Let the Blood Flow!

In response to my previous post (We’re All Individuals!), our group has decided to play members of the Bleeders street-gang.*

Vicious, violent and vengeful, the Bleeders keep control of their turf using a little-known variation on Psychic abilities: Blood Magic! By tasting a mere drop of a person’s blood, a Bleeder can gain insight into who that person is, gain some of their traits or skills, track them across the city, and even cause them physical pain!

The hierarchy of Bleeders is run by Masters, who keep samples of their students’ blood, to better keep control over them. In return, the Master teaches the secrets of Blood Magic, giving the students the power to defeat their enemies, and protect gang turf!

The way this is represented in the System is that the Bleeders’ mundane skills are averagely costed, with no particular specialisation (6-10 pts per level), but their Psychic skills are a lot cheaper than the usual extortionate prices (10 rather than 25 pts per level)! They also get access to Bleeder-specific Psychic powers at the same cost.

With no specialist areas, and their main Skills being slightly expensive (compared to mundane skills), we can expect low-level Bleeders to be a little lacking in breadth, having sent a lot of their time (XP!) on Psychic/Magic skills. Our group will be starting at Level One, and also have a skill-cap of 3 (out of 5) ranks in any skill, and only progress one rank per Level in each skill. While this may sound as though everyone becomes very broad, with over 150 skills available, and the ability to use Bonus Points to specialise in a Skill Category, the players should be able to come up with some diverse characters.

The players will all be under the control of one Master, and have created the following characters:

The Wizard: Focusing on Psychic/Blood Magic, he has Mediumship (to speak with ghosts), Clairvoyance, Psychic Invisibility, and many other Powers! Apart from learning how to defend them self, using a quarter staff), everything has been put towards learning the secrets of their Psychic Powers!

The Hacker: Shunning Psychic abilities (for the most part), computer skills are their forte. Covering the wide range of talents needed to successfully attack a target system has left little room for much else. Their Master demands that they learn a little of The Art, and they are a practised knife-fighter, but beyond that, another Specialist.

The Doctor: Corporate-trained, but left on the streets. (Not much detail yet)

The Vampire: Genuinely believes that they are a vampire. Psychosomatic revulsion to garlic and crosses. Dislikes entering Holy Ground. Eloquent and charming, they are the group’s diplomat/negotiator.

Wizard, Cleric, Thief/Tech, Bard(?). All with a secondary in Fighting (as would be expected for a Violent Street Gang), and at least a minor in Blood Magic (as demanded by their Master). They have a range of skills to bring, and hopefully will be up to the challenge of surviving the mean streets of Manhattan 2080!

*Fates Worse Than Death RPG is set on Manhattan Island in 2080. The streets are all run by Gangs, of many varieties. Some have access to Psychic Powers. Others, nano-technology. Some are rich. Some have to rely on their wits alone!

We’re All Individuals!

Fates Worse Than Death
Fates Worse Than Death

Fates Worse Than Death, one of my favourite RPG settings, is based around the gangs of near-future Manhattan. Each player chooses which gang their PC is in, and usually this leads to a group containing several gangs. As it is meant to be a very socio-political game, gang relations are important, and having players from gangs that are actively hostile, or even non-allied, will at the very least produce problems for the players. This concept is not limited to FWTD. Vampire (and other White Wolf settings) had a similar issue, with the player-base usually being a cross-Clan group.

Our latest idea for a game is to have all players be part of the same gang. While this will alleviate the multi-gang issue, it does have its own problems. In FWTD, a PC’s character class is their Gang, and this defines their Skill Costs (similar to how in V:TM your Clan defines what skills and Disciplines you have access to). By having all PCs from the same gang, they will all have the same Skill Costs (e.g. All Crackers have access to INFO Skills at 5xp/rank, compared to most other Gangs paying 10xp/rank. Sexologists pay 13xp/rank for TECH skills, while Boarders pay only 6!). While this helps to enforce niche-protection between gangs, and reflects the lifestyle of gang-members focusing on skills relevant to their gang, it can lead to players all buying the same, or similar skills. The skills are in categories, so one Cracker might buy Cryptography, and another choose Information Smuggling, but neither are likely to pick up much BIO (costing 9xp/rank, compared to a Needle Punk paying just 4!).

Living on the streets
Living on the streets

Part of the idea for a single-gang game was to get away from the finely-tuned adventuring party that can cover all bases (known as “Who’s Playing The Cleric?”) and focus on a group of people who happen to come together, and must use what skills they bring. If the players are Crackers, their BIO skills will be relatively low, unless someone decides to dedicate a lot of XP towards it (lowering their other areas significantly). A Sexologist group will be poor at TECH, and even their specialist will struggle to match a mediocre Boarder without giving up a lot of other skills! This does sound interesting (at least to me, as the GM!), but persuading my players that they are not the bestest-at-everything may be quite an undertaking.

