April 18, 2014

Crowd-sourcing NPCs for Alien Menace

As part of gearing up for my Alien Menace campaign, I'm populating the organization to which the PCs belong. I thought I'd throw open the doors to interesting characters from pretty much anywhere. While I've got a small combat team that will do the bulk of the real adventuring, there are going to be lots of other people involved. I could certainly generate and/or stat up these guys, but that will make lots of "cookie cutter" NPCs, since my own biases will heavily influence the results.

So: crowd-sourcing. Here are some types of characters that I will likely need, and general guidelines. The game is set roughly in 2035.

Oliver Industries and Wayne Oliver

The organization is led by a former special forces soldier and industrialist - billionaire, even, named quite deliberately Wayne Oliver. As in (Bruce) Wayne and Oliver (Queen). He is driven, ruthless when he needs to be, but also has a broad view of what success looks like. He likes to quote from movies, and does describe himself as "billionaire, playboy, soldier, philanthropist" and expects people to recognize the reference.

His "industry" has been, much like Tony Stark, very defense related. He controls a large swath of manufacturing and engineering resources. He even bought out Heckler and Koch, a conceit I chose deliberately to give the same feel as in Iron Man and Avengers, where Stark-Tech is mostly reskinned H&K weapons. But he also plays in engines, power plants, and supports fundamental research driving those technologies. 

In short, he's got the capability to hire really good people if he's making a small, purpose-built team. Why does he need a Private Military Company, effectively? 

Well. Therein lies the campaign. Don't want to spoil anything. But it's no secret that it involves space travel, visiting other worlds, encountering aliens, killing them, and taking their stuff.

Human Resources

So, what other players do we need?

Combat Troops

I could probably use another dozen soldiers. Broadly, there should be scout/snipers, "technical" personnel that includes people who understand engineering, metallurgy, electronics, physcial and biological sciences, and (perhaps most importantly) sensor and security intrusion measures. Weapons specialists to include your basic high-quality riflemen, some with heavy weapons expertise. 

Soldiers should be built on 175 to 225 points. Tech Level 8. No ass-hats. These guys are going to be quality troops, and even the technical and medical personnel will be competent fighters. Strong team support psychology (Sense of Duty) is screened for, as well as a flexible and creative mind. 

Guidelines: ST should be 9 or higher, but at ST 11 or less, you're going to want Lifting ST (up to 3 levels) to plus that up to at least a carrying ST of 12. DX, IQ, and HT will be 11 or higher. Willpower should be 12 or higher. Guns skills are whittled down to Guns (Rifle) for all types of longarm, Guns (Pistol) for handguns, and Guns (Light Antitank Weapon) for that sort of thing. Tactical Shooting is in use, and Quick Shot and Close-Quarters Battle techniques will be common for pure combatants.

Transport and Support Crew

Again, probably about a dozen.

I'll need a command crew for a converted submarine that serves as the method to cross between Earth and the target zone. There will need to be a captain, engineering/stardrive chief, pilot/navigator, and some weapons crew.  The drop ship ("Move it, Spunkmeyer, we're rolling!") will need a pilot, co-pilot, sensor/electronics warfare operator (who may pull double-duty as a tactical officer, and is often the senior ranking crewmember), an engineer, and an engineer’s mate, who also serves as cargomaster and maintenance technician for both the drop ship and any embarked vehicles.

Logistics, Administrative and Technical Staff

There are always support staff, and the roll is critical. Planners, scientists, an R&D wing, range officers for the combat troops to train. Supply officers and personnel. 

This has the most leeway, and will have the most variation in point values. All will be good at their jobs, though. 

Engineering and R&D: There will need to be some people to try and reverse engineer recovered alien technology.

Logistics, Training, and Support: Planetbound physical and medical support. Shoot-house operators. Supply officers and, yes, administrative/accounting personnel. An interesting character that's the equivalent of Q? You bet. 

Parting Shot
I will certainly be generating a cast of characters as necessary. But due to time and brain limits, they'll wind up looking a lot alike, I fear. Asking for help - nifty people to populate the world that we'll be playing in - is one way to get that sort of real-world variety.

Part of that variety is to not be afraid of throwing down characters that don't all hit the 225-point limit. While a 50-point shooter is unlikely, a 75-point supply operator might not be. Not every research technician is a super genius. Most will have some level of Talent, however, rather than broadly awesome IQ.

No matter, what, if you have a neat concept, put it in a file somewhere. GDocs, Dropbox, whatever. 

April 17, 2014

Alien Menace Campaign Prep continues

I'm sure that once I've got the hang of this, it'll be faster and easier. For now, making slow progress, but I get a lot of help, mostly from +Eric hil and +Brian Ronnle .

The good:

  • All the PCs are basically done.
  • I've got their basic equipment in place - weapons and armor
  • Doing the equipment inspired me to write a very short Pyramid article, which needs some minor polish, but is I think a really awesome idea
  • I've got a good starting map
  • I have an outline for what I want to have happen in terms of opening scenes
  • If I can pull it off, there might be something neat, but if not, it'll still be OK
  • The house rules I'm using - particularly Armor as Dice, make it really easy to gauge how threatening the bad guys are
  • I'm getting better at this token thing, thanks to +Nathan Joy's suggestion of TokenTool. That's just damn handy. Also, while the native microsoft paint/edit programs suck, the Snaggit Editor rocks, so I was able to add facing coloring to the token pictures I made. I can do that with any tokens, which is damn handy.

