Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

What Am I Playing Now?

Posted: February 22, 2016 in Uncategorized

Dag HammardalSo in the interim since last I posted anything (yes many moons ago), I had a great time with a published Star Wars adventure! I have a gang here now that I can play with on a semi-regular basis and it was awesome to be back in the game, so to speak…
So who was I?
His name is Dag Hammardal, and while I initially started off by calling him a “failed Jedi” I realized this was not quite accurate…
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The Office Magic User

Posted: February 16, 2010 in Uncategorized
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I was talking with E today about the “competency levels” she has to deal with at work.  These are odd creatures like “Level two in developing others” and “level four in status reports” and other good things like that.  I said how I figured that if she were to do two more levels in the dungeon crawl she’d probably have enough XP to level up.  And as a bonus, I said, she could get another spell too!  That, of course, lead us off on a discussion of what sorts of spells that could be.  She said that it’d make an awesome blog post and so I felt utterly compelled to write it up!

So now, without further ado, is the grimoire of office spells:

Magic User
Detect Management – Actually it’s pretty easy to find, I think.  It’s leadership that’s rather difficult to come across.

Distract Management – much as we’d like to dispell them, I don’t think that’s possible.  The best we can hope is to distract them and let us get on with our jobs.  The somatic component of this spell is wild hand waving and pointing at a non-existant or irrelevent problem elsewhere.

Silence Blowhard (reversable) – reverse version is Belabour the obvious, verbal and somatic components are a loud librarian shush with finger to the lips, or a bitch slap, caster’s choice (I know what I’d pick)

Leomund’s Tiny Meeting room – If your place is anything like mine or E’s, you can never find a meeting room when you need one.  Either they’re booked solid with recurring meetings originally set up during Laurier’s first term in office, or else they’re unbooked but the door’s closed and someone’s having a tryst inside.  Either way, no work’s getting done.  This spell creates a door in a blank wall that leads to a meeting room for the exact number of people you have attending, includes comfy chairs, a whiteboard (with markers!) and a networked PC that really works.  After seventh level, the meeting room also includes a coffee service.  There are danishes too if cast before noon.

Leomund’s Tiny Business Centre – just like the Tiny Meeting Room, but includes a working photocopier stocked with paper and toner, that never jams, and similarly equipped color and black and white printers.  Any office supplies needed are automatically available in the unlockable steel cabinet against the wall.

Cleric Spells
Create Deck – if it was a wood deck it’d be a druid spell, but no, this is a Powerpoint Deck; 35 full color slides on any topic the caster chooses, and it makes sense too!

Create Clue – for those in the office who don’t have one but could sure use one

Protection from Bureaucracy – gives a sphere of protection from stupid, bureaucratic rules in a 10′ radius around the caster.  No bureaucracy is allowed within the sphere for the (all too short) duration of the spell.

Retire – everyone’s goal!  The material component of this spell is a *large* bank balance.

Druid Spells
Trim deadwood – this produces a large cudgle magically welded to the caster’s hand.  The caster then walks around the office “tapping” the deadwood and magically they all go away!

Save a tree – removes all trace of toner from paper to allow reuse of the 600 page document that someone printed (twice!) and then left sitting on the printer in the business centre for two weeks

Illusionist Spells
Illusion of competence – Lulls viewers into the sense that whatever staff it’s been cast upon actually know their jobs and have a clue as to what they’re doing and how to do it.  The illusion is shattered by actually looking at what they’re doing (playing minesweeper) or asking them a question.

Let me know what I’ve missed!

Top Secret, review

Posted: February 4, 2010 in Uncategorized
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Just some wrapup notes for the top Secret mission…

The game still works.  It was still a lot of fun despite it’s Cold War roots being in long out of date.  I have yet to revisit the original mission that came with the boxed set, which was extremely Cold War in it’s setting, but it could always be run as a retro piece.

The biggest thing I find the system is missing is a trait or ability for spotting hidden things.  There’s no “make a perception roll”, because there is no perception trait.  That was a big failing for it even in 1980 because half of the spy game is seeing things others miss.  I guess it’s intended more as a player perception rather than character perception, up to the player to ask “is he sweating unduely?” rather than does the character spot it.

