Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Sword of Ryland: Characters (Gurps)

The character sheets for the Sword of Ryland are out. Gear has not been assigned, but the points have all been spent....

Lord Garret of Drenvel
Master Cedrus of Feoton
Hydor Blackhand
Rythu, son of Norbet

This is the Simple Alchemy and "As a Power" route. Those of you who have followed from the beginning may be surprised at Garret's skill with necromancy -- rest assured it was planned all along. The point costs for the characters are not equal, but they hang around 250 points each. The myGurps IQ house rule is in effect: Per and Will are based off of 10, not IQ.

I hope to get them all geared up and ready to be used soon. But you're just as likely to see a sheet of campaign considerations and possible secrets or Lady Blackbird style character sheets first. I hope you enjoy these characters!


Sunday, March 20, 2016

ICOPs, Gurps Action, and the BAT

I have long loved the infinite worlds setting -- and not just the idea of lots of alternate earths interacting with each other. I've loved the conflict between infinity and centrum, working out the specifics on conveyors and projectors, and how things work on specific official worlds.

I often find I need characters for the setting (and that such characters are tricky to make), and I have recently found a way to adapt Gurps: Action 4 to help with that ... and to help a lot.

 Action and Infinite Worlds

What's the real difference between an Action Game and an Infinite Worlds Game?

I couldn't find much in the way of defining what "Action's" parameters were, but the series does list campaign types:
Brotherhood in Blue, Capers, Commandos, Mercenaries, Spy vs Spy, Task Force, Troubleshooters, Vigilante Justice, and War Against Terror.
Almost all of those are elements in infinite worlds: many of them feature strongly. Vigilante Justice and War Against Terror are less likely to come up, but themes from them are still present. Infinite worlds talks about the 'mode' you approach the genre from, and lists possibilities:
Action, Cinematic, Dark, Gritty, Hollywood History, Investigative, Pulp, Silly, and Technothriller.
Wow, quite a lot of those hit the 'Action' area.  The first one being literally called 'Action'.  Cinematic, Investigative, Pulp, and Technothriller are all right in that area as well, leaving a a few modes that won't work. For those modes we're on our own, but outside of that, we can use the Action series to help us flavor our characters. So the real difference between Infinite Worlds and Action is that action is limited to modern day settings. But that's true of an awful lot of infinite worlds, and we can work around that.

Book 1 of action has a few problems for this goal: it uses 250 point characters (which is a bit high), and the characters lack some of the vital skills needed in infinite worlds. Book 4, on the other hand, gives us a lot more flexibility. And suggests that alternate BATs are possible. And so I looked into making an ICOP's BAT.

The Basic ICOP Template [100]

70 points in Attributes and secondary attributes
(Example ST 10 DX 11 IQ 11 HT 11 Will 12 Per 12 speed 6.00, move 6)
Advantages (52):
15 points in languages [15]
2 Cultural Familiarities [2]
Legal Enforcement Powers (Patrol) [10]
25 points in advantages (see Action:4 for a full list) or an extra package [25]
Disadvantages (-45):
Duty (Patrol, 12 or less, Extremely Hazardous) [-20]
-25 in disadvantages (see Action:4 for a full list) [-25]
Skills (23):
History (any, possible multiple specialties) (IQ/ H) [8]
First Aid (IQ/ E) [1]
Guns (Pistol) (DX/ E) [1]
Computer Operation (IQ/ A) [1]
Stealth (DX/ A) [2]
Driving (automobile, heavy wheeled, or Motorcycle )(DX/ A) [2], or Riding (any) DX/A [2], or Running HT/A [2], or Hiking HT/A [2]
2 points in Wrestling or Judo [2]
2 points in Brawling or Karate [2]
4 points among Electronics Operation (Parachronics) (IQ/ A), Professional Skill (Infinity Patrol) (IQ/ A), Savior-Faire (Police) (IQ/ E), and Cliodynamics (IQ/ H)

This is a synergy of the Basic Action Template (Action 4) and the Intervention and Penetration services templates (Infinite Worlds pages 186-187). Its designed to reflect the things every graduate of the academy should have. Survival was dropped: agents will obviously train differently depending on the world they're heading to. The division specialty was also dropped -- those skills should be reflected in the packages picked up by the character. The code of honor was left off of the template because not all agents are honorable! some will bend the rules or have their own personal gain at heart.

