fast Draw roll and the GM rules hes able to grab the speed loader and load it as a Free Action. This one is all rifled slugs and he fires off three, 2 dodged and one parried with the knife. Yay, he can parry bullets with his knife.
Amos fores off a Paling spell which surrounds William and hopefully will injure him if he touches it.
Turn 4: William sneers at Amos and tells them that wont hold him long, then starts a Dispelling spell. (GURPS uses one second Turns but generally allows short speeches like this because its cool). Dillon throws two shuriken at Williams knee and one actually hits, though seems not to be noticed. Lorenzo makes another stab and its parried. Henry shoots his last two rounds as a Ranged Rapid Strike, using his remaining Ready to holster the revolver. Amos tosses an insect swarm summoning herbal but its caught with Williams foot who plays hacky sack with it while easily dodging and parrying everyone's attacks. Show off.
Turn 5: William continues casting.Dillon slashes at the neck hoping to cut off the amulet or grab it but is dodged. Lorenzo manages to scratch Williams hand with his spear. Henry considers trying to slam William and knock him into the barrier spell but figures hell just dodge then stab Henry in the back so Fast Draws his regular pistol so he doesn't have to waste time reloading. He knows it wont hurt as bad but at this point he figures ts better to fire as many times as possible and hope he gets lucky. Amos scoops up the hot teakettle with his staff.
Turn 6: William finishes his spell and easily removes the barrier. Dillion again goes for the neck and amulet while Lorenzo acrobatically gets up and tries a stab at Williams back. Both are easily defended against even though hes still playing hacky sack. Henry activates a charm to increase his Accuracy then fires off two more shots at the face,  but all are dodged. Amos slings the teakettle at Williams feet, burning him slightly and hoping it makes the wax floor slippery.
Turn 7: William apparently decides to stop playing around. He kicks the herbal into the air, grabbing it with his boot and activates a charm giving him Altered Time Rate and then runs to Henry's side and tries to stab him twice in the vitals. Henry tries a Feverish Defense and dodges both. Dillon throws two knives at William, dodged of course. Lorenzo moves up a bit, avoiding slipping on the water and readies his spear while calling for Henry to get behind him. Henry does just that, but its a full move so cant attack. Amos drops a sleep pastille on the stove but it has no effect (Amos not surprised but running out of options as is everyone else). Everyone else is now in the living room.
Turn 8: William charges Lorenzo triggering his Wait and causing him get stabbed in the leg and drop the herbal. Insects are summoned but don't seem to bother him.William then slashes at Lorenzo and Dillon, and Dillon takes a nasty hit to the face. Dillon makes a couple of HT rolls but has Unstoppable (MH Power-Up) and stabs back, missing. Lorenzo uses his Medic! to to an instant patch on Dillon, removing the knife and stopping the bleeding. Henry fires 3 shots but all are dodged. Amos directs the swarm.
Turn 9: William tries another set of slashes against Lorenzo and Dillon but they dodge, Dillon counters and actually lands a hit, cutting Williams throat! Lorenzo stabs but is dodged. Henry finally comes up with an idea and switches his Learned Prayer from "Track Prey" (Enhanced Tracking and Peripheral Vision) to "Wings of an Angel" (Altered Time Rate for movement only) and fires two shots at Williams vitals which are of course dodged. Amos reminds William that his master does not want any of us killed to which he replies "Nothing was said about your condition" and brags about how his knives were covered in his shit.
Turn 10: William stabs Henry in the abdomen, requiring two HT checks (Henry and Dillon both have HT 14, Very Fit, and Very Rapid Healing so are good at making HT rolls) and trades blows with Dillon. Lorenzo stabs and misses and Henry runs past everyone and barely into the garage, taking a full Move to do so (is at half Move from damage) and using his remaining turn to activate a healing charm. Amos stands in the kitchen and crosses his arms.
Turn 11: William stabs Lorenzo, nearly killing him and knocking him unconscious. Dillon stabs and misses. Henry thinking he has a clever idea uses his Clear Sight (Penetrating Vision plus other vision abilities) to aim through the sheet rock wall at the back of Williams head, avoiding the wall studs. Unfortunately William dodges two of the three shots (Henry was hoping for surprise plus back penalties but he seems to have Danger Sense) and the bullet that enters his skull is not enough to stop him. Amos stands there, apparently waiting to die.
Turn 12: William Trades misses with Dillon while closing on Amos and Henry continues firing to no avail.
Turn 13: William grans Amos'es hand and sticks it on the hot stove but Amos uses Auto-hypnosis to ignore the pain. Dillon attacks but is dodged, Henry manages to get another hit in the head to no apparent effect. Amos stands there not presenting a threat or resisting.
Turn 14: William, frustrated at an unresisting Amos sheathes his knife and walks out. Dillon and Henry both attack as he leaves but he easily dodges.
Turn 15: Headed out of combat time. Dillon uses First Aid on Lorenzo as Henry runs back into the room. Henry tries to figure out which one to cast his Lesser Succor on (which would still take 5 minutes) as both Dillon and Lorenzo are seriously injured when Amos coldly and impatiently tells him to use Greater Succor, prompting him to remember* he has another charm. Used on Lorenzo it fully heals him and then he casts his spell on Dillon only partially healing him. 
Lorenzo does his Medic! thing on Dillon and Amos while Henry asks the team if they want to stick around for the police or leave the scene while he calls them. With all the gunfire they should already be on the way but its been less than a minute since the first shots were fired. They elect to stay and Henry calls 911 and then Detective Gosnell, since this was really her case plus its handy to have a friendly face on the scene..
* He really didnt have an extra but the GM prompted Henry could use a Destiny point for a gizmo to have it.


