Sunday, February 13, 2022

Week in Gaming

  This is a weekly entry on my RPG activities and related news. The purpose is to track and organize my thoughts. I also hope to inspire people by showing them different ideas and possibilities with GURPS, an option I have at the moment as I am in 3 GURPS campaigns.


Monday (Hylen)
The last session was mostly background stuff, only one player really got to do much, the rest of us being busy with the more routine stuff about building New Widdershins. The one character is an oddball character and seems to prefers to do things by himself so he had the bulk of the evening doing things only he could do. When one player gets the bulk of the screen time it can be a problem as everyone wants their time in the sun and especially to have fun. The GM and player thus need to at the least put on a good show, preferably with stakes the other players have an interest in (though not without taking away their agency) and trying to manage the time. It can be a difficult task for any GM and most of us slip into letting some players dominate the game at various points. Sometimes this cant be helped, other times the GM needs to manage things better.  But when it happens that does not necessarily mean a boring game for everyone. For example the player brought up certain ideas that were overall useful and the GM had him find some interesting items, crystals that expand into walls with various shapes and prosperities; and an ancient supply cach we have yet to figure out. Everyone had a stake in the new find as it could help with the town building and the byplay between player and GM was entertaining.
One player got to capture some goats and we already had pens. Another managed to dodge the amorous attention of an NPC (I think that was about it for his screen time) and Dan was mostly organizing the building - meaning I told the GM what I thought all the NPCs should be working on.
We also did a lot of background number crunching, mostly using GURPS Realm Management and GURPS Low-Tech Companion 3: Daily Life and Economics.
GURPS Low-Tech and its companions continually surprise me with just how much is in there, you don't use them often in most campaigns so tend to forget all the stuff they have. People often talk about using Harn to help world build but the Low-Tech series is more portable to various settings whereas Harn is very medieval Europe focused.

As for building the town? We got a surprising amount done.  Dan had some pushback on some of his priorities, the GM even making the remark that he though Dan was trying to rush things but I pointed out we have only a few months of gasoline left and little more than half a year on Diesel. Wanting to get the big stuff done while we have fuel as after that a lot of our tasks will get much more labor intensive.
Next game might be a feast and the GM has done a LOT of number crunching and we should be able to gloss over most of the background stuff. Still most players will not have much free time and that limits his opportunities for running an entertaining game for everyone.

Friday (GURPS Technomancer)
We did a restart as the GM felt his initial idea wasn't going to work out very well so rebuilt our characters. The two of us are now playing field agents for the FBI in the generic 1980s.
We did the character building during the week and this was a short couple of roleplaying scenes of our characters getting to know each other.

Saturday (Dresden Files, Fate)
Our off week for that campaign.

Sunday (MagicVegas, GURPS Thaumatology and Political Intrigue)
My character Dr. Wu got to meet the remaining PC and had more screen time, though still not really a part of the group yet. It felt like half the game was the Druid delegation working on their pet project of building a Other Worlds gate network for exploiting resources.  As next session Dr. Wu is supposed to meet with their lead delegate (already met his assistants, one of which is a PC) and I think her magic tradition has a world they would like access to this could be a hook for her getting more involved.
This is a tricky campaign to run as everyone is from a different magical tradition and we all are looking to push forward conflicting agendas.  Most campaigns players are a team, here were more rivals that sometimes have to work together.
I made some work on updating my tradition (Taoism) for Book/Path but spent most of the time for that campaign on learning more about its magic system (Book/Path from GURPS Thaumatology) which has a lot of house rules and tweaks.
I also need to figure out more about what fetishes' (special magic items) she has and hope to have that all done by next game.


My GURPS published material (plus some Kickstarter stuff not showing up there)
GURPS Powers: Totem and Nature Spirits had a bump in sales this past month which was nice.
The friend I am trying to help with his Shadowrun and Earth Dawn conversion has ben exploring Sorcery, Book/Path, Ritual Path Magic, and my Affinity magic system and seems to be settling in on Affinity magic. I did not update the grimoire (Chapter 3 of my personal players draft) but did come up with a few ideas in trying to tweak it for him.  One of those ideas is adding Threshold Magic from GURPS Thaumatology blended with Corruption and a custom backlash or soak mechanic.
Also got a bit of inspiration for my Social Magic system that was originally inspired by the Dragon Knight series by Gordon R. Dickinson but which has taken on a life far beyond my initial concept.


