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Showing posts from September, 2014

Taking a Break

My life has been filled with a lot of stress lately. Much of this is self-inflicted; some is unavoidably not. In an effort to reduce this stress, at least temporarily, I'm taking the next two weeks off from this blog. In fact, I have a short vacation coming at the end of next week, during which I plan to unplug from the Internet as totally as I can.

What am I going to do? I might play some video games. I'm looking forward to reading a book (something I haven't done in months). My wife and I are going to take a day trip to some area festivals. Mostly, I just want to relax. Or at least see if that's a thing I can still do.

I have a few projects I need to wrap up this week. I don't want to spend my time off thinking about what I need to get done, so I want my plate clean before I start. Putting this blog on pause will help with that.

One Yard Hex will return on Tuesday, October 14, 2014.

Rituals and Convergences

I've talked about running Ritual Magic as a Challenge in a previous post. Here's an idea for extending that concept to create moments of mystic power. It was inspired in a way by this post on +Ryan Macklin's blog.

The Bronze Rule says that you can extend character traits to non-character game elements like objects and locations. It's not a leap to giving those traits to units of time as well. The most useful block of time in a session of Fate is the scene. What if a scene could have aspects and stunts independent of the location or any characters or objects within it? Situation aspects hint at this, but the rules assume they are connected to something tangible.

With magic, however, a ritualist can create a Convergence of mystic energy that infuses a moment in time without being bound in an object or being. A Convergence is difficult for mundane characters to overcome, as it takes more magic to unweave the original ritual.

A Convergence is created through a ritual magic…

The Seal

A campaign frame for GURPS Action.

Campaign Type: The Seal is closest to the Commando campaign type as presented in GURPS Action 1: Heroes, though the PCs are employed by a private organization devoted to global peace, the Solomon Group.

Important Books: GURPS Action 1: Heroes and Action 2: Exploits; GURPS Gun-Fu; GURPS High-Tech; GURPS Martial Arts; GURPS Power-Ups 5: Impulse Buys. GURPS Social Engineering: Pulling Rank may be useful, but Chapter Three of Action 1: Heroes should be sufficient.

Character Creation: 250-point characters using the templates in Action 1: Heroes. Most appropriate templates are demolition man, investigator, medic, shooter, and wire rat. The Military background lens should be the most common by far.

All characters start with Solomon Group Rank 0 [0] and can buy further levels for 5 points each (see Rank below). All characters must take the Duty listed in their template at (15 or less).

Players can buy Impulse Points (IP) at 5 points/level using their template’s…

Miri Greycastle, Cleric of Lathander

Level 1 human cleric (Light), soldier background

Armor Class 18
Hit Points 10; Hit Dice 1d8

Mace +2 (1d6 bludgeoning)
Light crossbow +3 (1d8+1 piercing, range 80/320)

Spellcasting (spell attack +5; spell save DC 13)
cantrips: knows light, mending, sacred flame, thaumaturgy
1st (2 slots): prepare 4 plus burning hands, faerie fire
Warding Flare (3/day): When you are attacked by a creature within 30 feet of you that you can see, you can use your reaction to impose disadvantage on the attack roll. An attacker that can’t be blinded is immune to this feature.

Military Rank: You have a military rank from your career as a soldier. Soldiers loyal to Sembia still recognize your authority and influence, and they defer to you if they are of a lower rank. You can invoke your rank to exert influence over other soldiers and requisition simple equipment or horses for temporary use. You can also usually gain access to friendly military encampments and fortresses where your rank is recognized.

Abilities Str 10, …

You Don't Have Enough Information

Trust me: until the end of the adventure, you just don't know enough. You can't know enough. In Trail of Cthulhu, you probably won't know enough even after the adventure's over. (And your characters will thank you for not knowing more.)

There's a point in an investigative scenario when the players start putting pieces together and discussing theories. This is natural. The human brain loves to draw lines between dots. You should do your best to make sure this point comes as late in the scenario as possible.

The following tip appears in a sidebar in Night's Black Agents, but it is echoed in most GUMSHOE rules:
Investigative scenarios often bog down into speculative debate between players about what could be happening. Many things can be happening, but only one thing is. If more than one possible explanation ties together the clues you have so far, you need more clues. If you find yourself saying any of the following, stop the discussion and go find more informati…

Dungeon Accelerated: Equipment

Dungeon Accelerated assumes you have whatever equipment is appropriate to your class and aspects. The specific gear you use doesn't change how you resolve your actions. The exception is if you have invested an aspect or stunt in an item.