Top Secret has a strange history of intersecting with the reality of espionage and terrorism.  When the original game was being playtested, notes on TSR letterhead were found about a kidnap plot, and the FBI was alerted.  They visited the company’s offices to investigate!  The module I played, TS-003, had the cruise ship MS Corona highjacked by terrorists in 1982.  The deck plans for the ship in the game are based on the MS Achille Lauro, a ship that really was highjacked by terrorists in 1985!

As for the scenario in the module, I think it still works well.  It’s a tense and challenging game, and I’d love to run it with players sometime, especially in the “tournament” fashion for which it was designed.  For the modern day, however, I think I’d move it to the Carribbean and have the target city as Miami.  And to add tension, I’d have a limit that once the ship crosses the 50 mile limit, the US Navy will sink her with torpedos unless agents have sent the all clear.  Just a little something to up the tesnion for them.  And as for the doctor with his Aqua Staph jars, I’d say he boarded in Miami and was intending to jump ship once they reached made a port call at the right banana republic.

I’ll happily pull this game out again in the future.  I’d forgotten how much fun it can be.  There’s a small community of fans out there still playing and still enjoying this long out of print game.  The one thing to remember though, is that this isn’t (despite all the packaging) a James Bond type game.  It’s far to “gritty” or “realistic” for that.  It’s very straightforward in it’s presentation, not cinematic at all.

But like I said…fun and I’ll definately play it again.

Last time the agents had taken out one of the hostage holders, and burst in on the other…

The shouting starts.

Biggs: Freeze, drop it, drop it now.
Drake: Down, down on the floor, everyone down.
Benito (Terrorist): Back off, I’ll shoot, I’ll shoot. (while pointing his shotgun at the hostages)

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Dog Town, Fight Club

Posted: November 2, 2009 in Uncategorized
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As promised, here’s a short test out of the Dog Town rules…I’ve been playing out a scenario in my head, and this was a really good way to test the crunchiest bits of this “accounting heavy” system…

Danielle has been brought in to get something out of the “special cargo” room at the Air France cargo terminal.  This is the room reserved for valuable cargoes that need greater security than normal items.  The special cargo room is large enough to accommodate a variety of larger sized objects, though the item Danielle is after is a very small object, about the size of a ring box or so.  The package will be locked in the room for a total of three hours on an evening in two weeks, during the hours of 9 to midnight, which is the tail end of the evening shift (4 to 12).

The room is a walled area segregated from the rest of the warehouse by a chain link fence, the gate of which is guarded 24 hours a day.  There is also a cargo handler/guard stationed inside the room 24 hours a day.  All guards change on the same shift.

The plan is to get into the secure room by hiding in a large container, and then coming out, getting the object and leaving at shift change disguised as a pilot.  This will, of course, require that the man in the room be in on the job.  Always dangerous and always difficult to get the inside man on side.  To help with this task Big Mac has decided to enlist his mistress, Sylvie, and has asked her to provide one of her girls to arrange some compromising photos of the guard in question.  Sylvie has agreed, and has gone to Danielle’s hotel room to work out some of the details.  But Sylvie is also a psycho and has decided that Danielle is a threat to her relationship with Big Mac.  As such, she’s also come to teach Danielle a bit of a lesson…

Sylvie leads the discussion to where she wants it, to give Danielle the message about her man, and to punctuate the point, she starts over the table at the startled thief.  But Danielle hasn’t become a master thief by being caught napping.  She smelled it coming and is able to react, as Sylvie gets tangled up in the table.  [In Dog Town terms, Sylvie needs no “balls roll” to attack as she’s a Psycho, but both women have a reaction roll.  Danielle rolls hers with a -6 attached, and still passes by 10 points, giving her 8 slots for the round, minus three for being surprised.  Sylvie, however, gets a 0 ‘barely there’ success, for 4 slots.  Danielle has more actions available so she acts first.]

Danielle opts to use her Karate against Sylvie to try and shove her back into her seat before she can act. The attack cost is three “slots”, taking her down to 5. This is a “special attack” in Dog Town, but I can’t find anything about how to change things when conducting a “special attack”, so we’ll go with the norm. That said, we match Danielle’s Assault, violence skill of 8 against Sylvie’s Assault, protection of 10, for a roll of 12 or better for Danielle to even hit. She rolls a 1 for a 11 point screw up. But rolling a 1 in DT is a very bad thing, because it’s an open roll which means things can get much much worse. The second roll is a 20, which means it’s a 31 point fail!

