Squallings of Ghostman

Games, drumming, juggling, home improvements, cooking, comics, dogs, macs, music, etc.


Squall - probably of Scandinavian origin; akin to Old Norse skval: useless chatter (Merriam-Webster)
It's my goal to have the LONGEST blog pages around. Kind of.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Savage Worlds - Firefly using High Space 2 & 3

Wow, am I behind on my posts.. I'll combine the last 2 games in this play session posting.

Into the black in a ship with no name...  What could go wrong?

For the introduction, read this posting. I am using the High Space rule set and playing in the FireFly 'Verse.

As mentioned previously, the ship is unknown to the crew. I provided them with a blank ship sheet (well, they knew the size of the ship, a displacement of d8) and they filled it out as they made their escape through an active space battle between the Alliance and Reavers. Not only did the crew have to navigate safely through a battle scene, they were discovering the capabilities of the ship they just stole.

As the action unfolds, the ship attempts a direct course to get out of the battle area ASAP. The plan is to go FTL when they get to the appropriate distance away from the planet. The space station they just escaped from was orbiting around the planet. In game terms, the ship should be able to hit FTL in 10 combat rounds. In that time, they managed to attract the attention of 2 Reaver ships, one of which they destroyed, and ignore comm requests from the Alliance. Alliance fighters were dispatched to "escort" them back to the space station, but a confusing round of cross fire had the Alliance fighters exchanging fire with Reavers, instead.This confusion led to our heroes' escape.

Finally in FTL space, the crew has found out several things about the ship during their plight in the battle:
  • It's got a leftover AI that seems much like a Jewish Mother. The ship is very concerned for their well being, diet and relationship problems.
  • The ship makes disturbing mechanical noises that are untraceable.
  • Although some weapons are equipped, the ship is built more for speed and stealth.
  • The ship has no ship's log, records, name or signage.
The programmer builds a record for the ship and gets it into the Cortex records. The crew votes in a Captain (the Mechanic) and then finally name the ship: The Golden Ducat, aka 'Duck'. More records are created for the ship and uploaded for record keeping and a general attempt is made to be mostly legal in order to be able to land anywhere slightly civilized. Speaking of which, the next decision is where to go and what to do.

The plot so far is that the truth about the Reavers has been revealed through the Cortex vid channels (ala the Serenity movie) and it has yet to really sink in to the public for any sort of outcry. However, there is the major Reaver / Alliance battle that has been hushed across the 'Verse, and the crew of the 'Duck' witnessed it first hand. This is just one more coverup by the Alliance that the crew might want to reveal. In the meantime, Saul has shared his information about a new drug that the Alliance is testing / manufacturing that is supposed to be similar in quite a few respects to the failed Miranda drug. Many of the crew decide that if they can do something to blacken the eye of the Alliance, then it might be worth doing. Problem is, they know nothing about where this production facility is or really what they can do about it. First things first, the crew needs money and that means a job. Persephone is their decided destination. As an added incentive, one of the characters has Badger as a contact, so this might actually work out.

On Persephone, the crew do some talkin' and dealin' but get right on getting to and talking with Badger. To start off the meetin', the crew shows Badger some of what they found in a hidden hold of the ship. Weapons, though small arms to be sure, but at least they didn't come hat in hand, so to speak... He says they can work out a sale for some pocket money. It helps to get the ball rolling for the second part of the conversation: finding a job. Badger says he's got something a might dicey, and so far no one has taken up the offer. He can provide them fuel and supplies if they do a job for him. The payment terms are left a might vague as far as the return goes, but he's willing to fund them. For now. He tells them of a braggart that came through a while back talkin' about a great new drug that was sure to hit the Core sometime soon. The fella says that folks will be linin' up for it as it's got a great high. Unfortunately, the info was limited and Badger finds it hard to believe. After some time researching, Badger has managed to figure out a location; a planet that some of Skeeter's people, Native American Indians, colonized a few decades ago, that is far out on the rim and who want to be left alone.  Badger thinks that he traced the bragging fella to the same planet, although to or from, he doesn't rightly know. But he's willing to gamble on the crew to find out. The job is simple. Bring back some product, and he'll pay 'em for it. The more, the better, and the sooner, the better. He wants to be the only supplier for as long as he can.