The police arrive and are talked to by Henry and Lorenzo while Amos nods quietly and Dillon tries not to bleed everywhere. Henry called them, has a PI Licence, gun permit, and a +1 reputation with the police department so takes the lead, while Lorenzo is a volunteer firefighter, local hero and all around charming guy. There is blood everywhere but everyone is wrapped in bandages so the magically healed wounds cant be seen without taking them off.
The team is taking to the station and interrogated for a few hours until the family is reached and corroborates the story. As they leave they are given a standing ovation by the police on duty.
They didnt catch the guy but obviously put their lives on the line trying to stop a serial killer and gave the police valuable information and a description. Henry makes certain that its clear that the guy is incredibly dangerous and seems to feel no pain. He hopes that is enough to keep the uniforms cautious.

When he has a private moment with Det. Gosnell, Henry explains that this guy killed more people than she thought and offers her his files. Some details are left unsaid but he tells her that they figured out he was targeting those suspected of murder for some ritualistic killing and that pattern led him to the house and why he had to bring his victim there instead of killing the family for it.
Also he lets her know that the surviving patient was a serial killer himself and she should get a warrant based on his relation to the crimes as he may have been an accomplice who had outlived his usefulness. Its not true but that will let her find evidence of his previous crimes as he likely kept trophies. Closing out some old cases should be good for her career and bring some justice to the families. Also a prosecutor and the department might want to pursue the accomplice angle (He was the only victim left alive) and tidy things up "in the public interest" (meaning good press and a prosecutor owing her a favor).
 Henry has Charisma +1, Savoir-Faire (Police),  and Talker! to do this subtly so as to avoid any implications.