Speaking of my magic systems, I now have at various stages of development: Affinity Magic, Symbol Enchantment, Sigil Magic, Social Magic, Spirit Magic, Shamanic Powers, and Faerie Magic, 
Hopefully you will get to see all of them someday!

General GURPS Stuff

Not much new this week, but Gaming Ballistic has released early copies of its Bestiary to backers. It is REALLY nice!

Thursday, February 10, 2022

The Gift of Knowledge

 Supernatural Knowledge and Research

There are several advantages that can grant knowledge in GURPS, though most are going to give vague answers. Blessed and Oracle take an hour each and typically come from a deity, though other possibilities such as Oracle (Digital) are an option. Precognition and Psychometry let you see through the curtains of time. Visualization can be used for a skill bonus, possibly representing supernatural or cinematic focus. Finally Allies, Contacts and Patrons can provide valuable information.

That is all well and good and especially good for the GM who can use these abilities to create plot hooks or clue the players in on a promising lead. But waht about providing more details or answers to specific questions?  Magic has a lot of options, so why not Powers or something else?

The Akashic Records

The Akashic Records store all knowledge, events, thoughts, words, literraly everything that has or will ever occur. It originated from an Indian word Akasha found in scripture and later defined by the Theosophical Society. A similar concept comes from the Australian aboriginal people in their explanation for the Dreamtime. The 42 Tablets of Knowledge owned by Thoth (Ancient Egypt) were said to possess all knowledge of the universe. Gnositic magicians believed in a universal consciousness that could be explored. So we can see that the concept of all knowledge residing in a special place, state of being or reality, or even an object is cross cultural and actually pretty common.
GURPS Thaumatology: Ritual Path Magic even has a spell called Hall of Records (p. 44) inspired by this concept and submitted by yours truly.
How to do something like this without magic though?
Blessed, Very Blessed, and Oracle give only vague information, except possibly on critical successes. Precognition has the similar problem and is limited to events.
We should probably have an enabling advantage such as Blessed, Oracle (Akashic Records), or Jumper (Spirit) to access this storehouse. Dreaming or Meditation seem like appropriate skills, possibly a special version of Research (Akashic Records) to find and interpret the information. We could then make a skill roll and the GM assign a penalty. 

Determine the penalty!

This can done by GM fiat, based off how widely known the desired information is or something else. One option is to borrow from the New Inventions rules (p. B473) using the Concept modifiers. So if the question were deemed Simple the roll is -6 (-0), Average -10 (-2), Complex -14 (-4), and Amazing -22 (-8) with the second lower penalty requiring Researcher (see below). This takes a full day per question or 1d*10 minutes with Researcher. These skill penalties can be pretty hefty so Time Spent for a bonus is often a good idea and bonuses from complimentary skills or other knowledge may be needed.
Determining the Complexity level can be pretty tough but the skill and price listings offer a decent guide. Broader questions with vague answers should be easier, especially if they forward the plot! 

Patron God of Knowledge

A god of knowledge, powerful A.I., programed database searching program, even a cooperative spirit or ghost could be purchased as an Ally, Contact, or Patron and provide information. Ally is typically for combat but even a low cost Ally can have incredible skills and abilities to find things out. Contacts are limited to one skill or wildcard, Contact groups increase cost but cover related skills GURPS Social Engineering: Keeping in Contact expands on Contacts and is useful here. In particular the modifiers Disparate, +25%; Highly Accessible, +25%; Patient, +20%; Less Helpful, varies are all useful here. Patrons should have Minimal Intervention, -50% or something similar if all they do is provide information.


25 or 50 points
You have an innate knack when it comes to finding things out. When using Research, exploring your subconscious for clues using Meditation or Dreaming, phrasing search phrases, or even questioning supernatural powers your ability significantly reduces penalties and saves time. Use the rules for Gadgeteer or Quick Gadgeteer (p. B56, and pp. B475-477) for Analyzing a device, accessing the Akashic Records or similar things. Where those rules do not specifically apply, halve the typical penalties to find your answers. This can take the Focused, -50% limitation when applied to a single area such as questions about magic or a particular science.


