Thursday, December 11, 2008

Cthulhu Hack

At last year's MACE (a gaming convention in High Point NC) I enjoyed playing a session of Call of Cthulhu with a group of strangers. All the while I was playing, I kept thinking that all I really needed to keep me happy was a bit of a positioning mechanism. Probably one tied to a re-roll now and then.

This morning I had a little seed of an idea. Instead of spending points from a limited or semi-limited resource, there is no limit to the number of times you may re-roll your dice. But! Every time you re-roll you have to put a token in a cup that fuels the GM's resources.

I'm not sure exactly how I'd hammer down the details, but I imagine the tokens being counted & used in that standard Cthulhu third act when the horrors eventually show up. The tokens couldn't be just a straight resource, though. If the players know they're just feeding the GM's chances to kill of their characters then the choice to re-roll or not would be too straight forward.

No, those tokens would have to be seriously random and chaotic and story infulencing to be cool. Anyway, there you have it.

Sunday, December 7, 2008


Last night Mark, Andy, and I played ourselves a full-blown game of Vincent Baker's Mechaton. We dug it muchly.


We're hack-addicts. There is no game we can play that does not beg for us to modify it. Mechaton is no exception. In fact, we started right out with two hacks; one intentional and one accidental.

Our first hack was that Mark and I decided not to play with legos. Legos are awesome. But the thought of having to build and rebuild my mecha every time we played just wasn't appealing to me. So we searched out and found ourselves some really cool 1/400th scale Gundam minis.

Our second hack, the accidental one, was with the spotting dice. The rules say that spotting dice must be cleaned up at the end of the round. That just dosen't make sense to us, since it means that the last mech to go, the mech with the best initiative, doesn't actually get to spot anyone if the spotting die he lays out gets cleaned up before anyone can make use of it. Poo on that, we say.

But I don't think we're stopping there. There are a few other bits of Mechaton that either don't make sense to us or just aren't fun at our table. So, here's a short list of things I'm going to propose for our next game:


1. More Movement
I'd like to see our Gundams zooming around the table. Therefore, I propose that every mech can assign up to two dice to movement. These dice will be added together for a total movement of up to 12.

This change would not only mean a more dynamic field of battle, it would also mean we could do away with that pesky green d8 that keeps getting under my skin. When you can close from direct fire range to melee range in a single move, your laser-axe weilding mecha can totally put the hurt on without needing any special benefits.

2. No Turn Down
I can clearly see why Vincent designed the Blue and Yellow dice to turn down one point every roll. However, I don't think that's necessary. If we make a tie between attack dice and defense dice means a HIT for zero damage, then a 1-point spot suddenly becomes valuable. Removing the turn-down will (I think) have the ultimate effect of making the spotting die more powerful. If this change turns out to make the spotting die too powerful, I won't be terribly surprised. We'll see.

3. Spotting is Special
I'm not sure how Mark will feel about this one, but I'd like to see us play once where only mechs that roll yellow dice can spot.

4. When Spotting Dies
Mark had suggested that, instead of removing all spotting dice at the end of a round, that we turn down each spotting die by one each round. I think that's an okay modification, but probably not a very strong one. I propose that the end of the round has no effect on spotting dice, BUT, when you shoot a mech with a spotting die, that die is removed even if you don't use it. In the fiction you've eliminated your advantage, wether or not it helped you. In the game it means that you don't have to sit there and look at a 5-point spot on your mech for hours on end.

It's not the best solution, but I think it's better than what we've got right now.

5. Screw the d8s
Mark mentioned last night that he'd like to see symmetry by providing for a potential d8 in every color. I think that might be nifty and fun. However, since the game already calls for a metric ass-ton of dice, I'm kinda wary about adding more to it. I propose that we don't need any d8s at all. We haven't played with any rockets at all so far and only Andy has used the optional rule with two weapons in the same range. If we want to keep disposable rocket attacks and doubling-up on weapons, perhaps we can come up with some other rule that doesn't require more dice?


Finally, I'd really like to come up with some kind of rule about the maxiumum opening size of the battlefield, but I'm just not sure what it should be yet. The current rules allow the attackers to place their stations pretty much anywhere, which... I dunno. It just seems like it allows the attackers to keep their stations out of reach. We probably need more play time under our belts before we come up with a good modification here.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Best of Styx, track 9, preferably rendered by Cartman

Last year, really just to humor my father, I climbed onto a sailboat for the first time. It was a refurbished Scorpion. And, when I say "refurbished", I mean that my dad had done some mediocre fiberglass work on the hull and patched the sails with large swaths of some old cut-up windbreaker. It's the sailing equivalent of patchy hobo-pants.

I sailed around a little bay in Lake Champlain for maybe two or three hours total over the course of a week. I had no idea what I was doing. I narrowly avoided banging my cranium with the boom over and over again. Eventually, I capsized the thing. Since I had no idea how to get the thing upright again, Lisa had to grab a rowboat to come out and rescue me.

Normally, that would have been it. I've never really been into boats. They bore me. Usually.

But the sailboat was different. There's something totally different about it. Something that I can't really describe. It's a giddy feeling. I love it.