For example, the Fighter can choose the Heirloom Weapon aspect. He can spend a fate point to invoke this aspect when making an attack using that weapon. The GM can compel it against him if the weapon gets stolen or damaged. The Fighter can also take a stunt that gives a bonus to defend actions when using armor and a shield.

Without this investment, equipment is just description. If there is something your character should obviously be able to do, and you would need a specific item to do it, you can just have that thing. Anything else that doesn't obviously fit your character concept may require work to get: negotiating with a merchant, stealing from a crime boss, or petitioning your temple for assistance, for instance. Situation aspects and cr…

Thordar and the Orcs

I play in a bi-weekly GURPS game run by the fine +Christian Blouin in which a party of dwarves (and one elf hanger-on) have led an army from the Lonely Mountain to retake Moria in Tolkien's Middle Earth. My character is Thordar, the swashbuckling eunuch spymaster to Viceroy Bain.

This week's session featured Thordar cut off from the rest of the dwarven forces by a cave-in which he had not properly timed. Making his way through the near-total darkness, he came upon an orc sentry post manned by a half-dozen orc warriors. Being macho and overconfident, Thordar charged in to dispatch the hated orcs. Alone, against six-to-one odds, with only his trusty smallsword and an ancient knife he had found in a Moria treasure-horde.

It was some of the most fun I've had gaming in a long time. Since the fight ended up taking the entire session (we play for about 2 hours via G+ Hangout and Roll20), Christian let the other players take control of the orcs, and the guys did their best to kill…

Tactical Play

Let's talk tactics.

When many gamers think about "tactical play," they imagine positioning miniatures on a gridded map, counting squares for movement, and arguing over the various modifiers for lighting, encumbrance, and so on. Especially for modern gamers who like to focus on story over mechanics, this kind of play is off-putting.

I would argue that that level of bookkeeping minutia is not the only kind of tactical play. In fact, I would say that almost every game accommodates and indeed encourages tactical play on some level. It's just that different games approach it from different directions.

First, definitions. What do I mean by tactical play? Simply put, tactical play is play in which a player gathers information about the scene, uses that information to make a meaningful decision, and then experiences the clear consequence of that decision. The consequence then serves as new information, feeding back into the process.
Information The first step of tactical pla…

Karthun: Lands of Conflict on Kickstarter

Karthun: Lands of Conflict is a system-neutral campaign setting for fantasy roleplaying being developed by Exploding Rogue Studios. Created by +Brian Patterson, the mind behind the webcomic d20 Monkey, Karthun originally appeared in that venue as the protagonist's personal campaign world. It has since grown into a surprisingly well realized setting that had fans of d20 Monkey and fantasy gaming clamoring to see it in book form. Their calls have been answered.

Exploding Rogue consists of Patterson and game designer +Tracy Barnett. Together, they are planning a 160-page, full-color hardcover book that presents Karthun independent of any rules system. As their first stretch goal, if the campaign reaches $25,000, they will also release a PDF GM's Guide with rules and advice for running Karthun in a number of systems, including Fate Core and Pathfinder.

I'm a fan of d20 Monkey, and I trust Brian Patterson's ability to craft an engaging world fit for many different stories. …

When is a Clue Not a Clue?

When it's a 0-point spend.

The 0-point spend is the forgotten sibling of the core clue and the Investigative spend. Whereas the core clue is essential to progress through the adventure and the Investigative spend primarily makes the characters look more badass, the 0-point spend is about adding color to the adventure and the setting.

As the name implies, the 0-point spend is free. Like a core clue, you can give your players a 0-point spend if they are in the right place and describe how their character is using an appropriate ability. The effect is a bit of information that someone with that ability would gain in that place, but having that information will not necessarily move them forward in their investigation. Nor will it provide them with any of the concrete benefits of a full Investigative spend.

Basically, the 0-point spend is there if the GM has a really interesting piece of descriptive detail or adventure background that is too good to leave on the page but which may not …

Dungeon Accelerated: A Few Monsters

The linked Google document includes the rules for monsters in Dungeon Accelerated (the same rules as in Fate Accelerated Edition), plus a few example monsters. The Ogre and Ancient Red Dragon show off the scale rules taken from the Fate System Toolkit. The Kobolds are always encountered in groups, so they are written as a mob. And the Fire Elemental and the Dragon use the idea of typed stress, which I'm borrowing from this post by +Ryan Macklin. (Rules for attacking multiple targets, such as with the Dragon's breath, will be in the Conflict section.)

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1pSxCvL3w28uW4pl8qj1cbIrIvWKtPGJkkm1tchnyJxs/edit?usp=sharing

The Power of Sorcery: Animal

Here are a few Animal college spells converted to the Power of Sorcery system from Pyramid #3/63.

