Friday, November 18, 2016

First Thoughts: The Republic

Recently I was given word of a new tabletop game called The Republic, an RPG about "social justice, elemental bending, and piles of dice." I'll compile my feelings about what I saw below, but right up top I just want to say that this game looks really fun and you should consider supporting it.

The setting of The Republic is one of distinct inequality. No matter what setting you play in, the rules of the game are simple. The government has firm control over society and uses that control to crush and dehumanize women, foreigners, the disabled, and those outside the gender and sexuality norm. You play as someone in one of these demographics surviving under or even fighting back against the oppression you face. Immediately the game presents you with its politics, which as noted above are explicitly about social justice. A paragraph later on describes a few alternate ideas for settings, including my dearest love, cyberpunk. So long as the balance of power and threat of dehumanization are present, the game should work in any world. The setting as written includes the elemental bending aspect, as those mystic powers are forbidden to those of a lower station, but you could play this game completely without magic--and in fact I rather like that interpretation, myself.

The mechanics are what make this game truly unique. I havent seen a system that I felt this compelled to buy since the first time I laid eyes on Apocalypse World. Players are defined by elements: fire, earth, water, air, and the heavenly fifth element that connects them. Each one has a type of die associated with it and corresponds to a type of human behavior. Fire represents things like violence or ambition, while water represents reason or patience (as well as the literal elements in the setting-as-written). You get 10 dice, and pick their types according to which personality traits your character has more or less of. Each action has a range of numbers that represents a success, with more complex or difficult actions requiring multiple successful dice, and using the appropriate die (and thus the appropriate attitude or elemental magic) makes that action more likely to succeed. It's a simple system that really enforces character traits and personality in a tangibly significant mechanical way. One of the things that stood out to me was one of the player options when a character dies. The player can pass on a die to each player's character to represent how they've affected that person in death. Imagine having your character dying and passing on a fire die to a character that never acts that way, finally prompting a pacifist to take up arms out of grief. The possibilities are really inspiring for all you drama queen roleplayers like myself out there.

Honestly, as someone in the process of trying to make a simple RPG system about social themes myself, I'm a bit jealous someone else did such a good job before I could. I'm very much interested in playing or maybe even running this game (as if I've got the time between the two games I run now!). I'd definitely recommend you take a look at this game, especially if you just can't quite find the perfect system for what you want to run.

The Republic is the work of Ashton McAllan, Vincent Baker, and Mark Redacted. It can be found and supported here.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Introducing: Mahran

One of the only good things to come out of Dark Disciple was the Mahran, a weird venomous fox alien species. I decided to take that species and adapt it for play in Edge of the Empire by changing that little detail about them killing themselves with their own venom because that's dumb. Enjoy.

The Mahran were a sentient species native to the planet of Mahranee. They had four-fingered hands, sharp tufted ears, a blue muzzle with a keen sense of smell and a coat of fur. Every Mahran also had a stinger that could release venom. However, a Mahran could only use his or her stinger once, as its venom would not only kill the targets, but also travel to his slayer's heart. Although the Mahran were not telepaths, they could effectively determine other people's faint emotions through scent. The Mahran prized bravery, and attached great importance to their bloodlines.

Brawn 2 // Agility 2 // Intellect 1 // Cunning 2 // Willpower 2 // Presence 3

WT: 10+B
ST: 12+W

Diluted venom stinger: Some Mahran undergo gene therapy to modify their stingers so that they can be used without risk of harm. When such a Mahran makes a Brawl check to use their stinger, the attack deals +1 damage and gains the Disorient 1 quality.

Starting XP: 90

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Introducing: Myconidians, a Homebrewed Star Wars Species

I've never done any homebrew for Fantasy Flight's Star Wars RPG before, but I'm quite fond of it and wanted to see my favorite part of Star Wars, the oft-reviled Yuuzhan Vong, represented in it. Now, don't worry. This isn't actual Vong. What I did was sit down and decide what it was that I actually liked about the Vong. The two biggest things I decided on were:

1) Biotechnology
2) Empathic connections to other organisms

I took these aspects and created my own new species, Myconidians, based on plant-sculpting rather than flesh-sculpting. I didn't include any examples of their plant-based technology, this is just for the species itself. But if you have any feedback, let me know!

