Friday, February 24, 2012

Stay Alive! - Character Types

Artwork © 2008 Jeff Freels, used with permission
The big question is this - Citizen or Warrior?

I originally created the character sheet and purposely left off 'Type' instead of 'Kindred'. My thinking was initially that everyone would just be Warriors and I did not want to create something that would totally omit the possibility of using other kindreds.

In the game we played at BASH Con, one of the characters put in the kindred box 'Not a Zombie'. This made total sense - I am designing this to be a real world horror variant, so here on Earth at least, everyone is Human.

Regarding type, the choices are clearly either Citizen or Warrior. No magic and the real world environment seems to eliminate the other classes (Rogue, Wizard, Specialist, Paragon). Active duty soldiers make sense to be considered as warriors from the start.

Most everyone else would make sense to be Citizens (with their combat adds halved), including policemen. I have seen many a policeman that is overweight or out of shape. I also would think that people in great physical condition would not necessarily be warriors. Talents would serve as a bit of an equalizer, giving bonuses to those characters with gun training or martial arts training.

The one thing I have stuck in my mind is that eventually, this citizen who is thrust into a Zombie Apocalypse could very well turn into a Warrior. Something to worry about?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

BASH Con 2012 - 'Stay Alive!: Apocalypse Kinda Now'

BASH Con arrived and I was woefully under prepared for the task I set out to do. I still did not have a firm grasp on how I wanted to handle character creation and how to handle GUTS and STABILITY. I have a fairly good grasp on RESISTANCE and how I want to manage that after I created the updated Zombie.

I guess woefully is an overstatement. I had my story line and scenes I wanted developed in my head. The MSPE rulebook was used to create a weapons list. I typed up all my notes for possible encounters - I like to have more than enough such items so that I can let the characters determine their course more so than trying to follow a specific script.

The start of the adventure is always the most challenging for me. I came up with a list of various tidbits of information that the characters could look for on the internet, overhear in conversations, and watch on television: descriptions of YouTube videos, newscasts, and police band banter. I also threw in some phone calls from loved ones for those that had spouses at home. 

This led to the first encounter with the newly walking dead. I am not going to go into too much detail, but I was sufficiently pleased with the character reactions and paranoia. The group was confronted with both a fully turned zombie, and a bite victim to care for. My goal was to show them their first zombie as well as what happens when you are bitten. They also saw what happens when a policeman shoots a zombie square in the chest two or three times.

I guess I have been too used to helping the boy with making decisions in my AD&D game, but Tom thankfully reminded me on one such occasion. It is truly a beautiful thing when you can sit back and enjoy the conversation and interaction of a great group of role players. They went from initial security (shoring up the room they were in), to finding some weapons in the nearby dealer hall, to finding a better location to hold up (smaller and access to food), to helping a trapped NPC, and finally their ultimate escape from the building so that they could get out of the city which the perceived would become a living nightmare. The college campus they were on was already getting pretty bad. My estimation of what such a incident could do to a dormitory was gruesome.

The players pictured above: L-R, Robin (Perrryton), Tom (Kopfy), Paul's Jacket (G'Noll), Alex, Andy, and Bill. Trevor (Garnak) left for another game. While I was momentarily away, I guess it was decided by either Tom or Trevor to end his character's life by committing suicide when he left the game. This provided another opportunity to see what happens to a body in my Zombie Apocalypse when it is not infected by a bite or the other cause of the infection.

One of the biggest discussions was regarding if they should attempt the escape right away (about 2am and in the dark), or wait until morning when they could have daylight to help them navigate and see walking dead. The group was split down the middle, so the random roll of the NPC votes swayed them to the night time adventure outside.

Now - I am going to work on getting an introductory adventure written based on this event and work to get some rules shored up.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Stay Alive! - Zombie (Standard)

This is a variant on the Zombie that I created a few months back. My basic premise is that a lone zombie should be relatively easy to take out by one or two characters - but you still need a headshot to finish it. With that in mind, I think that this zombie is more in line with a T&T fantasy game and could be a bit too tough for a real-world Zombie Apocalypse game.

This version of a zombie is more in line with what I want with a real world apocalypse game. I am calling this one a standard zombie because I may be creating some non-standard or special zombies as well, similar to Left 4 Dead.

In my Stay Alive! game, the zombies are not the result of the dead rising from the grave, but more due to a disease that has infected and killed its victims, followed by their reanimation as zombies.