When you fail this badly on a Dog Town fight roll, it means that the other person in the fight has deaked you out and done big damage. Fights and damage are handled by a series of tables that graphically describe the damage done. You always check fails on the other fighter’s chart. Sylvie’s a street fighter, which means that Danielle suffers:

The defender leaps to the right of a reckless charging attack and grabs the hair of the attacker as she passes. The defender then dramatically drops to her knees yanking the attacker off her feet with a powerful whiplash wrench to the neck. The attacker’s upper back and neck crunch into the ground and her face is then pummeled bloody by three swift clubbing punches. 9 IP, TV 10, PD -6, Offset loses 2 slots.

This last line means 9 injury points. Injury points are set up in 5 bands, each progressively worse. This blasts through the first of Danielle’s bands and straight into the second, meaning she’s classified as “battered”. She checks a trauma value of 10 against her trauma resistance of 0. She needs a 20 to avoid being stunned, and makes it! And because she’s now on the floor she has a -6 to any attacks she wants to make on top of the -1 she has from being “battered”. On top of all this she also looses two more slots, taking her 5 to a 3.

Sylvie with her 5 slots, can now act, if she so chooses as all this carnage was done on Danielle’s attack round! To see if Sylvie will carry on the brutality, we’ll make a “discipline roll” test. This is a test to see if she can actually control herself. Her discipline however is, unfortunately, -4; which means she’s unlikely to be able to control herself. She also knows that Big Mac needs Danielle though, so we’ll also give her a “suss roll” to see if she’s got brains enough to realize that it’s a bad idea to give his thief a whuppin’. Her suss is a pathetic 2, but she rolls a 14 for a success at 3 points over what she needed. That’ll give her a bonus for making her control roll. She makes her control roll by 6 points which is a “full” success, which means that Sylvie knows she’s made her point and is in complete control of herself.

Sylvie sneers down at Danielle’s bleeding visage. “Do your job, get it done and move along. Got it?” And she calmly leaves. Danielle however, now has another goal in mind. In addition to getting Big Mac’s package for him, she’s out to see that Sylvie pays a price.

Danielle Trottier, Thief

Posted: October 28, 2009 in Uncategorized
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I first got Dog Town as a steal on RPG Now…literally a steal. It was free. I got fascinated with Dog Town in the same way I get interested in driving past the remnants of big accidents. It was like I was seeing the remains of something that once made sense to someone, but now is just a mess. Dog Town is a lot like that.

Dog Town is a game of criminals and their crimes, set in the 70’s, but really you’re not locked into the 70’s if you don’t want to be. It’s a bit of a tribute to movies like The Godfather, Scarface, Carlito’s Way, and the real life exploits of high flying 70’s gangs and mobsters.

The game is extremely detailed and has a ton (or tonne if you’re metric) of things you need to track, record and make sense of throughout a game. Unfortunately, none of it is very well described in the core rulebook. I mean this game is crunchy. Crunchy with a capital K. We’re talking deep fried, breaded crunch with a crunchy centre. There are rolls and stats for everything.

Undeterred, I was absorbed and immediately began putting together a gang. My gang was, strangely enough, based on the people I worked with. There was Paulie, the boss, who was the man I worked for; Big Mac, his boss; Sylvie the psycho, the real life secretary, who in game terms was Big Mac’s mistress/girlfriend…the list just went on.

I decided this time I’d make a female thief (wait, is this D&D?) named Danielle Trottier. I want her to be experienced, but not a “one man army” as described in the rules, so I select the “Gangster” level of development. The Gangster falls between the starting level “Punk”, and the high level “Anti-Hero”. As such the Gangster is built with 30 development points for Attributes, 10 points for Special Talents and 75 Skill points.

Attributes are: Bulk – sheer size
Power – strength and physical presence
Toughness – resistance, balls and machismo
Reflexes – dexterity in any other RPG
Sense – sixth sense, ability to “read” the scene
Brains – intelligence in any other RPG
Control – self control, I like this as an attribute, and the concept of having characters who can’t control themselves
Style – grace, glamour, “look” – more useful than charisma
Experience – how many times you’ve been around the block and what you got from going there
Luck – pure blind dumb luck

Attributes range from -2 to +5 and are purchased on a straight point for point method.