Myconidians are a tall, humanoid fungoid species native (originally) to Mycon IV. They possess a stronger-than-usual connection to the Force, and with this connection they naturally establish minor empathic bonds with nearby organisms. On their homeworld, they use these bonds to manipulate plant life into serving as their weapons, clothing, and even advanced technology such as spacefaring vessels (though to reach hyperspace, these constructions must graft on a hyperdrive). Manipulating foreign plant matter, however, is somewhat more difficult for them, so Myconidians who wander the galaxy at large tend to adapt to using other cultures' weapons, ships, and equipment as needed.

Culturally, Myconidians tend to be fairly relaxed and easygoing. They tend toward introspection and debate more often than high-energy athleticism, though they are not without their warriors. They are an asexual and agender species, and they tend to be more solitary when among their own people. They mingle better with outsiders of diverse backgrounds (perhaps as a result of evolutionary urges to spread the species to unfamiliar or unoccupied regions or avoid intermingling of spore populations).

All Myconidians can feel and reach for the Force, but not all devote their lives to deepening that connection. They are just as likely to be scholars or politicians (especially mediators) as they are to be mystics or hermits. When physical violence is unavoidable, most Myconidians tend toward resolving the confrontation in the most efficient and painless manner possible, as their natural empathy discourages them from wanton violence.

Myconidians begin play with the following characteristics:
Brawn: 1 // Agility 2 // Intellect 2 // Cunning 2 // Willpower 3 //Presence 2
Wound Threshold: 10+Brawn // Strain Threshold: 10+Willpower // Starting XP: 100
Empath: Add 1 extra Advantage to all successful Negotiation rolls.
Of Nature: Add 1 rank of Survival.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Introducing: Fireteam Omega

Over the past week I have cobbled together my first attempt at RPG game design, and the fruit of that labor is...well, it's an rtf and a pdf of that rtf that messed up some of the formatting during the transfer. It's an Apocalypse World hack, not a full game on its own, so you'd need to know how that game works to play this. This is an INCREDIBLY rough first draft, and I already see a LOT of things that need to be tweaked and adjusted and in some cases ripped out.

This is a game about a squad of operatives being dropped into a situation beyond their means. This game is intended to be an homage to movies like Aliens, Predator, Doom, Resident Evil, and a little bit of Cabin In The Woods (You know the bit). It's a hack of Apocalypse World, but I've replaced most of the rules with my own.

Equipment is forthcoming, but for now it's not too hard to eyeball weapons and the like. Play is intended to be episodic and fairly dangerous, so it isn't really tooled for campaigns. You could follow a squad through multiple missions, but out of the box it's meant so you play a full in and out mission in one session.

If I've set this up properly, you should be able to access the document here.

I'll keep tinkering with it here and there, but I just wanted to post the first draft for funsies and to let those who care know (some of) what I've been working on. (This isn't the only project I have currently, after all.)

If nothing else, maybe it'll inspire you, reader, in your next RPG.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Star Trek, Tarzan, and Ghostbusters: A Red Hot Take

Lately I've been seeing a lot more movies than I usually do. That's one of the perks of having someone who wants to go see movies with you. The three I've seen this summer have been the newest works in the Tarzan, Ghostbusters, and Star Trek franchises/intellectual properties/whatever. Here are some stream of consciousness thoughts on them.

My favorite of the three was definitely Star Trek. This movie was fun, fast, and...not very furious. But it was very good. There was a surprising amount of focus on Chekhov, which is kind of a bummer after what happened to Anton Yelchin. Idris Elba was pretty good as the love child of Donald Trump and Big Boss. The scene with the classical music was super fun. I'm interested to see where the franchise goes from here--and I'm also keeping an eye on the new show they're making.