This was a really tough fight. Overall we handled ourselves pretty well in making the best calls we could, we were just totally outclassed.  However in review there were a couple of mistakes made and things we should work on going forward.
Henry probably should have used Fast-Firing technique (he paid for it after all) after pulling out the smaller pistol. He was hoping for a critical hit to bypass the parries or dodges but with Fast-Firing he could have shot 5 rounds instead of 3; still 3 dodge rolls but two attacks would have had 2 bullets each (RoF 2, Recoil 3) which means if he failed to Dodge he could have been hit with two bullets. I especially should have tried that on the first shot through the wall when I though I had an improved chance to hit him. It likely would have made no difference but it should have been tried.
I did try and consider other ammo options, tear gas, smoke, but decided they would hurt the others in the team more than William. Dillon and Amos would have ignored the tear gas,and Amos could have used his Bat charm for the smoke but it seemed too risky. However going forward its a tactic we should be prepared to use.
I was really proud of the idea of running behind a wall to shoot him from behind and out of sight and I think it would have worked on most foes. But I dont think it really got through his DR, regardless it was way too little for him to care about.
Also we need to prepare some area effect attacks that indirectly affect the target such as glycerin/grease grenades or magic ice slicks. Using them in tight quarters will be an issue but we could have sure footed charms. I doubt it would have worked on William as he seemed very agile but other foes dodge well too so its something to consider.
Also Henry needs a light prayer or spell that blinds, I made one up to run by the GM for after the break and it would work for his upcoming Wuxxia game too. That really would not have worked here because of his amulet but could be handy against vampires and werewolves.
Finally, Henry still seems a liability in combat and seemed to do the least damage (if any) of the three fighters, and Amos does more damage and has more versatility with his staff sling when he uses that. Not sure how or if I can address that.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Common Sense Thoughts on the COVID-19 Epidemic and Getting Past it.

As states and other entities talk about reopening lets look at this closely.

Why did people decide to shut down?

The purpose of the shutdown is to delay the spread of the virus, not stop it just slow it down enough that the hospitals are not overwhelmed. If the hospitals get too many patients at one time they cant handle the load and more people die. That includes hospital staff, nurses, service staff, even patients not in the hospital for the virus as they get ignored because of overcrowding or actually get infected.
The sooner we open up again the worse the effect on human lives and though this may give a short term economic respite it will prolong the crisis and increased overall costs.

What do I do if it opens too soon?

  • Use masks and physical distancing from others as much as possible.
  • If your lucky enough to have a job that lets you work from home, do it as much as possible.
  • If your in an office cancel meetings in the conference room and use video or conference calls. Even if your all in the building, being in a room for an hour is asking to catch anything your coworkers have.
  • Avoid restaurants, bars, gyms, salons, etc. Delivery can support them and get you good food.  These businesses will suffer the most which is why Congress needs to take care of them.
  • Don't hoard! Supply chains are stressed but working, hoarding puts your neighbors at extra risk as they lack essential supplies.  On the other hand shop wisely and infrequently.
  • Remember you can be a carrier before you show symptoms!  Avoid close interaction with people till a vaccine is available. If you get sick notify everyone you recently encountered.

What Should the Government Do?

Roughly every decade we have a significant countrywide disaster, its pretty predictable and the government needs to stat taking their jobs seriously and think long term. Just as any member of the military they swore an oath under God to serve and protect, time they started taking that obligation seriously.
  • Get Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) into peoples hands, no excuse for this not being done months ago. It was just laziness that killed thousands of Americans. Nurses do not need to be called heroes while we send them into die from getting infected because our government doesnt want to spend the money to get them basic equipment to protect them.
  • Get Testing out, again we are way behind where we should be due to laziness and government inaction.  This was no real surprise, a pandemic has been expected for decades, so why are we so unprepared?  Because politicians think short term, not long term and too many let them get away with it.
  • Once PPE and widespread testing are available it wont be safe to open up, but it will be safer. Again short term thinking makes the long term cost much more severe and expensive overall. If we had been prepared we may have not even needed a shut down, and certainly fewer people would have gotten sick or even died. When things open up there will be another spike, the longer we hold back the smaller that spike will be and the fewer lives lost. They key is how prepared we are when we do open up.
  • Businesses are suffering now and will suffer even after we reopen. Government needs to take care of them, primarily the smaller businesses who dont have the resources of larger businesses. Also emphasis service and restaurants.
  • Politicians looking at their wallets and encouraging people to die so they can get more money for themselves and their donors need to simply stop thinking that way and put the country first.
As an aside those Churches trying to encourage people to come to service are likely doing it to serve the church leaderships pocket, not their parishioners. Ask yourself, how many services dd Jesus have in a church versus open air? Think about it, you dont need to worship together to be faithful, so whats in it for those wanting you to risk your live to go to their building?

What Should we do Before the Next Disaster?