Stay Alive! - Zombie (Standard)
Artwork © 2008 Jeff Freels, used with permission
MR: 60
Combat Dice: 3d6 + 15*
Special Abilities: Zombification, Zombimemory, Zombisenses
Special Damage: 2/Bite (L2 ST vs LUCK to avoid)
Special Hindrance: 2/Headshot
Special Defense: Down But Not Out
Appearing: 1-100+
CON: 30

*No matter how much damage a zombie has taken, its combat adds will always remain at 15. This is a reflection of the dulled reflexes and muscle coordination, but at the same time, the zombie's unnatural strength due to it not caring about breaking its own limbs or pulling muscles.

A zombie is an animated corpse that has no care about pain or fear and only has a singular desire to eat/destroy the living. Movement of zombies should vary based on how decomposed the body is. A zombie that has recently been zombified could have a bit more spring in its step because its muscles are in a bit better state than a zombie that could be a few weeks old. Also, a zombie without its legs could only crawl and thus would be moving a bit slower.

Zombies attack by grabbing, clawing and biting. If a single zombie or a group of zombies roll at least 2 SPITE damage, there is a possibility that a bite has been inflicted. Spite damage in combat with a zombie should be divided among the characters in groups of 2. Any excess SPITE (an extra single point of damage) should be distributed as normal SPITE damage.

For each potential bite, a character will need a SR vs LUCK with a level equal to the number bites taken +1. (Example: a single bite, which is 2 SPITE, would require a Level 2 SR vs LUCK to avoid being bitten.) If successful, the damage is still taken, but the character was able to avoid being bitten. If the SR fails, there is now a chance that the character has been infected.
  • Resistance - when bitten, the character should make a mark on the character sheet in the Resistance box. The GM will secretly determine if the character is infected or not by rolling the SR for the character. The character's 'Resistance' factor will represent the level SR vs CON needed to avoid being infected. Even if the resistance roll is successful, the character should feel ill and whether or not she is infected for sure should remain a mystery.
  • Infection - if infected, the character will feel ill and develop a fever. Over a few hours, the symptoms will get worse and the character will eventually die and almost immediately reanimate as a zombie. 
Some zombies will retain some memories from their former lives. An example would be if confronted with a closed door, 'Zombimemory' may kick in and the zombie may try to open the door instead of trying to pound it down or try to walk into it.

Even a low level character should have little trouble taking out a single zombie. But, if other zombies are around, loud noises or bright lights could alert other zombies to gather and move towards this location. This is called 'Zombisenses'. Saving Rolls reflecting the situation should be utilized to sneak around or through groups of zombies, or to determine if a given noise alerts a nearby zombie to the character's location. Some examples could be:
  • Sneaking past a zombie facing the other direction - L1 SR vs DEX
  • Sneaking past a larger group of zombies - L2 SR vs LUCK
A zombie's weakness is a blow to its head. Every 2 SPITE Damage will automatically kill a zombie, despite any damage previously taken or which side ultimately wins the combat round. Normal damage should  still be calculated and applied for the round based on standard T&T combat.

Down But Not Out
Once a zombie takes 30 damage to its CON, it will fall down, but it will not be finished. For one round, it will remain on the ground, but the next round it will be back up again and at normal zombie strength. Since a zombie cannot be knocked out, a downed zombie is not a defenseless zombie. While it will not contribute any combat dice for one round, it will still need a Headshot to finish it off.

Copyright © 2012, Jerry Teleha

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Stay Alive! - Attributes

I spent the weekend wrapped up in the design of the character sheet as mentioned in my previous post. There are a few things I am going to experiment with regarding the standard T&T attributes.

For Strength, all I did here was add a box to display the amount of weight that a character can carry. To me, it makes sense to go on the character sheet next to the attribute that drives it.

For Constitution, Resistance will represent the character's ability to resist disease as well as overall health. For a game set within a  zombie apocalypse, it would represent the ability to fight the infection of a zombie bite. I am still working out the mechanics, but I am leaning towards dividing the CON score by 10, rounding up. This Resistance score could then be used as either a modifier when making an SR against the disease, or it could also represent the number of times the character can endure or avoid infection when and SR is failed.

I would also like to keep this whole issue a bit of mystery to the player so they don't really know if they are infected for not. Still have some work to do on this one. Some characters could be naturally resistant or immune to the disease. I am thinking that play testing will help flesh this out for me.

Guts replaces the Wizardry attribute and represents the character's ability to deal with gruesome and overwhelming situations. Stability could also be calculated in some way off of the Guts attribute.