Spells with (Animal) in their name are actually a different spell for each category of animal: Bird, Fish, Mammal, Reptile, and Vermin.
(Animal) ControlBasic Cost: 13 points.
Casting Roll: IQ (Quick Contest vs. target’s Will).
Duration: Indefinite.

You control the actions one large animal or one single swarm. This spell will not work on a sapient being (racial IQ 6 or higher). Control over each category of animal is a different spell: Bird, Fish, Mammal, Reptile, and Vermin.

Statistics: Mind Control (Accessibility, (Animal) only, -60%; Costs Fatigue, 1 FP, -5%; Magical, -10%) [13].
Beast PossessionBasic Cost: 45/110 points.
Casting Roll: IQ (Quick Contest vs. target’s Will).
Duration: 1 minute at level 1; Indefinite at level 2.

You move your consciousness into an animal, suppressing the creature’s mind and controlling its body as if it were your own. The creature gets +5 to Will if it is in co…

Games I'd Like to Play

I run an awful lot of games. Unfortunately, most of my gaming time is spent being the GM, rather than being a player.

Inspired by this post by +Douglas Cole and this follow-up by +Peter V. Dell'Orto, here is a list of games I'd like to play if I got the chance.
GUMSHOE I've run a good amount of GUMSHOE (Ashen Stars, Night's Black Agents, TimeWatch) but I've only ever played in a couple of +TimeWatch RPG games at conventions. I would love to play in a Night's Black Agents campaign, or even better, Mutant City Blues.
D&D Fifth Edition This is the new hotness. I'm impressed with the material available so far, and I'm planning a game of my own. I would love to try it out as a player, though.
GURPS I actually play in a regular online game every other week, but I always want more GURPS. What I'd really love is a high-powered fantasy game, mixing Divine Favor, the Sorcery rules from Pyramid, and chi-based powers and Imbuements for martial characters. I…

100th Post

This is my 100th published post on One Yard Hex. I'm going to talk a bit about how the blog has been so far and where it might be going.

I started One Yard Hex on April 14, 2014, as a place to post fragmentary material (especially for GURPS) that I had laying around my hard drive. This had two benefits. First, I had a lot of material for my new blog. Second, I could get rid of files that were cluttering up my drive.

Eventually, I decided to combine One Yard Hex with my existing Patreon project. To make this work, I increased my blog output to five days a week and created topics for each day: Mystery Monday (focusing on the GUMSHOE system); Toss-Up Tuesday; *World Wednesday (about the Powered by the Apocalypse rules); GURPS Thursday (following a cross-blog convention that has been going for some time); and Fate Friday. Each week I would choose one post as a Sponsored Post and send it to my Patreon backers as a paid creation.

At the time of this writing, One Yard Hex has had 12,476 …

Damned Vampires

These vampires for Night's Black Agents are based on a certain genre-defining roleplaying game from the early 90s. Their numbers are limited to around a dozen to fit into the conspiracy model.


An ancient covenant limits the number of cognizant vampires to no more than 13 at one time. Each "generation" is older and responsible for having sired the next vampires down the line. A single "1st-generation" vampire heads the clan, and forms the top tier of the vampire conspiracy. He has two vampires he directly sired; these form the "2nd generation" and serve as floating operatives for their "father".

Each of the 2nd generation sired two "children", and these four form the "3rd generation." They are responsible for certain nodes on tiers 3 through 5. The 3rd generation sired five children of the "4th generation" who run nodes on levels 1 and 2.

With their numbers so small, the vampires rely on human Renfields endowed w…

Interstellar Patrol for Fate Accelerated Edition

Over the weekend, I wrote and released a small campaign frame for Fate Accelerated Edition called Interstellar Patrol. IP is optimistic space fiction in the style of the original Star Trek. The supplement includes rules for using spacecraft in your FAE game and provides random tables for generating planets of the week and a plot seeds if you find yourself stuck on an idea for your next session. There's also a few example aspects and stunts to get your character juices flowing.

Interstellar Patrol is available in PDF under the Pay-What-You-Want model. The response so far has been pretty good. At the time of this writing, IP is #18 on DriveThruRPG's Hottest Titles list and #4 on its Hottest Small Press list, ahead of Dungeon World. I hope you check it out.

Announcing Dungeon Accelerated

For some time now, I've been working on a Secret Project. About a year ago, I ran an impromptu game of Fate Accelerated Edition in a classic dungeon fantasy style. In fact, I ran The Sunless Citadel, the first in the initial series of modules produced for D&D 3rd Edition. I converted the dungeon and the monsters on the fly. It was an awful lot of fun.