We know there will be another one, probably not as bad in about ten years. We should think ahead and plan for it. Whether its another bank, oil, airline, real-estate, or manufacturing bailout, a pandemic, or a climate inspired refugee crisis there are measure we can take now that will save lives and money later.
  • Medicare for All saves lives and taxpayers hundreds of billions annually. More than that, imagine a world where instead of paying your health insurance premium, co-pays, and deductibles you pay HALF that total in taxes instead. Imagine  not worrying about losing your health care if you lose your job (as many are doing now) or even just switch to a new job (usually you lose it for 90 days). Imagine not losing your home or lifesavings if you or a family member get cancer or other serious illness. Imagine looking for a job based on pay or it being what you like to do rather than worrying about its health benefits. As a business imagine not having to deal with insurance companies and the extra overhead. Able to hire older or disabled Americans without your health costs going up. Imagine a small business owner being able to compete on a level playing field with larger companies, or hiring full time workers instead of twice that many part time workers (and the extra training costs) or permanent instead of contractors all to avoid dealing with health care coverage requirements. Imagine a healthier workforce because they can get preventative care instead of putting it off till its far worse or maybe they infected other workers.
  • Financial regulation to keep big "Too big to fail" companies from knowingly making poor decisions because the CEOs know the taxpayers will pick up the tab.
  • Responsible and forward thinking EPA and Climate legislation to reduce the effects of natural disasters and seasonal extremes that are hurting so many industries.  Remember we will have to pay for it at some point, but the longer we put it off the bigger the tab and total costs. Millions of new jobs can be created, farms saved, etc and current businesses relying on fossil fuels wont shut down overnight, there will be years, probably decades in transitioning. And remember, those jobs are going away. If America does not step up other countries will (and are moving that way now) and in trying to put it off by sticking our head in the sand and thinking short term we and those people will be left behind. If we dont work on electric cars someone else will, we used to be a leader in Solar energy but other countries have started moving ahead which means jobs we just gave away. How smart is that?
  • Election Reform should be a priority.  We cant hold our politicians accountable if they get billions from the wealthy to buy ads and tell us their lies. Politicians use a classic Divide and Conquer strategy to keep Americans fighting each other instead of holding them accountable to us. Voter suppression needs to be stopped for the good of everyone and money must be taken out of politics. Why should a Congressmen or Senator get away with insider trading? Especially when they put their wallets ahead of yours and the country?

Monday, April 13, 2020

A.I Characters in GURPS

GURPS has some solid stuff for computer characters but there is always more to cover and a recent question on the SJG GURPS forum prompted me to write this.

Official Sources

  • GURPS Transhuman Space: This is a Third Edition and Fourth Edition setting. Its a solid setting but never became popular, I think mostly because of timing. Published around the transition time between editions it lost a lot of momentum during the changeover. However it has rules for uploaded minds, A.I.s, bioroids, robots,and more.
  • GURPS Cyberpunk: This is a Third edition setting and genre book.  I personally found the phases (action turns) to be cumbersome but liked the book overall and would like to see a new version.
  • GURPS Ultra-Tech: The first of the GURPS tech series,it has lots of gear and expanded the computer rules from GURPS Basic Set.
  • GURPS Template Toolkit 2: Races - Has a few additional racial traits for computer based charecters.
  • GURPS High-Tech: Electricity and Electronics: Is a great book on gear but also goes into detail on computer of the modern age exceeding any other GURPS book and good for future settings too.
  • Pyramid #3/21 Cyberpunk: Has several articles on computers and the article Console Cowboys and Cyberspace Kung Fu is a great netrunning update. Gets rid of alot of the complexity from GURPS Cyberpunk with a more streamlined netrunning rule set.

I may have missed something but if I were running a cyberpunk or netrunning campaign I would start with these books. However as the op asked in the thread referred to earlier how many points is a program?  And beyond that if your building a character or purchasing one as an Ally some questions may remain.  So here are my current thoughts.
Most of this can be gleaned from GURPS Basic.

  • Digital Mind [4] is the base and makes your mind a computer with a complexity of at least half your IQ.
  • Alternate Form or Morph (both types of Shapechange) can handle controlling robots or even a super science computer capable of rebuilding itself for different applications.
  • Compartmentalized Mind represents networked computers or multiple central processing units. Though each CPU is more powerful than real world CPUs in that they are basically duplicates of the brain.
  • Duplication (Digital) can represent uploading a copy to another computer.
  • Eidetic and Photographic Memory are easily represented by quick access to large storage media.
  • Extra Life of course represents a digital backup.