The languages are oddly numbered, and the language talent is missing. This is intentional: the Infinite worlds are not full of good clean distinct languages with full written forms. Instead you have divergent languages it only takes a single point to become fluent in, languages without a written form (or with an informal and adhoc written form), and things like Chinese, which have one written form, several languages, and a few noninterchangeable dialects. 15 points encourages players to think about what they get instead of just saying 'french and mandarin'.  As for language talent,  it takes a minimum of 20 points in languages before language talent is possibly a good purchase (five languages at accented being the ideal case), and that step is suggested in the process anyways. Its also a good idea to make sure that your history specialization and cultural familiarities line up with your language skills.

The last four points to be distributed are things that will be learned at the academy, but not everyone will pay attention. These skills reflect specific infinity training, and define what role the character plays in infinity as an organization.

Professional Skill (Infinity Patrol) is similar to soldier, covering the basics of patrol training and doctrine. It includes rolls on the proper procedure to approach a situation, coming up with simple cover stories,  properly destroying high tech gear and other evidence, and uses of Cliodynamics or Electronics Operation (Parachronics) where the routine +4 bonus would apply to someone who had the skill.
 
Unlike the original BAT, this template suggests that players arrange their attribute points as they see fit. This is once again to encourage diversity. The GM should probably frown on taking attributes below 10 though. If you want to mandate the example template, that's up to you.

An example character might be Daniel Jao. Daniel is a Chinese-Canadian who works in alternate Chinas, stopping out-time crime and occasionally nudging policy. He gets written chineese [3], Spoken Mandarin [3]  and Cantonese [3], and learns an older dialect for spoken Mandarin [1]. He learns Japanese at a broken level [2], the spoken form of Manchu at a accented level, and spoken Mongolian at the broken level [1]. He drops two points in savior faire (police) and two in Professional Skill (Infinity Patrol) -- he does things by the book, doesn't change worlds often, and doesn't mess around with echoes or determining divergences.We'll save his advantages and disadvantages for later.

Filling Out the Packages

Now you add packages to the template, just like you normally do in action 4. The biggest question is how many do you add? I recommend 3 or 4. Infinite worlds suggests adding "thirty or so" points to its 155 point basic templates, and that's between three and four packages worth.

When adding the packages, you should take into account both what the character does and where he does it. What is the classic TL he works with? If he's used to countering centrum is he trained to work on echoes (where history is both known and sacred) or alternates (where the goal is to counter centrum influence)? Does the agent live in the wilderness or the city, and do they get their intel face to face or  through sneaking around? Is the character expected to fight?

Daniel Jao spends most of his time in TL4 to TL6 china. He is a social man of the city, and is fond of using Bugging to achieve his goals. We'll add Bugging, and Businessman for the status he usually gets inserted in at court. We'll finally add Social Engineer: Daniel doesn't just plant bugs, he engages with people, and gets them to change their minds, tell him things they shouldn't, and so on.

The hardest part of 

Additional Packages

The framework is doing pretty well so far. Daniel is a pretty solid character, and functional enough in an Infinite worlds campaign. He needs someone to analyze his data and he's not that good in a fight, but he's good enough, and he can both gather info and provoke changes in others, and blend in as a variety of roles.

And yet there are things that the packages just didn't cover, because its made for modern action, not infinite worlds. Daniel can pose as a merchant, but we really want him to blend in as a government official, of the classical Chinese type. Which involves some odd skills like calligraphy and literature. There are other holes as well: what if you want an expert on cliodynamics? So we're going to have to add some additional packages to the system.

Most of these packages either cover the new cultural and technological aspects of the setting. Some were simply added because I found them convenient.  The package that requires the most explanation is 'Regional Training' and the corresponding 'Integration Packages'. Integration packages are 10 points, and most represent a role in society. Taking Regional Training along with an integration package allows an agent to blend in or assume an identity for a long time -- or may be the result of the long term assumed identity.

Daniel could really use regional familiarity: His language list has lots of broken level entries and he wants to pose as an imperial scribe in most cases. We swap out Businessman for regional familiarity, and brings his three 'foreign' languages up to native levels when speaking them, and his Japanese writing up to accented. He loads up on the various skills needed to pass as one who has passed the Chinese imperial exams: poetry, literature, and philosophy.

I don't expect you to read all of these packages, but I found them necessary in getting what I wanted out of the Infinity version of the BAT. Have fun creating your characters!