Another option for both Resistance and Stability would be that they are blank when you start play. If a player is bitten, the player can roll her SR. The SR is rolled, but the player is not told what the target is. Based on how well the player rolls, she can easily determine what level SR she has rolled, but will still be uncertain at least initially if she was indeed successful. Whether successful or not, the player gives herself a mark in the resistance box.

The same would go for stability - add a mark in the Stability box each time there is a failed SR versus Guts. This could then serve as a negative modifier for future Guts saving rolls. Since Guts saving rolls will have more immediate effects in game play (running away in fear, vomitting, freezing or hesitating), there would be less need for trying to hide or confuse this. Likewise, overly heroic acts or successes could remove a mark in the stability box.

Just thinking out loud here - if I don't get this stuff written down, it tends to disappear on me...

I am also thinking for Resistance, the more ticks you have, the easier it is to make your SR - like you are naturally immune. For Stability, it would be the opposite - maybe each tick represents the SR level you would need to overcome...

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Stay Alive! - Character Sheet

BASH Con is coming up in Toledo February 17-19. At this convention, I will be running two games: by first stab at my variant T&T system for horror rules (I am calling 'Stay Alive!'), and my AD&D game.

So of course, with less than one week to wrap up my preparation, I spent the entire weekend working on my character sheet instead of actually hammering out the specifics I will need run a successful game. The one thing I was able to do is cement some basic ideas that I definitely want to explore - and the weekend development of that  character sheet did do some good there. I have a few mechanics in mind that I would like to flesh out a bit. Getting them on paper so to speak is a step in the right direction.

All those years playing around with Photoshop at work have definitely paid off - I am pretty darn happy with the outcome. The image below is a bit of tease - I reduced the image down pretty far so as to leave things a bit fuzzy. If you look closely, you will see a few things that I am doing. I already mentioned in a previous post that I was replacing Wizardry with Guts.

I purchased Jeff Freels' stock art from RPGNow (Stock Art Collection 2: ZOMBIES) to use on the character sheet and some other items I may end up producing for this project. I have to say, the images are wonderful - I am easily able to reduce or enlarge with no loss of quality. These are high resolution images that are very easy to work with.

Thanks Jeff - I will try to remember to send you an email and show you what I am doing with your artwork. I have the requested copyright for his artwork at the bottom of the page, as well as a note on the trademark owned by Flying Buffalo regarding T&T.


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Review - Dewdrop Inn

One of my 'Trollhalla Bloody Friday' purchases in 2011 was the Trollhalla Press 'Dewdrop Inn'. Written by Ken St. Andre with illustrations by David Ullery, this one is a massive 68 pages (8.5'' x 11'') with a nicer and heavier card stock cover.

The Dewdrop Inn seems like a nice place to stay with a quality meal and a bed for the night. Upon awakening though, you are without any of your magic weapons (if you have any), except if you are a wizard who will still have any focusing device.

Based on your character class, you may get some additional information or help before proceeding with the adventure. As you play, you are working your way down through levels of the Inn. There is a common monster called the 'Thing' that will be quite easy to defeat on Level 1. As you progress through the various options, you will find you meet the thing again and again on subsequent levels. The Thing will be a bit more powerful each time you meet it. Likewise, some other rooms will be encountered multiple times and the threat involved, if any, will be multiplied by the Level you are currently on.

Playing 'Dewdrop Inn' reminds me of some of the old Fighting Fantasy Books, but a bit more forgiving. The adventure is a puzzle. There are some repeating circular patterns, and as you progress down through the maze, the common monster you face will get tougher and tougher. Impending doom becomes a reality as this monster will be so tough, no matter what your level, that you will be defeated. The introduction of the adventure does not lie - you goal is not to find treasure and riches - your goal should be to just find the way out.

One word of advice - there is at least one NPC that you encounter that will help by offering to join you. If you are of lower level, you will want to bring this guy along because you will be needing his combat dice.

Delving Dwarf Rating - 4 (out of 5) Mugs of Ale!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Mail Call...from Lulu (Fight On! #13)

One more Mail Call before I switch gears back to my BASH Con preparation...

The great thing about Lulu is that there are plenty of coupon codes that you can utilize to reduce the price of your order. While the 20% off is nice, the free shipping discount that seems to come around once a month is an even better value. I have ordered all of my Elder Tunnels from Lulu along with a few other T&T and Bean products.

