jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
Two ideas. One is likely already a thing. The second... well, we'll leave it for last.

While attending the Gaming Controversies panel, people touched on the idea of customizable characters. Now this has been a thing for awhile now, but the point the audience member wanted to make was "if you customize your character into a sexual stereotype - is that on you or the developer?". Are developers obligated to be inclusive, or should they respond to market forces? I'm of the opinion that that's not necessarily an either/or scenario. We can be biased while simultaneously ignoring "the market" - i.e. making toys needlessly gender specific when the kids don't care; then using that data to "prove" that girls like pink dolls and boys like blue trucks. Besides, "the market" isn't the be-all-and-end-all of metrics.

The commenter pointed out that one game had a "sexiness" trait that one could use to customize your character. It sounds like it basically increased boob size on the women. Not sure what it would do to the men. Given the number of women I know who appreciate any Marvel actor named "Chris", while simultaneously liking bishōnen, I'm not sure what it would modify. Penis size? Hard to show in a PG game, I imagine.

Why not have your modifiable skills and attributes, in turn, modify your characters appearance, rather than changing their looks directly. You want a stronger character, they look more buff. Smarter? Better choices of dialog. Have the sprites reflect actual morphology. Fast characters look like sprinters; agile ones look like gymnasts, strong ones look like weightlifters or bodybuilders.

As I mention above, I'd be surprised if someone hasn't attempted this already, though maybe not to the extreme I'm describing.

Second idea: Let's say you're playing a Halo-like game where the character is always wearing full body armor. You finish the game and it's time for the big reveal as you stand atop a mountain of vanquished foes as a the sun breaks over the horizon. You pull off your helmet to reveal... A manly white man with blue eyes and a strong jaw!

Assume the game doesn't suck; it gets rave reviews and becomes a best seller.

After the first month, things change. Now there's a random chance they'll get manly white man, or a black woman, or an effeminate Asian man, etc. In fact, all of the visible character traits of the character's face can change. Maybe they're ugly, maybe they're plain or have one eye, or they're tatted up, or have piercings. Their skin and eyes come in any naturally occurring human variation; their hair could be anything under the rainbow. Maybe have ten or so diverse characters with unique looks and back story that players could access online.

Why not do this from the start? Because it needs to get past that initial promotional/review stage with none the wiser. The reveal should be a surprise to the people who could use a little surprise in their lives.

The players have a feedback option that includes "I'd like to complain about how the main character looks in the finale". They click the button, which opens a MessageBox:

For the last 60+ hours, you've played a genetically enhanced super soldier wearing powered battle armor in the far future. Does it really matter what they look like underneath?
No game designer would ever do it of course, because profits. Still, I can dream.

And if they wanted to play it again, they could do so, choosing a character they haven't played yet.
jamesq: (Jarhead)
The thing about running an RPG in one universe with multiple settings (WWII Europe, 1960s San Francisco, Late 90's Superhero school) is that the things one group of PCs do can affect the setting for the other groups. In some ways, this is obvious. I've been deliberately cagey about how WWII ended precisely because I'd like to role-play it, yet we're still early in the war (the most recent war-time event was the rescuing of the Dutch royal family in the aftermath of the invasion of the low countries - call it September 1940).

Other ways are subtle. I've long established that some technologies in the 90's game are more advanced and some are less advanced than in the real world. Medicine and space exploration are more advanced, because the world they're in had different priorities than ours. Computers and telecommunications are less advanced, because a lot of people who would have gotten into computers were working on rockets instead. The 90's super-verse has multiple, permanent, manned space stations and regular launches. However, the computers/cell phones/internet they're using is what we had in the real 80's.

The problem with that is that the PCs in the 60's have every piece of the cell phone puzzle. They could literally invent cell phone technology years earlier. They haven't done it yet, but I need to come up with a way to explain the discrepancy - because I'd like a consist world that allows people to fly and throw cars around while wearing tights and a cape.

