Saturday, September 7, 2019

CT: Shattered Worlds, The Siamese Syndicate, One-Shot


Need a Traveller Encounter Fast? Here is one for the harried Referee; (made using the Augmented Reality city kit!)
A New Plot for the next group of Pcs: The PC's are confronted by mysterious deaths in their concourse and are motivated to find the answer. A.C.M.W screamsheets are on the story. 
What’s going on: Rob ‘Infidel’ Castro, per orders from the Siamese Syndicate, a fixer network, is testing the “Acoustic Weapon Sensor for the Nordeast Corporation. It is being kept at a Nordeast Safehouse(???). And is triangulating a “field of death” around the Nelson Hale Block off of Cruikshank Concourse. Nordeast hopes to buy a minor nation state on the restricted planet of Port Prince Peace.
Angry Citizens Media Web, a pro-labor propaganda outlet. ACMW is trying to uncover the cause of these deaths. They have a lead on this Siamese Syndicate.
Local Conflict: Castro is experiencing TREACHERY. The Angry Citizens Media Web possibly infiltrated the Siames Syndicate fixer network and are trying to uncover the Accoustic Weapon Sensor tests which are killing their friends and neighbors.
Fixer Network "Boss":
Shaven head, wears grey suit, bulky, and sombre. He is obsessed with "zone" dancing in public places. Secretly employed by the Huron corporation, follows their instructions acting as a Siamese Syndicte diploment.
Area Event: Development/Investment leading to Rapidly Escilating Fatalities from the McGuffin.
McGuffin: Accoustic Weapon Sensor is causing the fatalities.
Where is this all located? Vanders Colony Dome 1, Cruikshank Concourse, Nelson Hale Building, as well as the Bio-sculpt sex studio Aztechnology, in ARchLuxury Apartments building complex.
Nelson Hale is mostly 2’s and 4’s (apartment type), pumped of course.
Current Events; Oil spill on Cruikshank has caused an Agit-Pop Flash Demonstration led by the Copy Catz. Ad-Lib is looking for “Infidel” Castro. He thinks he might know something about what’s going on.
NPC Names: Bashar Ad-Lib; ACMW Reporter,
Boris Yelpin’; Ad-Lib’s camerman
Dilemmas Dangers, Gang Leader of Copy Catz
Wes Dekine, Siamese Syndicate Boss
Dot Avi, Siamese Syndicate Boss
Salted Hashbrowns, Nordeasat Corp. Scientist
Uetake Kunio, Nordeast Corp. Agent
Greto Giles; Nelson Hale Urchin
Tarzan Lopez; Cruikshank Concourse scavanger
Opening Sounds: Police band radio, “Attention mobile unit. Confidential informant advises possible facilitation. Sending Threat-Let. Suspect cover is Wes Dekine, uploading profile dump, no further information. Please respond.”
Gang in the neighborhood: The Copy Catz, composed of 24d10 members led by an adult, . They fight with mixed weapons and their tactics tend towards assault and flank. The gang's primary reason for being is Political (Conservative); they love gambling and HATE daylight! The gang's symbol is two cat skulls facing each other. Gang memebers tend to wear yellow/gold attire. They usually have music from the latest Agit-Band. When first encountered, their initial reaction will be hostile, watch and wait for attack of opportunity. You encounter 3 members hanging out on a corner.
The Gang: Dilemmas Dangers (leader), C8A6B7, light auto, not skilled.
Gangmember Stats; 777773,
Hot Swap, Mad Dog, Booker Numbers, Bad Hayes, Gay Nava, Commodore 69, Computer-1.
Then there are 120 more soldiers of the line which need calling up from Cruikshank neighborhood.
Random Encounters:

Encounter 1 (Pest Control)

Blood-Matted Fitz-Trap, a dangerous predator found on the Skalvil wastes. 4HP, Bite (1d6). What the frak is it doing in the dome? A Copy Catz foolishly brought one back after field trials of the A.W.S. His body is nearby. What do the Copy Catz have to do with wild animals?

Encounter 2 (Hot Cyber Goods)

Urchin Greto Giles14 DEX, 4HP, Knife (d6). She is leading a Scavenger Tarzan Lopez 2HP, Taser (d8 stun damage) to try and sell their cybermodem. Essential part to the AWS. Copy Catz, on Infidel’s orders, are tracking them down. The pair look nervous. As if they know what they have is hot, dangerous goods.