  • Intuition and Oracle (Digital) are ways to represent processing massive data to come up with a useful answer.
  • Lightning Calculator and Intuitive Mathematician represent the superior math capability and are parts of most A.I. related metatraits.
  • Machine and Computer metatraits bundle several traits together, found in GURPS Basic and GURPS Template Toolkits 2: Races.
  • Modular Abilities (Chip Slots) represent swapping programs in and out of memory. The Super Memorization version would be more for writing a program in cinematic time.
  • Talents can represent dedicated co-processors, especially Mathematical Ability (Math) and Artist types for graphics co-processors.
  • Telecommunication represents computers talking to each other or people interfacing with them. From Cable Interface Jacks [5] to advanced neural interfaces, these are found in various books.
And this is off the top of my head, lots more could be had but thats a good core. So about that initial question...
Wih all the hardware out of the way, how do we determine the complexity of a program and how many points it is?  Different sources give us good ideas for complexity based on program type but that can be a bit tricky to adjudicate.

Quick and Dirty Complexity vs. Character Point Rules

Complexity determines how bulky and sophisticated a program is. Base Complexity is 1 per character point in the skill or technique. Most programs are one skill, though some may package related skills into one software package. If this is done the entire package must be loaded into memory at one time.
Modifiers: Highly math oriented programs that would benefit from Intuitive Mathematician or Mathematical Ability -1 complexity; Graphical or Musical programs that would benefit from artistic or musical talents +1 complexity.

That's a very simplified fast method but it means harder skills will be more expensive and require better computers to run on than easier skills. Dollar cost can be based on the setting or use the rules from one of the books above.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Ceteri - Team B Season 3 Session 8.3

Its been four and a half months of training hunting, and more training for the team.
GM Recap here
Lorenzo has been pretty much running things at the firehouse and Dillion doing contract jobs, while Amos and Henry each have put in massive hours of intense training. Amos learned more magic and some combat training from his Aunt Justine, and Henry magic training from his familiar Bishop.
Henry has been checking in at the job and doing a few quick jobs here and there but also done some hunting and had some work done on the house to prepare for his new role.
He consecrated his house and the back yard, added some books to his library, had a forge built in the backyard, a charm making work space, and an armoury (firearms) shop in the basement.  He bought a new 12 gauge revolver so that he can have a variety of special rounds for monster hunting.

A New Case

Feb 15th Henry gets a call from Detective Ronnie Gosnell over at Boston Metro who requests he comes over to a suicide that she does not think is really a suicide. Shes got good instincts and tends to get handed the strange cases nobody else wants. So Henry immediately heads over. 
They talk while Henry looks over the scene, the victims wrists were cut very deeply and there was some occult writing on a window. Henry decides to call in the team.

Meanwhile Amos is trying to catch up on his sleep and doing his best to ignore a giant raven throwing pebbles at his window. Poor bird cant get past the magical wards around the house.
Dillion comes home and the bird asks him to wake Amos up.  Conversation and weird things occur before Henry calls to arrange a meeting.

Gathering of Clues

Combining their resources the group determines there has been one of these suicides every day since the beginning of the month, except one guy critically wounded but not dead. Henry and Lorenzo go to Boston General to check on the survivor, Lorenzo charms his doctor friend Gina and Henry requests to see the patient and (rolling a 5 on Talker!) Henry manages to persuade her its related to a case. Lorenzo and Amos check out the firehouse where another victim was killed and find more symbols.  Amos checks the lines and it turns out everyone was killed on a line and in an order that leads to the next likely murder.
They decide to stake it out.

End Session

Short session, but we were on a roll in the clue department and it was getting late for a fight.
During the intervening time the team spent time training together and monster hunting and built up knowledge of each other and they all know about Henry's Clear Sight, Bishop, and that Henry can now cast spells and learned to actively use his Mystic powers (Divine Favor). Spell lists were also shared so we have an idea on what can be cast.