This wildcard skill completely subsumes Research and replaces Computer Operation, Dreaming, Forensics, Intelligence Analysis, Interrogation, Meditation, and any other skill when it comes to sifting through data, poking through books, or even asking people the right question.
Wildcard Benefits: Exchange points for Favors in Play for information only. Powering abilities bought with Costs Character Points, or reaching Contacts for information requests. If purchased at IQ counts as Gadgeteer and Quick Gadgeteer at IQ+3 for analyzing devices or researching plans for an invention. Alternatively grants Researcher instead of Gadgeteer.
Full Bonus: Offsets penalties for Time spent when using the above skills.
Half Bonus: Apply the half bonus to IQ rolls when using Blessed, Very Blessed, Oracle, Precognition, or Psychometry to find answers.


Information abilities can short circuit mysteries and bypass obstacles so are often feared by GMs. However they can also greatly help when used appropriately, such as when players are stuck or missed a vital clue the GM wanted found. Another important consideration is that often information gathering is a time consuming task and a solitary one!  So while one player is gathering valuable information the rest are sitting idly by. If the player and the GM are entertaining about it this is typically good with the players, but if its boring, takes too long, or feel they have no stake in the results it can ruin a game session. Consequently these abilities often just come down to a few die rolls in play, where in a book or show they are often an important part of the entertainment. Also many of these advantages and skills require substantial pint investments.

A good GM needs to work with the information based player and both have mutual trust so that quick die rolls handle routine matters or speed up pacing when needed but the player still has their time in the spotlight. Remember any player who invests a lot of points in something, expects to get good value for those points and a good GM will either forbid those abilities upfront or honor the social contract.
It is also helpful to not consider this an adversarial task that bypasses the carefully set up plot or mystery but enhances it and makes it more interesting for everyone. This last bit takes practice and GM creativity, but if you can master that skill your games will be much more fun for everyone involved - including you.

Saturday, February 5, 2022

My Week in Gaming

 This is the first of this type of post and so it shall be a bit longer. The day of the week might change but its hard to find the perfect day.

I shall cover my games, writing, and whatever seems relevant in these (hopefully) weekly posts.


I am currently playing in 4 campaigns. This is fun but has derailed some of my other activity, along with other things that have come up.
Monday is normally A Thousand Tiny Gods or ATTG but were on hiatus as one of the players was saddled with a lot of overtime over the holidays, actually putting him the hospital. The temporary replacement is a Hylen campaign for which I blogged a bit on Realm management and is a fun campaign that started as a one shot and we play a couple times a week.
The campaign is fun but hit or miss as one of the players is unsatisfied with various retcons and changes and that carries over. The players and GM are fun to hang with and when the game is on its great. When it crashes I get depressed for a few days.
Friday is a new campaign. The GM is running a noncinematic Technomancer campaign. We have had one session and a couple of session 0s, lost a player, the GM is trying to learn Foundry as we go and get used to running again. Its rough but has potential and I expect it to work out.
Saturday every other week (roughly) is the only non GURPS game.  Dresden Files using FATE.  Good group, love the setting. It has had a few rough spots where we had too many players but things seem to have settled down and I generally like it.
Sunday another every other week campaign. Been a very slow start as my character was premade and already in a game thats been running for two years.  Taken me awhile to get a good grasp of what is going on and how the character works. I spent most of the first few games just listening while everyone else did something and my character was not involved.  the last two sessions my character started formally meeting people and hopefully she will become more active in the game. Its a political intrigue game with Book/Path magic - a system I never played with before and heavily tweaked.


I have GURPS Template Toolkit: Spirits still waiting its turn in playtest behind GURPS Fantasy Folk: Goblins and Hobgoblins (Phil Masters), and GURPS Fantasy Folk: Winged Folk (Anders Starmark) and hope to see it get some eyeballs in April. Who knows though.
I have my next project waiting to pitch, think I need to wait till after my book is done with the Final Draft though. So hopefully I can pitch that by the end of the year. Its going to be short and very light on crunch, a change from most of my material.
Working on a magic system for a friend who wants to do something based on Earth Dawn and Shadowrun but were having trouble (me and another writer) trying to understand what he really wants and help him with it.  However its helping me reevaluate some of my magic systems, especially Affinity Magic which I just rewrote the intro for and had an inspiration on how to streamline two systems into one.  It was loosely based on Book/Path magic and Ritual Magic (Not RPM) with a dash of Realm magic thrown in. I just figured out how to use one system with two different methods of casting that feels like a nice blend of everything.  Now I need to go rewrite my grimoire to work with the changes.
GURPS Powers: Totem and Nature Spirits continues to trickle out a couple of sales each month, after being out for 2 years or so that feels kinda nice. Its a very niche book but an important part of upcoming projects.