The Packages

New Packages:
Caravan Life
Parachronics
Paranormal Researcher
Scientist (Expanded)
Combat Experience
Regional Training
Integration Packages:
Low Tech Scribe
Low Tech Soldier
Hunter Gatherer
Herdsmen
Urban Scrounger
Noble Lifestyle
Basic Conflict
Adjusted Packages:
Computer Intrusion (Realistic)
Conspiracies (Infinite Worlds)
Cowboy (Skills)
Electronics (Infinite Worlds)
Repairman (Infinite Worlds)

Caravan Life:
You spend your life on the move, taking goods from one place to another. You may be a trader, or you may be a nomad, but you're experienced with moving across the wilderness. There are a number of choices to be made here, but they are all basically about what terrain you cross and what vehicle you use.
Fit [5]
Survival (Plains, Desert, Forest, or Arctic) IQ/A [4]
Freight Handling IQ/A [4]
Navigation (Land)
Riding (Horse or Camel) DX/A [4], Boating (unpowered)DX/A [4], Driving (Automobile,Heavy Wheeled, or Half-track) DX/A[4], Hiking HT/A[4], or Teamster (Equines, Cattle, or Dogs) IQ/A [4]
 Animal Handling (Equines, Camels, Dogs, or Cattle) or Mechanic (Automobile,Heavy Wheeled, Half-track, or unpowered boat)

Parachronics: 
Infinite worlds needs specialists in its specialized feild of parachronics. These folks have devoted their lives to understanding this better, and are cutting edge at what they do.  While they all have a similar grounding, these folks can specialize quite deeply.
History (any) IQ/H [2]
Cliodynamics IQ/H [2]
Physics (parachronics) IQ/H [2]
Electronics Operation (parachronics) IQ/A [2]
Mathematics (Applied) IQ/H [2]
Computer Operation IQ/E [1]Seven of the following (yes you can double up or more -- fact you have to!)
  • History (any) IQ/H [2]
  • Cliodynamics IQ/H [2]
  • Physics (parachronics) IQ/H [2]
  • Electronics Operation (parachronics) IQ/A [2] 
  • Engineer (parachronics) IQ/H [2]
Paranormal Researcher: 
Some Infinite worlds games need these in order to understand the worlds they encounter. These characters tend towards the technical side of things and away from action, but are still fun to play. Once again, you have a lot of choice. The first set of skill choices determine your subject of study, your second set of choices gives you tools to handle such weirdness without getting killed -- or worse. Infinity and Centrum Parachronics research is found in a separate package -- but a world without the secret researching parachronic travel will use paranormal researcher while they still don't understand it, and Reich-5 parachronic researchers (I mean mad scientists) certainly use this package rather than the very mechanically oriented parachronics package.
Research IQ/A [8]
Writing IQ/A [2]
two of the following (yes you can double up):
  • Thaumatology IQ/VH [4]
  • Thaumatology (Specialty) IQ/H [4]
  • Weird Science IQ/H [4]
  • Expert Skill (psionics, parachronazoids, or other) IQ/H [4]
  • Genegeneering IQ/H [4]
three of the following (yes you can double up):
  • Electronics Operation (Scientific, Psychotronic or Weird) IQ/H [2]
  • Occultism IQ/H [2]
  • Hazardous Materials (Magical, Nuclear, Weird) IQ/H [2]
  • Mind Block  Will/H [2] 
  • Physics (weird specialty) IQ/H [2]
  • Animal Handling (rabbits, deer, apes, or any other) IQ/A [2]
  • Psychology (Human ) IQ/H [2]
  • Pysician IQ/H [2]

Scientist (Expanded): 
While their is a 'science' template in action 4, is specifies that only a few skills are used, and intentionally prunes down the potential skills of a scientist. Infinite worlds leaning more to science fiction, an expanded science lens is appropriate. This lens is still skewed towards 'cinematic', and using an NPC expert to cover specifics and a more general scientist as your PC is still recommended for action type games. 
Research IQ/A [2]
 five of the following (yes you can double up):
  • Biology IQ/VH [4]
  • Biology (specialty) IQ/H [4]
  • Chemistry IQ/H [4]
  • Physics IQ/VH [4]
  • Physics (specialty) IQ/H [4]
  • Hazardous Materials (Specialty) IQ/A [4] 
  • Naturalist IQ/H [4]
  • Electronics Operation (Scientific) IQ/A [4]
  • Physiology (human) IQ/A [4] 
  • Current Affairs (Science and Technology) IQ/E [4]
Three of the following (yes, you can double up)
  • Public Speaking (IQ/ A) [1]
  • Teaching (IQ/ A) [1]
  • Writing (IQ/ A) [1
Combat Experience:
Less of a skill package and more of a status, combat experience is appropriate for any character that's experienced a good deal of fighting.
Combat Reflexes [15]
First Aid IQ/E [2]
Tactics IQ/H [2]
6 points in combats skills (melee weapons, ranged weapons, or hand to hand combat skills)

Regional Training:
The linguist and the local expert packages are nice, but on the smaller budgets not as effective as would be convenient, and it often doesn't include vital skills necessary to blend in as a citizen of the world.  Region Training only costs 15 points by itself, and should be combined with a 10 point 'integration' lens. This is for agents who have lived or intend to live for a long period in a fairly alien culture.
6 points of Language [6]
1 Cultural Familiarity
History (The region) IQ/H [4]
Area Knowledge (The region) IQ/E [2]
Streetwise IQ/A [2], Savior Faire (Mafia, High Society, Servant, Military) IQ/E [2] , Law (Local) [2], Philosophy (any) IQ/H [2]

Integration Packages

Designed to be used with regional training, these lenses help people fit into specialized rolls in wildly different societies.

