Friday, August 31, 2012

Apocalypse World, Art: The Gunslinger Playbook!

Hey y'all. First off, thank you all! I made my goal of 1000 hits through the month of August. That breaks the previous record by over 300 hits, and is triple the growth rate I'd had pretty consistently before. I like to think I'm producing more good content and folks are looking, but Twitter definitely helped, as did doing more original art and advertising in new places. Also, I'm sure posting around has been upping my spambot count :/ . But seriously, thanks, and I hope to just keep putting out better and better stuff.
 Music now! I like putting the music first so you can listen while you read, it feels more natural.
I've done Bastion before - refer to February Songaday Day Four cuz I want to get right into content. Slinger's Song is thematically appropriate here.

OK, so, Apocalypse World. I've talked about it before, I've done extensive posting about Dungeon World, and I own and have played, in combination, seven Apocalypse Powered systems, not counting the free Regiment or World of Dungeons. It's awesome. I love the system, I love the fiction, I love the writing and it makes me want to just play and play and play.
And yet, I haven't played the original piece, Apocalypse World. I own it - have since Christmas. I have all the LE playbooks, which I got at Christmas. I recently dove into the playbook-trading world and emerged with almost everything there is to have. But I haven't played it. Why? In short, Kris. Now, I do not begrudge him for this one little bit at all, but Kris isn't really a big fan of post-apocalyptic fiction. It's just not his schtick. He's not particularly thrilled by it, and it gets a bit on the dark side for him (which I think is hilarious because the stuff he runs in like D&D is way darker than anything any of us ever come up with). This is entirely fair - I'm not going to push him into a game he's not into, especially if I have other games to show off and try.
Now, though, school is starting back up, and Kris is back at uni, too far to game in person. Like usual, we'll be Skyping him in. Also, like usual, I expect for there to be a good number of days where he just can't make it due to classwork and stuff and other obligations - also fine. However, instead of just canceling when he's not free, an idea hit me - take the others, who are cool with the genre, and play Apocalypse World with THEM when Kris is too busy, and just keep AW on the side when Kris is here! It works perfect. Only problem: I'm not confident about running AW for JUST Dan and Kenny - despite hearing about it working, I want one more player. I could find folks, but I also have been a bit weird about introducing new folks into our existing dynamic - it's why I've stuck to this group and just this group. The perfect situation came up though. See, we have a former member named Luke. Admittedly, in the past, Luke has kind of a flake to the game. He'd start out really excited, start playing, and after two sessions start coming up with excuses not to come, despite claiming excitement. I can't know if the excuses were real or not - I know he's busy, and has a hell of a lot more of a social life than I do. So we were talking about needing another member, and were saying, hey, maybe Luke - his playstyle even fits great for AW. As we were discussing it, who calls Kenny's cell but Luke, asking, in the most bizarre coincidence, if we've got any games going on anytime soon that he might be able to Skype in and play with us!
I'm now coordinating what's happening for that. This Saturday I'd set up a plan to game, and Kris wasn't available, so hey, AW. Now, Kris might be able to join, which not only means I need to think fast about games but also need to figure out what I'm going to do about the fact that I need Skype Premium to video-chat two people at once. Shit. But it's exciting, maybe we play AW or whatever, but it'll be fun regardless!
EDIT: Kris will be playing, and he's cool with AW! In fact, after doing some closer reading of a couple of playbooks, he's actually pretty excited. Thinking Maestro D' or Hoarder.

So,that's all the backstory. Luke contacted me about having read through the playbooks and was wondering if there was a way to plat, like, a dual-pistols specialist. I actually couldn't think of one. I asked over at Story Games, and got a couple of neat brainstorms that I liked, but I wanted something nice to give Luke for the game. So I set about to build a small supplemental playbook called The Gunslinger.
I had a choice to go with the Battlebabe or the Gunlugger as a base - honestly, I was just feeling the Battlebabe, but I think it can apply decently to either of the two.

First off, a little flavor text!

In the old days, before even the Golden Age hit its prime, there was another lawless time, where peace wasn’t kept with courts and lawyers, but with a pair of revolvers at twenty paces. These days ain’t so different, and you? Your pistols are ready and your reflexes are sharp. White hat, black hat – in Apocalypse World, what’s the difference?

I hope that sounds cool. *I* think it sounds cool. For now, it'll do.

So, how do you get this supplemental playbook?

When you master the art of wielding dual pistols, you can take the following as new Battlebabe moves or as moves from another playbook.

I plan to give Luke this by default though. This trigger is one of my meh spots.


(___) Fastest Gun In The Wastes: When you pull your guns before anyone else can react, roll+Sharp. On a 10+, your guns are out and ready; maybe you even fire off a couple shots. On a 7-9, your guns are out, but you weren’t quite the fastest gun in the wastes this time. On a miss, the MC makes a move, as hard as he likes.
 I like the name. I have several variations on this, but this is my favorite so far. It pairs quite well thematically with the Battlebabe's Reflexes move to make a lightning-fast character.

(___) Speed Shooter: When you unload the whole clip of both your pistols into your foes, you can choose to either deal an additional one harm to a single target or to make an area attack (as if your guns had the autofire tag). Your guns are empty now though!
 The ability to unload their revolvers at high speed is a gunslinger thing from Western flicks, and I wanted a move like this. The Area Fire option is from Johnstone in the S-G thread - it's way better than what I had before (which was +1 harm, +2 is you empty all your ammo, and that is way lamer and potentially stronger).

(___) Town Sheriff: You’ve got the law on your side. When you round up a posse to get your business done, you get a gang of deputies (2-harm gang small 1-armor vulnerable:desertion) until the job is done.
 This was something I really liked the idea of. That said, I must say I liked the idea in the S-G thread of a Touchstone as a sheriff. Your nature as a sheriff though, while it lets you deputize a bunch of people, comes with a lot of obligations (probably to the local warlord or Hardholder). Also, the Sheriff that deputizes people for personal vengeance and not for actually crime-hunting won't remain the sheriff for long, especially if he gets some of the deputies killed.