The crew talks over the deal and accepts it. Saul thinks the job and the Alliance drug might be connected or even one and the same. Time isn't wasted as the crew prepares The Duck for flyin' and tries to launch before anyone really takes notice of her. Fortunately, they launch with no questions from the docks. Maybe Badger had something to do with that, too. To the Black they go.

Ever paranoid, the crew decides on a route that will take them to an agriculture planet close by the planet they are heading to, to try and throw off any scent or suspicion. I decided on Whitefall as their destination. The crew spends a day for some information gathering. Skeeter cultivates some information from the well-experienced of the town, while others find gamblin', drinkin' and fightin'. The crew ends up with some idea of folks who come here looking for supplies, always buyin', and never sellin'. And they're a heap a trouble, too, causing folks all kinds of issue. Fortunately, they only show up once a month or so. The local waterin' hole is still cleaning up from their last visit from a few days ago.

Tanned, rested and ready, back into the black they go. They approach the colony world (I called it Terra Ariel - and yes, for you who are in the know, I am using that adventure). They completely avoid the orbiting ship and land near the colonists. They spend a few hours talking with the colonists (mostly Skeeter, as these are his people and some are distant relatives) about what they may know. The colonists are reclusive and avoid any contact; the fact that they have Skeeter on the crew is the only reason their presence is tolerated. They don't gather much information other than that occasionally folks come up missing. They suspect the Others, but any scouting party sent out have never returned. They've never been attacked or confronted; there have been no dealings with the Others at all, except that they both know the existence of each other. The crew voice their intentions of investigation and two young warriors volunteer to help.

The planet is void of any mammals; all of the local fauna is insect-based, and everything has a red hue to it. The Warrior guides help the crew get to within a few miles of the Others' compound, where they decide to stash the Mule and continue on foot. The Warriors are wary, being unfamiliar with this territory. The ground is soft and spongy in spots, leading to one of the crew, Lock, the engineer, falling through the ground and into a giant underground tunnel. A few seconds later, a loud chit-chit-chit sound  appears to be approaching the crew. In the dim light, Lock sees a giant bug rushing at him, apparently to get what looks to be a tasty meal for it. Lock pulls his laser pistol and fires at the approaching bug, causing no damage to its hard shell. Bulldog, Steady and Eliot jump in to help. After a few shots and a twisting attack, the bug is still going strong. The electroblade that was pulled from the weapons stash is most effective as Bulldog nearly cuts it in two with one swing. Just in time, too, as another bug is approaching from the opposite direction. The crew has time to set up a concentrated attack, and that bug is dispatched fairly quickly. They climb out of the tunnel and are able to rest for a bit.

That's where we ended the session; next session will be in the compound...

Monday, April 14, 2014

GameStorm 16

What a Great GameStorm16!
 (Except I suck because I didn't take a single friggin' picture all weekend long.)
 
Last year I took on a volunteer role at the yearly convention as the Assistant to the RPG coordinator. Which means I do some grunt work for my RPG Coordinator, Ron. I got this role because last year I wanted to organize a Savage Saturday Night.

This year was the 2nd Annual Savage Saturday Night and a new event was added: Fateful Friday Night. Both of these events were successful.  Savage Saturday Night was a full house with 7 games and at least 5 players at each table. Local game store, Guardian Games gave us Dice to hand out! We also had some gift certificates from Pinnacle as prizes. With the dice and certificates, each table had 4 things to give out.

Fateful Friday Night had 4 games with 5-6+ players per game, and the Dresden Files game had over a dozen people signed up for it. Next year we hope to have more Fate GMs for the event in order to accommodate the demand. Local game store, Guardian Games gave us gift certificates to hand out! We also had some gift certificates from Evil Hat as prizes, too.