Low Tech Scribe:
You are a professional scribe, able to read and write at a time when no one else could. You have beautiful hand writing and the cultural skills to put such hand writing to good use. Scribes are important people and inserting one into a society can be vital. And while an earphone can help you cheat your way through the chineese exams, if you don't know at least some of it you'll be exposed as an imposter.
Artist (Caligraphy) IQ/A [2]
four of the following (yes you can double up):
  • Administration IQ/A [2]  
  • Accounting IQ/A [2]
  • Law (Local) IQ/H [2]
  • savior-Faire (Servant) IQ/E [2]
  • Literature IQ/H [2] 
  • Poetry IQ/A [2]
  • Philosophy IQ/A [2]
  • Theology IQ/H [2]
Low Tech Soldier:
You have trained to fight in formation with other soldiers. This often comes with a large amount of privilege and mobility, lets you carry weapons openly, and if you're in command, gives you a fair amount of influence in a key places.
Soldier (Low Tech) IQ/A [4]
Tactics (low tech) IQ/H [2]
4 points in low tech weapons skills [4]

Hunter Gatherer:
Someone who can't hunt, can't fish, and can't light a fire is a useless lump. And when you need to interact with TL0 folks, a useless lump is a terrible thing to be.
Survival (any) IQ/A [4]
Bow, Sling, Spear Thrower, Spear, or Fishing [2]
Tracking [2]
Expert Knowledge (Tribal Customs) [2]

Herdsmen:
You live with animals all day. This isn't the closest you can be to the seats of power, but its a lot better than being helpless
Animal Handling (any) IQ/A [4]
Survival (any) IQ/A [2]
Hiking HT/A [2] or Ride (any) DX/A [2]
Packing IQ/A [2], Teamster IQ/A [2], Handle Animal (dog)IQ/A [2], or Teamster (any) IQ/A [2]

Urban Scrounger:
You live on the streets of a city and live by your wits -- which means you find crap in all sorts of unlikely places and sleep on the street.
Scrounging IQ/A [4]
Urban Survival Per/A [4]
Streetwise IQ/A [2], Area Knowledge IQ/E [2], Architecture IQ/A [2], Traps IQ/A [2]

Noble Lifestyle:
You can fit in with the local nobility -- which is no mean feat. Etiquette must be learned, as must good taste.
Saviore Faire (High society) [2]
Four of the following:
  • Riding (horse) DX/A [2]
  • Dancing DX/A [2]
  • Connoisseur(any) IQ/E [2]
  • Literature IQ/H [2]
  • Public Speaking IQ/A [2]
  • Law IQ/H [2]
  • Administration IQ/A [2]
  • Carousing HT/E [2]
Basic Conflict:
You can handle yourself in a fight, including surrounding activities. Unlike other integration packages, this one isn't focused on fitting into a role in a society: its a fall back option if no other integration package fits.
First Aid IQ/E [1]
Stealth DX/A [2]
Guns (pistol, riffle, or shotgun) DX/E [2]
Brawling DX/E [2] or Karate DX/H [2]
Wrestling DX/A [2] or Judo DX/H [2]
Driving (any) DX/A [1],  Hiking HT/A [1], or Running HT/A [1]

Altered Packages

some packages fit right in, but could use a few tweaks ...
Computer Intrusion (Realistic)
Realistic' hackers tend to know computers very well and use a variety of methods to achieve their goals. Such raised realism can be appropriate for infinite worlds.
Remove computer hacking. Add 3 points to computer operation and 1 point to electronics repair (computer).

 Conspiracies (Infinite Worlds):
This is a classic skill for those working against centrum, whether on echoes or not. The expert skill (conspiracy theory) is a little odd, and many times this package really ought to include Cliodynamics. Its recommended lowering conspiracy theory at [2], and raising intelligence analysis to [4], and either taking Cliodynamics at [4] or raising intelligence analysis to [8].

