Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Tactical Analysis: Civilian Conflict

I have a draft back in Iteration 3 that never got published, nor finished, for Thug mooks.  So far, we've limited ourselves to military-scale opponents, because the most common opponent in Star Wars is a stormtrooper, and Star Wars treats its enemies as more-or-less interchangeable when it comes to difficulty.  Psi-Wars, being an Action game, accepts the notion of differing BAD levels, and thus differing levels of competency from its opponents.  Thus, we'd expect Psi-Wars troopers to be better than some opponents, and worse than others.  We'd also expect them to fight with different tactics.

A hive of scum and villainy
This creates a scale of opponents, and on the low end of that scale would be gangsters, thieves and punks, the sorts of people who might frequent a cantina.  While they might be dangerous or well-armed, they're ultimately just civilians.  They lack military discipline, skill and, most importantly, back-up.  If a soldier is BAD 12-14, then a gangster might be BAD 10-12.

But they have something in common with an another archetype: the upper-crust civilian.  Both thieves and nobles will typically carry only a personal weapon, one that they carry as much to signal status as to protect themselves.  Both
A haven for elegance and wealth
might view personal combat (under strict rules) as a means to advance their personal status.  In both worlds, it's highly inappropriate to walk in wearing full armor and carrying a full complement of military gear, especially if your objective is to negotiate with the other party.  In both worlds, that negotiation might suddenly go south, and might suddenly turn very violent, so it behooves one to be well-protected, and in both worlds, the ideal form of protection are body guards... and making sure the other guy isn't particularly well armed.

We don't actually have stats worked out, but we can extrapolate them pretty nicely.

Standard Civilian Combatants

A typical civilian wears little to no armor (rarely more than an armored coat or a thin armored vest under their clothes).  Expect no more than 20 DR in a few, strategic locations.  Civilians rarely carry heavy weaponry.  Most thugs will be poor and will rarely carry anything more expensive than a blaster pistol or a vibro-knife, and might even wield some improvised equipment.  Nobles will have more expensive items, but not necessarily much more effective, as they're more worried about ornamentation (and statement) than self-defense.  Expect weapons like elegant holdout blasters, ornate vibro-blades, or perhaps even a force sword.  In both cases, most skill levels will be between 10 and 12.

In combat, many civilians will be non-combatants, which means they'll lack combat reflexes, freeze up if surprised, and may well panic and simply run, or attack wildly while trying to escape.  More combat-savvy characters (battle-tested gangsters or former soldiers) will fight with greater precision, but their tactics will generally be to overwhelm, perhaps even grandstand.

If civilians want to initiate combat, they'll do so either via an ambush (social or otherwise) or by trying to initiate a duel.  In the former case, gangsters and punks will probably pin someone down in a back alley, knock them over and then commence with the kicking, while nobles will probably spring on someone in a place far from the eyes of other, inflict their damage, and then demand silence "or else." A duel is more open and formal, a challenge spoken and rules (unspoken or otherwise) declared, and then the battle fought, usually under the watchful eyes of others.  Here, the point of the combat is not just the defeat of the opponent, but a glamorous victory.  A stylish duelist can gain more than just victory over his opponent as he becomes the talk of the town and his reputation begins to rise.

Bodyguards and Hit Men

Bodyguards and Hit Men are likely to be nearly as skilled as soldiers (BAD 12-14) and may well be former soldiers, but typically less well-armed.  Nobles will have heavily armed and armored bodyguards, but more money will got to making them look good rather than having them be effective.  Expect weapons like vibro-glaives, force-glaives, force-swords, vibro-blades, or ceremonial blasters, and their armor might be a combat hardsuit, but it'll be a lovely, ornate one.  Criminals will have less elegant bodyguards and hitmen, but also less effective, as a truly excellent guard/assassin/combatant could expect superior employment.  Why be a hit man to some mobster if you can parley your talent for murder into a job for a local noble?

Both will tend to stand back and survey the scene.  Their job is to be unobtrusive, a beautiful and/or intimidating part of the scenery, until violence seems immanent, and then they spring into action.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Tactical Analysis: Military Conflict

We've had Troopers since Psi-Wars began, back in Iteration 1, and they've been very thoroughly refined.  We have a solid idea of how they'd operate together on a battlefield.

Standard Troopers

The typical trooper has skill 12 with his blaster carbine, which has an accuracy of 10.  Assuming the soldier braces (+1) and aims (+10), he has a skill of 23, which means that he's got a pretty good accuracy out to ~70 yards.  If he's mobile and on the move, that accuracy drops substantially to making effectively wild shots. Troopers come equipped with plasma grenades, which will kill even another trooper in the same hex, and kill or seriously injure unarmored combatants out to 1 to 2 yards from the explosion point. The typical trooper also sports 60 DR on the chest and 30 DR elsewhere, making him an exceedingly tough nut to crack.  Their armor grants them microclimate control, is sealed against environmental hazards, and grants them IR vision, making them excellent night-combatants.