Bellum
It's hard to say what my number one highlight of GS16 was, but I must say that it was having a game that I am co-developing in the GameLab. This game has been around for a few decades; it's a card game with a WWII army man theme. It was developed by myself and my friend Ash when we were teens.

We had quite a few play testers from ages 8 to 68 and we got some really good feedback. Now we need to come up with a solid card design and find an artist who wants to draw army men and toy images, so we can publish this bad boy. 

Ash did a great job getting interest in the game and running the demo events. His idea of surrounding the signup sheet with army men got us 10 play tester signups in 5 minutes!

I am going to start a new page and more postings about this in the future, so stay tuned if you're interested.

Shane Hensley and John Goff
This was going to be my highlight until I decided to put Bellum in the Game Lab. 

I was looking forward to this event for over 6 months, ever since I heard that Shane Hensley was going to be our RPG Guest of Honor. And a month or two before this year's GameStorm, we were able to add John Goff to the Con. 

Shane and John both ran several games throughout the weekend and I was privileged to play in a John Goff Deadlands Noir game. I also got to play in two games with Shane as a player, but not in a game where he GMd - I had some time conflicts and choices had to be made. For some photo documentation, here is Shane's Photo record of his trip to the Con. Needless to say, I got Shane to sign my Savage Worlds Deluxe hardback and John Goff to sign my Deadlands Noir hardback.

Then John did something pretty cool. There were a few of us who were part of the Deadlands Noir Kickstarter, and John had all of us sign his copy of the book.

One more item of interest, shortly after GameStorm was over, I received a Private Message on the Pinnacle forums from a guy who was introduced to Savage Worlds at GameStorm. And his first ever game was with Shane as the GM. I thought that that was pretty cool.

Thanks Shane and John for making my GameStorm awesome!
 
Masters Game
This was a brain child of Ron, the RPG coordinator. Since we all run games on Savage Saturday Night, the idea was to get all the GMs in a game together. This was an off-the-books-by-invite-only secret game. John Goff hadn't arrived yet, but we did have everyone else. Ron ran the game for us. It was a sci-fi themed game that turned a little silly, but was enjoyable.

Low Life
I ran a one-shot of Andy Hopp's Low Life setting for Savage Worlds, twice, once on Friday and once on Sunday.

Both games went well with a lot of character calamity, disgusting references, and good times. This game is great fun to GM; I really have to flex my creative side.

Since the adventure takes place in a six-story building called the "Museum of Random Stuff", I had to come up with exhibits on the fly. I should have had a list of them prepared. My favorites were the Poo Room, the Hall of Smelves, and the Stretchy Pants exhibit.

Agents of Oblivion
My Savage Saturday Night game, as per tradition, was an Agents of Oblivion game.

Each year I use the same agents, but increase their level. Next year they'll have achieved the rank of Seasoned.

This game was an adventure called 'Clear Water' written by Michael Ysker. The agents need to investigate a Mid-Western water bottling plant. The supposition is that an enemy agency, Pandora, is involved in something dastardly at the plant. I won't give away too much of the ending, but it does end up with some aquatic tentacled goodness at the end.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Savage Worlds - Firefly using High Space

Firefly!
The 'Verse. The Alliance and Browncoats. Reavers. Badger, Prentice and Saffron. You know it and you love it. I am running a game in it. This is the report from session one.

For the Savage Worlds setting rule set, I am using the High Space character and ship rules from Storyweaver. I know, why didn't I use the new Sci-Fi companion? Because it wasn't available when I started prepping. As it is, it was only out 2 weeks (or was it 1?) before I ran my first session. I am sticking to High Space for the duration of this mini-campaign. Yes, campaign, there will be more postings about this game in the future.

Characters
From the game that I run on the Last Thursday of every month at my local game store (Guardian Games) I had a lot of requests for a space game. Since I like Firefly the best, I decided to use that. So, a call out to the group for people to dedicate themselves to a character and the game. I got a good response, I ended up with 7 players (one more than I had planned for, but NPC turns PC is pretty cool). The way it worked was: The player sent me a character concept, and I worked them out. Then I sent the character to the players and tweaked them a little from player suggestion. I made all the characters Veteran level (40 XP). Overall, most of the characters are 90-95% how I made them, very little tweaking required.