Cowboy (Skills):
When you are traveling to the old times, you sometimes need less cowboy ruggedness and more cowboy skills. This skill set focuses on the skills of a cowboy and more generally an outdoorsman.
Remove Per and HT.  Raise Survival (Plains) to [4], add Handle Animal (horse) IQ/A [2], and three of the following skills: Handle Animal (Cattle) IQ [2], Cooking (Trail Food) IQ/E [2], Naturalist IQ/H [2], Guns (riffle,shotgun, or pistol) DX/E [2], Hiking HT/A [2], or raise one of the skills listed or Handle Animal (horse) IQ/A to [4].

Electronics (Infinite Worlds): 
Be aware of the parachronics specialty of electronics -- it can be vital. Add it to both lists of potential things to repair.

Repairman (Infinite Worlds):
In infinite worlds, you have a lot more types of machines to repair, including your conveyor's power sources and any weird machines that might be local to the timeline. You also potentially have a lot of low tech gear you need to take care of.  Keep scrounging and Machinist, and add Conveyors to your mechanic list, as well as carpentry, smith, and leather working, and varied levels of machinist and mechanic. If necessary, drop artificer and pick up a broader set of specialties.


Thursday, March 10, 2016

Sword Of Ryland: The Map

This map is of course optional. It was partially generated using Collaborative Gamers Map Generation System. GM's should feel free to resize, rearrange, redraw, and so forth. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Essential Resources: The MyGurps IQ rule

There are some gurps resources that have changed the way I play the game, articles and fan-created work that forever alter the way I play the game. These are not official resources, but in many ways they are just as good. One of the best such resources is MyGurps. And among the best rules on the site is: 

1. Perception and Will are separate from IQ.

Both Per and Will are their own attributes. They start at 10, and can be raised or lowered for 5 points/level. IQ is unchanged, at 20 points/level.
Its a very simple rule, with very good reasons for existing

Monday, March 7, 2016

The Human Destiny: Aliens Reworked

I'm following a project called 'The Human Destiny' by Jon F. Zeigler on his blog. (He's one of the guys that wrote GURPS:SPACE). The setting he's working with focuses on humans after they are incorporated into a galactic hegemony. Its kind of like uplift without humanity being special for uplifting others or evolving on their own.

Its a good setting, but I object to the way the aliens are given their statistics. The two races presented so far are 185 and 90 points. Which is a lot. So I'd thought I'd write them up a little more toned down and a little less forbidding to the point budget.

This is not meant to denigrate Mr. Zeigler's work. If anything, this is praise. I find the setting intriguing, and he's doing a fantastic job of exploring ideas. I just think the races could be made more accessible, point-wise.

Are they really Superior?

So one of the hickups here is that this setting has practiced eugenics and millennia of breeding ought to give you something. On the other hand, +4 IQ is incredibly high and has potential to break the setting. And a large number of points come from the classic mistakes when statting large creatures and when stating those with multiple arms. And they generally have a higher social position than humans. So we're not going to get  0 point templates. But we are going to get better balanced templates.

The Elf  Problem

The hardest part is deciding what to do about the  IQ +4 and HT +2 on Kedai. Together they are worth 100 points -- enough to make any Kedai character 'Exceptional'. I asked Mr. Zeigler about this and he said this was intentional: Kedai are
'frightfully intelligent, but if I were to run a game with them, they would always be NPCs'
 Wow, that's a strong statement. And it runs into the elf problem -- why is the universe populated by anything other than elves? More to the point of the game: why are the players interesting when all of the cool awesome characters are elves?

Classic answers to this problem include: There aren't very many of them. None of them are working for us. They're all focused on other problems. It turns out only some of them are really this good. The point is to play the mortal against the gods.

In this case he's done a fair job of invoking a lot of these answers. Kedai really have a crappy reproductive cycle -- they spend their youth as a wild animal in the woods, and most of the time die that way. It takes a lot of land to produce a Kedai, and a lot of failed attempts. They're also almost all in high-ranking government positions, so you can't really ask 'why are they in charge'? In some ways, Kedai are ultra-tech dragons. Each one is tougher than nails. And part of the point of the campaign is to play honest to goodness underdogs in a world where you are outmatched. So I'm going to keep Kedai's high IQ. 

The HT is also an issue, but Kedai have seemingly been selectively breeding and maybe even tinkering with their genome for over a million years. At least HT+1 is justified.

In a game where having a race of super-geniuses is NOT the point, Kedai would drop the IQ, and find themselves in the manageable race zone.