Finally, the existence of time travel in the game means that characters in earlier eras have the chance to learn about the big events that the later PCs have. This hasn't happened yet, but given my plans for both groups, it would be nuts that they don't know.

It's all a big juggling act, but I'm loving it.

Some more examples: [livejournal.com profile] halfdane866 has taken to the game like a hound to a bone and is constantly extending my WW2 back story. His most recent idea involved Japanese machinations during the war and the involvement of some public-domain characters. Hey, if I can work Skull Island into the game, he can work some other dangerous islands into it. The upshot of this is he's convinced me to allow the Japanese some Gunk. Not much - the Germans were more greedy than the British (who provided Canada and Australia larger amounts).

What does this mean for the game? Well, some opportunities to role-play in the Pacific theatre (Mark: Want to run a short game?), but also the chance for one of the PCs in the 90s to change her back story, since she's 1/4 Japanese. Whether she does or not remains to be seen. Hell, It means more non-white supers, which has been one of the more inadvertently racist aspects of the game. An entirely plausible result of racist attitudes of the WWII era.

The background just keeps getting richer and richer, I love that.

--- edit ---
Oh my god! I'm making my own Continuity Porn!
--- edit ---
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
My 1960's Supers game hit a milestone - they worked together as a full team to mostly defeat the bad guy. I say mostly because he did get away with a handful of his toys.

Along the way, I ended up monologuing to one of the players. Now I dislike monologuing as a tactic, because I like to play the NPCs smart, and monologuing is dumb. Why would a competent bad guy ever do it? Well now I know - it's to show off how smart you are. That goes for the villain, and it goes for the game master.

I wasn't going to do it, until the PCs pointed out that I'd already started. And a part of me really liked it because I got to (using the villain as a mouthpiece) brag about all the background I'd spent lots of time developing.

Still, I didn't blow my whole wad on the PCs - there was just enough to piece together what was going on from the monologue when combined with existing evidence. But man, I wanted to go through a step by step accounting of the bad guy's plan, just because I'm so proud of it.

And that folks, is why villains monologue.

Oh, and we settled on Maximus as the villain name, making him one in a long line of characters who got into super villainy due to their name. Really, if you didn't want the kid growing up to be an evil mastermind, why would you name him Maximus.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
One of my goals for my Swinging Sixties Supers game is to get the PCs to start wearing costumes. Since all the earlier supers are WW2 vets who just want their houses and white picket fences, it's up to the second generation to do that. I've made no secret of this and the PCs are near to doing it.

One PC has basic Green Lantern powers (can make force fields in any shape desired and move them around). As a player, he's got a heavy streak of PC paranoia. In the games I've played with him his single defining feature is making sure he has multiple, redundant, defences up so that NPCs can never ever hurt him. I think it's a little silly, but then I'm the GM and therefore want to hurt him. Maybe doesn't count here?

R: "Can I form my force fields into a suit of armour?"
Me: "You can, but since you have to concentrate every time you want to actually move a limb, it's not that useful."
R: "Well how about a platform with a railing around it so I can fly?"
H: "You should just use a bubble. It's simpler"
R: "I don't want to fly into a scene in a bubble."
Me (excited): "You should make a surf board!"
The surf board idea, though derivative, does meet popular acclaim.

R: "We still don't know what kind of costume I should have. I should get my mom to sew it up for me."
M: "I can't wait to hear that conversation."
R: "'Mom, I'm going to a costume party, can I get you to sew me up a costume?'"
M: "You know what would be a good costume - something like The Spirit. Except it would probably need to be purple or something because he's a hippy."
Me: "So he should be Darkwing Duck is what you're saying?"
This is met with good-natured laughter all around.

Me: "Now that I think about it, Darkwing Duck actually has a really cool costume."
jamesq: (Zoidberg)
Discussion of rape and murder in a role-playing game context. You have been warned. Also note that it is very easy for me to come up with evil ideas that I would never advocate.