A typical trooper will probably crouch behind cover and lay down some massed fire with his squad-mates.  A careful trooper will aim, and an aimed shot will hit.  If they need to advance, they'll cover one another with supporting fire while making use of cover, but it none is available, they'll advance in the open and trust in their armor.  If their opponents use cover, they'll use grenades to flush them out into their arc of fire.

Elite Troopers

Troopers have three "supporting" types: The assault trooper, the heavy trooper, and the recon trooper. 

The assault trooper sports heavier armor and superior close-combat weaponry.  In an open-conflict, an assault trooper likely carries shock grenades and/or a flamer. He'll lead assaults on enemy positions, with his superior armor absorbing enemy fire, and his superior training allowing him to spearhead the attack.  Open conflicts aren't really his bailiwick, however.  He's better at urban conflict or ship-boarding operations.

The heavy troop is generally equipped with a missile launcher or a gatling blaster.  In the former case, he'll tackle hardened targets, such as entrenched "machine gun nests" or tanks, and in the latter case, he'll offer supporting fire to his side, either to defeat assaults, or to keep the enemies heads down while his allies advance.  The heavy trooper is ideal in open conflict, but suffers some in urban or ship-board conflict.

The recon trooper has superior infiltration skills and a powerful sniper rifle.  He'll slip past enemy lines and find out what the enemy is up to.  He might engage in sentry-removal with his vibro-knife, and in open conflict, he'll focus his sniping efforts either on removing high-priority targets (officers) or on frightening to soldiers into keeping their heads low while the standard troopers and assault troopers advance on the enemy position.

Advanced Tactics

In truly open conflicts, soldiers will bring combat vehicles, like hover-tanks.  A hover tank features 1000 DR on its front and turret and 500 elsewhere.  One needs something like a missile to remove it from play, and preferably from the side, rather than the front.

Soldiers aren't always constantly prepared for battle.  They could be on the move, in which case they likely use combat vehicles like Military Vertols or Hover IFVs to get around or, more rarely, they'll march. In such case, fighter support and recon troopers will scout out the terrain to prepare for any ambushes.  Alternatively, they could have settled in for the night, in which case they've set up some temporary defenses like razor wire or x-ray fences, some surveillance cameras and regular patrols, usually in the form of standard troopers and a few well-placed recon troopers.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Martial Arts Analysis: Breaking down Psi-Wars Tactics

Ultimately, if a player is going to invest points into it, a martial art needs to be effective.  Whether it's "authentic" matters less than if it doesn't work, because the last thing we want is to devise a totally cool version of Force-Swordsmanship, let a player invest 100 points in it, and then cut him down in the first battle, because our vision of Force-Swordsmanship doesn't work.  But for us to create a working martial art, we need to know what sort of opposition a player will face, and how best to tackle it (or alter the rules/opposition so a particular tactic will be effective).  What we need to create is not just an accurate translation of Star Wars that makes good use of GURPS, but an interesting tactical space where interesting player choices interact with interesting opponents, and for that, we need to know, or define, what that tactical space is.

Thus far, we've looked at Star Wars, our source inspiration, and GURPS, our target material, but we would be remiss if we thought we were developing Psi-Wars in a vacuum. Psi-Wars already exists, in large part.  We know what the spaceships look like, we know who some of the aliens are, we know what sorts of gear people use, and what soldiers look like. We've begun to form a picture of what Psi-Wars is, and we've already run some battles, and we already know how battles largely play out.  This means we can say some things about what sorts of tactics we can use to defeat our opponents.  By taking a look at the existing world, or what we expect our world to look like, we can postulate what sorts of tactics, rules and martial arts could live and thrive in such a setting.

Over the next week, I'm going to take a look at existing, or expected, psi-wars tactics.  I'll discuss the NPCs involved, how I expect them to operate, and how I'll use them to defeat the players.  Then I'll discuss the typical tactics PCs of various stripes might use to defeat them, and whether or not they'll be particularly effective, and what it would take to make them effective.

The idea here isn't necessarily to fix or design our martial arts so much as to understand our tactical space.  If it turns out that force swords are a terrible idea, understanding why will help us see how we can change things to make them work better.  If it turns out that blaster pistols are stupid under certain circumstances, we might allow that to stand (in the same way that most dungeon fantasy GMs are fine with allowing bows to be a terrible melee weapon).  But the point here is to look for potential traps, and to understand what sort of tactics the heroes of Psi-Wars might use.