Kedai [99]

85 of the points come from the fact that these things are essentially grizzly bears with horns. This is a fantastic build in a TL3 hack and slash game. In a TL11 game where this is the ruling race? not so much. Any battle suit can match their armament. easily. Actually, an exoskeleton is likely to be good enough. Their big advantage is that they can go anywhere and not worry about being pestered about it. There is a case for this being 5 points, and there is a case for this being a perk.

Some of their disadvantages actually are undercharged: Gurps doesn't by RAW let you stick a modifier on any disadvantage you please, and getting 90% of cost for a disadvantage that effects at most 2 months of the year is iffy at best. I'm going to drop that to -80%. That's still debatable, but the time is extended and hits the entire species at the same time. The most ruling species as well. I'm sure everyone knows exactly when mating season is, and I hope there are measures to prevent rash things from happening. Like wars being declared.

The quirks are actually pretty good. The humble one is a bit odd, but quirks are great when describing a species tendencies. I'm normally not a fan of charging hidebound and incurious at full cost -- but  its essential for balancing out the +4 to IQ from a scenario perspective.

On the senses they trade off hearing for vision, particularly night vision. they have -4 to hearing, cancel 6 in darkness penalties, and get +3 to vision. Superior or lessened senses are not something that can be replaced by technology: Kedai just plain see more than humans and hear less. Night vision is different though. It can be mitigated or replaced by technology. I'm going to roll it into the 'legal enforcement powers' cost along with ST 18 and horns. As a feature, they get penalties 1 higher than humans in bright light, but this can be easily remedied with sunglasses. Yep, a feature. Not enough to be worth a quirk. Its no more limiting than being susceptible to pentagrams.

Extended life span won't be worth anything in most games. Its dropped to the level of a feature, alongside early maturation 5.

 IQ+4 [80]; HT+1 [10]. SM+1 [0].
Advantages: Acute Vision 3 [6]; Fearlessness 3 [6];  Racial Status 4 [20]; Legal Enforcement Powers (shaped like bear) [5]
Perks: Deep Sleeper [1].
Disadvantages: Bad Temper (Only during mating season, -80%) [-2]; Hard of Hearing [-10]; Hidebound [-5]; Incurious [-5]; Lecherousness (Only during mating season, -80%) [-3].
Quirks: Assumes situations are not dangerous unless proven so; Attentive; Humble; Serious [-4].
Features: -1 to vision in bright light, longevity 4, early maturation 5

Non-Boss Kedai [17]

So what if Kedai were meant to be something other than superhuman overlords? What if they aren't the genetic lottery winners that ruled the universe for 20 million years?

Drop the IQ, drop the HT. Reduce hidebound and incurious to mere perks. And thats it. Most of their points are now the racial status -- which is an advantage they should have, and should be paid for in full. If you take that away you get [-3] -- the Kedai have a LOT of racial quirks, and the mating season disadvantage may be overpriced. You can arguably add +1 IQ or some other racial talent.

Actually, I suggest picking between these two extremes -- add IQ until you get the level that you want. Or suggest to the player that he raise IQ to the level that he needs. If the race gets +2 IQ or more you may want to bump incurious and hidebound back up to their full level. Choose the IQ based on how formidable you need the Kedai.

Azuri [15]

Ok, now we have the Azuri, known to humans as 'spider apes'. They are originally priced at 90 Old Man's War setting where humans need bio-engineering to be useful. In fact, given that ST is less than pivotal in this setting, they're currently worth even more than [90].
James Cameron's take on six limbed apes. with tiny arms.
points. And they shouldn't be that much better than a human. They're a sapient species that is new to the galaxy, and we don't want an

First, lets shave off the +2 DX and +1 IQ. Its nice, but what are we really trying to say? I haven't been given enough info to say for certain, but I suspect some of it supposed to be the result of millenia of genetic tinkering.  Most human adventurers will be green card holders (top 20% of humans genetically), and probably have moderate bonuses themselves. So file that as something most citizens of the empire have. the bonus to DX is probably more meaningful -- but also likely to be subsumed into perfect balance

Extra arms. Oh, extra arms. Remember in Gurps to pay for effects, not fluff. the effect of an extra arm are the ability to perform multiple actions with it outside of combat, and bonuses, primarily grappling, inside of combat. So do Azuri have theses abilities? First of all, are those middle legs hands or are they foot manipulators? If they are hands do the creatures have the full strength of a human hand in each arm? Should they get +4 when grappling a human? Will they have full dexterity in all arms?

Swinging through the trees like a gibbon is incredibly hard on a limb. And when you have four of them... That's a lot of muscle. A biology like that is going to have individually weaker arms. Its going to have shorter legs as well -- look at pretty much any wild ape.