My super hero universe has grown to three different eras. Each era is rich with role-playing potential, but is also risky because the issues of those eras lead to lots of unfortunate implications.

There is a single source for super powers in the game, Gunk, which is basically a magical fluid that gives the user powers. It's kind of like the Wildcard virus, except without nearly as many horrible side-effects. Gunk isn't disfiguring.

The problem I had was figuring out how to get a roughly even gender split of people exposed to Gunk despite the fact that in the late 1930's, the governments of the world were uniformly sexist - they weren't going to giving this stuff to both men and women in equal numbers. Note when one of the governments in question was Nazi Germany, and they were invading Czechoslovakia with a battalion of super soldiers.

In the end, I decided that Gunk treatment conferred a brief "infectious" period that the governments didn't immediately figure out. And it had to go from men to women, but not vice-versa (otherwise some sociopath would conclude they could get more supers by injecting one woman then having them a parade of would-be soldiers fuck her). The end result was that a there were a lot of "secret supers" among the wives and girlfriends of the men who were treated. Also at the local brothels. This gave an option for female characters that was easy to write into the background of the character. A little too easy, since there's whole tropes about it.

Thankfully the female players in the game are smarter than that, and demand that I be smarter than that. One character concept we came up with (but never played), a British nurse, who was monitoring the first Guinea Pigs. At first she was going to get her powers by "nightengale fucking" one of her patients. The player was game for that, but on further thinking, we came up with two other options: Stealing some Gunk and using it on herself deliberately; Accidental exposure due to a sharps accident. We haven't settled on one yet and I still hope to play with her.

WWII is touchy in general, because it was a harsh, sexist, racist era. Hell, at some point the characters are going to come across a concentration camp. Not sure how I'm going to deal with that. I'm less worried about the sexism though, simply because the PCs are all exceptional people and make their own rules. That's true for every PC in every game though. Nobody wants to role-play the meek.

The next era being played is the 60's. I really wanted to set a game in San Francisco during the counter-culture years. They're not quite there yet - it's 1965, but the game will get there fairly soon.

The PCs in that game are going to have to deal with the hippy movement - especially it's more violent aspects, and also the Vietnam War and the Gay rights, civil rights, and women's liberation movement.

Most recently they failed to prevent the assassination of Harvey Milk by time travellers. Unfortunately, in 1965 nobody knew his significance except for the time travellers. If the PCs had prevented it, they'd have had some clues as to the time traveller's motives.

But hell, I killed, arguably, the LGBT community's first leader. For a game. That's kind of a dick move right? I can think of quite a few people who would get mad at that. I do have an obligation to the players to not do anything triggering (aside, I knew a game master once who actually wanted me to tell him my - not my character's - phobias, se he could make the game more exciting. I flatly refused, since he wasn't my therapist, wasn't qualified to be my therapist, and gaming isn't therapy), but at the same time the game needs consequences, or we'd just play board games.

I could have had a fictional NPC play the role of activist-killed-before-their-time, but one of the things I wanted to do in this game was have the PCs interact with famous people. Plus, it being a real person, the players understand what is lost, even if the characters do not. Apologies to Mr. Milk's descendants.

The final era is the late 90's (leading up to big things in the year 2000). I've tried to make it a mix of mundane teenager adventures, along with the more fantastic plots of comic books. That being the case, the teens got into it with a bunch of super thugs, then went and crashed a house party.

Which gets us back to lazy plots. The very first thing I thought of was to have some of the mundane kids attempt a rape with roofies.

Now I had no intention of letting them go through with it - what I wanted was for them to attempt it, then get caught by the PCs. As I thought about it, the less I liked that idea. First, it broke the 90's teen movie vibe I wanted to go for (which was problematic by itself. I'd never been to such a party when I was a kid, so I had no fucking clue how to role-play it). Secondly, the PCs were so above the NPCs in terms of power that there wasn't really a conflict at all. Literally any one of the PCs could take out the majority of people at the party by themselves. Think Teen Titans and you'll have an idea of their level of abilities (also a good analogy in general since the PCs have a near one-to-one correspondence to the members of the Teen Titans).