I don't know if I can get to all of them, but most combat scenarios break down into the following:

  • Military conflict (an open battle against soldiers and their combat-vehicles)
  • Ship-board conflict (pirates or battles against marines in the closed confines of a ship)
  • Criminal conflict (sudden brawls in dark alleys or in bars)
  • Assassination attempts against officials (battles against bodyguards and against "soft" NPCs)
  • Battles against unusual enemies
    • Robots
    • Alien monsters
  • Gladiatorial battles (a time-honored space opera tradition!)
I won't be able to get into everything, but I'll see how far I can get. In each post, I'll discuss the tactics I expect the NPCs to use in this sort of situation, the rules according to GURPS Action (and Psi-Wars adjustments), and then I'll discuss the various expected tactics certain players might use, how effective they could be, and how well variations might work.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Azrael, Angel of Death, Games, Void, Truth and Bridges

"Not so," the eager Poet said;
"At least, not so before I tell
The story of my Azrael,
An angel mortal as ourselves,
Which in an ancient tome I found
Upon a convent's dusty shelves,
Chained with an iron chain, and bound
In parchment, and with clasps of brass,
Lest from its prison, some dark day,
It might be stolen or steal away,
While the good friars were singing mass."

-Tales of the Wayside Inn, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Azrael has existed for as long as most other angels remember. She did not participate in the creation of the World Tree; instead, she stands ready for that day when the World Tree must perish. She has stood as one of Lord Entropy’s most ardent supporters and one of his most ferocious warrior in the Excrucian War. Azrael does not answer questions about her origin or purpose, merely fixes those who ask her with an unwavering gaze, usually shortly before they die from remaining too long in her presence.

Azrael doe not care for mortals. They are too ephemeral, too minor, to concern so universal being as herself. She refuses to create any Powers other than the one she always creates: the Power of Death, her personal, private Reaper. Any mortal she takes as a Power must necessarily become Immortal, for they cannot die without her permission, and thus they will not pass until she withdraws her Estate. Recently, one other mortal has acquired an Estate from Azrael: When Azrael came to claim Zee’s soul and guide her to the afterlife, Zee challenged her to a game in exchange for her soul and won, thus for the first time in centuries, Azrael has more than one Power.

Azrael makes her home in the Nemesis System, the hidden black star that orbits the Solar System at a great distance, whose pertubations send comets raining down into the inner system. The Nemesis System houses the Plaza of Bridges, the True Library, the Gaming Undeground, and Azrael’s Tomb.

It should be noted that though Azrael appears in female form, she does not refer to herself as female, but as “We,” and this current appearance is relatively recent, perhaps a reflection of taking on Zee, or in response to a prophecy in graphic novel form.

Azrael's flowers are Vervain (the Key of Something Powerful) and Oak (The Key of Something that Hasn't Changed)

Estate of Death

-Death ends things (2)
-Death is terrifying (1)
-Death comes to all things (1)
-Death brings both grief and peace (1)
-All men are equal in death (1)
-Death leaves a corpse (and other evidences of its passing)

Domain Miracles of Death

  1. Finish off something that doesn't matter. Frighten someone. Kill off someone who is on the verge of death (Mercy killing). Speed the grieving process or help someone get over an event. Inflict a surface wound with a little bit of death.
  2. Know something about the death of someone just by looking at the corpse. Talk to corpses or ghosts.
  3. Make someone even more frightened of their death. Bring death very swiftly from something that could kill (a nick kills someone). Make the grieving process intense and all-consuming. Make a death really easy to investigate, or make a battlefield particularly messy.
  4. End someone's life instantly. Conjure up the fear/specter of death for nothing. End something immediately (such as a fight).
  5. Know how someone will die. See moments that surround future deaths or funerals. Ask the dead generally useful questions. Prevent someone's death, or prevent the end of something. End the grieving process for someone (but prevents them from moving on). Remove someone's fear (or their fear of death). Remove a corpse or evidence of a death. Animate the dead.
  6. Change how someone is destined to die, the hour or the form of death. Ensure that death can come even to the immortal. Make something more lethal on a wide-scale (paper-cuts can kill, in San-Francisco)
  7. Kill everyone in a city or a region. Kill an immortal. End a vast movement or principle, such as “killing a civilization,” or “the Death of Punk.”
  8. Prevent the death of everyone in a vast region. Remove the fear of death from a huge portion of the populace, or ensure that someone never fears death again. Make someone immortal (so that they will never die).
  9. Chart the deaths of large scale things, such as when and how the American way of life will die. Shape someone's destined death to a ridiculous scale, in a way that ensures that they will end up somewhere (“You are destined to die during the colonization of mars”). Shape how an immortal is destined to die. Animate an army of the dead. Bring the dead back to life.