The creatures have four hands, and there is not way to argue these aren't full human manipulators -- unless I want to go with bad grip or something. But they aren't full human arms -- Azuri won't be grappling demons. So we take the limitation short. Yep, short. Short is the limitation that removes the advantages of grappling, despite the fact that the limb is just as long as the others. That means our extra arms are only worth [10] -- and that's probably a fair price.

The ability to both climb and walk is powerful. Its worth at least 5 from the brachiator advantage. Its also an ability that doesn't come 'free' -- creatures that are good climbers are slower on the ground, all things considered. I'm going to reduce ground move by 3 to a total of two -- and then I'm going to raise climbing move up by two to a total of three. Yep, they move faster brachiating than walking.

I object to giving an alien not designed wholly around a mental disadvantage much more than quirks. I'm going to drop curiosity to perk level, which gives us a nice round 5 quirks. That's a lot for a racial template, but it gives lots of hooks for the race.

I'm totally fine with racial status, that's social and doesn't strain my suspense of disbelief. Perfect balance is probably appropriate to the race, if a little broad -- It may be appropriate to limit it to tree's and other situations where the land can wrap around things that look like branches, but I think this is good enough. I could push farther, but I think this is at least a decent place to present the race. Its not taken all the way down to 0, but you have all the things you really want out of the template. Also, The ST score should probably be reduced, given that this is an ultra tech game. To something like a quirk. Also remember that Azuri tend to be higher point characters than humans -- but that's a game tendency resulting form social programs, not a hard and fast rule.

ST-1 [-10], -3 move [-15]
Advantages:   Racial Status 1 [5]; Extra Arms 2 (short -50%) [10], +2 climbing move [10], Brachiator [5], Perfect Balance [15]
Quirks:  Broad-Minded; Congenial; Playful; Responsive, inquisitive [-5].

 Analysis

We didn't get either race down all of the way. Part of this was that we really didn't add much in the way of extrapolation -- we mostly just toned down existing ideas. I personally find more life in the species now that I've tinkered with them a little bit. And now I feel that humanity has its strengths as well as weakness vs. other species.

I hope this helps both get you interested in the human destiny series, and gets you thinking about the way you build aliens. Happy world building!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Sword of Ryland: A Quick-Play Adventure

The Kingdom of Korath has been in trouble before, but now things seem as black as ever. Armies of undead, sent by the Necromancer Eiathor, now ascended to lichdom, have already taken most of it, and the barons are surrendering. With victory on land seemingly impossible and the sea locked in contests of weather mages, King Porlan has sent three of his best men to acomplish by stealth what force of arms could not: to slay Mal Eiathor himself. The men have evaded capture and detection up until they reached Ryland, a forested barony whose lord surrendered to the necromancers. Taking refuge in a shepherd's hovel, Master Cedrus discovered the sword on the wall was the lost sword of Ryland, and Rythu, their youthful host, its rightful wielder. Cedrus awakened the bond between the two. Within the hour, Hydor Blackhand reported undead soldiers coming towards the hovel...

Player Characters:

Master Cedrus
  • Fire Mage
  • Son of Lord Senex- can't believe that his father is this far off course
  • Alchemist and healer
  • Lore Master 
Lord Garret of Drenvel
  • Experienced with the realm
  • Lost his barony in previous fighting
  • Knows Eiathor and Senex well, and ridden by guilt he did not act sooner
  • Traditional Combatant
  • Skilled Leader
  • Knows small amount of necromancy
Hydor Blackhand
  • Illusionist
  • Assasin
  • King's Illegitimate Son (and loyal to king)
  • Alchemist and poisoner
Rythu, son of Norbet
  • Anti-magic Ability
  • Rightful king of dead kingdom
  • Peasant Background
  • Ancient Prophesy
  • Power comes from sword

Notable NPC's

King Porlan of Korath has ruled as a typical indolent king. He's let other's rule, and only gone to war a few times in his life. He understands that misrule will ruin his name, and he doesn't want that, but he doesn't think its worth the work to become a truly legendary king. In fact, he regards it as hard work to stay on the throne.

Mal Eiathor of Garmaz is a powerful necromancer, the second son of a local baron. Eiathor has been completely corrupted by his power: he wishes to rule, to inflict pain, and to slay the living. He's a complete megalomaniac, and has decreed that he wishes to drain the life out of King Porlan with his own two hands. Eiathor is a very talented mage, and has figured out a method to locate magic use over long distance -- including that given off by Rythu's sword.