My friend Danielle, whom I’m modeling the character after, is a wafer thin girl, so we go with a Bulk of -2, “catwalk model” 80-90 Lbs. Power can’t be more than two above bulk, so we’ll buy a 0 power for the descriptor of “Not bad. Not good.” She’s tough and can take a beating for a toughness of 2, and has “pretty nimble” reflexes, which is 1. Sense is where she excels, with a 3 or “paranoid or very perceptive”, and she’s smart as a good thief should be, with brains of 2 “you can plan jobs”. Control is a 1, meaning that she has some vices but nothing too bad, and a style of 1, low key as a thief should be. Experience reflects the character vision of an experienced thief, so we’ll go with 3 “Respected killer, thief or hustler.” Which leaves us able to buy luck at a -1 or “usually gets the raw deal or bad break”, not good for a thief, but makes for far more interesting role play.

Now at this point I need to work out the derived attributes, even though they’ll change later, but that’s what the rules say, so away we go.

Trauma resistance, the ability to resist getting injured from hits. 0
Hurt modifier, the ability to do more damage in hand to hand. -2
Injury points, hit points. 4 (this isn’t a thief, it’s a magic user), oh wait, I add that to the base value of 40 for a total of 44 points. We divide those into five equalish bands, of 4 at 9 and one at 8.

Moves, this is kinda the ability to do movement and running, jumping, that sorta stuff. But this one isn’t as simple as just adding stats together, oh no. This is an accountant’s nightmare of target values and modifiers to an ‘ideal’ total. So going through this mind numbing twister we get…straight speed: 3, climbing: 3 (same stats as speed, so why is it different?), maneuvering: 4, and balancing: 4.

Then there’s endurance, which is a similar sort of accounting nightmare but different. Fast Aerobic endurance: 10, Long Hard Slog: 10, staying awake: 6. So She does well in endurance activities, far better than sprints and climbing.

Reaction roll next. This plays into the character’s initiative and that sort of thing. Danielle has a reaction roll of 8. The Suss roll follows. This is a kind of “inspiration” roll, or an “Idea” roll from Call of Cthulhu. Her Suss roll is a 10. Then we have the discipline roll, which seems to be the control ability bumped up, and also the “assabilty” of the crook…the ability to sit on your ass and do work, as my old math teacher used to say. Her discipline is 6. After this is the Know Streets ability which is the knowledge of the area that the criminal is operating in. Despite being French, Danielle’s Know Streets is 8. Next up is the “balls” ability. This is pure machismo, and how gutsy the character is. Hers is 10. Pretty ballsy for her I think. Then there’s the coping roll, which is more of a long term stress measure, and how well the character deals with it. Danielle’s is 6. Finally there’s the hostility roll. This is how cool the character can keep it, or how likely they are to blow and go all Scarface on somebody. Because her toughness is higher than her control, Danielle gets a hostility rating of 1, which means that she’s got a couple of enemies, but nothing excessive. The rules say that at a rating of 5 the character’s basically a dead man walking.

So now we get her “criminal type”. There are several to choose from, asshole, thug, pimp. For Danielle, we choose Thief. Dog Town lets you buy things from the criminal type, like skills, abilities and in the vein of good role playing, even vices. For Danielle I want to buy “Sense +1” and “Reflexes +2”. This then means recalculating all of those derived abilities, of course. The purchase of this costs me 10 of the freebie 20 points given for these purchases. With the last ten points, I’m going to pick up two talents: No Nerves, and Intuitive; and also two skills which then start at a +1 level, rather than the base -3. The skills are Break and Enter, and Shop (electronics). This means I’ve made a choice on what kind of Thief this character is. The game differentiates between B&E, which means casing a place, knowing how to get in, all that, and Stealing, which is more of a shoplifting or pickpocket type event. Both steal, but in very different ways.

Now I get to shop for special talents with the regular 10 points the character gets to buy them with. I’ll take “Supple Muscles” for 2 points, which means that she can do the Catherine Zeta Jones thing from Entrapment with ease; Total Recall, which means she has an eidetic memory; Focus, so she gets a bonus in studying targets; and finally Light Fingered, which gives her a bonus on picking locks and that sort of thing.

Next step is to see if she has any “flaws”. There’s a 50/50 chance for a flaw. Danielle rolls above 50 so no, no flaws. But we have to check vices. Danielle’s control of 1 means she has two vices, and may smoke also. Let’s check that first, 5+ on a d20, and yes, she does. Then her two vices: Greed and Spender, well don’t those two go hand in hand like salt and pepper?