Encounter 3 (Residents pleading for help)

Body Pit: Copy Catz members are disposing of jellied bodies in the Nelson Hale Block.

Encounter 4 (Hot and ready to rock)

Eviction Squad: Roll random reaction to see how it goes down. 1d10+SS+Int=stand down #. They are juiced and ready to pop!

Encounter 5 (Breaking & Entering) Exploitable for entry; Samuel Gompers Building.

Working for Needful to dispense street hygene. Security techs to silence the persistent alarm. These are possible angles to get access into the building. Needful Hygiene Dispensers: You will be deployed to a building lobby or reception area, and sometimes you'll operate in the street, where you will remain for the duration of the gig. You will be supplied with a paper coverall, nitrile gloves and a 20L back-mounted tank full of hand sanitiser, or other germicidal, dispensed by trigger pump to hygiene conscious citizens. You may leave your patch once you've run out of gel. Pay is docked per 500ml remaining at the end of your shift. The tank must be returned in good condition, but the gloves and coverall are yours to keep.

Encounter 6 (News scoop!)
Angry Citizens Media Web (ACMW link-95)reporter Bashar Ad-Lib and his camera man is onto the story. He wants to try and find the source and is looking for people handy with sensor equipment and electronic counter-measures to do some triangulation.
What is happening at ARchLuxury Apartments, 10 floors, malfunctioning alarm, a crime scene, the building looks gothic, pristine. Remote Assistants grant access. Eyeball recognition. The whole thing is encased in plastic siding.



Friday, September 6, 2019

OSR XP Awards Expanded

The conceit of XP for gold in Dungeons & Dragons is to incentivize adventuring. To face unknown peril in the hopes of in-game rewards. And since then DMs and PCs have argued for and have given XP for behavior outside of wealth accumulation. A great example of this mechanic is found in TSR’s Marvel Super Heroes. The game incentivizes heroic action by awarding “Karma” points. The spending of Karma point values by the PC is then used to turn in-game failures into successes for the hero. Do more heroic stuff during the game and your PC continues to enhance their ability to successfully pull off heroic stuff! Play it safe (and decidedly non-heroic) and the PC will not have a means to pull the proverbial fat out of the fire when the stakes are nigh insurmountable.



And there I have let the XP for gold standard lay. The end-all and be-all means of OSR-character advancement, while expanded means of character advancement I accepted in any other game as well as the conceit implied. I mean, I never had reason to change OSR experience awards. Sure it forced me to become oblivious to standard economic reality in my fantasy settings, and what it would require for in-game financial management, let alone where are the staggering tall stacks of cash being kept! But I was young, impressionable and really didn’t care. My sandbox DM hands were kept out of meddling with value judgments and in-game awards outside of the prescribed method.


But now I am older and game time is not had everyday. It is three times a month or less. Me and my players will be long dead before multiple campaign worlds will be played out and characters risen to heroic, high fantastic deeds if I kept XP count strictly on coin. Besides, my interest in player motivation and player-driven goals leads to no other conclusion than XP awards for goals, activities and actions.

My current OSR campaign, the Dying Earth of Rom’Myr, started as a genre-enforcing thought experiment by restricting PC class. Basically house-ruling the character creation rules to suit the game worlds genre. Without diving into too much detail, here is the long and short of it. Decidedly pulp-flavored fantasy the default class is Thief. Good attributes qualify the budding PC for any of the other six character classes available. But restricting character class wasn’t going to get my desire across. That of incentivizing PC play inline with genre tropes typical of the literature.

For this task I had to offer up XP awards for actions and behaviors. For example, I wanted the PCs to take a look at some great indie-OSR product as well as take faction affiliation more seriously. Therefore I offered 250 points for a god from the Petty-Gods compendium at character creation. Completing “jobs” for Patrons gave more XP than just their financial award. Achieving party-agreed upon goals generated XP awards, causing story-appropriate reactions and results gained XP, engaging with the campaign world’s people and places gains XP.

