Friday, June 1, 2018

TORG: No Place Like Home

With Torg Eternity's release, Tharkold is my favorite cosm. This mash-up of Terminator, Dark City, and Hellraiser is even more interesting because the savage frontier of the Blasted Land is on its doorstep. I want it to be more Stalker/Roadside Picnic than Mad Max. 
Here's my first step towards making that happen. Because everyone needs a cool home base. 

With the Federation allied with the Reality Raiders, everyday Russian life adopts levels of scrutiny and suspicion rivaling the Cold War. The cities close off as the military seizes transit ways while fleets of surveillance drones scour the countryside. Outside the Wolf's piercing gaze, the Blasted Land is an Ostern dream. The rugged mix of taiga and arid waste awash in  nano-weirdness makes surviving here a rough proposition. Even if insurgency is the best/only way to oppose Tharkold without sparking World War 3. To operate in the Blasted Land, you need an outpost.
First you pick 3-5 features, followed by 2 internal conflicts, and 2 external threats.

Simeon Todorov
Features (pick 3-5)- an abandoned prison, shanties, crude farming, all these pigeons, tunnels into underground vaults, moldy tarps and re-purposed plastics collecting rainwater, feral kids, trailer park chemistry lab, wrecked automobiles or airplanes, rail yard with a working yard goat, Orthodox church sanctuary, heavy industrial remains, eerie totems and graffiti, glowing algae, bustling marketplace, motor pool worth bragging, a fine coating of rust, a well-stocked infirmary, a rickety still made from a radiator, alien flora in bloom, sophisticated armory, an autofactory running on fumes, a library with mixed knowledge, a high frequency radio antennae, exercise bike generator, at a crossroads, so much barbed wire, watch towers with good sightlines

Conflicts (choose 2)- squalid conditions breed sickness, you owe protection tribute, there isn't enough work to go around, scant weaponry, you're a bunch of jackals, too many mouths to feed, potable water is scarce, there aren't very many of you, you provide protection to other outposts, plans of action, faith traditions or lack thereof, psychic privacy, people come and go as they please, your technology is finicky and fragile, the desperate escape with a needle

Threats (choose 2)- two Tharkoldu prides fighting over territory, a labour of bear-sized moles, "Krokodil" a predatory trader, psychic raiders threatening your food and secrets, man-eating anomalies triggered by iron, packs of pangolin scaled wolves, deniable military personnel, gray goo breaking down organic matter, a borganism calling themselves "Zmei", Koschie necrotechnicians were drawn by a recent battle, a recently seeded gospog farm, cenobites worshiping the Blast, weird weather like skyquakes and acid rain, a squad of "Laika" Retrievers stalk the area, cracks in Reality's sidewalk

Fallout 4's Pilgrim mod

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Borchardbriar Adventure Generator Part 2

Who's the target?
2-5 - A criminal gang or syndicate, maybe a Wild Sounder
6-8 - A coterie of Raynard's childthieves
9-10 - Civilian authorities that support Reynard's reign
Jack - An infamous Wyldbreaker
Queen -A foul sorcerer who's bargained with the Mad King
King-Ace - A Chimera has moved in, could it be an asset? (black = wild/red = broken)
Joker - One of Reynard's Winnowers is in town (black = the Bellringer/red = the Penitent)

What's gone wrong?
2-5 - They've been double-crossed by someone in the cell. Who was it?
6-8 - The target didn't show. Were they warned?
9-10 - Something equally pressing has come up and timing is too tight for both operations. Draw a new set of cards to generate a parallel adventure. Do they split the party?
Jack - Someone's raised the alarm! Bells! Flares! Watchmen on every street corner!
Queen - The cell has been ambushed by (black= 3rd party/red = Reynard's forces). Do they fight or flee?
King-Ace - There's an additional target of opportunity. Do you take it?
Joker - Depends. Black Joker = Everything goes smooth, for once. Red Joker = Someone has sold you out and provided extensive details to the enemy, there's a bounty on the cell's heads.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Borcharbriar Adventure Generator Part 1

What's the deed?
2-5 - Surveillance
6-8 - Delivery
9-10 - Sowing unrest
Jack - Infiltration
Queen - Criminal Activity
King-Ace - Assassination
Joker - Mass Event

Where's the spot? (Hearts/Spades/Diamonds/Clubs)
2-5 - The Litterbox/ The Ingot/ This Old Chestnut/ Leaky Moon Distillery
6-8 - Ms. Kitty's/ The Love Below/ Thumper's/ Red's Rest

9-10 - Fleeting Fetch's/ Rodrig's Box & Tackle/ Allbright Books/ Hammer & Tongs
Jack - Abbey of the Alley/Church of the Iron Chain/ Accord Memorial/ Saltbite Keep
Queen -  Boiling Cauldron/ Sunny Burrows Golf Course/ Deeproot Hall/ High Table
King-Ace - Horace's/ Underdim Union Hall/ Saffron Point/ Maugrim Manor
Joker - Draw again for the Open Road

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Borchardbriar: Beyond the Land and Far Away Part 1

Across the Sea of Bones and over the Spine you'll find Manykings, a vast peninsula broken up into a quilt-work of interdependent city states called Rajs. A vast and hostile jungle surrounds each Raj in a poisonous stranglehold. Within the cities, golden palaces and dizzying minarets dominate each city's skyline. The slender towers channel the prayers of the populace and create the border between civilization and wilderness. As the green hell grows taller, these structures fail and crumble.