So if the party wasn't going to have a handful of evil fuckers for the PCs to use as piñatas, what was I going to do for conflict. I decided that nobody at the party was evil. It was just a normal, if somewhat loud and boisterous, teenage house party. Sure, there'd be some jerks there (there always is), but the goal of the PCs was to just have a good time.

And my goal was to out them. If they did something that exposed them for who they were, like pick a fight with a bunch of jerks, then conflict would ensue. And if they didn't? Well, RPGs don't have to be all about the fighting - I figured any PC who wanted to have some perfectly consensual sex could do so. Two of them took me up on it.

The PCs didn't take the bait (for conflict), though they still managed to out themselves (one of them is a minor celebrite).

Still, I didn't go for the lazy, triggering, disrespectful-of-the-players plot. I'm happy about that.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
Back in university, I ran a Call of Cthulhu game set in the modern world. The PCs were part of a private investigation firm, and they were called upon to discover the origins of this charming creature:
a beautiful bouncing baby monstrosity from beyond space and time

The client assumed it was genetically engineered, but this being CoC it was actually much worse than that.

At one point, the PCs have infiltrated the industrial complex where the thing came from. They were also being pursued by the sort of security guards who worked for corporations that weren't just run-of-the-mill evil, but full on worshipful-of-super-natural-horrors evil. Which is to say, they were the shoot-first-and-don't-even-bother-with-questions sort. Shots were fired and the PCs managed to get to the end of a long, dark hallway were a set of stairs led up to a laboratory. The lab was full of these things in big glass jars. Watching them. Screeching. Kicking at the glass.

CL got the bright idea to push one of the jars down the stairs towards the oncoming security guards.

"Ok, with a big shove you push the cart containing the thing towards the stairs. You see it begin to topple over as you slam the door to the lab shut and jam a chair under the door handle to brace it shut. You hear it crashing and bouncing down the stairs and it ends with a smash of thick glass. You then hear screams, both human and not, followed by a lot of gunfire. Eventually the noise stops."

"So it's safe to go through that door now?"

"Whatever is on the other side of that door probably isn't going to be glad to see you. Just sayin'."

"Right. Let's go out the other way."
Later on they encounter something bigger and scarier than the thing in the jar. It drives two of the PCs out of their mind - one permanently (goodbye PC) and the other one temporarily (though they don't know that yet). AY is that insane character.

"It occurs to you, in your insane state, that every time you run into one of these sanity-blasting monstrosities, that CL is around. Why, it's like he's leading you to them deliberately."

"Well, it's kill or be killed I guess. I shoot him with my shotgun."
The other PCs wrestle the gun away from AY at this point and make a hasty retreat with a quick stop at the emergency room to get CL some desperately needed medical care. That injury plagued him through two whole campaigns, because this is CoC, where there is magical healing, but you don't want to use it.

After a few weeks off while CL recovered in the ICU and AY recovered in a padded cell, they were back at it. However, CL never trusted AY again. AY felt that was a little harsh.

"Come on, you know I was insane when I shot you."

"Yeah, and good role-playing demands that I react like you're an insane person who shot me."
Later, outside of the game, CL comes up to me (we shared an office in the university, so out-of-game discussions happened all the time).

"I want to modify AY's guns so that they won't fire. Can I do that?"

(secretly thinking HELL YES) "It's possible. It will take some stealth rolls and some mechanical repair rolls. I'll let you do it over the next few game sessions so that he doesn't notice."
I'd more or less decided that he would succeed, because of the lulz.

Some months later they were visiting the wilderness retreat of a missing body-builder whom they suspected of learning (and applying) Things Man Was Not Meant to Know to her body-building regime. They figured that she was physically large and strong, but they weren't counting on her being a fifteen feet tall killing machine.

