Saturday, April 13, 2019

Presenting River Layne Dover

River was born on the 11th of April at 11:30 pm, showing up 30 minutes before her due date.

If you notice a slow down in posting, this is why.  I've been busy helping my tired wife with our rambunctious two-year-old and our tiny new daughter, as well as recovering.  I have the next two weeks off from work, but I'm really not sure how much time, if any, will be available for writing.

Thank you for your patience.

Friday, April 5, 2019

The Frame vs the Game

Sometimes when I'm looking at my statistics, I notice that I'm getting a number of views from a particular source, such as a blog.  These are usually GURPS blogs (special shoutouts to Dungeon Fantastic, GURB and Let's GURPS for sending traffic my way) and I noticed one I hadn't seen before called the Disoriented Ranger. It seems my post on the Riddle of Systems triggered some thoughts from him.  It's not really a rebuttal, so much that the post inspired him.

The thing that inspired him is a comment I often make about "the game" of D&D being about "killing monsters and taking their stuff," vs other elements that other games do better. He wonders if D&D needs those elements and slides into a discussion on metanarratives and how RPGs are a sort of "controlled language," which is an interesting discussion.

But it did get me to thinking about how many people reject the label of D&D being "about killing monsters and taking their stuff."  He doesn't seem to, not explicitly, but I do think about it.  And while I was thinking about it, I came across an idea that I wanted to offer you to sort of show something I think is critical to understanding the bounds of RPGs, what they do, and why people often get into arguments about whether a game is "broken." It's a conversation about what the game of an RPG is, and what isn't "the game" of an RPG. It's an arbitrary distinction as you'll see, but it's useful for having a particular sort of conversation about RPGs.


Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Rant: My problem with flexible magic systems

If we can set aside Psi-Wars for a second, I came across a video that I want to comment on before I forget it.  The video discusses essentially why Avada Kadavra is a terrible spell, and he's spot on, but this also has broader implications, especially in one of my pet peeves, and why I've not adapted RPM like the vast majority of GURPS fans seem to have.

The problem with flexible magic systems is that, despite purporting to allow unlimited flexibility in magic, they suck all the need for creativity out of a game.

(I was originally working on this when someone asked me for help on a flexible magic system so I, uh, paused it. It was also turning into something longer than I expected and I wanted to put my time on Psi-Wars, rather than a personal peeve of mine.  However, this was the Patron General Topic of the Month, so I posted it; well, actually it was a tie, but this was more ready than the other topic, so this topic went up.  If you'd like to vote on next month's general topic, feel free to support me via the link in the sidebar.  All I ask is $1 a month).

Monday, April 1, 2019

Epic Psi-Wars: A Conspiracy in the Making

This isn't one of my regularly scheduled posts, and I hope my patrons will be patient with this, as their discussions have inspired me, and I find these thoughts racing through my head, so I need to get them out while it's still fresh.
"Unless it's a Templar.  Then you're just effed" - A typical comment on the Templars
There is a fundamental disconnect between how people who know Psi-Wars talk about Psi-Wars, and what I know for a fact is written on paper and it mostly centers on the Templars.  There is this idea that Templars, or other forms of Space Knight connected with Communion, are on a completely separate level from other characters.  The see a team of commandos as dangerous, able to take on entire platoons of mooks and win, but a team of Templars should strike fear into the hearts of Imperial officials and threaten to turn the tides of a whole war. 

However, if you look back at the playtests back in Iteration 4 and earlier, you'll note that Dun Beltain, Space Knight, is not really better than Leylana Grey, a spy, or Kendra Corleoni, a bounty hunter. Yes, they're all cool, but the space knight isn't on a different level. This is a fine and acceptable thing for Space Knights to be.  They could be people in armor with one subtle psychic power ("I an sometimes tell when I'm in danger and maybe dodge a little better" or "I can sense when people are sad") and know enough about fighting with a force sword that they can hold their own with other combat templates and definitely take out a bunch of mooks.  On the other hand, the super-heroic space knight isn't especially bad either.  It depends on what you want.

"What you want" is quite a question to ask.  You can't even go back to the source material and get a fair answer.  Yes, the Jedi as depicted in the prequels are straight up super-heroes (sort of; they rarely really make use of the Force other than as a dramatic display of power; you see far more overt uses of telekinesis than subtle uses of telepathy or ESP), but their power-level in the original trilogy is much more understated.  When Obi-Wan defeats the thugs threatening Luke in the Mos Eisley Cantina, nobody freaks out like Clark Kent just took off his glasses, and you might think they would if you pondered the implications of a Jedi suddenly showing up after years of supposed extinction. Instead, they just go back about their business.  This makes more sense if you think of Obi-Wan, in his original conception, as more of a wandering ronin in a bar hanging out with a cowboy and a princess and a farm-boy-of-destiny.  Obi-wan is not dramatically more special than most heroes in A New Hope, as opposed to Jedi characters in most of the rest of Star Wars, who are on a completely different level.  No help there, then.