Since then, I've thought more and more about expanding on FAE to create a dungeon fantasy game. One of the ideas I picked up on was the character playbooks in the games based on Apocalypse World, and most obviously for this project, Dungeon World. That kind of archetypal character differentiation works well for dungeon fantasy, with its strong rooting in class/level design. The pre-generated, "just pick from this list" setup also softens one of the sticking points in Fate: coming up with interesting and useful aspects and stunts can be hard, especially for beginners.

I've blogged about it recently, but I tried t…

Melissa Clarke, Wetware Hacker

A sample PC for a GURPS The Madness Dossier game.
Melissa Clarke 350 pointsST 10 [0]; DX 11 [20]; IQ 15 [100]; HT 10 [0].
Damage 1d-2/1d; BL 20 lbs.; HP 10 [0]; Will 15 [0]; Per 13 [-10]; FP 10 [0]
Basic Speed 5.25 [0]; Basic Move 6 [5]; Dodge 8.
Social BackgroundTL: 8 [0].
CF: Western (Native) [0].
Languages: ASL (Native) [3]; Danbe (Native) [6]; English (Native) [0].
Advantages Alternate Identity (Legal) [5]; Born to Be Wired 2 [10]; Circuit Sense 3 [15]; Eidetic Memory [5]; Legal Enforcement Powers [15]; Patron (Project SANDMAN; 15 or less; Special Abilities +100%) [90]; Renshaw Method 2 [14]; Resistant to Anunnaki Programming (+3) [10]; Sandman Regimen [10]; Security Clearance [5]; Security Rank 0 [0]; Signature Gear 2 (Field Wetware Kit) [2].
Perks: Cutting-Edge Training (Electronics Operation (Psychotronics), Electronics Repair (Psychotronics), and Engineer (Psychotronics)) [3]
Disadvantages Addiction (Caffeine) [-5]; Duty (Project SANDMAN; 15 or less; Extremely Hazardous) [-20]; G…

Mechaworldu! Overdrive

Here are a few ideas for expanding last week's minigame, Mechaworldu!
Formations Three or more mechs may attempt to enter a formation. Choose Speed, Power, Guts, or Smarts. Each player entering the formation rolls and adds the appropriate attribute. Every mech in the formation gets +1 to rolls of the appropriate attribute and -1 to all other rolls.

You can leave a formation at any time to get +1 to any roll; you cannot attempt to enter a formation for the rest of the fight. A formation holds as long as there are three or more mechs in it.
Combining Two or more mechs can combine into a single larger mech. This super-mech works at a larger scale than normal mechs, just as normal mechs work at a larger scale than pilots.

Each mech in the combination contributes one of its systems to the super-mech. Two mechs cannot contribute identical systems. The player who's mech contributed the system controls it and makes rolls for it using their pilot's attributes. Players must decide a…

Converting the Burning Plague

As an experiment while planning my upcoming Fifth Edition game, I decided to convert the first free module Wizards of the Coast produced for their website in the Third Edition era, The Burning Plague. (I couldn't find a still viable link on the official Wizards site where you can download it, but you can find a copy with a short jaunt through Google.)

Except for the lack of true disease rules, I found the conversion to be very easy. In all, it probably took me about a half hour to refigure the encounters using Fifth Edition's somewhat obtuse encounter design system. I'm actually a little concerned that the adventure could be something of a killer dungeon. Here are the brief notes I came up with.
The Burning Plague Updating from 3rd Edition to 5th Edition, for 4-6 1st-level characters
The Plague Anyone coming into contact with a monster or item that has been noted as contagious must make an immediate DC 10 Constitution save or become infected. After the first 24 hours, an i…

Investigative Spend Benefits

While gathering core clues and making General ability tests are fairly easy to grasp, many beginning GUMSHOE players and GMs have trouble coming up with ways to make Investigative ability spends useful. Here's a list of benefits you might get from spending an Investigative ability point.

You earn additional information that lends context to a core clue but is not strictly necessary to progress. (In essence, you make the mystery "easier" by putting the different pieces together faster.)You gain a useful resource related to your area of expertise. The GM may still call for a Preparedness test for a particularly rare resource; this spend gives a +3 bonus to that test.You change the attitude of an NPC, making them more helpful to you and your allies or turning them against another character.You gain information that reinforces your skills or restores your confidence in them. Refresh a General ability pool by 2-3 points.Rather than tying into your own abilities, the informatio…