Persona Miracles of Death

  1. Make someone a little spooky. Make someone a little corpse-like. Make people a little more equal. Make someone leave additional evidence of their passing.
  2. Become any corpse. Be present at the moment of anyone's death.
  3. Make yourself terrifying. Bring yourself to anyone. Make yourself the equal of others. Leave more evidence of your passing.
  4. Make someone else terrifying. Bring someone to you. Turn someone into a corpse-like creature. Make someone your equal, or the equal of others.
  5. Become present in any corpse, at all possible deaths. Make a corpse appear fresh and alive. Make someone not particularly scary. Create inequality between people.
  6. Make someone undead or a ghost or a reaper (“Guardian of Death”). Make death follow someone and kill those around them. Teleport to someone from across the world. Make even the whisper of your name terrifying. Make yourself the equal of immortals.
  7. Teleport someone from across the world. Make someone epically terrifying. Make someone the equal of immortals.
  8. Prevent a nation from grieving. Prevent a genetic lineage from even leaving a corpse, ghost or any other sign of passing.
  9. Make someone a local death god. Tuck a city/nation away into the world of the dead, as a salvation for the passing dead, with a cult of reapers to protect them.

Estate of Games

-Games have winners and losers (1)
-Games are governed by rules (2)
-Games always have an element of uncertainty (1)
-Games are fun! (2)
-Games challenge their players (1)

Domain Miracles of Games

  1. Make a situation a little more fun, a little more abitrary, or a little more chancey.
  2. Know the rules to any game, even abstract “head games.” Know where the nearest game is. Find a specific game.
  3. Make a game last longer. Make a gamer harder to win, or make a game even chancier than usual. Enforce fair play.
  4. Declare that events are “really” a game (fun, governed by rules, chancy). Create a new game out of nothing. Create a new player out of nothing.
  5. Declare that a game is boring, or nonsensical, or its ending already known. Excise players from the game. Remove rules from a game. Learn something about the larger world or the future by playing a game.
  6. Shape a game's destiny so it is bound to encounter a particular person. Shape the results of a particular game (who will win, who will lose, what the outcome will be). Transport a game from one culture to another (“Monopoly has always been Japanese”). Redefine the rules of a game. Shape a specific game (as in, a particular copy) so that it can grant special powers to its winners. Make it so a person is destined to win or lose a particular game (or all games).
  7. Create an entire line of games or a franchise out of nothing. Create gamers out of nothing. Declare a vast set of ongoing events are a game and follow the rules of games (such as a war), making them largely fun, fair, etc.
  8. Wipe out games from an entire region.
  9. Make a specific game deeply important to a religion or a nation. Make gaming sacred in a city (like Vegas or Monte Carlo or Tokyo). Make the result of a particular game something like gaining magic powers (“Those who manage to finish Amnesia: the Dark Descent can become immortal”). Manipulate the rules of war, or the rules of etiquette, changing a game on a large, metaphorical sense. Declare someone a winner or a loser of something more abstract (like a game of love, or a war)

Persona Miracles of Games

  1. Make someone slightly more fun to hang around, or force them to follow one particular rule, or conjure a random set of events for them that irritate or amuse them.
  2. Be present in any game. Show up inside of a video game. Suddenly turn up at any gaming table.
  3. Make yourself fun to be around. Surround yourself with uncertainty. Declare particular rules apply to you. Become a character from a game. Follow the rules of a particular game.
  4. Create a geas for someone, a rule that they are required to follow. Declare a particular element of someone's character as uncertain. Declare someone fun! Turn them into a character from a game (not making them a specific character, but giving them qualities like someone from that game).
  5. Make someone dreadfully boring. Remove the rules that govern a person's life (such as the rule that gravity affects them). Remove an uncertainty of their character. Make a video game character real by kicking them out of the game. Kick people out of games.
  6. Make someone a “true gamer” giving them a deep connection and/or skill with games. Make someone the denizen of a game, bound to that particular franchise or lost within the game. Allow a video game character to interact with the real world. Connect video games and the real world via a portal. Become an extraordinarily powerful character from a game. Follow extremely powerful rules (such as immortality, or admin-rights to a city's world-space)
  7. Turn entire cities into video-game like spaces, or turn everyone around you into a game-like qualities. Make a region fun, or follow arbitrary rules, or fill it with chance.
  8. Make someone an enormously powerful denizen of a game. Make a permanent, region-wide connection between game and world, creating a cultural connection between the two.