Speaking of my magic systems, I now have at various stages of development: Affinity Magic, Symbol Enchantment, Sigil Magic, Social Magic, Spirit Magic, Shamanic Powers, and Faerie Magic, 
Hopefully you will get to see all of them someday!

General GURPS Stuff

Mook died :( 
Lost several good people these past two years and I am getting rather tired of it. Sadly at this stage of life it just will happen more and more, till its my turn.
Depression from COVID, deaths, struggles with my health, the VA, politics, etc. have made the pat few years very exhausting and its hurt my work on some projects. For example the W23 Digital Speculation Thread got behind because I broke the code and as I was reluctant to ask the owner of the code to fix my mistake it got way behind while I kept tweaking it trying to fix it and I never got over the hump to restart it last year. No one volunteered for this year so I need to get at it.
Gaming Ballistic has released a GREAT Bestiary, and though GURPS has several already this is a very welcome addition and its expansive.
I am eagerly waiting on two other projects to be released that I hope will bring a nice influx of players.

Thursday, February 3, 2022

Realm Management: New Widdershins Part 2

 OK, lets take a look at possible modifiers shall we?

Able Populace, +25% Could fit as a greater portion of our population is able and willing to work towards building our community.  later on this may settle down though as survivors age and new children are born.

Advanced Infrastructure, +25%/level to buy up our IR rating would be very useful and likely considering we have a very good city planner and are building from scratch at TL8 so can plan ahead. Not something we have now though, unless the GM says it works with our initial vehicle and equipment are impressive. Sure we have no roads but the land for the town itself is pretty flat and we have a gadgeteer and several excellent mechanics to modify say our snow plow into a grader, a tanker water truck, and other options.

Clear Routes, +10%/level for good roads. Certainly planning on good roads!

Conventional Populace, +2%/level for a level or two seems appropriate.

Defensible Terrain, +10%/level is pretty much a must have for the valley as described. Surrounded by mountains with 3 narrow passes we can pretty easily fortify.

Educated Populace, +10%/level seems like a must.

Famous for (), varies is something for the future. The NPC from an organization called the Guard has been very impressed with our town and plans on recommending them to the Guard for recruiting. Further we have very rare individuals in our population; a necromancer (untrained), a RPM mage with a legendary book as his teacher, a gadgeteer, and perhaps most famous and desirable of all a world walker with the blood of the ancients who can thus activate ancient technology. It might have enough of an effect early on that we should get this and its something I would like to see our town further develop.

Fertile Territory, +15%/level Represents more fertile or arable land than normal. We dont know the long term conditions but  given what we have seen so far this seems very likely. Especially since it is for just a small realm. Also we have a river running the entire length of the realm and advanced irrigation should not be a problem.

Habitable Land, +10%/step is pretty much a must have.

High TL, +25% (or less)/level seems likely given that NPC teaching the gadgeteer. Also with such a small population we can start education early on advanced tech compared to a more established and large realm.

Higher Quality of Life, +25/level I am planning on making this town a wonderful place to live and very comfortable for everyone.  I doubt the other players want different so this might also be taken.

Ideal Climate, +10$ or +50% Too early to know and so will be totally up to the GM to decide.

Loyal Citizenry, +15%/step This fits the current situation and works with my personal long term plans. Up to the group and especially the GM though.

Quick Deployment, +20%/level (up to four) represents our citizen militia and could be added.

Reflexive Realm, +5%level for a very responsive govt is useful and easier with a smaller realm.

Unique Resource, +100% We have something called the Pillar of Creation which is a super science ancient tech matter converter. It can only be operated by one PC and his brother, both so far reluctant to use it but its potentially very powerful if it gets used. Our NPC guide/exposition person knew what it was right away and basically said we just stuck gold. This could be a temporary boon and after our group leaves or the brothers die (hopefully of old age a long time from now) its useless.  But they may have kids who carry the gene (though its more on the mothers side) or word gets around and someone else comes to live here (as opposed to an invasion) who has heard of it the town may continue to keep it.

Scarce Resource, -25%/type If the Pillar of Creation remains unused we are likely lacking access to many minerals needed to sustain a TL8 society.  Also are currently light on dairy and breeding meat, though very possible we can solve that as we explore the local terrain.