The bad

  • I really should run through a sample combat before game day with me in the GM seat.
  • While I know that it should be possible to have multiple, pre-staged encounters in the map, with bad guys queued up and ready to kill good guys, everything I do just adds all the bad guys to one giant combat tracker.
  • The invisible bad guys are darn near invisible to me too. Eric's promised to show me how to deal with this with Advanced Frame, which is apparently pretty powerful.
All in all, I feel kinda-sorta prepared for my first GM experience in, as Obi-Wan said " . . . a long, long time."

Cast of Characters

Looks like the team of six starting troopers includes:

  • Colton: A very smart artificer type, with a penchant for grenade launchers. He's wiry and very thin, but can press more than half again his own weight. While he loves his pistols, his weapon of choice is a six-shot grenade launcher. Broadly skilled in Combat Engineering and dabbles in all things mechanical and electronic.
  • Ianali: A man with a colorful and variable past, he's found his calling as a combat medic, and it's hard to say whether the emphasis is harder on the "combat" or the "medic." If you have holes in you that aren't supposed to be there, you want him near you. If he's not near you, he will be, no matter what.

  • AB: A towering chunk of raw fury, he pities the fool who gets in his way. Spectacularly strong, he carries an awful lot of ammunition, and . . . is that a rocket launcher on his back? Yes. Yes it is. I don't think that's standard issue. With that many millimeters of projectile, he must be the team lead.
  • Enrique: If you need to get close to, find out about, or otherwise reconnoiter something, someone, or somewhere, he's your guy. If that someone needs a bullet to the head from a long, long ways off, that .50 Barrett rifle he carries around helps out more than a little.
  • Christine (NPC): A "former" lots of things. Former gangbanger. Former soldier. Former gymnast. Former beauty pageant winner (but don't ask her about that - she gets mad - it's not her fault her mother dragged her from city to city, oh, nevermind). Sneaky, fit, with a preternatural sense of when something's about to go wrong, she distinguished herself in several hot combat conflicts. Some were public, some not so much. Not too many locked doors can keep her out either.
  • Ethan (NPC): The very model of an Army Ranger, "the Captain" is a consummate soldier. Hoo-ah! When he's not kicking ass and taking names, he tends to relax by attempting to draw his companions into political debates and discussions of military history over bottles and bottles of wine. 
Ethan's a pure combatant, and maybe the best rifleman in the group (despite being 50 points less than any PC). Christine makes a good point person, and with Danger Sense and good combat skills, can lead a team. Colton and Ianali, while no slouches in a firefight, are the teams technical and medical specialists. In different ways, AB and Enrique bring the hurt - AB can carry over 115 lbs of gear before hitting medium encumbrance, which is a lot of boom-boom, while Enrique carries a weapon that does 6dx2 pi+ damage, even before he decides to get clever with fancy ammo.

I think they'll be a capable team. They'll need to be.

April 15, 2014

Theme song for Dungeon Fantastic: Contest!

After I noted that'd I'd picked out Sons of Odin for music to be played if/when I win an Ennie for this masterpiece of a blog (and when you say masterpiece,you have to say it like Zola from Captain America: The First Avenger).

+Peter V. Dell'Orto responded with the audacious and patently invalid suggestion that his blog doesn't need a theme song.

Wait. Let's say that again: Dungeon Fantastic doesn't need a theme song.

Bah! I say. Bah! I wave Peter's Dismissive Hand at its owner.

Back when I gamed at Rice, we had a rule about creating PCs. If you refuse or hesitate to name your character, a name will be provided to you by the court. Or the group. Whatever. That's how my friend Anne's Jedi PC became Winnebago.

But I digress, and we really must right the wrong that Peter has wrought here, by providing him with a theme song.

Let the nominations begin. Please provide a link to a sample of the song.

Let me start with Tubthumping.

Ennie Submission is in!

So, just for fun, I threw my hat into the ring for the Ennie Awards in the Blog category. Much like +Peter V. Dell'Orto I don't expect to win. But exposure is good.

The entries I submitted:

My interview with +Kenneth Hite

The Melee Academy post on Ranged Weapons

The blow-by-blow report for the fight in Iron Man 2: Technical Natasha.

I guess we'll see how things go!

Also: you're asked to submit a "theme song" if you win. Mine's Sons of Odin, from the Thor soundtrack, starting at 0:30. Heh.


Things have been sparse around here for the last few days. Mostly a lot of campaign prep for this weekend.

April 12, 2014

"Ennie" Blog Awards, Assorted campaign prep, Fantasy grounds

I've been challenged to throw my hat into the ring for the Ennies. Much like +Peter V. Dell'Orto I don't expect to win, much less make a strong showing. But you never know, and the more exposure the better.