Estate of the Void

-The Void is the space where something could be (2)
-The Void hungers to be filled (2)
-The Void is home to very strange things (1)
-The Void is without form, substance or qualities (2)

Domain Miracles of the Void

  1. Expand space a little, making something a little farther away. Draw things together. Show a glimpse into the weird. Create a blast of wind/shrapnel from a sudden void-pulse that causes surface wounds.
  2. Know a creature of the void just by looking at them. Know the distance between things. Sense a nearby void.
  3. Make the pull of an emptiness very intense (or the strength of an implosion very great). Make the things within a void even stranger. Make a void last longer than it naturally would.
  4. Create a vast, suffocating emptiness that threatens to kill everyone in it (local only, but often has an area effect). Creating a vast emptiness where someone was is a Deadly wound, creating a vast emptiness around everyone is a area-scope Serious wound. Summon creatures from the void.
  5. Fill an emptiness with... something logical (closing bullet wounds, for example, or filling a room with air). Allow a void to have form, quality or substance (but you cannot define what it is). Learn something from spending time in an empty space, by listening to silence, by staring at the darkness between stars.
  6. Change what strange creatures live in a particular, local void. Change what is destined to occur within a particular void. Transport a particular bit of space/emptiness to another place. Create a gulf between two people emotionally. Fill someone's heart with emptiness.
  7. Summon vast armies of unnatural creatures. Erase a city or a vast chuck of landside or a mountain. Create a world-shattering implosion.
  8. Create a planet out of nothing (filling a vast with void with something. Cannot define the planet). Give a vast area of space (such as the solar system) a particular unique quality (such as ether, or space-warping capabilities)
  9. Change the destiny of a vast area of space's destiny (“The home of the Arquillian empire!”).

Persona Miracles of the Void

  1. Make someone feel a little empty inside, or a little hungry, or space out a little, or attract weird things to them.
  2. Be present in any void.
  3. Make yourself filled with strange monstrosities. Make yourself hunger greatly and able to devour nearly anything. Remove some specific form or substance from yourself (“I am without that specific substance”) such as purging yourself of poison, or removing your eye color, or removing defining elements about you.. Be insubstantial.
  4. Make a hideous monster erupt from someone (likely killing them). Make someone feel empty and a great yearning to be filled (physically or emotionally). Remove undesired qualities from someone. Make someone a place where something else can be, allowing them to be insubstantial.
  5. End someone's hunger. Give someone qualities or fill them with substances they did not have before (though you cannot define them). Become one with the space of the Solar System.
  6. Make someone a bizarre denizen of the void. Give someone the ability to survive, even thrive, in a void. Become able to spill out great armies of monster. Become able to devour mountains, or even worlds, to fill your endless hunger. Remove emotional or abstract qualities from yourself.
  7. As 6, but to others.
  8. End hunger across the world. Give everyone in a city undefined/uncontrolled qualities.
  9. Make someone a god of the Void. Make a city a denizen of the void.

Additional Estates

Estate of Truth

  • Truth shows the world for what it really is
  • Truth hurts
  • Truth will set you free
  • You can't handle the Truth
  • Truth requires wisdom and sacrifice to uncover

Estate of Bridges

  • Bridges allow you to go from one place to another, unconnected place
  • Bridges carry you over obstacles
  • Bridges grant power to those who control them

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Minimum Viable Session

"This is the sort of thing that kills my campaigns."

I growled that comment over IM to Raoul Roulaux.  As one of my Nobilis players, I think he had a suspicion as to what I was talking about.  We have a good relationship, often complaining to one another, only to get advice on how to solve a particularly sticky gaming problem, and our preferred tactics is asking questions, a habit gained either from reading one too many of Plato's dialogues, or from being veterans GMs.

"What are you talking about?"

"The Reincarnation Engine.  That took forever, and honestly, I haven't finished half of what I wanted to."

"If that's the sort of thing that ends a campaign, why do it?  What exactly is the problem?"

"It's not the Reincarnation Engine specifically.  It's just that I get a vision, and then I can't finish it before the deadline."

"But what's finished?" He asked me.

And I was enlightened.

Martial Arts Analysis: Force Sword-And-Buckler Combat

Force Sword-and-Buckler Combat

Star Wars doesn't feature a force buckler, but Psi-Wars definitely does. The combination of force sword and force buckler over heavy combat hardsuits definitely gives the image of a knight, which is something we want, and it's become Dun Beltain's signature. Fortunately, Kelly Pederson already gave us a martial art that lets us give force buckler weilders as much fancy training as the force sword wielders. She notes that the DB bonus of a shield gives an edge to non-psychic characters, as we've already seen from the fact that a non-psychic Dun was perfectly competent in combat.