How these XP’s are rated and distributed has been an ongoing experiment, really just giving out group XP rewards for great game play. Here is a good example of my evolving thought on these XP awards. The PCs placed a modest wager on a racing long shot. They then involved themselves mightily in the races intrigue and double-dealing to orchestrate a win! Against all odds the PCs slapped their marker down at the betting window, achieving an 8,000 dollar win! Except the poor never win in Rom’Myr. Just like the real world, when the powers that be are denied they call foul and cancel the payout! No gold, no XP. I did not like this, not one bit. So the crown and cathedral confiscated the “fairly” won spoils. Why do the PCs get no XP? The players themselves achieved an amazing in-game feat, one worthy of cataloging in any dying earth tale. So I gave the party the 8,000 XP.

Look, I want my players to succeed. That is why I don’t fudge to-hit and damage rolls. It makes those miraculous rolls, those narrow odds achieved, really memorable. I also don’t want them to toil endlessly for thousands of coin to achieve heroic stature and reputation. The geometric expansion of XP totals forces me to litter the game world with ridiculous treasure caches otherwise. Screw that noise. Specifically, cash and gems generates instant XP. Items of value must be converted into cash before XP is awarded. Pulling off risky actions typical of the genre grants individual awards. Now I am rewarded by having good players. Players who “do stuff”. They most likely would play in-character even without artificial XP awards. But sometimes they want to play it safe, drift away from trouble and take the road more traveled to save their hides. Turning up the possible XP available makes ignoring new, dangerous hooks and threads just that more harder. That the call to adventure, and its awards, can be found in completing well known tropes and attitudes. I think rewarding the PCs for completing goals agreed upon by the party the most satisfying of all. This “rapid” advancement drives the game with a fast pace, the other great ingredient marking a good game. This idea of additional XP awards driving pace is something for another blog post itself. Suffice to say, reward your PCs for doing stuff. Not just with coin and magic. But with meaningful XP awards.

Gambling Mechanic for your Online OSR Game

A great roadside attraction thrills your fantasy players. The promise of unexpected boons and banes from carnival games is a thrill not unlike gambling. Most tavern encounters and back-alley interactions are spiced up with an odd game of chance or ridiculous custom being played out. In a FTF game going “all-in” with a game of cash poker can be done in real time if the DM and PCs agree. While not necessary, the “game-within-a-game” has not uncommon interest for your average gamer. Just like a mass combat encounter where the DM and players through down miniture armies and work out the fight with a table-top wargame, so to can gambling games be so straightforwardly delivered.

Image result for fantasy tavern characters

Not so online. The DM can’t whip out a deck of cards and start dealing, all the while laying out house-rules. Falling back on the hobby’s early improvisational roots, you can roll out both use real gambling games to play for a winner. Online, not so much.

Besides the physical barrier to play, if some PCs are in to gaming while others want to move on to other goals this can cause disruption in play for everyone if the games of chance take too long. I therefore conjured up a quick way to resolve exotic card games while retaining a reusable mechanic which gives the thrill of hitting a payout!

For my occasion I came up with a poker game called “Dragon Master”, and resolved it thusly; any PC who wants to play a hand must put up an ante. This is added with all other antes to give the starting “pot”. The DM decides how many additional players are so the number is correct. Now each PC must Save vs. Poison to get a playable hand, a hand worth betting on. If not then the PC looses their ante and must wait for another round to play. The NPC’s the players are gambling against never roll for a playable hand. This set up is completely player-facing. If only one PC is gaming against others than rolling for a playable hand is straight forward. Roll your Poison Save till you succeed. Pay the amount of antes equal to the number of hands you were “dealt” before you stayed in.

Now the PCs declare their wagers and roll to win. This is resolved with an attribute roll. The PCs are free to choose from Intelligence, Wisdom or Charisma. Both the DM and any active PC players roll a d20. Winner is the highest number without going over their chosen attribute. Rolling over your attribute represents folding, losing in a showdown, however the PCs and DM want to role play the encounter. There is nothing in the way for any amount of role play PCs want to do because the final dice roll always gives you the winner.

I give my PCs xp for every bit of cash they win, even if they loose it all in following hands. Nothing sharpens a card player like taking a few beatings along the way! The improving saving throw with character advancement complements the idea of a more experienced traveler and adventurer getting mre playable hands. Face it, good card players are more than likely to have had a wide variety of wordly experiences, and PC level is a good representation of this in game terms. The d20 throw against attribute counts both the edge a character may have with high numbers while at the same time these flat rolls can also throw surprises!