So, it's up to us to decide for ourselves what we want out of Psi-Wars.  Do we see Space Knights as "just another character type?" or "setting defining super-heroes?" And the answer seems to be "Yes!"  The sense I get is that Dun Beltaine is fine, and we can imagine a lot of heroic aristocratic space knights on a similar power level, but Imperial Knights and Mystical Tyrants and Templars are on a different level.  Thus, we have two worlds and two different takes on the game: a modest, "street-level" game and a more dramatic "cosmic-level" game.

The question then becomes:
  • How do you handle that without making the game unbalanced?
  • Who gets to be epic-tier? Just space knights?
  • What do the epic-tier characters do?

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Blog Roadmap: April 2019

A princess is coming
This month has been a good month.  I haven't had this good a month when it comes to views since September of 2017, and I even managed to increased the number of Patrons (Hello Marko!). 

The last time I had better views than this, other than September, was May of 2017, after which we had a pretty precipitous drop-off. I was looking at that and my wife leans in and says "You know what happened around then? Your son was born."

Given that, we might be seeing another big drop-off soon, because our little girl is going to be born this month.  We expect her on the 12th, and this is going to be a trickier one than last time as we need to juggle our son as well during all of this, so while last time I could write or work while the boy was sleeping, now we have no such guarantee and my wife is certainly going to be very tired (she's very tired now!).

So, I've had a lot of people ask me "What next?" and the answer is "I dunno!" I can't really guarantee that I can post with any reliability, but we'll see what I can do.

The April Patreon Poll results asked for a history of Psi-Wars and there was a tie between a Cross Post with Worlds Beyond Earth, a collaboration I've wanted to do for awhile regarding deconstructing GURPS Spaceships, and a rant about flexible magic. The Patreons also voted for a follow up of the "Slaver" aliens.  I've also got a lot of material ready for the vehicles of the Alliance (the aristocratic houses specifically), and I'm hip deep in that context, so it might make sense to continue with it, but at the same time, it'd be a shame if I did a bunch of work on it and then was interrupted for a month and got back to it and couldn't remember anything.

So I think in the end, I'm going to use this month as a mulligan.  I want to focus on the Patreon requests out of gratitude for their support, and for the rest, if I have time, I might post on general topics, nothing like a series if I can avoid it (though the History of Psi-Wars will certainly turn into a series).  If I can't get everything done, I apologize and I hope you understand.  Hopefully we'll have a fun month one way or another.

There will be no group chat this month (I'll probably be there next weekend, but I can't guarantee it. If I'm there I'm there, if you're there you're there, and if we want to chat, we can chat).

Oh, and the Psi-Wars Wiki is still churning. I've added four new reader-created worlds: Richat, Cabala Scan, the Orochi Belt and Pelia, and I've added the races and the basics of the main philosophies of Psi-Wars. What I focus on next month will depend on what I can get figured out.  I've had requests for both technology and deeper dives into philosophies and organizations.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Imperial Starships: Legion-Class Super-Carrier

ST/HP: 8,0000

Hand/SR: -5/6

HT: 10

Move: 1/50 (+8)

LWt.: 1,200,000

Load: 620,000

SM: +14

Occ.: 75,000 ASV

DR: 3000*

Range: NA (5 jumps)

Cost: $350B

Loc.: Gg16t

Stall: 0

*the Legion-Class super-carrier has a force screen with 10,000 DR (ablative).

Imperial Starships: Executioner-class Artillery Cruiser

ST/HP: 7,000

Hand/SR: -5/6

HT: 12

Move: 1/50 (+8)

LWt.: 370,000

Load: 20,000

SM: +13

Occ.: 75,000 ASV

DR: 4000/2500*

Range: NA (3 jumps)

Cost: $280B

Loc.: Gg4t

Stall: 0

*the Executioner-Class artillery cruiser has 4000 DR on the front and 2500 on the rest of the vehicle; it also has a force screen with 7,500 DR (ablative); it generally deploys its force screen angled forward for a total of 15,000 frontal DR and 3750 DR elsewhere.

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