(___) Trick Shot: No one can do what you do with those pistols. When you try to make a clever shot instead of just outright shooting you can Seize by Force or Go Aggro with Cool instead of Hard. If you already have the Ice Cold move, when you Go Aggro with a trick shot you get +1 to the roll.
 I just couldn't make it really work. I originally had it work with Sharp, but then you'd never take this instead of Ice Cold. In the end, I just combo'd it up. This is my major spot of discontent, but hey, it's on a trial basis right now.

So that's what I have for the playbook. It was fun to actually try to put something together. I'll be composing up something more official-looking than the Word doc I have right now, probably once I feel better about the moves as a whole.

However, maybe you're here for art, not for stats.
I actually started working on the playbook with the art. A bit backwards. But hey, it's fun.
I worked off of this piece of stock art from deviantart. Thank you very much to dragon-orb!
I don't want to embed it and siphon his own views. Check it out though, especially if you occasionally use stock art yourself - he has a lot of really great stuff and is really relaxed on his rules for a lot of it. And so, AW'itize!
I cropped this in such a way that it fits the box on the right side of the trifolds for a true playbook. However, I made more of an image. Not just a wider amount of it done - I pulled in a mid-tone color and it makes it way better! I was inspired to add a middle ground cuz that's what J. Walton (I think) did with his Supplemental Playbooks.
To be honest, I think this looks fucking AWESOME.

But that's it for today! Tomorrow is the game, and I'll be busy, but the day after I might have some AP, or I'll do the AP for Geiger World from GPNW. Also, go buy The Basement Collection, it came out on Steam today! Edmund McMillen's name alone makes it solid gold!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Go Play NW: Commando World/GI Joe 1946 Actual Play

So, hey there. Wanted to mess with the format real quick-like and stick the music at the top instead. Have a listen while you read or something!
God I love the No More Heroes and No More Heroes 2 soundtracks. Seriously, they're just plain fantastic - a lot of games try for the awesome rock soundtrack thing (Sonic games are doing this all the time, though recently Unleashed and Generations have opted for orchestral- and electronic-dominated soundtracks), but very few succeed with any particular consistency. NMH2 has a kick-ass punk/rock soundtrack, with The Upside being a more light-toned song on it. I find the The Upside really really nice, and catchy too.

Rapid-Fire AP! Or not. This is another whole long AP post - turns out that, despite having been a whole two months ago, I remember quite a bit. Commando World was the game I played last on Saturday, so it was a late evening game (took us til just about midnight from 8). Coming into the slot, I didn't actually know I was going to be playing it. I didn't have any idea what I'd play actually - I tossed myself in for the Donut (GPNW's mechanism for matching people who want to game with people willing to run or have to fill spots). Ogre had his Dungeon World hack that he'd been working on for the past few weeks, with the premise being, instead of adventurers or post-apocalyptic wasteland, it was GI Joe right after the end of World War II. Ogre mentioned that once the serial numbers are filed off he'll probably call it Commando World, hence what I'm calling it here (cuz it's easier to say than GI Joe 1946 AW Hack).
So it was a really big group! Seriously, I don't remember exactly how many people were at the table but it must have been at least eight. Ogre was GM of course, and the others whose names are jumping out at me as memorable are Kingston, Matthew (though I don't remember his last name), and Eric Logan (the owner of the best Seattle game store, Gamma Ray Games).
I admit, I dont' remember all the character names - I am not familiar with GI Joe and I'm not particularly knowledgable about WWII either. The ones I remember were, of course, my own (Grunt, who I'll talk more about 'cuz I have a picture of the sheet to remind me), Kingston sat to my left and played Snake Eyes, the mute ninja, Matthew, who played Flash, the expimental-tech guy who wielded a flamethrower, and Eric played a leader-type character (thanks very much to him for that, really kept things moving forward). Additionally, I remember we had an NPC team member sniper named Snowblind or some such. One of the players was playign an artillery specialist (with a donkey-mounted portable artillery), and we had other fellows that I don't recall.

An interesting aspect was the GIANT pile of character sheets Ogre had out. One sheet per character, there must have been two dozen characters to pick from. Even once we had our characters and we had gotten our mission briefing, we got to pick any of the other guys from the pile to support us. I think I would have liked to see what would happen if we had a limit to the number we could pick to come with us - as is, it was just, "need an ace pilot?" (oh that was another NPC we took, Ace. That or it was the T-copter dude...but Ace was an option at least), and the answer was just "well, you got one now!". Oh well - we didn't take too many folks, so it didn't feel like we were too overprepared or anything.

Another interesting thing to keep in mind: this is loosely based on Dungeon World. Not AW. Ogre hadn't seen AW really, and had only gotten a brief look at DW before really wanting to build this game with it. As such, it starts diverging from standard Apocalypse Games pretty early. Its closest link is it uses the move mechanic of "When you [trigger], roll+[stat], on a 10+ success, on a 7-9 [description of partial success], on a 6- miss." This also means Ogre has not read The Regiment (which the game could definitely get some assitance from I think), nor has he read other hacks like Monsterhearts or Monnster of the Week to see what they do. This is a VERY early playtest.

So we all had our characters, and we went around the table. For each of us, Ogre roleplayed as, uh, some big military figure (I don't recall the name, but I'm sure it was an actual GI Joe reference), approaching each of us in turn at wherever we were at the time and trying to convince us to come and join his new team. It was a quick and interesting way to give us some background on what our guys have been doing before play. Then we started introducing our characters to the group. Here's my sheet:

Okay, so going through. Yes, this was just a sheet of paper with stuff printed on it in standard font. Ogre said he'd been doing this for only, like, 3 weeks. Also yes, I DID draw little pictures to indicate how many stuffs I had. Anyway, up top we have my character's name (Grunt) as well as his military position, his real name, and his birthplace. Following that are the places I've served in - Grunt's been getting around. The last line there is our medals. I gotta say - I wish the medals had some cool little stat benefit, especially if we pick medals for our guy when this gets genericized. Snake Eyes' sheet was quite funny - it had his code name, Snake Eyes, and then the word classified a bunch of times for everything else.
We had 5 stats: Att(ack), Def(ense), M(o)v(ement), F(ix)/B(reak), and H(it) P(oints). Like most Apocalypse-Powered systems, these will be used to add to our move rolls. Ogre had a big pile of basic moves we could use. F/B is the most general, used when none of the others really applies. HP, of course, is health, just like D&D.
Then you see the moves. Fortune's Fool is pretty good, giving Grunt an enormous potential to not get hurt. It's worth noting though: the balance on the conditions that Ogre had come up with were a little overwhelming - mostly they resulted in penalties to using certain moves, and the penalties were a bit too large for a 2d6+stat roll. It was nice throwing some conditions on the enemies though - it was very effective. The Hardest Working Man move was helpful in one instance in particular (letting me move ahead of the group and get into a better position), but in general we more treated it as a narrative trait that Grunt had awesome endurance. The Ammo Hump was definitely the best thing I had - our "ammo slots" were essentially our load. By default, Grunt had three, so the ammo hump's bonus four was great. With the ammo system as it is, this is a fantastic move (and I carried a couple other folks' stuff so they had more room). Unfortunately, I'm not so keen on the ammo system - but I'll get to that. Being a Small Arms Armorer looked like it could be really useful, and I imagine would be great in some games, but the way rolls came out I think it just triggered one time for a buddy. A lot of ENEMY gun jamming though! Also, the wording on this one could be strange for campaign play, but it's an early draft built for a con, so it's to be expected.
Beneath, you can see my inventory. We were given a couple choices for guns, and I picked a pistol and a rifle, along with my complementary grenades and knife. On the right, you can see 7 bubbles, now with slashes through them. These were my seven "ammo slots" and I slashed them when I filled it. Most of it is filled with spare ammo, but I took a spare grenade, Flash's shape charge that we were going to use in the mission, and the walkie-talky. I have two smoke grenades (white ones - each of the teams had some smoke grenades to act as signal flares, and there were three teams, so red, white, and blue!). Flash had a move that gave him access to experimental technology - when aske if he had anything this time, Ogre gave him some Plant Rockets to pass out. These are the sort that you stake in the ground and will go off. I think we ended up with one each.
Okay, I wanted to talk about the ammo. This is a very early draft, done inspired by DW but not very closely modeled after it without a real reference text and done swiftly, so I have absolutely no ill will toward Ogre for doing it so, but I think it's a flawed system. I've played games where we count individual ammos before. I very much dislike it. Both major Apocalypse-Powered texts have a solution to this issue, and both are clever, though they are very different (I actually think there are 3 major AW-systems, AW, DW, and Monsterhearts, but MH doesn't really have any gun or ammo rules at all. And yeah, I consider MotW and Regiment to not quite be the major ones yet, though they're close). Apocalypse World doesn't HAVE an ammo system - running out of ammo just happens, usually as the result of the MC's "Activate They're Stuff's Downside" hard move. Things with lots of ammo get the infinite tag, and it simply means the MC can't make you ever run out of ammo on that weapon (the big example is actually "lots of knives", which has the infinite tag usually, but it applies to guns too). DW, on the other hand, uses an arbitrary ammo system. It's pretty common to carry 2-ammo. Ammo is just like spells - shooting doesn't use it. However, when you shoot, on a 7-9, one of the downsides you can pick is to need to take more shots than usual, lose 1 ammo. In this way, losing ammo is always voluntary, but often preferable to whatever other punishment could come from that 7-9. It doesn't rely on close tracking, and it's easy. For this particular game, I'd say to go the DW route, but the AW route works too. If you went the DW route, the best way to word it would be "For Grunt, 2-Ammo takes only 1-load of space, not the usual 2-load." In that way, the Ammo Hump is very clear - he can carry twice the ammo, but only ammo, whereas in the actual game I ended up using those extra slots for stuff. For the AW route, I'd word it "When Grunt is prepared for a fight, all of his guns add (infinite ammo)." You can't out-ammo this guy. The reason I prefer the DW route is because of the aspect that ammo-loss is punishment. In the DW-track, you can lose ammo a bunch more times to avoid bad situations. In the AW route though, running out of ammo is the result of a Hard Move. When your guns are infinite, he simply can't narrate you running out of ammo - in other words, he'll just pick a different hard move, and you still get punished, making your feature useless mechanically. That's why infinite isn't so amazing in AW as it would be in other games. Now, I'm not talking about the elephant in the room - The Regiment is a very military, very gritty AW hack. I'm SURE it has a sweet ammo solution as well, but I haven't gotten the time to actually READ The Regiment yet, so I can't talk about it. Ogre, if you see this, check it out as well for any possible data you can use.
OK, I've gotten through the ammo thing. Note: Ammo was my single largest complaint, and it barely arose in play, so don't take it too hard, this is mostly talking in theory. It was a lot of fun, even with a little bit of ammo tracking (and we weren't down-to-the-bullet specific).
And now for something good! See those Zones for the range on the weapons? Those seemed to be ripped right from FATE (or from The Dresden Files RPG's version of FATE at least). Zones are conceptual, not measurements. Across the kitchen is a zone. If I leave the kitchen and go into the living room, that's a zone change. If I run out of the kitchen, into the living room, out the back door onto the deck and jump off and am running across the lawn, I'd call that 3 zone changes, ending in the "Back Lawn" zone. How large exactly they are is a bit flexible, and I really like these as a mechanic in games. They are AWESOME. If you have to be tracking position, this is one of the most narrative ways to do it.
Now back to suggestions! This was not an issue. This is something that I think could be added to make the game better. So far, every variant of AW I've seen has changed the Hx system into something unique. Apocalypse World itself had Hx, a sliding scale of how well you know another PC. It doesn't denote liking them, just knowing them, understanding how they work and stuff. Bonds were Dungeon World's mod. Bonds are short phrases describing your past with another PC. To get a score, you counted up how many you had with a given person (usually 1, or 2 if you know them real well). Both the Bond score and the Hx score are used for Aid Another type rolls. Monster of the Week has something kinda like a fusion of the initial Hx questions and Bonds, but from my reading they seem to have no mechanical effect. I don't know the Regiment. Monsterhearts has the most radical change, with Strings being a sort of token you have tied to another character that, when spent, give you some power over the other character, generally representing emotional control over the target - there's a whole economy of Strings being traded and such, and they're my favorite mechanic as a whole. My point in summarizing all of these is to point out that Commando World had none, and I think the inter-team cameraderie and relationships are something that would really come up. I don't know much about GI Joe, as I've said, but I imagine that as a series there has to be more going on than just kicking bad guy ass or it wouldn't hold people's attention, and that drama is very easy to stimulate with some variation of the History rules. I don't really know which way to go with it - make something new, or try one of these and run with it for a bit (I don't think Strings fit though, those are very much about emotional control and that's, while not absent, less prominent in this genre).
Those are the main game design points I wanted to hit. I think it may be worth visiting AW's harm rules instead of DW's HP (and thus also simplifying damage on the guns) but that's not an imminent thing, just idle thought.
Oh, and for the record, my "Rifle" weapon was advanced in a bunch of ways, I don't remember exactly how, but it was essentially a modern assault rifle.