So, to recap;

1. Place your ante.
2. Roll save versus poison to continue, or loose ante.
3. A saved ante now must be wagered on, PCs still in declare their wagers.
4. Roll d20. Highest number without going over attribute wins.
5. Repeat.



Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Into the Dark: Bryce Lynch's Adventure Design Tips Summarized and...

Into the Dark: Bryce Lynch's Adventure Design Tips Summarized and...: What follows is a second attempt to briefly encapsulate the tips and principles for designing adventures presented by the inestimable Bryce...


Monday, July 25, 2016


Bryce Lynch's Adventure Design Tips Summarized and Explained (Mark 2)

What follows is a second attempt to briefly encapsulate the tips and principles for designing adventures presented by the inestimable Bryce Lynch in his singularly fantastic adventure review blog, Ten Foot Pole. This is basically the same as my previous postsummarizing the principles from Bryce's reviews of The Hoard of the Dragon Queen and The Rise of Tiamat, but with some minor edits to improve the felicity of expression (ahem).

Summarized and Explained

1. General Tips: The 5 C’s

1. Color: The referee should give brief but evocative descriptions of locations, monsters, NPCs, and treasures. Avoid the vague or generic.
2. Context: In order for their actions to be significant and purposeful, players must generally have some information about the likely consequences of their actions, such as likely reactions of monsters or NPCs.
3. Choice: There should be more than one course of action available to players in order for the adventure to continue. Avoid choke points—both literal choke points in the physical layouts of dungeons and other locations, and figurative choke points which require a unique decision or solution in order for the adventure to proceed.
4. Consequences: Player actions should be allowed to make a real difference in the adventure and in the campaign. Avoid a set storyline or sequence of events immune to player interference.
5. Creativity: Related to (3) and (4), reward player creativity by allowing them to pursue unanticipated courses of action or to produce unanticipated consequences, rather than restricting player action and player creativity by setting up arbitrary constraints in the location layout or course of events.

2. Hooks

6. Don’t rely on a single hook; use multiple kinds (treasure; reward; magic; glory; political power).
7. Create a rumor table with hooks and color.
8. Hooks should appeal to the players, not just to their characters.
9. Hooks can and should be complex or nuanced, such as working for an evil NPC or working for rival factions.
10. To support sandbox play, dungeon, town, and wilderness locations, monsters, and NPCs should all have hooks.

3. Locations (Dungeons, Towns, Wilderness, etc.)

11. Location descriptions should be terse (not verbose) but evocative (not boring, obvious, or generic).
12. Only include background info that affects gameplay; avoid long descriptions of irrelevant info.
13. Rooms should have features that players can interact with to produce meaningful consequences. Give concrete descriptions of secret doors, traps, etc.
14. Floor plan tips:
             a. Multiple routes (vs. choke points or linear, one-way paths).
             b. Multiple entrances and exits.
             c. Multiple stairs per floor.
             d. Open spaces with balconies, galleries, and ledges at various elevations.
             e. Pools and rivers that connect different rooms or levels.
             f. Bridges and ladders.

4. Monsters and NPCs

15. Create interesting, believable motivations for monsters and NPCs.
16. Create factions of monsters and NPCs, which leads to a dynamic, interconnected strategic situation.
17. Give players the choice of allying with, attacking, trading with, or having other relationships with monsters and NPCs.
18. Create schedules, routines, tactics, or orders of battle for monsters and NPCs.
19. Wandering monsters too should be given motives, goals, hooks, and tactics.
20. Avoid standard monsters. Failing that, describe standard monsters in a non-standard way (e.g., don’t just name the species).
21. Give evocative descriptions of monsters. Give concrete descriptions of their appearance and activities. Go for the telltale sensory detail, rather than the generic abstract trait. Show, don’t tell.
Example: Instead of stating “One of the guards in the camp is a cruel bully,” say “The burly Manfred takes a leak on Tobias’s bedroll, and then snatches Tobias’s roasted chicken from his hand and quickly gobbles it down.”
22. Use truly evil monsters to evoke a Sense of Terror.

5. Treasure

23. Treasure should be valuable enough to motivate players and to make the challenges worthwhile.
24. Non-magical treasure should relate to the setting and give clues or information about monsters, NPCs, locations, etc.
25. Avoid standard magic items.
26. Give evocative descriptions of magic items. Give concrete descriptions of their appearance and how they must be manipulated to produce their magical effects.
27. Use magic items to evoke a Sense of Wonder.