Martial Arts Analysis: Ishin-Denshin


Psi-Locke, psionic martial artist
Star Wars doesn't feature much in the way of hand-to-hand combat, and it doesn't really feature psionic combat techniques that aren't lightsaber duels. But why should we stick with that? The way I've designed psionic powers means we must necessarily have a somewhat baroque universe full of unique character types... so why not martial arts to match? Christopher Rice (of Ravens and Pennies) gave us three interesting styles, but unfortunately the Way of the Cerulean Blade doesn't work well with conceits of Psi-Wars (a force sword is better, and cheaper, than a psi-sword), and also, it's a style I confess that I find confusing. But that leaves us with two we can look at, so let's start with Ishin-Denshin.

You can find it in Pyramid #3-69, the article Mind and Body.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Martial Arts Analysis: Way of the Galaxy

Way of the Galaxy

Han Solo with Blaster
The other GURPS martial art explicitly inspired by Star Wars is the Way of the Galaxy, from GURPS Gun Fu page 35. Why should swordsmen have all the fun? Why not gunslingers too? Way of the Galaxy was designed for your cool cowboy-types, like Han Solo.

I'm a bit leery of making explicit martial arts for gunslingers (they tend to lack the mythology of the force sword of hand-to-hand combat techniques), but they might serve as the basis for additional techniques and perks for our combat-oriented heroes.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Martial Arts Analysis: Force-Swordsmanship

Force Swordsmanship

Mace Windu w Lightsaber
For many Star Wars fans, the Jedi is Star Wars (there's a subset for whom it's all spunky princesses, loveable rogues and bounty hunters, and for them, there's Firefly), and the Jedi has two arrows in his quiver: the Force, and his lightsaber. For Psi-Wars, we've used Psionic Powers and Communion to cover the Force. The force sword and Force Swordsmanship covers the lightsaber.

But what does Force Swordsmanship actually do, how does it play, and does it actually look anything like how Jedi actually fight? Let's take a look, on page 209.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Martial Arts Analysis: Understanding GURPS

If we're going to use GURPS Martial Arts, it behooves us to understand GURPS Martial Arts.  I've often made the mistake of simply trusting my source material (or my flawed understanding of it) without examining it in more detail, and it often bites me in the ass.  If I look more deeply at the styles I've chosen and the rules around them, I'll avoid potential pitfalls.  Furthermore, GURPS Martial Arts is a wondrous smorgasbord of optional rules with which we can use to customize our experience, and that's something we'll have to do, as GURPS out-of-the-box will punish melee fighters, and we do not want that.

(Peter Dell'Orto, the author of the book, has a fantastic post outlining this very philosophy here that is well worth your time to read. As he recommends, we're not going to add his rules "just because they're there." I want to think through how I want the fights to play out, and adjust the rules accordingly.)

Over this next week, I'll look at the four martial arts we chose at the outset:

  • Force-Swordsmanship
  • Force Sword-and-Buckler Combat
  • Inshin-Denshin (but not Third Eye, because I have limited time)
  • Way of the Galaxy
But today, I want to take a moment to look at GURPS Martial Arts itself, as it has some advice fairly specific to our chosen genre.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Illusion of Mechanics

According to some, this is good art

According to some, this is not good art
I've seen a couple of posts that touch on a topic very near and dear to me when it comes to game design, not because I agree or disagree, but more that they enter into that arena and invite discussion on the topic.  The first is Creighton Broadhurst's Why Character Optimization Is Pointless (Unless You Enjoy It) and Christopher R. Rice's Building Player Characters To Concept.  The theme they touch on is the illusion of mechanics.  At their core, they say "Mechanics don't matter" Or, at least, these mechanics don't matter, but maybe those do.  And they also point out that this is a matter of taste.  As you'll see soon, I don't disagree with their premise.  This is not a rebuttal of their posts, but a comment on some larger implications, and what their perspectives on game design can do to inform your own perspective, even if you disagree with them.

Martial Arts Breakdown: Star Wars: the Old Republic

Star Wars: the Old Republic represents one element of the considerable expanded universe.  It's also fairly recent, and thus represents what a modern player might expect from a Star-Wars like game. It features an exceptional cinematic that captures both the feel of the MMO for which it advertises and the sort of gameplay I imagine most players would want out of Star Wars (Old Republic has a nice balance between Force-Users and Non-Force Users, so people who want to play smugglers and agents can join up with Jedi Knights and Sith Inquisitors, which seems close to how I imagine a Psi-Wars game playing out).