So. What actually happened? Again, the details are a touch fuzzy thanks to it being 2 months ago, late at night, and using a lot of names of characters I didn't recognize.
We were all together at the compound, and roleplayed a touch of the existing relationships between our characters, with the idea that we've been getting ready on this team to, so far, do absolutely nothing. Finally, we get called in for a mission briefing - or at least Eric's character, the group leader, did. Turns out that the enemy forgot to tell a few of its troops that the war was over, and a couple of incredibly high-profile targets were spotted in the mountains of (I believe, this is more of a guess) Eastern Europe. We had a blurry photo of a man in a metal mask outside a complex - this man would of course be Destro, the one name enemy name that stuck with me. He was explained by the boss, who then told us also about another objective for the mission, a more espionage-type thing down in the town. Essentially, we had a choice of mission for this con game. We picked Destro and the arms complex.
We spent a bit of time planning and choosing who goes on ahead. Snake Eyes, being mute, did a whole pointing and charading thing a lot of the time, which was a lot of fun - also cool was that he actually wrote and passed notes to Eric. We decided that Snake Eyes would go ahead of the main group the night before and infiltrate the place and investigate, and that the rest of us would transport in and drop just before sunrise around the side of the mountain this complex was situated on. Snowblind was in a sniper's nest relatively nearby with a clear view of the complex with his rifle - he had one color of smoke grenade. I was at the front of the advance team with Flash, while Eric's leader led the rear team which assisted with artillery and such, and each of us had a different color of smoke grenade, leaving us with all three of red, white, and blue (Snake Eyes didn't have any smoke grenades - that would be FAR too overt for him). We watched Snake Eyes's actions the night before the attack, sneaking in, getting over by the big shipping palettes that were ready for pick-up, and prying one open to get a peek inside: they're manufactoring experimental weapons! It appeared to be a rocket launcher that fired six rockets at once, meant essentially to be a shotgun but with rockets. Using a small metal piece he had, he morse-coded a message to snowblind with the little flashes - the message itself was about what the situation is, that they're building weapons/explosive. He then went off to go over the roof of the main building there...
Meanwhile, we're getting set to drop. That was an interesting thing - for most of the getting-to-there stuff we kept a loose track of time, and at one point it actually looked like we weren't going to make our planned attack time of sunrise, but we made it. At this point Snake Eyes made his final pre-assult move - he snuck into the building and coated the inside of Destro's mask (cuz he was asleep and all) with a paralytic contact poison. Nasty. He then snuck out.
We opened quick and stormed the wall of the complex, the three of us (Flash, me, and one other whose name and character name escape me unfortunately). The I-forget-his-name character couldn't even make it there, I think his foot ended up in a badger hole or something. Me, I botched my wall vault and am now hanging more or less upside down by the straps of my uniform, trying to get loose. Flash vaulted just fine and started striding in toward the guards, flamethrower in front of him, when BAM a perfectly dialed in artillery strike hits right in the middle of the courtyard from the rear team's fire. That'll teach 'em. We kept going, me managing to not get shot, but Flash was fired at and missed - in fact, one of their guns jammed. If I remember, there were 4 dudes. The rear team was mostly just digging in and supporting the artillery. My turn comes around again and I decide that I could either shoot with penalties or get myself free. I shoot! And manage to do awesome, hitting a dude and possibly killing him, I don't recall. A couple of guys later noted that it was a pretty awesome manuever, me hanging on by my straps, totally vulnerable, and still sighting upside-down and shooting out some guys, so I suppose it was indeed pretty cool looking. Flash just stepped forward and started lighting guys up with the flamethrower then, and a-bit-behind-us finally got loose and got to the wall and started taking shots from cover.
A bunch of fighting later, we're moving into the building there while I'm untying myself and Flash is advancing inside, with Snake Eyes in the rafters. Destro is now paralyzed on the floor in the next room, and the basement door is open. I get in there and am participating in the firefight (and even get a dude taken prisoner) before grabbing Destro and taking him as flash set the shape charge in the basement full of ammo and rocket-building components.
Meanwhile, the rear team is havign some trouble. Out of nowhere, ninja! It was definitely a GI Joe villain, a ninja type guy - at research, his name was Storm Shadow. He immediately incapacitated Eric (whose character I now think was named Hawk) and attacked the artillery fella and the other guy who was back there. Through some mean feats of teamwork and skill and fortune, they actually won and got the ninja to surrender, which was awesome.
We ended the mission, having taken out the weapons depot and bagged both Destro and Storm Shadow. We concluded the game as it was late, and that was Commando World!

It was a lot of fun to play, and I'd absolutely play again. In fact, I'd actually be interested in playing it at home - at least one of my players is a GI Joe fan, and at least two of us (now three) of us are WWII buffs (so just not me basically - not Kris too much either). I'm eagerly awaiting any release or playtest of the game.
Also, does anyone know how to contact Ogre? I have no idea where he is online, and it'd be cool to know and let him know I did some AP finally and maybe ask about possibly running it myself (goodness am I going to need to do research to make it work).