The run of the crew is this:
  • Agent / Spy (Saul Bau - played by Terill)- The player wanted a Shephard Book / Simon Tam combo.. I ended up making a character that worked as a field agent for the Alliance doing low risk (re: low combat) errands. He didn't like the package contents, and is now anti-Alliance.
  • Computer expert (Leng Ping - played by Michael) - For covering tracks and seeing what folks are up to.
  • Mechanic (Lachlin "Lock" Elliot - played by Aaron) - Someone has to keep this thing safe and running!
  • Medic (Skeeter Osceola - played by John) - Folks are apt to get hurt, someone has to fix 'em up. This character has a Native American Indian background, who speaks Cherokee, English and Chinese.
  • Melee Mercenary (Elliot MacBride - played by Cameron) - For the times when ranged combat is not an option. Was a pirate with the Pilot, although this character felt better about it than the Pilot.
  • Pilot (Edward 'Steady' Rocksmash - played by Chris) - Someone has to fly this thing! Hopefully, he won't have to resort to piracy again.
  • Shooter Mercenary ("Bulldog" - played by James) - The subtle reminder of folks watching from afar. This character is also a bounty hunter.
No Captain! This might be interesting, no one is really in charge, or everyone is in charge. But, we do have a nice spread of skills and types. I also tied a few of the character backgrounds together.  The Bounty Hunter was the one who caught the Agent and two characters served on a Pirate ship together. They all have a common 'Browncoat' hindrance.

Plot Setup
All the characters are in a military space station as war criminals or criminals against the Alliance. Pirates, captured browncoats, spies, etc. The space station is near where the Reavers ran headlong into the Alliance fleet. I took some liberty and I changed the order of events. In my game, the Reaver recording blasted thru the 'Verse before the Reaver / Alliance clash. This allowed the characters to see the recording first, and then the space station they are on gets attacked. This forces the characters to perform a prison break. With no weapons. And with Reavers running around everywhere.

The Game
Now to the meat of the posting - the actual play. I'll try to keep this fairly succinct, but will try to get all enough of the details to fill in the gaps. In the middle of Skeeter's medical documentary show, the Reaver broadcast happens. The guards try switching channels on the common room vidscreen only to find it is on all the channels. The guards power off the vidscreen. But everyone in the room saw enough. About eight hours later (when everyone is in their bunks), there is a huge crashing sound. The station shakes and alarms start screaming. A few minutes later, the power and the lights go out. The cell doors default to an unlocked state under a power down so the characters can exit their cells to the common room. The two door system out of the cell block is still intact. Guards have flashlights and gather the prisoners into one area, watching them. Radio chatter is overheard by the prisoners as the situation deteriorates in the rest of the station. Using the guard's computer terminal, the characters start watching through the station's camera system.  They see empty military barracks, an empty ship bay (one ship remains), and a lot of fighting throughout the station.  The characters see Reavers.  A lot of Reavers, armed with hunks of metal and slaughtering anyone they come across.

After some time, the characters decide to escape the prison block.  They take guard with them who is reluctant to go. Armed with just a couple of stun batons from the cell block guards, the characters start their escape. They reach another two door system that leads from the prison section to the regular section of the station. The far door is open (looks broken) and there are two Reavers surrounded by dead Alliance guards. Then it happens, the Reavers spot the characters and rush the closed door.  They start to smash it down with pieces of metal in their hands.  The door opens and one Reaver rushes through. The Reaver hits the closest character and takes hits from the other characters.  This merely shakes the Reaver. The second Reaver also attacks, swinging wildly.  Several characters dodge past the Reavers to pick up dropped weapons off of the dead Alliance soldiers.