AY was the sort of character that really really liked his guns. All RPG groups have them - the guy who wished he was a commando bad-ass and always memorized the weapon tables and carries more guns on their person than a SWAT team. When that character type sees a psychotic, fifteen foot tall ogress charging the party, they say things like this:

"I pull out my double-barreled shotgun loaded with deer-slugs and do horrendous damage to her knees!"

"The hammers fall with a clicking sound, but the expected blast doesn't happen."

"I pull my 45 from its holster and empty it into her."

"It too clicks repeatedly, without actually firing."

"Oh god! I reach into my boot and grab my 22. I empty it into her."

"Sorry. The giant woman reaches you and backhands you effortless through the air."
At this point CL chimes in.

"I'm starting to think that filing down AY's firing pins might not have been my smartest idea."
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
Suppose all of the atoms in your body at one instant in time were tagged in some way. Call them "blue". Let's further say that all the other atoms around you were "red". As you go about your metabolic business, how long does it take for the red atoms to replace the blue ones? I imagine this differs depending on the tissue. Your teeth will likely remain pure blue for a long time. Your bones would similarly take a long time to turn red. But what about your organ tissue? Your blood? Your hair? Probably you'll never be made up of 100% red atoms, but how purplish would you be after a day or a month or a year?
jamesq: (Default)
I went to Port Moody to run my WWII Supers game with [livejournal.com profile] garething and SW. [livejournal.com profile] othelianna watched and played an HPC (historical player character).

Quick background: in 1938, separate German, American and British expeditions to Skull Island find a crashed space ship containing magical give-people-super-powers juice. Now World War II is starting, but with the addition of super heros and super villains. Think Captain America but multiplied by a thousand and you've got an idea of the vibe I'm going for.

Our hero Jacob is an American Jew from Brooklyn; he's a powerful telekinetic limited to touch range. His partner is Edda (codename: Danser), a young Dutch resistance fighter; She's also one of the fastest/most agile people in existence. Their mission? Rescue the Dutch Royal Family from house arrest in Huis ten Bosch.

Aside: in the real world, the Dutch royals escaped prior to the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands.

One of the nice things about super-hero gaming in a setting that doesn't normally have many super-heros? Whenever I want a bad guy, I just use an existing comic-book character and give them German code names. Our heros ended up battling SS-Untersturmführer Gerard Ott (codename Wildekinde) and SS-Obersturmführer Raimund Peiser (codename Winzig). They almost had to fight two more, but a good plan managed to split their forces.

Incidentally, those were the only super-soldiers in Holland, the rest were busy on other fronts.

Jacob defeated Wildekinde by flying him up at high speed and then letting him go. They then gathered up the family and flew them over the channel to Britain in a car carried by Jacob's TK. While over the channel, Winzig appeared (he was shrunk before) and tried to take Princess Julianna (whom R was playing) hostage. Edda proceeded (after some failed roles) to slap the bejeebus out of him and his testicles. Then Jacob threw him into the north sea. Note that in true comic-book fashion, we have not seen a body for either villain.

They landed the car in Ipswitch and turned the royals over to the civilian authorities.

Following the game, [livejournal.com profile] garething, [livejournal.com profile] othelianna and I went to Lionsgate tavern. It was a tavern like Montengarde has, but more expensive, with better food and no booze. Nice, but not noteworthy. I felt awkward in that way I do when surrounded by strangers that I should be socializing with but have no clue how to do so.