Lord Senex of Feoton is not a necromancer, but he is working with them. He's been convincing individual barons to submit to the necromancers so that their lands won't be ravished and their people will survive -- and so that they will stay in power. Lord Senex has a reputation as a practical man and a capable manager. He essentially runs the kingdom for Eiathor, making sure that the necromancers get what they want. Cedrus thinks that his father has the good of the kingdom at heart and is saving lives. Most others think he's just looking out for himself. And there's a good possibility he plans to usurp Eiathor's position once king Porlan is dead.

Locations

Garmaz:
The captical of Mal Eiathor, Garmaz castle is also the training center of the necromancers. Mal Eiathor is certainly in this castle, ensuring the mages sent to him are properly corrupted and loyal to him ... or at least as loyal as a necromancer can be. Garmaz is in the far south of Korath, and its not known why the neighboring Gibarans are allowing a necromancer free reign...

Conquered Baronies:
Eiathor has conquered many baronies by the force of his undead soldiers and his necromancers. Each of these baronies is ruled by a necromancer and his corpse-derived soldiers. The Lords, knights, and mages of these areas are mostly dead or fled, though a few have turned traitor and are helping the necromancers. The necromancers are given free reign to sate their appetites. The peasants here live in fear of their lives, and many are trying to escape. But getting caught leaving is a sure way to join the deathly army.

Surrendered Baronies:
These Baronies have surrendered to Eiathor, (Mostly through the skilled negotiations of Lord Senex) and have kept their position in exchange for cooperation in the war. The surrendered baronies have cut off communication with those loyal to King Porlan, and their soldiers even serve in the war against him. Their mages are sent to Garmaz, where they are trained as necromancers. Given necromancy's corrupting tendencies, many of them have fled north to avoid that fate.

Korath:
The long kingdom located between the Dargwen mountains to the east and the west coast of the Aulguff sea. It borders Gibara to the south, Carthat to the north, insanely high and icy mountains in the west and Rasotar lies across the sea. Korath is also the name of the territory ruled directly by King Porlan.

Feoton:
The effective capital of the colluding Barons and the home domain of Lord Senex.

Drenvel: 
Lord Garret's barony. It has been sacked in the course of the war, and was the site of some of the greatest battles so far. Its has been laid to ruin and its peasants have fled. The resident necromancer is having to bring in servants from other baronies. Lord Garret escaped the slaughter and has been fighting ever since.

Ryland: 
Rythu's home barony. Ryland was an ancient kingdom with a strong mystic tradition. Now its the name of a barony that surrendered to Mal Eiathor and an obscure piece of its history has suddenly given the people of its former dominion hope. 

Using this adventure: 

This will be a quick play adventure, complete with character sheets, maps, and further notes on the secrets of the world. But this portion is actually fairly complete. You have characters with odd interactions, a situation, and a number of goals for your heroes to achieve. Do the heroes go strait for Mal Eiathor? Or will they confront Lord Senex? Were do Lord Senex's loyalties really lie? If the sword is powerful enough they may be able to mount an effective resistance -- particularly if they can get the Barons who gave up without a fight to join them. And cooperation between the players isn't guaranteed. Will Cedrus let his affection for his father lead them into a trap? Or is their relationship the edge the team needs? Does Rythu believe is the heir of the King of Ryland? Will the promising leader save the kingdom of Korath, or cut it down to nothing to rebuild Ryland?

I designed this game to be run with "as a power" and simple alchemy. That isn't the only way it can be run though: the standard GURPS magic system will work for this game, and you could probably play in with DnD. RPM will work as well. Lady Blackbird, which did a lot to inspire the idea of a 'quick-play' adventure for me, has a system that'd be fairly easy to work with.

I've mentioned Lady Blackbird. It was pointed out to me by the blog Game Geekery.  He deserves credit for pointing out the concept to me and giving me examples beyond Lady Blackbird.

I hope you enjoy this adventure. More is coming: character sheets, maps, encounters, and sheets of secrets (in case you enjoy internal drama and conflicting character goals). I will also be building this game in multiple magic systems and multiple game systems and really comparing how everything works. I hope this inspires you!

Anchored Illusions as a Power

Perhaps no ability says "Magic" more than that of illusion. Part of this is because its the type of effect a clever slight of hand artist can pull off. Illusions require clever thinking to use for greatest effect.  They're also one of the broadest pieces of magic. An illusion can do ... well, pretty much anything. Or at least seem to do anything. Make people who aren't there, change faces, build rooms -- the limit is how much you can do at once.

Anchored illusions take time to make and time to dissipate. The illusionist can't make a person that will hold a conversation, but he can disguise a door and it will stay disguised for a long time. The illusions are anchored to objects, and either don't respond to the environment, or their behavior must be painstakingly created.