After this I then allocate all of her skill points and go through the tedious but necessary step of figuring out all of her ability values. Each skill has a level, which is purchased upon a default. After that you take up to four base abilities, add them together, half that, add on skill level and bonuses and that’s the actual “ability level” for the skill. But each skill has two ability areas attached and they suggest you could have even more and each of these areas has a different calculation. For example, the Break and Enter skill there are two types of use for B&E: Plan and Execute. Planning is based on brains and sense. Execution of that plan is based on sense, brains and reflexes. The base untrained level for B&E is -3. With Danielle’s skill purchase of 10 points for a level 7 B&E, she has a planning ability of 12 and an execution ability of 16. She’s not a bad planner but man can she do her stuff when it comes to making the actual haul, as befits her ability as a master thief.

One last thing to put together is the impact of her “know streets” ability. This gives her some background in the area and helps tie the character to the place. Now, I’ve made Danielle as a French national who’s been brought in for a job, so I could as the “Director” (GM) say her contacts in the place are nonexistent. But it’s also totally reasonable that she’s been here before and knows people and places here. So I’ll go with what’s default for the game. Her Know Streets of 12 means that she has 3 good connections, knows 32 to 36 assorted punks and 4 gangsters and she’s aware of 8 to 12 others. She has knowledge of 20 to 24 hangouts. She has 1 quite powerful ally and 1 small material edge like stashed cash $500, or handgun. I think I may opt for the handgun, given that I suspect she’ll need protection on the mean streets of Dog Town. She’s also aware of 1 boss. I’ll guess this is “Big Mac”, the man who’s brought her in from Paris for a special job…

Next I think I’ll try some actual play to figure out how the combat system works.

It’s taken a week of spare time to figure out one character, but now with all that done, here’s the final character:

Danielle Trottier

Offender type: Thief
Nationality: French

Attributes
Bulk -2  Power 0  Toughness 2  Reflexes 3  Brains 2
Sense 4  Control 1  Style 1  Experience 3  Luck -1

Derived Attributes
Trauma resistance 0
Hurt modifier -2
Injury points 40
Move – straight speed: 3, climbing: 3, maneuvering: 4, balancing: 4
Endurance – Fast Aerobic endurance: 10, Long Hard Slog: 10, staying awake: 6
Reaction 14
Suss 12
Discipline 9
Know streets 12
Balls 10
Coping 6
Hostility 1

Talents
No Nerves
Intuitive
Supple muscles
Total Recall
Focus
Light Fingers

Vices
Greed
Spender

Skills
Assault 3 (Violence 5  Protection 5)
Awareness     3 (Active 16  Passive 13)
Auto Repair    -1 (Fix     6    Design     4)
Batting     0 (Violence     2    Protection     2)
Blade     5 (Violence     7    Protection     7)
Break & Enter     7 (Execute    16    Plan    12)
Cheat     -3 (Devise     1    Play     0)
Coax    -2 (Mooch     2    Befriend     1)
Conceal     -3 (Hide     3    Find     3)
Creep     4 (Sneak     10    Follow     10)
Deal     4 (Evaluate     9    Negotiate     7)
Drive     2 (Pursuit     8    Safety     9)
Drugs     -3 (Identify     3    Manufacture     2)
Escape     4 (Plan     9    Restraints     16)
Explosives     -3 (Rig     5    Diffuse     7)
Gambling    -3 (Bet     -2    Fix Odds     1)
Handgun     1 (Violence     7    Protection     10)
Heavy Weapons     -3 (Violence     4    Protection     6)
Impress    -3 (Hype     -1    Lie     3)
Investigation     4 (Inspect     13    Interrogation     10)
Language (English) 4 (Speak     7    Write     7)
Lifting     -1 (Carry     1    Lift     0)
Patch Up     -2 (Examine     4    Treat     2)
Perform     -2 (Act/Sing     7    Appraise     3)
Rifle     -2 (Violence     4    Protection     7)
School     4 (Comprehend     12    Knowledge     11)
Shop (electrical)    1 (Make     9    Design     6)
S.M.G.     -3 (Violence     3    Protection     6)
Stealing     5 (Boost     12    Pick Pocket     14)
Swimming     -3 (Sprint     -2    Distance    -1)
Threat     -3 (Menace     -1    Boss     0)
Throw    -2 (Violence     1    Protection     8)