I figure I'll link up one or two of the interviews, a S&W or Pathfinder post, and a GURPS post - maybe Technical Natasha.

But I'm open to suggestions. What posts will make the entry the most compelling?


In other news, my family spent a fun night last Thursday night in the ER as my daughter came down with croup, and the usual palliatives weren't effective. She responded well to the nebulized epinephrine and oral steroid, so she's been much better. But my wife and I are wiped out. She's very, very pregnant and I had been up late and up early for the last week, for both work and fun. Short version: took Friday off due to necessity, took care of Short Stack, but am still wiped out.

What that meant, though, was campaign prep. Thanks to some truly epic assistance from +Eric hil, I now know exactly how to get characters, NPCs and otherwise, into FG2. Along with fog of war, importing maps, some nifty waypoint stuff for movement, and a bunch of tokens.

I'm not ready yet, but I will be. He also introduced me to making "modules" in FG, so you can just preload and go from map to map to map, like a pre-prepared adventure.

Also doing a lot with the players. +Peter V. Dell'Orto will be playing a heavy weapons guy (and likely team lead). +Christopher R. Rice is the combat medic with a penchant for two-weapon hand-to-hand fighting. +Nathan Joy is going to be a scout/sniper with an XM500 as his "Muton go away" switch. +Tim Shorts has yet to report for duty, but I also have two 225-point NPCs ready to go for fire support, and can create more (the PCs are 275 points).

Standard gear will be a modified XM8 rifle setup. But chambered in a more impressive cartridge, and I've chosen the 6.8x43 SPC, largely because it does exactly 6d from a 16" carbine, and can credibly be shortened to 12-13" while losing only 1 point.

The game's set two decades in the future, so I can more or less do what I want/need for equipment. Chose the XM8 largely for looks, I'll admit, but I like the overall feel, and it's something different.

I've got the team kitted out in high-quality body armor, but still TL8 stuff. Improvements in gear are part of the genre.

In addition to being a FG guru, Eric is also an artist, He took my basic cavern map that I'd done, and turned it into something special. Heh.

I'm not ready yet . . . but I'm getting closer.


Lastly, this campaign has caused me to jot down a few other ideas for articles. And of course Peter and I have agreed to collaborate and contribute something to an issue of the Manor, which will be my first foray into publishing something D&D-esque.

April 10, 2014

Templates and Loadouts

As I work through the details on my Alien Menace campaign, I find myself fretting about character templates and kitting up the fighters.

On the one hand, if you're basically doing GURPS XCOM, it's basically all about how good a trooper you are (a template), and the ever-cooler gear you get.

From a RPG and problem-solving perspective, toolkits and first aid and electronic devices come in very handy, and are a fairly indispensable part of a modern warrior's carried load.

But those loads get pretty darn heavy. Ken Peters did a couple of great articles in Pyramid #3/55 and #3/57 (and other places, actually) about loadouts for modern warriors and what one could expect at TL9.

Thing is, I don't want to bother.

I understand the raw value of templates. I will purchase and read with interest +Sean Punch's latest work on creating templates, likely this weekend. But I hate writing them, I hate coding them into GCA, and I find the entire process painful. Same thing with loadouts.

+Mark Langsdorf is on the right track with his post on Gun Closets and Supply Cabinets. This has triggered some ideas that I'll work on.

In the meantime, I will be trying to come to grips with pulling GCA output into Fantasy Grounds (there's a video that +Eric hil hit me up with that will likely tell me what I need to know), and generally trying to follow my own advice where it comes to "have this stuff prepared before the game starts. Because it's T-9 days to the first Alien Menace game.

The players may not be ready, but I'd better be.

Oh: Links to already-done writeups or GCA files of nasty alien creatures are always welcome. Especially from certain tactically-based alien extermination games.

April 7, 2014

New DF Game: Swashbuckling through the Darkwoods campaign

Yesterday we played the first session in +Colin Ritter's new GURPS Dungeon Fantasy campaign, which he calls Darkwoods.

I decided to play another hand-to-hand combatant, this time a Swashbucker. But rather than a straight-up Swashy, I wanted to try my hand at a pirate. Thanks to +Sean Punch's take on the pirate theme from Pyramid #3/64: Pirates and Swashbucklers, this was fairly straight-forward. 

That being said. Colin wanted to run something a bit more sophisticated? detailed? than something with "town" and "not town," so he gave us an extra 50 points total. So I've got (for example) 20 points in Seafarer 2 and another 20 points in "I hope they're useful" social skills. Heraldry already came in handy, so we'll see.

April 5, 2014

Firing Squad welcomes Nolan T Jones of Roll20

Today the Firing Squad puts Nolan T Jones of Roll20 up against the wall, in a slightly-belated but much anticipated (at least by me) continuation of the Virtual TableTop  topic for the RPGBA Blog Carnival. We'll be discussing the ideal features of VTTs, where Roll20's strengths and weaknesses lie, support for major and minor games, and what's currently enabled and what lies in the future.

Unlike the usual process, we're uploading the video immediately, with the audio file and transcript to be made available as soon as possible. 

Text Transcript (forthcoming)