6. Format and Functionality

28. Include reference tables:
a. Rumor/hook table.
b. Monster/NPC table that lists their main traits, motivations, location, etc.
c. Room/building table that lists the rooms in a dungeon or other keyed location.
29. In published modules, put maps and monster stats on separate sheets so they are easy to refer to in play.
30. On maps, use keyed symbols to indicate standard features (e.g., lit/unlit, locked/unlocked, secret, trapped, etc.), rather than a verbal description in the location key.

Monday, August 12, 2019

The Rom'Myr Drawing pad

I've picked up the pen in an attempt to draw my way out of VTP paying for game art. Matter of fact my soon to be released first ever OSR module is stacked with my drawings. These are not them. Drawing practice consists of sketches from my online OSR Dying Earth Campaign. Here is a mix of PCs and NPCs, very few pictured worked so far considering the amount of NPC interaction the group has had in ten sessions.












Sunday, August 11, 2019

Don't use Camtasia and Review Opportunities for the Interested

AA03 Purging Woth Nrld Oekwn's Muddy Hole is now in the editors hands, the Lulu files completed, proof ordered to inspect layout and graphic design issues! When final draft is uploaded I will want to offer PDF copies for interested reviewers. Richard Leblanc gets his own copy obviously. I used his illo's and stats for several monsters from Big Dragon Games CC1 Creatures Companion. 

The inclusion of creatures from this OSR packed bestiary guarantees your players will have some surprises. Nothing chills a player more than confronting a brand new species of monster! 

So, if you see yourself actually using this short adventure for an upcoming crawl I am happy to distribute. Email me at jay-at-vanishingtowerpress.com.

In other news; 

The audio production of my last live game session is complete, at least as far as I intend to take it. I should have just stripped the audio like I did at first and be done with it. Time involved properly editing an audio project is a time sink like you wouldn't believe. Camtasia is nothing special except a two hundred fifty price tag! There are solid, free screen capture and video editing software choices. Search around and review. You will find something which suits your needs easily.

With AA03 mostly in the bag work can resume on Deluxe USR Sword & Sorcery. My work that is. Daniel Hernandez is still working on his fantastic line illo's but the previews he has sent me are amazing! Adventure drafting and setting guide drafting are the predominate work right now. Everything is now kind of assembled on a cork board of lines like a police investigation. Slowly you see parallel paths of work start to merge towards a finished product. Like driving a new road and suddenly finding yourself at your destination. 

Winter 2019-2020 looks to be a busy season for VTP releases, to see some of these long-simmering projects become adventure books for you to use!

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

YouTube/Hangouts Live Stream, What I did...

With the disconnect between Goggle Hangouts and YouTube's Live Event function I had to find another way to record my live sessions. I will miss the ability to Live Stream my sessions, but capturing the entire session on tape is my default DM notes I reference, establish canon with my players and use for verisimilitude in game session prep.  Much higher priority.




My first hit, and the only software I have used so far, was Camtasia. It sells for more than I want to spend, but with little time before the game I took advantage of the 30 day free trial and began to familiarize myself with its capabilities. It captures your computer screen and allows to edit this content and convert to video. This part of the software worked just fine. I hit record and did not hit stop until the three-hour session was over. Everything was there. Some spot editing and then I went for upload to YouTube. I believe the inevitable crash is due more to the capabilities of my laptop rather than Camtasia. Either way, it figures into Camtasia as a "no-buy" for me. Conversion from "project" to video file is expected to be slow, but it was going to be a ten-hour(?) process to upload. No way this works. But I tried a couple of times with a couple of different formats and unsurprisingly the process choked and "closed unexpectedly". I then stripped the audio from the video, added a title page, and then went for it. This time I had the format as avi. It went up rather quickly considering. Now I and the players can listen to the session replay at our leisure.

I really like the audio format. TTRPG's are theater of the mind anyways. As a fan of radio broadcasting it didn't take me long to warm up to the idea. I started dropping in images related to what was currently being described, but I'm not sold on that. Title Page, sure. If I do include images it will sparsely done.

So I get the original "tape", video and all, upload audio only. For now. And I still need to "cast" about for a more affordable option.