Realm Management: New Widdershins

 GURPS Realm Management  is a supplement that lets a gamemaster create a "realm" with some fairly simple stats that can be used as background flavor or part of a political type campaign. Players can even play the leaders of different realms as a competitive political campaign. As a playtester I built a couple of kingdoms for my Chalice World setting using it.

In one of my current games our group are playing leaders of a band of refugees from a small town in Colorado in modern day that escaped from a world ending event by Elder Things. The group just reached a nice place ot settle down and build anew and the GM will use GURPS Realm Management to help run this portion of the campaign. So lets see what happens....

Starting Out

The valley we have arrived at is a modest one, about 10 miles across and maybe 50 miles long with a river running from a north pass to a south pass and a small lake in the middle. We had several days to ransack our old town for supplies before the gate to this world was complete and picked up more supplies from a National Guard Armory along the way here. Oh, the valley is somewhere along the trunk of the world tree and magic is now a thing.
Were going to say our new town is about 50 square miles for a realm Size Value of +6.
Our population is 306 people, money is kinda weird at this point  but lets base it on our old standard, especially since it most impacts our starting costs. lets say average wealth for $2,600/month.
Our base value (p. 29) is thus $1,560.
Adding up our collective  goods we have $2,214,494 plus a bunch of vehicles and material not currently priced. This includes a lot of canned and dry goods as we had planned for a long trip with no idea what the terrain was going to be like. Frankly our vehicles could have been a waste too but they helped us haul as much as we could during the short time we could keep the gate open. We basically piled everyone and everything we could into vehicles and lined them up like the starting line at NASCAR or something then rushed the gate when it opened.
Starting Resource Points cost (Base Value *0.5) or $780 each, giving us a whopping 2,839 RP to be divided up among Agriculture Points, Luxury Points, Natural Resource Points, and Workforce Points. That influx of capital makes sense for spending heavily on starting resources to build our town. One might wonder why or how it should apply to Natural Resource Points but consider that it helps us get what we want out of the ground or water in a quicker manner than if we had fewer people or less equipment. Also processing it will be much easier with our tools, generators, and solar panels.

Misc Starting Stats

Lets list some general stats before getting to the meat of building New Widdershins.
Population: 306 all healthy and mobile. We do not need ot worry about carrying capacity at this point as we have plenty of food stores and the land is likely to support a much larger population once we start farming.
Citizen Loyalty: Very Good (+3) seems appropriate here. Leadership just saved about 1/3 of the old town from an apocalypse and the towns people are remarkably resilient, self reliant, and practical. We also have that small town loyalty to each other and everyone is wanting to work for the common good, at least for now.
Infrastructure Rating: 0 Not good! This gives us -5 (improvised equipment) for most things.
Control Rating: 2 is I think about right, we have a frontier situation but a strong leader in the town sheriff and he has 23 deputies and staff for 7% of the population. People are also used to obeying the laws of modern USA.
Conformity Rating: ConR3 fits our town pretty well, though an easy argument for ConR4 could be made.
Openness Rating: OR4 Mildly Open is the highest we can have without spending anything so lets call it that.
Government Type: Right now it is arguably Anarchy with a small group of leaders most of the town respect and trust to get things done and keep them alive. We will probably go to a representative Democracy like everyone is used to at some point.
Economy Type: Traditional is probably where we are at for now.
Education Rating: Should be 4 based on TL8 but our town seems very educated and includes a lot of military vets.
Management Skill: Default is 12 but we have high point leaders and overall a lot of very competent people in town. Each +1 costs +5% to Realm Value and we likely have Usually Reliable Management for another  +25%.
Habitality: Good (14; +1) We just got here so don't know the seasons but we have a couple of people with Naturalist so can make a good guess. Excellent fishing, something called pig apples that are very plentiful (kinda like potatos), nearby forest with game (already hunted some deer), and plains grass that smells like water melon and is edible. We also brought some grain of our own and have chickens for eggs and eventually meat. Plus cats and dogs to keep vermin under control.
Reaction-Time Modifier (RTM): +1; Adding things up we get 0 from TL8, +1 from Management Skill, and +0 from Complexity for a net +1.


That gives us a starting point.  Next up are modifiers and tweaking the numbers above as the GM provides more input (or GM Fiat).  I'll likely post some of that tomorrow.