Dump Stats

Jan. 21st, 2011 03:36 pm
jamesq: (Default)
There's a "What are your D&D Stats" meme making its way around Facebook. I'm not too motivated to do it for a couple of reasons: Mostly I don't like how you have to show the meme creators your underwear drawer and your little black book simultaneously, but mostly because I think the meme is poorly designed. It did get me thinking about statistics and what is charmingly called the dump stat - the one stat you steal points from to make your character better in ways that are more important to you.
[Poll #1670596]
jamesq: (Default)
My WW2 Superhero game is currently on hiatus (hopefully short term). I had a great idea for a future encounter - I was going to have one of the male PCs become romantically involved with Edda van Heemstra, a woman in the Dutch Resistance. Sadly the dates just don't work out - she was born in 1929. She only reaches the age of consent after the Dutch liberation, and I'm not interested in making the PCs statutory rapists - I expect the players agree with this assessment.

It was a good idea, it just can't be her.
jamesq: (Default)
Taking a page from other folks, I'm going to do a standardized update for those occasions when I don't have anything noteworthy to say.

I had toast. It was crunchy... )
jamesq: (Default)
It's a winter wonderland out there if you like snow and you're walking.

Driving anywhere is a nightmare though, and it caused the cancellation of my RPG plans today. Two of the players were coming from the south and had to turn back when it took then 20 minutes to go from Southland Drive to Heritage drive along 14th Street. This road being one step down from "freeway", it would normally take 1-2 minutes depending on whether you drive fast or insane.

So the Starkweather-Moore Expedition to Skull Island will have to wait until next week.
jamesq: (Default)
The later half of September has been pretty crappy for me and my family. The health problems of my Mom and Dad necessitated stays at Foothills hospital and the Cross Bow centre respectively. For these reasons, I have been rather silent on the web page.

But things are, if not actually improving, at least easing in intensity. For example, my mom is now back home (to be joined by my dad on Thursday), so the short-term worrying has been replaced with the regularly-scheduled long-term worrying.

Other than that I've been forcing myself to finish as many little side projects as possible recently. Some of these projects have been going on for years now.

For example, some years ago, I inherited a chair from my folks. The chair consists of a series of bent tubing holding a black cushion in a sort of hammock fashion. The cushion tore within a few weeks of my getting the chair due to hideously excessive mass. As a result, it wasn't considered safe to sit in - instead, the Bruce and I used it as a convenient place to dump our stuff. All it would have taken to fix it was a concerted effort with a needle and some heavy-duty thread. Despite this, I did absolutely nothing with the chair for several years.

I lost Bruce's couch about two weeks ago (he gave it to Gareth, who desperately needed new furniture - for a sufficiently lax definition of "new"). As soon as it was gone I noticed that the living room was very very sparse.

So I had to get the chair fixed. I disassembled it and took it to the dry cleaner (who did repairs). They took one look at it and said "We can't handle anything this big - take it to a shoe repair store". Now shoe repair would not have been my first choice when dealing with this problem, but it turns out they were spot on.

I get to the shoe repair place by my apartment and give then the cushion. Their quote: $10 - which was about $40 less than I thought it would be, especially when they said it had to be hand-stitched. Ten dollars and two days later I had my chair back together. That weekend I also bought a chair from IKEA, and now my living room is still sparse, but at least I have enough places for people to sit to handle gaming.

Speaking of gaming, after a four month hiatus, I've started playing MTA again. We had to restart the last adventure because nobody (including me) had the foggiest clue what had happened. Luckily, the players got back into character almost instantly, which speaks to how well they're playing. Also, two PCs and three NPCs managed to get lucky, so it was a pretty fun evening even if all the sex was all make-believe.
"OK, I want you both to roll against your hunt-wild-boar-with-a-lance-while-riding-a-horse-without-killing-yourself skill."
"Is that based off strength or agility?"

Jerks Ahoy!

Sep. 8th, 2002 07:07 pm
jamesq: (Default)
I picked up a copy of the new Hellboy RPG at The Sentry Box, where I had this little exchange with the clerk:

"I was going to buy this until I saw that it said Powered by GURPS. I don't like any system that expects you to know calculus to play it." He said.

"I used to be a system-snob too, then I grew up." I replied.

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