You can see the fight here.  The action starts at 2:47 (which I've already cued up for you).  Since I expect you're unfamiliar with the characters, I quick introduction:

The two Sith are Vindican, Sith Pure-blood, Inquisitor and master, and Darth Malgus, Sith Warrior and apprentice.

Vindican, Sith Inquisitor

Darth Malgus, Sith Warrior
The two Jedi are Kao Cen Darach, Zabrak Jedi Knight and master, and Satele Shan, Jedi Consular and apprentice

Kao Cen Darach, Jedi Knight
Satele Shan, Jedi Consular

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Martial Arts Breakdown: Darth Maul vs Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn

Blogger actually deleted this post, which is strike two against blogger.  Fortunately, I never write anything on Blogger alone.  Everything is kept in notes that are backed up on several different systems.  Some commentary has been lost, but I'm sure I remember most of what I wanted to say.

The fight between Darth Maul and Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn is, in my opinion, the most influential fight of the prequel trilogy and set the tone for all light saber fights that followed, both in the prequels and the extended universe, right up until the Force Awakens took force swordsmanship back to the roots of the original trilogy.

You can check the fight out here.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Martial Arts Breakdown: Luke vs Darth Vader in the Empire Strikes Back

I would argue that this was the single most impressive and defining lightsaber fight of the original trilogy, and the one that forever cemented Vader's status as the most impressive of the Sith.  You can watch the fight yourself here (the fun starts 30 seconds in).

Monday, August 15, 2016

Breaking Down Martial Arts

I've always been heavily inspired by movies and telly, and always worked trying to recreate them in games -- not literally, as that would be boring, but in spirit. So I have been "gun-spotting" (the kind of thing IMFDb does nowadays, although I don't like their results very much), statting movie props, and finding ways to recreate specific stunts in movies with the rules for ages.
- Hans Christian Vortisch, Shooting Dice
I've been following Shooting Dice for awhile, and I really enjoy his breakdowns of movie or TV scenes in terms of Tactical Shooting or Gun-Fu.  It displays his amazing knowledge of those works, but it also shows you what rules you could use if you wanted to create a game inspired by a particular work.

If I want to make sure that Psi-Wars plays out like Star-Wars, I should understand Star-Wars, in the same way that Hans understands his works.  This requires an extensive knowledge of Martial Arts, but part of the advantage of writing is that it forces you to learn.  Thus, this will not only give me a greater understanding of Star-Wars, but the very rules that I need to capture the proper feeling.

As the lightsaber duel is the heart of what people consider the martial arts of Star-Wars, I've selected three lightsaber battles to analyze.
  • Luke vs Vader: the Empire Strikes Back
  • Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon vs Darth Maul; the Phantom Menace
  • Kao Cen Darach and Satele Shan vs Vindican and Darth Malgus: the Old Republic
The first, from the original trilogy, represents the most iconic duel of the movie series that inspired the franchise.  The second represents the most enjoyable and iconic duel of the prequel, which represents the next major iteration in the development of Star Wars.  Finally, I want something that represents the extended universe, and I feel that the Old Republic is both a good representation of that, and it's a series that I draw a lot of inspiration from for Psi-Wars.

There are more I could look at, Dark Forces 2: Jedi Knight represents the Extended Universe before the prequels, and thus is a less cartoonish version of what comes after.  The Force Unleashed represents the far end of the cinematic spectrum.  Fans have created dozens of videos of their own take on lightsaber duels, which matters, because these people are the ones that will play your game.  The duel in the Force Awakens represents the culmination of the evolution of the lightsaber duel.  And I think there's a lot that can be gained from examining all of this, especially with comparisons and contrasts.  For example, Kylo Ren is not nearly as good a duelist as Darth Maul or Darth Vader.  A combination of kendo and dramatic, cinematic spinning seems to be the core base of the lightsaber duel.  The Extended Universe describes seven different "forms", though I'm not sure the films actually support that.

The actual act of looking through these require a great deal of patience, and they're subject to interpretation.  How do we know when an attack is deceptive?  When is an attack defensive, committed, or all-out?  What's the difference between Evaluate, Waiting and Doing Nothing?  Naturally, what will follow over the next week will be my personal interpretation of these scenes, and I do welcome counter-commentary or criticism, because the point of this exercise is to better understand what's going on in these scenes, and how best to translate them into GURPS terms, and thus to decide what sorts of rules we might include in Psi-Wars to capture the feel of these battles.  If you see something that I do not, I encourage you to say something.  If you want to analyze some on your own, I will happily link to you.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Aeon Team D: Building the White Son (with bonus playlist)

So, I dig out my ancient phone and open up my facebook messenger because I want to specifically message someone when I see that I have a message waiting for me from two months ago.  Turns out that when someone you don't know sends you a message, it gets shunted off to some hard-to-find place.  Christopher Rice explicitly invited me to join his Aeon campaign in Team D, his post-apocalyptic campaign. I apologized, telling him I had just found the message.  He accepted the apology, but noted there was still a spot open.  Flattered, I accepted.