Tarzan was a surprise hit for me. I didn't go in knowing what to expect other than Christoph Waltz. Waltz was just Waltz the whole time and it was great. Samuel L Jackson was the secret proagonist of the film, as he has much more motivation and development than our titular hero. In fact, Tarzan seems more like a force of nature than a character. When discussing what Tarzan will do, the villain says, "He is Tarzan. You are Jane. He'll come."

Ghostbusters is a minefield to talk about, I know. It was kind of a roller coaster ride for me. New Ghostbusters? Meh. All female Ghostbusters? Yeah, okay! First trailer: Oh nooooo. After seeing the movie: Meh. There's no franchise potential here, though. Definitely won't be a sequel. It was, at its peak, a 7/10 for me (With the lower points feeling more like a 5). I'm not a huge Ghostbusters guy, granted. I saw the old movies as a kid but I barely remember them, and I certainly wouldn't hold them up as some kind of masterpiece of comedy. Now, Back To The Future, on the other hand...give me a female reboot of THAT. Sigourney Weaver as Doc Brown? Mae Whitman as Marty McFly? Come on, Hollywood. This is free money.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Back At Last

It's been a while! I took last week off blog posts and used my writing time to work on a Secret Project. Hopefully I can share some details soon, but I'd like to get it into a more stable state before talking about it at length. I can assure you that it is pretty cool, though.

In the meantime, I also scribbled out a couple of other pieces of writing, which can be found here. One is a prose poem, the other is a hastily conjured and minimally edited piece of fanfiction based on the Team Leaders from Pokemon Go--specifically, the only way anyone seems to be shipping them. The pairing shouldn't surprise you. I've never lent much credence to fan works like that, but I'm starting to see value in it as a way to get into the Writing Zone even when all I want to think about is Overwatch or whatever. In fact, that poem started as a piece inspired by this year's DOOM reboot.

Anyway, I'm gonna try and not just give up on days willy nilly, but I am going to work on my Project, so expect some scheduling wonkyness.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Domo Arigato, Rami Malek

Recently, Amazon had its now-annual Prime Day, where a bunch of stuff went on sale. While not as hyped as, say, a Steam sale, I heard enough buzz to check it out. Picked up the new Brandon Sanderson graphic novel and DOOM (PS4) for decent enough prices. But the real story is that as a Prime member, I learned that I had access to a handful of movies and TV shows I could stream for free. Included in this deal is Mr. Robot, the 2015 hacker drama from USA.

I'd heard a lot of good things about this show, and from a lot of different places. I knew Rami Malek from Until Dawn, where he plays the vengeful and mentally unbalanced Joshua Washington. He was great in that role, especially later on when he's allowed to kind of go off the rails for a few scenes. So I sat down and watched the first episode.

You may have noticed I didn't post yesterday. This is why. By the end of the first six minute scene of Malek in a coffee shop giving a monologue to a nervous child porn dealer, I was intrigued. By the end of the first episode, I was hooked. Not since Prison Break has a pilot gotten me so on board so quick. And for the most part, it's because of Rami Malek's literally award-winning performance. I watched the first season, ten forty-five minute episodes, over the course of two days. I just finished last night at work.

The first few episodes introduce the characters and subplots, of which there are several. Every character has more going on than you think (With the exception of the three other hackers within fsociety). But then there's a crux where everything goes south. The second half of the season is one swerve after another. The whole narrative starts to spin around and around, threatening to shake itself apart and fly into pieces, but holds together by threads until in the end, the strings snap and everything falls apart in a tremendous and tumultuous crash. It's a brilliant climax.

There were characters in this show that would have been terrible in other shows. Angela Moss could have been like Arrow's Laurel Lance or Daredevil's Karen Page, but instead she's played really well and has a pretty cool arc (even if she doesn't see it happening yet). The only presence that matches Malek's is the gruff, no-nonsense performance of Christian Slater as the titular Mr. Robot. His role in the show leads to one of the coolest reveals I've seen in TV shows lately. I knew absolutely nothing about this show going in, and the later episodes really took things in a direction that I didn't expect--and I absolutely loved it.

This show is a real "page-turner," and I look forward to the second season, which I believe has just premiered. Let's hope it keeps up with itself.