When the characters start grabbing up weapons, I gave them a choice of pistol or rifle, and then had them roll a die.  That roll determined the weapon card from the deck weapon cards I had (See the Weapon Cards section later in the post). Six characters manage to drop two Reavers and continue on. The corridors are noisy with the sounds of battle: gunfire, screams, and pounding. Outside of the prison area is a stairway leading both up and down with noises from both directions. Waiting to see where the Reavers may come from, the characters are rewarded with Reavers start running up and down the stairs at them.  One of the weapons the characters picked up is a massive machine gun, which helps them make their from a large number of Reavers coming down on them. As the characters move along, they run across ripped up bodies of Alliance soldiers, at which point they continue to arm themselves, including battle armor and helmets. First stop is the armory, which they find mostly empty. Next is the medical bay to pick up some patch pads, sell-able medications, and basic supplies.  One more stop at a storeroom for rations and other general supplies.  Then to the ship bay to see if they can abscond with the ship they spied earlier. They make it to the ship bay, get the ship ready for flight, and take off.  The ship bay doors are opened and they fly out into the middle of a big space battle.  That's where we ended for the night.

Unknown Ship
There is a ship that they can escape on, but it has a serious lack of markings on it. The players receive a blank ship sheet, and will have to figure out the details of the ship as they use it.  I thought that this would add some intrigue to the travel time in deep space. Plus, it will give the players time to learn some setting details and rules.


Paper minis
Weapon Cards
I bought a deck of Savage Worlds SciFi weapons cards from a company called Dramascape. They primarily make maps, but these cards were interesting to me.  I got them from RPGNow.com (http://www.rpgnow.com/product/116672/Savage-Worlds-SciFi-Weapons-Cards) and used the print-on-demand option.

Paper minis and a weapon card.

Toy spaceships I got off Amazon for this game (well, mostly for the sessions coming up):
Toys 1 | Toys 2 (I used these for bennies!) | Toys 3

Monday, February 10, 2014

Savage Worlds - Agents of Oblivion - Bullet Extraction

One of my favorite settings in Savage Worlds is Agents of Oblivion, by Reality Blurs.

Not only have I run several games in this setting, but one specific adventure I have run probably 6 times. When I first got Agents of Oblivion (AoO), I managed to get an adventure called "Bullet Extraction" from the mostly-famous Ed Wetterman. This was the first AoO adventure that I ran, and I still have it in a manilla folder as one of my ready-to-run games that I have been amassing. It took a little editing as it was written for the beta set of the AoO rules, but after that was done, I was ready to roll.

Characters
Agents are all members of an organization called Oblivion, hence the name of the setting.
All of the characters have code names, which are all colors.
Agent White: Cell leader
Agent Black: Combat mage and arcane expert
Agent Pink: Close range assault expert
Agent Green: Computer expert
Agent Brown: Infiltration expert
Agent Orange: Information expert

Plot Setup
The mission is a snatch and grab. The target is a briefcase, contents unknown. The location is a bullet train in Japan during a daily run. The organization they are going up against is The Hand of Rasputin and the opposition agents are one known senior agent and an unknown accomplice.

Running the Game
As I mentioned previously, I've run this game a half a dozen times and I am amazed how different the game goes each time.  The neat thing about this game is the timer.  The agents have 30 minutes of time on the train until the mission officially starts.  At that point, the agents have 5 minutes to get the briefcase and get to the top of the train where a helicopter will extract them.  The 5 minute time period is where the timer comes in; each minute of agent time is represented by 15 minutes of real world time and is accounted for with the timer.  This adds an element of urgency to the game session, which I think is fantastic.  The target is in a First Class train car, alone.  The Hand of Rasputin managed to book the entire car for their agent.

The progress of the game is essentially the agents getting through security (a fairly minimal task), scoping out the agent and the little girl with her, boarding the train, and using the 30 minutes to prep for the 5 minute mission.  During this time, the hacker is usually very busy while the rest of the team is planning and doing recon.

The details of the actual mission varies from group to group, but the agents will make their way to the First Class train car and assault the agent and little girl.  At this point, I don't really want to reveal any spoilers, so we'll leave you on the precipice of the mission and call it a day.