This year, for vacation, my dad had bought a second sailboat. Instead of driving them both across the lake to camp, we put them in the lake about 2 or 3 miles away and sailed them there. I still really didn't know what I was doing, but I'd spent some time reading up on a book or two, so I knew quite a bit more than I had the previous year.

Well, the weather got kinda crappy and a snap storm caused a bit of damage to the Scorpion. With a lot of work and a bit of luck we were able to get the thing back together and got it back into the water with plenty of sailing time left in our vacation. I'd guess I logged maybe a dozen hours on the thing, all told. Not much, but it can still be pretty chilly on Lake Champlain that time of year.

But now back home in the Carolinas, I'm totally hooked. I just can't stand the idea that I've got better weather and no boat. So I bought myself one. And one for Lisa. I've already logged about five hours sailing my new "Phantom" and I can't wait to get it out there again this weekend.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Way down in the hole

I just got done watching the final episode of The Wire. That totally rocked. In the final montage I was sad for Dookie, chuckling at Daniels and Rhonda in court together, and out-of-my-chair applauding Bubbles sitting down to dinner with his sister.

Now that's some good TV.

Friday, May 23, 2008

I can't help myself!

Last week Lisa and I got together with Andy and Shane at It's a Grind. Amongst many other things, we briefly discussed our Sombra Console game. It'd been a while since we'd played, and each of us was eager to get back into it when time allowed.

I asked Andy and Shane if they were happy with the system. They both agreed that they thought it was doing the job. No need to re-work the thing.

Naturally, this week I've started writing up a new system for it. From scratch. Mostly.

I guess I really just can't help it. I start thinking about the things in the system that are bugging me and my pen starts scribbling. I mean, sure the system I cobbled together from bits and pieces of the ol' Shadowrun 2nd Ed game works just fine. But it could be better. Much better.

So, when do I stop hacking and leave well enough alone? I mean, players don't want to have to re-learn a system every month just because the GM is a habitual system hacker. That would suck. I suppose I'll get comfortable with a system again for long-term play someday. It'll probably be when the benefits of changning up the system fail to outweigh the aggravation. Hopefully sooner.

Or maybe, one day, I'll just get tired of writing and re-writing systems and get back to what I used to really love. Creating gobs and gobs of rich setting to immerse the players in. That would be pretty cool.

Friday, April 4, 2008

City of Villians

Yup. That's where I've dissapeared to.

Lisa and I picked up the City of Heroes / City of Villians game last month and we've been playing it constantly since. It's pretty groovy. It's a nice, casual MMORPG, and that's exactly what I was looking for. I can log in, play an hour or two, and log out feeling like I've accomplished something. I like that.

I'm still working on game projects here and there. We played RBH just last weekend and made some really good changes to the rules. But other than that I haven't felt particularly creative recently. The down-time at work that I usually fill with game design scribbles has been consumed by a short list of paperback books. Usually crappy ones that folks leave onboard for me.

I figure I'll probably get my design mojo back in a couple weeks or so. Give or take.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Thunderstorms in CLT

Today was supposed to be a short day. Up at 03:30 and done by 12:30. In the hotel room and getting ready for a tasty steak lunch by 13:00. Today's steak lunch brought to you by Capt. Bill and his Wife of Awesome Income.

The little string of things going wrong started yesterday. Our First Officer (copilot to the uninitiated) twists his ankle stepping off of the aircraft. It's those damned Dash 8 doors. They've got that extra long no-step area. So, that evening he hits the doctor's office and gets grounded. Well, that means we need a new First Officer. But it's already late, so Schedueling decides to pull a reserve guy, put him on a continuous duty overnight, and have him work with us today.

Where Schedueling went wrong is when they decided to let the reserve guy work more than just that first flight back to CLT. Big mistake.

See, there's two important things you've gotta know to understand why it was a mistake. The first thing is that pilots are only alowed to be on duty for a certain number of hours at a shot. I think the FAA's limit is 16 hours and the pilot's contract further limits them to 15 hours. The second thing is that a 'continuous duty overnight' is pretty much just like it sounds. The reserve First Officer had so little time to sleep last night that he couldn't be considered to be on 'rest'. So he's been on duty continuously since 21:40 last night.

We flew from our overnight to CLT. That's when the reserve would have been done for the day if Schedueling weren't greedy. But greedy they are, so they decided to have him work a trip to Wilmington NC and back with us. That would have had him finishing his duty at about 11am. That's 13 hours and 40 minutes. Only an hour and twenty minutes shy of his limit.

Guess what? We're just starting to board to leave Wilmington to head back to CLT when Capt. Bill tells me that we're delayed due to weather in CLT. It's a big enough delay that he wants to send the passengers back into the terminal. We won't know anything more untill 11:00 or so. If we dont' take off by (I think he said) 11:04 then the First Officer isn't allowed to fly an aircraft with passengers on it.


That'll mean we'll have to cancel the flight and 'ferry' the plane back to CLT. We are booked at 50 out of 50. We're supposed to be full. That's 50 folks who'll need to be rescheduled on other flights. Are there 50 free seats leaving Wilminton NC for anywere today? I bet not.

Good job. Ya greedy punks.