That should be it now I guess. Oh, remember that I'm good for doing free art! I put up a text thing on the sidebar about it. Also, I recently changed the blog layout a bit - I finally found where to alter the text column width, which has bothered me since I started this blog. It should be much nicer now.
What's up next? I have three more GPNW APs to write and post. I'm also gearing up to do a The Binding of Isaac Let's Play! Been working stuff out, I'll be restarting a file and going from scratch. Never seen the game? Have seen it but really suck at it and want to see someone with at least a touch of skill do it? Look forward to it.
NOW I'm done.

End Recording,

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Art & Fiasco: Stonefalcon Manor (also, FREE ART for YOUR project!)

Hey y'all, just wanted to toss out a quick post now that the thing has gone live. So, a few days ago, fella named John Adams makes this thread over on the Story Games forums that I lurk around over at (look for horn_head_o - if you didn't know, that's my standard username on places where Ego is either too short or already taken). This thread is about some cool stuff like the playset he's been working on and is putting the finishing touches on and stuff. It's called Stonefalcon Manor and it's kinda like the original Dark Shadows show from way back when (not the recent bleh movie starring Johnny Depp - which I reviewed!
), being in a UK town that's really just finally catching up with the times somewhere between the 50s and 70s. An interesting twist is it has this "Secret Dice" mechanic that throws a different little twist into the Fiasco formula. While it doesn't seem quite as simple as the base Fiasco, little additions like that that can modify Fiasco's basic equation (let's see how many math words I can use to talk about Fiasco...) to alter the way it plays are really neat. If you're curious, here's the Score for the playset so you can know if you're interested in it:
"The truth will out...

The year is 1965, and the times are slowly catching up with the quaint English village by the bay. The hemlines are rising, the necklines are plunging, and there’s even talk of finally paving the old road. But the same level of modernity cannot be seen in the large manor house looming on the hill in the distance. The past haunts Stonefalcon Manor and the people within like a vengeful spirit. Day in and day out, the Harrington family and their servants go about their business as if all is right and proper, never daring to utter the dreadful truth that they have concealed all of these years. But the Secret of Stonefalcon Manor has spent long enough in the shadows. The Secret of Stonefalcon Manor will be revealed. And when the Secret of Stone Falcon Manor is revealed, heaven help those unfortunate souls caught in its dark, terrorizing grasp."

"But Ego..." I hear you cry, "this post is tagged Art, why're you just talking about some dude's Fiasco playset?" And the answer is because posts tagged Art get more pageviews here. No, I'm kidding, that's not why (although Art posts DO get a lot of pageviews). So like I was saying, this John Adams guy posts his draft of the playbook. See, he's got this line in the post: "Also, you'll notice there is no art -- sorry, but I am not artistic!". And that is a damn shame, because it sounds like it has this kick-ass cover, and I kinda have this picture in my head that would look sweet and I think I'm good enough to make it work... So I ask him if he knows what he wants it to look like, and if it's not out of my reach I could totally try to make it, and I'd do it free! And turns out him vision sounds a lot like my vision too, so hey, I jump on GIMP and start the drawin'. Several dozen layers and a very annoying size-incompatibility later (I figured it probably should scale to Letter size, but my image, uh, didn't. So I had to clean up a bunch of lines I hadn't expected to), I had an image. I went through a couple tiny revisions to come up with something even cooler with John, and wound up with what I think is a pretty sweet final image.
So yeah, I guess I now count as a published artist! I got my name in there as a credit and a link back here and everything! (if you're coming here courtesy of the playset, welcome!) This is pretty damn exciting for me. See, I have this kind of fantasy goin' on at the back of my head that, while I never intend for artist to take any form of full-time job for me, I think it'd be pretty awesome eventually to be able to help out my income with some stuff.
However, jumping straight to taking commissions is presumptuous of me. I'm mostly an unknown factor as far as art goes! I mean, you've got the stuff I post here, and whatever I have laying around my deviantArt and PixelJoint accounts, but not much goin' on for work that's actually released and used for stuff. That's why I'm willing to - wait for it - work for free.
Yup. I figure, do some free stuff and get some work out there and visible, and then I might be able to charge a little bit for some cool stuff.
So seriously. Hit me up if you have interest in FREE ART for YOUR project. I can't guarantee awesomeness right off the bat, but I'll do my best and work with you to make sure what you end up with is what you want. And hey, I ain't chargin', so what harm could there be in asking?

Oh, and what kind of silly fella am I for forgettin' til now? This is the thread where John's talkin' bout his playset and stuff:
And here's a direct link to the playset itself, currently working through Google Docs/Drive/whatever it is:

Uh, let's see, talked about the art, the playset, gave links, talked about my free art dealio, oh, music now! 
Revolution Roulette is both the name of the album, and the third track on the album, which is this. I gotta say, Poets of the Fall amazes me. First off, I've listened to all their albums, and love all of them. Okay, I admit, I'm not as into Temple of Thought, but hey, I still love it quite a bit. PotF are probably the only band I can think of that I absolutely love just about every track on every album they've released, even though they've released five whole albums (that's a lot of chance for me not to enjoy a song). I love the lead dude's voice. He's got a huge range, and, despite singing in perfect english and I would never imagine this guy was foreign, he's native to Finland and the band is based there and everything. They're dual-identity, Old Gods of Asgard, that they played as in the video game Alan Wake was a slam dunk (sitting inside a simply unbelievably good game). The guitar work is great, and the vocals are awesome, and they manage to change styles distinctly every album (though Carnival of Rust and Revolution Roulette have quite similar style). My favorite album is Twilight Theater - it's just perfect. You're Still Here is the weak point of that album, and it's still strong. Dreaming Wide Awake is simply perfect.
That's enough about them for now though. Gotta save something for when I inevitably repeat them in a Songaday sometime.