Friday, January 31, 2014

RaspberryPi

Backstory

Around Christmas 2012, I decided I wanted to have a media server.  I was looking at the Mac Mini and was pretty serious about it, but I didn't really want to spend $800-ish for this, and then a big HD in addition.  I looked at mini-computers running Windows and Linux and my buddy Tim asks "Have you looked at the RaspberryPi?".

No.  No, I hadn't.  I started researching and in about 72 hours made an order..  Sure, it's only $35, but with SD cards, power supply, case, wireless keyboard and mouse, wiFi adapter (which I am not using..) I was still under $100 for the thing.  Add another $100 for a 3TB external USB 3.0 drive, and I got something worth playing with.

First and foremost, I wanted a media server and I really like XBMC.  I know there are a lot of PLEX users out there, but PLEX on Unix doesn't play files, it just serves them to other PLEX clients. I find XBMC to be better for my purposes. Next, I researched a few of the RaspberryPi Linux distributions for XBMC, and settled on RaspBMC.  I settled on it before I actually had my Pi. The Pi took a little over a month for me to get the damn thing!  The order was in back-order hell.

Initial setup

I finally got the thing in the mail, and I had already decided that I was going to set it up temporarily in my office and then move it to its designated spot - next to the main TV in our media room.  The initial setup was fine, although I did re-image the SD card twice just messing around with it.  Next, I plugged in the already formatted drive (EXT4) and the Pi recognized it, and I had a working media server.  I copied a few movie files over and played them.  Everything was ducky, so I moved it to its home.

Power

From what I have read 90% of problems with the Pi are a result of a poor power supply.  I was victim of this as well.  For the longest time, my TV was getting some wavy lines on its input, and it carried over to other inputs on the TV - it wasn't too bad, but it was noticeable and definitely undesirable.  I tried 3 power supplies over about 6 months and finally settled on the solution I have now. Here's a rundown of what I experienced:
  • First power supply was the one I bought from the store I got the Pi from.  This gave me wavy lines on the TV (I am using the RCA video, not the HDMI right now). Other than that, everything worked well.
  • Second supply I tried got rid of the wavy lines on the TV, but the external hard drive mounting kept dropping.  I really don't understand this one too well, the external drive is powered from its own power supply, but when I switched back to the original power supply, the HD mounting issues went away.
  • I found an interesting wall outlet item - it plugs into an existing outlet and the bottom outlet is 2 USB charging ports.  I got a nice thick USB cable (with lights!) and all my power issues went away.  The only issue with this solution is I lost a power outlet on the wall and the USB cord is kind of short, so the Pi had to move down a shelf.  It's a simple solution, I just plugged it into an existing outlet.  I could buy an outlet and pull the other one, but for now, this works and it was an easy test.

Software

Over the past few months I've been messing with the little box and have found it to be pretty damn neat.  It's not a powerhouse, but here's what I am doing with it.

XBMC - obviously.  this is why I got it.  It doesn't play as many formats as the Mac or Windows - and I even bought the additional MPEG-2 and other license (for $2 each).  I tried using software as a remote control from my phone and tablet, but it got into some repeat loops.  I usually just use the wireless keyboard and mouse I got for it.  The interface is a little slow to refresh, but once you're watching something it runs fine.  As I said above, I am using the Raspbmc distribution.

SSH - For remote access to the Pi.  Since I still don't have an HD TV in that room, using the command line directly from the Pi is not very good.

FTP - I use this mostly as a file manager - FileZilla is a great interface and I can rename, move and generally muck about with files with ease.

Torrent - I am using Transmission as a headless server.  I can manage torrents via a web page interface from any computer on my network.  This works out pretty slick!

iPerf - For some network issues I was having, this was a great tool to install and use for me.

Wrap-up

I have found that I like having a Unix box always running on my network.  I've been playing with it and re-learning the Unix command line; although, I am still not an expert, I know enough to be really dangerous. This has led me to use my Mac OS X terminal for unix commands, too.  I have a lot more fun on a command line now.

There you go, that's my geeky project that has been around for a little over a year now.