This time around, I ordered the Ken St Andre devoted edition of the independent magazine Fight On! Ever since Ken mentioned it on the 'Walla, I was eager to get this one. Also, I was fortunate enough to have play tested the 'Battle School' solo that Ken contributed to the issue. Although, myself and the other play testers did not get the credit we were potentially promised. I say 'potentially' because I think Ken had said we may get credited when the adventure was printed.

I would find it very hard to be disappointed in a 122 page book with glossy covers for only $9.99. There was much more T&T than I was expecting, being a book that I believe normally caters to the D&D 3.0-4.0 crowd. There is so much content here, I just have not had the time to really dig in. I can vouch for Battle School, which is a great solo adventure, especially for a new T&T player (like me) as it really breaks out the combat very effectively.

And if you have never ordered from Lulu, check out the packaging in the above picture. Every book I have ordered is sealed on cardboard and then shipped in a very sturdy box.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Mail Call...from Flying Buffalo

I remember sending an email a long time ago to Flying Buffalo, asking questions about Nuclear War rules. I was very impressed that Rick Loomis responded directly, answered my questions, and offered additional advice while responding to multiple emails.

For that reason - I have always gone out of my way at Origins and Gen Con to visit the Flying Buffalo booth and check things out. Only recently have I been actually interested in T&T and MSPE, so I usually walked away without a purchase, other than the 'Nuclear War: Weapons of Mass Destruction' I picked up at some past Origins when that first was released.

I met Ken St Andre and Rick Loomis at the Origins booth this year where I picked up the 'Delver's Pack' and few other items - my long winded account of Origins can be found here.

So...I ordered 2 things from flying Buffalo on 1/27/2012 - the 'MSPE Rulebook' and the 'T&T Bonus Pack', both at a cost of $9.99 with an additional $3 for shipping. The package arrived on 2/1/2012.

The 'Mercenaries, Spies & Private Eyes Rulebook' is without a doubt one of the best values you may ever find. I understand it is an older system, but for only $10, it is a steal. The book arrived in perfect condition and I look forward to digging into it.

The 'T&T Bonus Pack' on the other hand was a bit disappointing. One reason is strictly based on my personal preferences regarding T&T 7.5 versus older editions which I have no real experience with. Everything in this pack are just photocopied items from previous print items, which by no means is false advertising as the FB website clearly states everything in the pack and what to expect. So while I understand fully that this material is more geared to support an earlier edition of the game, there is really not much here to warrant the $10 price tag.

I only paid $3 for shipping on a package that had $8 in postage on it. Taking this into consideration, the $23 spent is still worth the price overall. Again - cannot express how happy I am with the quality of the MSPE rulebook and how darn thick it is for the price. The one thing I know is that when you order from Flying Buffalo, you will get everything as described and it will be shipped fast and secure. I will more than likely be coming back for some more MSPE stuff in the coming months, or just look for Rick at Origins in May.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Campaign Management

I believe that for any role-playing game, the goal is longevity. It is easy to come up with one good idea, expand that idea into an adventure, then reach a conclusion. For convention gaming, that is the ultimate goal. Five or six people walking away with a smile and saying they had an enjoyable experience.

The ongoing campaign presents the larger challenge; creating something that can grow and adapt to the both the GM's ideas and the players' whims. I tend to think of a game that I start as either a movie series with multiple sequels, or a television series with multiple seasons. The story is not over when the goal is achieved.

"Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans"
~originally attributed to Allen Saunders in 1957, more often attributed to John Lennon

Some of the most enjoyable games I have run is when the players spend an hour or two on the real-life. Buying a building that they want to turn into a magic shop. Putting their heads together on the staff they will need to run the magic shop. Pulling together the money to pay the staff for the first 3 Months. Interviewing the prospective employees. Buying the equipment or furniture needed. And then at last, going off to adventure to find strange new items to throw on the shelves.

A spot of real life, or what happens between adventures, is a good interlude. Like a standalone episode in a season. Sometimes those standalone episodes are the highlights. Something that breaks the monotony a bit and hands some of the power of creativity over to the player. Character building at it finest, as long as the GM is willing and eager to go along with it and allow this to occur openly and freely. It is not an easy thing to do at times.

If you are an X-Files fan, which are you most fond of - the 'Mythology' episodes, or the stand alone episodes? For me, I can watch  "Jose Chung's from Outer Space", "Dreamland", "Triangle", and "Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man" over and over. The stories are more appealing and dynamic. They are not so much tied down by what has happened before.