And one last thing: upcoming stuff. Now that I'm finally writing the GPNW stuff and I got the big Microscope piece out, it's coming a bit easier. Additionally, I'm writing up the Wrath of the Lamb commentary. Hold on, I'll review it right now:
"Hey, Edmund McMillen! Your game is fucking incredible and I've sunk several hundred hours into it and I love you, and will be buying it for every console I can when make those remakes you just announced and I can't wait for the expansion coming with that and I want The Basement Collection so bad right now!"
Also, on the Binding of Isaac note: I am a Platinum God. I am a victim of a known bug that doesn't save your unlocked secrets of Cain's Eye, Eve's Bird Foot, or The Left Hand, despite acquiring these several times and having all the achievements for them. My account will not call me one, but I am a Platinum God, and any naysayers can go fuck themselves.

There, ending on a cheery note. Later folks, enjoy the art and the playset and the music! And contact me if you want some of that free art!
End Recording,

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Go Play NW: Microscope Actual Play (The Gardeners)

So, Rapid-Fire Go Play NW. It has no bee almost an entire 2 months since I was actually there. Damn it, I hate myself for procrastinating like this. So here you go:

At Go Play NW I played 6 games. Dungeon World I already gave an Actual Play post of (and my photo of my charshet is one of the first things on Google Images if you search Dungeon World Thief, and it's on the second page if search even something as broad as "Dungeon World"! Okay, enough patting myself on the back now). The other games were: Microscope and Commando World on Saturday, and Geiger World, 3:16, and Metamorphosis: Omicron on Sunday.

So for the middle slot on Saturday, I'd elected to toss myself into the lottery. This was, essentially, going to be my first time going into a session with a completely random group with no idea what would be played. To be frank, I was pretty frightened - I know there are a lot of rather intimidating story games. My eventual group was: Ben Robbins, Dylan, and Feiya (I hope I got those right - my sincere apologies if not, it's been a while!). You might be able to see where this is going: I own Microscope, and I know whose name is on the cover. I didn't come right out and ask, but you can sure as hell that I voted for the game he actually wrote. See, I own Microscope, but I've never played it - whenever I read it, something just wasn't clicking, and the actual creator facilitating it for us would be great. And believe me, it was.
If I haven't said it straight yet, Ben Robbins designed and wrote Microscope.
So what is Microscope? It's a game of fractal history. Players take turns addding Periods (long lengths of time unified by some factor), Events (smaller things that happened within a given period - the exact scale of Events was something that came up as a little fuzzy, but it's pretty easy to just judge it), and Scenes (which are roleplayed out). Acting in chronological order is not a factor at all, and no one is taking ownership of or advocating for a given character or faction. One of the interesting things is that during your turn, no one else is supposed to collaborate with you or give you ideas. It's very much a counter to a lot of indie games, which thrive on cross-checking and concensus. It makes things surprising and forces even the timid to put their ideas in. It wouldn't work everywhere, but Fiasco could probably do some interesting things if you apply that principle over to it. I wouldn't say words like "better" or "worse"  but I'd definitely say that I think it could change into a little bit of a different beast. Heck, maybe it's supposed to be and I'm just playing it wrong!
Now, I haven't even gotten to the game itself, huh?
Here, take a peek at our game map!
So, want me to explain this stuff? Alright. In the top left are two cards that are a bit blurry. The one on the left is headed "Focus" while the other says "Yes" and "No" with stuff under each. To their right are two folded cards that you can't read, which are the Legacies.
The Focus is a tool used to let players narrow in on their interests. Every round of play, one player is the Lens. The Lens decides on what aspect of the fiction is going to be focused on in this round; it could be a person, place, event, concept, whatever. The Lens plays twice, playing two of periods/events/scenes in whatever combination, with each of his things relating in some way to his chosen focus. Each player than takes a turn placing something (or playing a scene), but whatever they do must relate to the focus. When it gets around to the Lens again, he takes one more turn.
Legacies are things in-between Focuses. After a Lens finishes up a Focus, the player to his right picks a Legacy - something interesting he or she wants to see in the game. Eventually, every player will have a Legacy - when it gets to your turn, you can replace it, but you don't get more than one. When it's your turn to create or replace your legacy, you then get to make a dictated scene or an event about anyone's legacy, not just your own. Our's here are a Prussian Officer and the Secret Grimoire of Florence.
The Yes/No card is the Palette. the Palette is a thing where, at the beginning of the game, we each name one Yes and one No. Yes things are always allowed in your history - they're things we like and want to see. No's CANNOT be included in the game. Someone doesn't like them and doesn't want that to be what our history is about.
Our Yes's are International War, Gene Theory, and I can't read the last one. Our No's are Zombies, Time Travel, Scientific Agreement (oh boy there's a doozy) and Plague Affecting Kids.
The top row of upright cards are Periods. The colored or empty circles are whether we (the creator) consider that piece of history to be light or dark. I don't think this had a rules affect, it just helped set tone. As you can see, we have a lot of dark periods, and our one light period is the least-populated one.
Under the top row, the horizontal cards are our Events. Any vertical cards under the Events are Scenes we played.