Frozen Baronies
Keep going North and the sea solidifies into an unbroken glacial plain. On the edges you'll find the Baronies' remnants clinging to the ice and bleeding out into the water. Fisherfolk and raiders, the Frozen Folk are drawing closer to Saltbite Keep as their frosty coastline presses South. Their skalds sing of a time when the ice would thaw and green shoots would push up from the sod.

Blast From The Past: Rules of 3

I tend to run two models of role-playing game sessions: the one shot game and the mini-series.  I rarely indulge in the long form campaign, my attention tends to wander quickly. I find inspiring my players relies on three elements: building emotional investment, sharing narrative control, and being on the same tonal page.  Just about everything players say matters and has weight, unless they're quoting Galaxy Quest.

3 x 3 x 3 - Building emotional investment - I found this on the old 7th Sea forums years ago, and works wonders for making everyone feel interconnected with the setting and each other.  The idea is have the players create 9 NPCs connected to their character - three friends, three acquaintances, and three enemies.  Don't require it all at once, have them create 1 - 2 before each game session and insist on no more than three sentences each.  Suggest cross pollinating the lists so some of the characters have mixed relationships with the same NPC. Then insert them into the narrative at any dramatic opportunity, as opposition or working cross purposes to build conflict.You mzy not use all of them, but try to squeeze in at least one NPC from each player.
It can contribute to a certain Guiding Days of All My Children's Hospital feel to things, making it feel like a small, melodramatic setting.  On the other hand you are establishing and spotlighting character backstory in a front staged, interactive way, rather than exposition.  Be sure to eschew backstory novellas when you do this, since it'll just be wasted work.

Tell Me 3 Things - Sharing narrative control- This is from the back of John Wick's Houses of the Blooded.  One of the core elements of role playing is the idea that you are adopting another persona, one who lives, breathes, fucks, and dies in the collaborative fantasyland.  So collaborate already.  

Expanding on the idea of the improv principle of 'Yes, and...' when my players meet an NPC or go to a new place I ask them to tell me something that they know about that place or that person, until three things have been said.  Everything stated is taken as fact on the surface, validating their fictional selves and further building out the setting.  Anything could possibly be rooted in half-truth or flat out deception further complicating things for the players and adding depth.

Share inspiration -Same tonal page- These practices are built on the conceit that your players are interesting and intelligent people that you want to role-play with. Also the idea that role-playing is a collaborative medium, none of us are as strong as all of us. This can go awry if you're all going in different directions, for example sci-fi is a broad genre and if you want to run a game that meditates on economic nihilism then you want to keep things from getting too Hitchhiker's.  

You can get everyone on the same page in two steps: 1) talk about the sorts of associated media so there's an established baseline of genre assumptions 2) make characters in a group so everyone can brainstorm character concepts and gel their relationships.  The player characters are the most important characters in the campaign, providing perspective and coloring events with their agency and motivations.  If you have most of the PC's are in line with Dark Matter, but there's one selfish Zaphod then the whole thing can go sideways, very fast.

Whatever your grand designs for fantasyland; if your players don't care, aren't enjoying themselves, and showing up out of obligation then you've failed. Loosen the reigns and share the narrative with them, as they've shared their time and presence with you. 

This month's theme is Inspiring Your Players. the seed article is here.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

On Top of Mt. Shasta: The Goblin Market

The Goblin Market - Getting lost's an easy thing in the Park, finding is often the hard part. Plenty of treasure hunters and mystics have wandered off the beaten path surrounding the mountain. Never to be seen again. Most become ensnared in the Goblin Market's wheeling and dealing. Squirreled away in the rough country, you can find vagrant tent cities intermingled with market stalls and vendors hawking a range of goods. Some human, some not. All are welcome to barter in the Goblin Markets. Just remember that money doesn't spend here. They're interested in baubles and ephemera, refusal gets the Gobbomeister Flim-Flam involved.
And nobody wants that.

Goal: They want more people to come to the park. Some to trade, some to lose.
Move: Constituents of the Goblin Market may take Sticky Bandit as an advancement.
Sticky Bandit - When you turn out your pockets looking for something, roll +Sharp. On a 10+ then you have what you need. On 7-9, you have something that's not quite close enough. On a miss, you had it but someone stole it from you.
Leader: Flim-Flam - At the intersection of snake oil and used cars salesmen, you'll find Flim-Flam. His loud suits and greasy hair camouflage his Otherworldliness, something he'd rather not discuss. The greedy goblin has grown fat and happy with the Underdim Compact and maintains it as best he can. If the Mole King wants a girl with green eyes, then that's what Ualichu gets.
Like this but WAY more flea market.

Monday, May 14, 2018

On Top of Mt. Shasta: The Wireless Church

The Wireless Church- Settled by Italian immigrants in 1905, the city of Mt. Shasta was fertile ground for fringe beliefs and folk traditions. Later this century the New Age Movement declared Mt. Shasta a sacred mountain, a lodestone of spiritual energy, or a refuge of lost Atlantean civilization. The Wireless Church is a culmination of all these beliefs and more. Claiming lineage from the benandanti and guidance from Saint Clare of Assisi, patron saint of television. They espouse the belief that the soul is an eternal part of the electromagnetic spectrum. That when you die, you're dispersed into the ionosphere and have a unique frequency. With proper diet and prayer, you can tune into the Saints and maybe even the voice of God. For a faith movement so heavily predicated on communication through the ages, they are heavily invested in human cloning, President Clinton's ban on 3/4/1997 has thrown leadership into a tailspin.
Move: Members of the Wireless Church may take the move Divine Protection as an advancement.
Divine Protection - The Saints grant you 1-armor, impenetrable. If you wear armor  use that instead.
Goal: They seek the lost Refuge the Saints say is in the park, so they can shelter against the turning of the millennium.