One thing that FWTD does have is Disciplines. Areas of training that any Ganger may take. While learning a Discipline, a PC pays the Discipline costs for skills, rather than Gang costs. e.g. a Cracker may choose to train as an EMT. During this time, they will only pay 5xp/rank for BIO skills, but must pay 10xp/rank for INFO skills (as they are no longer at the heart of the information network, or as closely associated with their comrades). Some Disciplines have a specific list of skills that receive lower costs, and some have requirements for advancing (To begin EMT training a PC must have Driving 1, Emergency Medicine 1, and to gain Level 2 must have at least Emergency Medicine 3, Surgery 2).

So, to allow my players to broaden, and cover some extra skill areas, I am thinking of starting them at Level 3 (notably experienced), with the option to take one of those levels in a Discipline.

Next is to decide which gang to be! With over 50 different options, from homeless street-kids to inked’n’pierced carny-folk to idle-rich extreme sports enthusiasts, what will my players go for? One would like to be a Sat-Jumper; blue-collar workers who are jetted to low-orbit to work on the innumerable satellites that keep the world running. Another likes the idea of Technophiles, each specialising in a different technology. Whichever we end up with, I’ll report on how the game progresses!

What Gang would you want to play? Or how would you deal with the issues of running a single-gang game? Have you played/run a game like this? Why not let me know!

Neverwinter (Reprise)

Neverwinter Nights
Neverwinter Nights

Spurred on by the Free Offer of Neverwinter Nights Diamond Edition on Good Old Games (Now over. You have to fork out the princely sum of £3.19!), I have hunted down the old server I used to play on.

Higher Ground PoA is one of the many iterations of the Path of Ascension module written by AW Trespasser, and in my opinion one of the best (and certainly one of the few remaining, these days!). Based around the Town of Ascension, and a Quest for Immortality (by finding the Legendary Crown Of Immortality), the Higher Ground admins (FunkySwerve and his crew) have been working on the module for over 12 years!

Neverwinter Nights was originally published in 2002, and written alongside the latest pen-and-paper version (3.5) of AD&D. It was specifically designed for third-parties to write and run their own adventures, with the Aurora Toolkit included with the game, and many servers popped up, with a wide array of games available, from power-levelling uber-servers to immersive role-play-based ones. Higher Ground sits towards the power-levelling end, but has many alterations in place to carve out its own niche. Players are (heavily) encouraged to party with people of a similar level, and most magical items are level-locked, meaning you cannot use the more powerful ones until you have reached a certain level of experience. Speaking of Levels, one of HG’s most innovative features was the ability to reach higher levels than the original game allowed for. Initially capped at Level 20, FunkySwerve wrote a system to allow you to reach Level 40, and has since expanded this to take you to Level 80! Along side this, he and his crew wrote more and more areas to visit, (including The Hells, and The Mother of All Dragons!), with appropriately challenging monsters and puzzles, and also more and better loot, so the rewards were befitting for such adventures!

Erinyes
Erinyes

When I was playing in earnest, I built a stable of high level characters (Soul Spike, the Zen Archer; Short Spike, Dwarven Defender; Black Spike, Assassin; Good Spike, Paladin; to name but a few), and collected many Artefacts, enough to fill my Bank Chests (where you can store items you do not need to carry, and can transfer to your other characters) to bursting! When I created a new character, I could equip him with some of the best items available, swapping as I went up levels. I also gained access to one of Funky’s other innovations: subRaces. While there are several Base Races available, HG added a selection of subRaces, that could be earned as rewards for certain Adventures (often being found as Books amongst the Loot). Using one of these books gave your Account access to more powerful subRaces, including Wraiths, Erinyes (winged demons) and Raksasha.

Unfortunately, I am starting again, with a new set of CD-Keys (which Higher Ground uses to verify your account), and so have lost access to all of this! I shall have to build up again, but this time, I do not have as much spare time to dedicate towards levelling up and loot-hunting.

So, on with the Adventure!

As a test-character, I have reprised my half-orc barbarian (Grunty McGruntFace), and started exploring. There are a lot of low level starter-quests that didn’t used to be there, but I have avoided most of these (they begin with fetch’n’carry missions) and headed straight for the low level adventure areas! So far, they are all looking very familiar: Cellar full of rats – Check! Wilderness full of Fire Beetles – Check! Caves full of skeletons – Check! Bandit Camp (with nice lootz) – Check! I am slowly remembering/re-learning the controls, and once I’m a bit more confident (and have some time to spare) will party up with some other low-levelers to take on a more dangerous area!

Time will tell how far I get, and how much time Lucretia allows me to waste on such pursuits will be a major factor. But I will update you on my progress.

Whose Dice Is It Anyway?

(Inspired by This Thread)

Some GMs are masters of making things up as they go along. Winging it. Improvisation. They are never short of new, interesting locations, and characterful NPCs. Plot lines seem to grow organically as the game moves along.