In general, the game focused upon a man-made plague that Renaissance science unleashed upon Europe. Behind it all, a secret society called the Gardeners - they're mostly made up of nobles, working to finesse and perfect their genetic lineages and keep the nobility pure.
We had three focuses. The first was The Gardeners. The second (mine) was on Sandro, son of a Florentine gardener we'd talked about in the previous Focus. The third was the Church, and their addition changed the face of the game, so thanks Feiya!
Some memorable scenes (by which I mean things that happened, not just mechanical Scenes):
* An early scene of the Florentine Gardener and his family leaving Florence to escape the plague - they were the last to go. Unfortunately, they could not all go - I played the butler, trying to argue that I should be left behind while Dylan, playing the Gardener, argued that the family would never make it without me. The scene ended with me punching him out and tossing him on the wagon and telling them to go. Before that though, the Florentine (which I will continue to call him, havign forgotten his actual name) presented to his son Sandro a large tome, his Gardener's book, with the message at the back explaining everything about his organization to his son. However, with the Florentine now not staying behind, he reclaimed the book afterward before Sandro read it. But now that book is in play, and as I said before, the Secret Grimoire of Florence eventually became a Legacy.
* A scene between Gardener leadership discussing what they knew about the plague (this is the farthest left scene btw). They thought they'd squelched it when they had destroyed the lab under his estate. However, even under torture (which my dude was advocating against and Ben's character was actually doing) the plague creator hadn't revealed what I knew; he had a summer estate in Florence with another lab underneath. This lead to the already established evacuation of Florence and where the plague came from. His intention was, as we later discovered, to rid the world of the Gardeners, attempting to narrow the plague to kill only those of the Gardener bloodline, but the released plague worked on anyone (of a certain age, in accordance with the Palette).
* A debate between Church members who had been rationing food during the famine. They weren't only distributing food - to get the food, they drew your blood for study to keep the plague from getting out of control again.
* The final scene. The Jesuits had uncovered the Secret Grimoire of Florence. See scenes are framed by the creator asking a question that will be answered in the scene. The scene plays til the question is answered, and no more. This scene's question is the only one I vividly remember: "What world-changing secret is uncovered within the Grimoire?" Dylan played an attendant, Ben played the top Jesuit, Feiya played a descendent of the Florentine, and I played - guess who? - the Pope. Yup. When I included the Pope in the scene, I just knew I was going to have to be the one to play him. A bit of advice: Don't play the Pope. That is a HARD role. Folks said I did a good job and Ben had mentioned to several folks later that I was a sweet Pope - the mellowest Pope you'll ever meet. The tome had been brought before me, and the Jesuit kept trying to hint that I shouldn't bear the burden of this, and that if I'd turn away he'd destroy it (though he never said so - it was in the subtleties), but I was insistent that I must know. When it came to opening it - well, none of us really had a world-changing secret. We kept tossing out stuff (the Gardeners conducted horrible human experiments, etc) and deciding, yeah, it's in there, but that's not THE secret. Then it came out - a lineage tree, found on the final page. It traced the geneology of the Gardeners - all the way up to Adam and Eve and the GARDEN of Eden. Yeah. The Gardeners are the direct descendents of Adam and Eve. This changes the world - it is undeniable proof of the truth of Genesis. The Jesuit, even now, tried to convince the Pope that it was the faith without proof that showed peoples's strength and devotion and that true proof would destroy that, but I knew: the world needed to know.
The Garden/Gardeners thing was entirely out of left field - remember that the Church wasn't even in the game until Feiya Focus'd it in. It was perfect. This is an unbelievable game. I can't wait to try to play again sometime.

Huh. I've typed a hell of a lot more than I thought I would. This isn't Rapid-Fire - this is full AP. Up it goes!

All this Florence and Church talk has me in an Assassin's Creed 2 mood. This is the first track on the soundtrack, and incorporates a lot of the elements of other songs on the soundtrack (electric guitar from the Combat songs, Venice Rooftops's acoustics, and Ezio's Family's choir and melody). It's one of my favorite songs from the game, coming in just under Ezio's Family and just over Venice Rooftops. Florence Tarantella is a great fourth, and Dreams of Venice is one of the best city songs in the entire series along with City of Rome and City of Jerusalem.

EDIT: Also, thank you to everyone who keeps viewing for making this month another pageview record for me! I hope to only keep doing a better and better job at pleasing you all!

End Recording,

Friday, August 24, 2012

Double Actual Play Part 2: Fiasco (Last Frontier Infection)

"So, a double AP post.

Here's the story. Saturday was Kris's last gaming session with us in person before he heads off to college and I have to Skype him in. As such, I really wanted to be able to do some actual gaming. Sadly, Daniel's and Kenny's schedules are a little weird. Eventually, we come to a point where Kris is staying for the whole time, and Kenny joins us a bit later, and Daniel leaves earlier than the other two.
Kris and Dan and I just hang, and when Kenny shows up we're chatting and trying to figure out what to play. Kris has been wanting to run Lady Blackbird, so we go with that. When we get to the end point for the night (you'll see what it is) Daniel's parents show up and he gets picked up, leaving just Kris, Kenny, and I. We decide that we want to try to get  through a Fiasco. Unfortunately, we're a bit slower than we hoped, and leave it right at the start of Act II.
So that's why we have two different half-APs."

So now Daniel's gone, and we went through my list of playsets. There was one that the others had keyed on a couple of times, though it never really struck me as that much fun (due to genre/location, not quality of the playset), and that was the Last Frontier playset that takes place in southern Alaska. Here's the Score from the playset so you have an idea of the intended tone.
Adding some pitch black and blood red to the great white north ... fishing villages and fishing village idiots, timber contracts and factory ships, State Troopers in floatplanes and the weird guys who hide when they fly over - set among the emerald forests of southeast Alaska’s vast archipelago, this playset drags an offbeat but familiar setting into the crosshairs."
However, Kris had something in his mind that he wanted that helped guide our playset choice - zombies. Kris had just watched 28 Days Later, and it seems it was overhyped for him (especially since fast/virus-zombies aren't new anymore) cuz he just didn't get why people think it's so great. Through it, he'd been thinking: "Wow, we could do a game way better than this." And we did. Back in November. We played my little 3:16 zombies reskin, and it was glorious (holy cow that was NOVEMBER?). But Kris wanted some zombie flare. And the startup of a zombie plague in a backwater Alaskan town? Yup. That had me sold on a playset I was iffy about. There was no modifications to the playset itself - we just knew that we wanted to guide the plot toward zombies.
So who are we, and what are our relationships?
* Kris, playing Wilford Brimley! Yup. Same appearance. Different personality, but we imagine in this little movie production, he was PLAYED by Brimley as well.
* Kenny, playing Rasputin Komovich! Russian indeed. Kenny apparently wanted to put on another accent all night - he always does enjoy that. Rasputin got some higher education in Russia, at least until the cash ran out.
* Myself (Ego), playing Silvio Ardale! Despite a foreign-sounding name, I'm from here. My parents wanted me to sound all sophisticated-like, and figured that the best way to do that was to give me a foreign-sounding name. My chief inspiration for how I'm playing this character is Drebin from Metal Gear Solid 4. I emulated his speech every chance I got (Indeed Ironicus, that guy manages to communicate bleached hair with his voice alone).
*Wilford and Silvio are Family - Distant relatives through obscure lineage. Wilford's mom's sister had sex with Wilford's dad's brother, the child was Silvio's (grand?)mother. (We're not entirely sure on how old that would make him if it was grand, so we're just leaving it vague).
* Silvio and Rasputin have a Crime - Bookie and Gambler relationsip. Silvio is the bookie - I played the addict in Boomtown, so I figured I'd try the other side. We decided that what folks mostly bet on around here is dog races - mostly greyhounds, but I make a good deal off of the dogsled races too.
* Rasputin and Wilford are Work - Skilled Work Barterers. They're plumbers.
* Between Wilford and Silvio is an Object: Ugly: Candid video of a former governer. We didn't talk any more about this beforehand.
* Between Silvio and Rasputin is an Object: Valuable: Aluminum suitcase full of cash.
* Between Rasputin and Wilford is a Need: Need to Get Out...of an obligation to a dangerous outsider.

Kris got the first scene. He put it with Wilford and Rasputin driving out in their truck (of course it's a truck - it may be Alaska, but that doesn't mean they're not enormous rednecks) to go fix someone's plumbing, when the engine starts burning and pull over. By coincidence, another guy is already on the side of the road, his motorcycle a wreck next to him - he's a totally badass biker. Real scary dude. As they come over out of the truck and step toward him, they notice some serious bites on his arm, but don't ask about them. Conversation ensues, and the guy tells them that he's a pretty decent mechanic and that he can fix up their truck right quick if they'll do him just this one favor. They need to give him a ride back into town, and they need to drop off this package at this botanist's place for him. Either they agree, or no deal and he'll just work on his bike instead of fixing their truck. They need to get to their appointment quick, so they agree. They get on the road.
Kenny's scene. It's them arriving and doing the work on the customer - turns out this would be where the former governer comes in. And come on - former governer? In Alaska? It could only be Sarah Palin. Hell, it sounds like the start of a really bad joke: So Wilford Brimley, Sarah Palin, and Rasputin walk into a bar... Anyway, big news from this scene is mostly just that the bker had been with them still and managed to piss off Palin real bad and we needed to get out of there before she shot us to bits and fed us to her wolves. We've now been BLACKLISTED by Sarah Palin. Great.
So they get back in town, and drop off the biker (at the bar) and are heading toward the botanist for the errand (because they need to get out of that obligation or that sucker will kill them) when Silvio stops them. He's looking for Rasputin to pay up - now. Enough conversation happens, and Wilford uses his family tie to me to convince me to back off and give him a little more time. Weasel. They leave, off to the botanist's house.
Actually, wait. Realizing now that the Palin scene wasn't actually a separate scene - the getting back into town was still Kenny's scene.
NOW it's Silvio's scene, and it's him talking to Wilford back at his place later in the day. It's mostly me talking, and I convince him to tell me about that package I saw in the back of the truck. He doesn't know what's in it, but Wilford tells Silvio they left it on the desk at the botanist's place - the guy wasn't there but the door had been open. Maybe it's still there. I left to go get it - this was my pos/neg resolution, whether it would still be there or not. It was there! By the way, by now I've said that Silvio needs the money now because of his own debts - to Sarah Palin. He begins to plot about how to maybe get back at her with Wilford (who's afraid of retribution over the biker, so he wants some leverage himself).
Cut over to Kris's scene. Having taken some serious pain meds, he's feeling pretty okay, and decides to go over to the bar for a drink (he is a stupid stupid old backcountry dumbass), where he finds Rasputin. As he's going near the bar though, he sees the biker being packed up in a body bag. When he asks Rasputin, apparently he had a heart attack. Rasputin complains then about how the package seemed to have leaked something on him when he was carrying it. Mostly this is them talking about how weird it was to go into the botanist's almost-abandoned place. When Wilford lets slip that he told Silvio where to find the package, Rasputin freaks about helping out that greedy asshole, and they head over to the botanist's again to find Silvio carrying the now-consistently-leaking package out of the house. We argue, and decide to open it. And inside is...
The botanist's head! Se7en style. Except the head seems to have been relatively cleaning severed, but you can tell there are very obvious sores and bite marks around the neck area.
We start investigating the house as Rasputin's scene. We find all sorts of research and stuff, and a whole bunch of plants covered in weird berries (from out-of-game convo, we know these berries are carrying the zombie virus), and he has all sorts of bizarre research material, including a text on, like, reanimation. We grab all sorts of the research and are getting out of the house, with Rasputin leaning over the head box to pick it up when the worst thing possible happens for this particular setup: a police car shows up, sees us walking out of a house with armloads of stuff, and one of us standing over a decapitated head in a box. He pulls his gun and we're all handcuffed when a knocking starts inside the house.
This is my scene. So we're going in right behind the cop (who won't let us out of his sight) and we find that the banging is coming from the basement trapdoor, like something is trying to get out. The cop opens the trapdoor and gets immediately yanked down the stairs by the zombie. By the way, this is a slow-zombie, in that it's person speed, not super fast like some medias. It's not a nnnnnnnnnnnnnnngh braaaaaaaains while staggering along one though. Seeing this walking corpse grab the cop, we bail. We're running through the woods away from the house as fast as we can, all of us with our hands cuffed behind our backs, as we're trying to escape the zombie. Those two fuckers (and I mean that in the nicest most amazing way), they said this scene goes badly for me, and I trip and the zombie slashes open my leg before I can get away, infecting me. Uh oh. And that was the sixth scene - the end of Act I.
We rolled and did the Tilt, picking:
* Innocence - Collateral Damage
* Failure - A tiny mistake leads to ruin.
While we could go back around on this, we're pretty sure the collateral damage is the infection of the entire hospital they brought the biker to and the failure is not killing me right away. That second one I'm not feeling super-evoked by, so we'll see.

And that was the Last Frontier Infection, part 1! I'm super-excited to get back to this.
Music, real quick-like.
I actually haven't put any listening time into Combichrist, but this too was on the Underworld: Awakening soundtrack. I like it, it's not awful to go with this AP, and it's an enjoyable song by a dude I'd dismissed without thinking about it.

End Recording,