I am not one of those GMs.

Players will, inevitably, come up with new and innovative ways to side-step challenges, derail story-lines, and chase tangent-bunnies. When they do, I tend to run into the GMing equivalent of writers’ block. Over my many years of GMing, I have come up with coping-strategies to keep the game flowing, rather than stumble through, uming and erring over details.

The first tactic I use is to try to keep the geographic scope of my campaigns quite small. This allows for locations to be reused many times, and detail to build up over time. The NorthHills sprawlzone that I used for my cyberpunk campaigns started as a rough map, and as we played, built up into a well-detailed area. The Mall had shops (with staff) noted, and was visited many times. I ran several adventures using The Crow Bar, and it has built up a history of its own. I particularly like Fates Worse Than Death for this, as it is set exclusively on Manhattan Island. Large enough to allow quite a lot of scope, but small enough to keep coming back to the same places, meeting the same people.

Another ploy is to keep sets of lists handy. People’s names. Business names. Emotions and attitudes. Some of these I pen myself, between sessions. Others I pull from many sources. Particular favourites are Lee’s Lists and Random Generator.  Vajra have some good random creators, specifically for their FWTD setting, but it can easily be used for other games.

Some games produce very good source-books for this, and I particulalry like Shadowrun’s Sprawl Sites. Containing details on quite a few potential locations, plus a whole list of encounters, it provides useful inspiration should ideas dry up.

Also, keep a thesaurus handy. Treeware versions are fine, but nowadays I tend to rely on thesaurus.com for getting good words appropriating superior lexicons.

And, of course, I have my many years of experience to draw upon! I have been known to use ‘similar’ NPCs from game to game, even radically different settings, and tweak locations from one game to fit another. Even plots and adventures are lifted wholesale! Sometimes it is obvious, even highlighted, other times more subtle. (Notable example: When I ran an AD&D campaign many moons ago, one player created character sheets for the 30-40 NPCs in his care (the “We Hate The Dark Lord” club). As they, in turn, inevitably met their fates, they were handed to me, to re-use as ready-made NPCs for that, or any other, game. I still have that folder.)

With these tools at the ready, I tend to spread my preparation thinly, sketching several fledgling ideas, ready to develop the ones that the players interact with, adding detail as play progresses.

So, my improvisation is not about on-the-fly winging it. It is the result of much preparation. Roll a dice on this table. Choose an appropriate item from that list. Pull a character sheet from that folder. All prepped beforehand, ready to be improvised on-the-spot!

Roll Dem Bones!

Well, electronic bones, actually.

(Skip the text and jump straight to the Exalted Dice Roller)

Exalted (3rd Edition, from Onyx Path) uses a reasonably simple dice structure. Add your Attribute and Ability, roll that many d10, and any that come up 7+ are Successes. Compare your number of Successes against the Difficulty to see if, and by how much, you beat it. Nothing to it.

But … firstly, if you roll a “10”, it counts double. No trouble. Then, you get into the realm of Charms (Not Spells. At all. No. A foolish mistake. Mystical Abilities, maybe. But NOT Spells!). These can double other numbers (from 9 down to 7), allow you to reroll some dice (e.g. “Reroll any “1”s until you have no “1”s left“), add Automatic Successes on top of any you roll, add extra dice (sometimes capped by your Attribute + Ability, sometimes not) and other effects.

Bucket o' Dice
Typical Exalted Dice Roll

As your characters are Favoured of the Sun God, you can end up rolling quite a few dice (A common roll in your Prime area could be Attribute 5, Ability 5, doubled by basic Charm, plus 1 for a Speciality, and 2 Stunt Dice for a nice description: 23 dice!).  Assuming you have 23d10, you may then need to reroll some of these, and then count up all of the Successes (remembering to Double 10s, and maybe others). Still with me?

As this can become quite cumbersome, I decided to test out my coding skills, and put together an Online Dice Roller!

You enter how many dice you wish to roll, along with any Specials, such as Stunts, Rerolls, etc, and “CLICK!”, the Dice Faeries on my web-server roll (and reroll) the dice, add them all up and present the result!

I have tried to include all of the common adjustments, and for those of you who have a Character registered in the TNP database, you can call upon a roll by Attribute/Ability, without having to remember what scores you have!

Why not try it out, and see if your game would benefit!

Exalted Dice Roller

Hello world!

Welcome to TechNo Prisoners. This is the latest incarnation of a decades-long project to bring you the finest RPG Resources known to Man, Elf, Cyborg or Cardassian*.

News and Views, Fact and Opinion. Hopefully some pretty pictures. All these are on my list of things to get around to one day!

Don’t touch that dial!

*The aliens from Star Trek. I’m not sure how much Kim, Kourtney and Khloe know about Role Playing Games. Possibly more than you would imagine. Or want to imagine.