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Reincarnation Engine, Chancel of Belphegor

Properties of the Reincarnation Engine

  • Promises carry physical weight. They can chain someone, they can create weapons, they can even power animated mannequins.
  • The power of the Reincarnation Engine depends on the power of the New World Order's machinations.
  • Beauty is the currency of the Reincarnation engine. It can be traded, given away, and accepted.
  • The Reincarnation Engine hungers.

The Structure of the Reincarnation Engine

The Reincarnation Engine is built in the Earth's future, when it lies rotting beneath a dying sun, after Belphegor's plans culminate in the Rapture that allows for his army to invade Heaven. Thus, the closer Belphegor comes to aligning the future to the one of his design, the more powerful the Reincarnation Engine grows.

The Reincarnation Engine is constructued in six layers, each deeper into the earth and larger the one before, like a buried pyramid.
  • The Topmost level, the pinnacle of the pyramid jutting above the dying world, is called The Promise and consists of Belphegor's throne.
  • The Second level is called The Principle and consists of Belphegor's Library of the Damned and the Vault of Wonders.
  • The Third level is called The Purpose, and consists of the vast machinery that creates souls, the Soul Forge, and then constructs the artificial flesh and metaphysical machinery of the mannequins, combining the two into a new person.
  • The Fouth Level is called The Prison, and contains the devilish enforcers of the Reincarnation engine, and a prison that contains rebellious Mannequins, captured gremlins, or stray humans who wandered deeper than they should. The Prison protects the Reincarnation Engine from what lies below, and also houses its greatest secret.
  • The Fifth Level is called the Truth and collects the industrial runoff of the Reincarnation Engine.
  • The roots of the Reincarnation Engine, the deepest level, has no name (and Belphegor will correct anyone who says otherwise), but its denizens call it Liberty while some the security forces higher up often refer to it as the Lie. It houses the outcasts and offal of the Reincarnation Engine, who have forged their own civilization in its deepest bowels. This lowest level ground the Reincarnation Engine in the dying Earth, and allows it to draw in the raw materials necessary for the construction of Mannequins, as well as providing an outlet for waste products.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Martial Arts in Psi-Wars

Let's take a break from powers to look at our other framework: Combat.  The real purpose behind this iteration, beyond introducing kewl powerz, is working out how characters will play with the setting.  In a sense, this is a continuation of Iteration 2 (which is hardly surprising, as we keep making call-backs to the rules of Iteration 2).  Here, we're going to do the same, by taking a long, hard look at GURPS Martial Arts, GURPS Gun Fu, and a few Pyramid articles, figure out what we need to make martial arts feel appropriate to Psi-Wars, and then write it all out.


Alright, alright.  I've been diving into a lot of detail over this iteration, but that's because I personally love to do so, I'm a chronic over-preparer, and by diving deep into a topic, I really come to understand it.  Furthermore, most of these posts are for you, dear reader.  When I'm writing my own material, I don't think "You know what I need?  Four sets of articles on alternate models of the Force!" That sort of thing floats around in my head, and I might read a few things, experiment a bit, then settle on something and move on. Thus, by writing all of this out, I'm hoping to kickstart your own inspiration, or to show you a few techniques you can use yourself.

That said, if we really don't have time, we can skip all of this.  Just like back in Iteration 1, we pointed to a few things and said "Those, we want to use those." What could we use in Psi-Wars?

Friday, August 5, 2016

Damien Bogsworth, Viscount of Toys, King of Toyland

Belphegor acquired the Estate of Toys by contract, which stipulates that he must honor the laws of Toyland, the seat of the Estate of Toys and a complex world home to a variety of lesser estates. The law of Toyland states that Toyland itself chooses its King, who is also made the Power of Toys. Upon turning 13, the King of Toyland must give up his position to the next king of Toyland.

Damien Bogsworth, the current King of Toyland, refused. The only child of a wealthy lawyer and a doting trophy mom, Damien has lived a life surrounded by the best and most exclusive toys. He’s learned to collect limited edition toys that he leaves in their box (“It preserves their value”), and his parents ensure he has better toys than everyone else, which he uses for leverage to ensure that he’s “the coolest kid in school,” bribing those he’d like to be his friends by letting them watch him play with his awesome toys. His magnificent collection contained such occult weight that Toyland selected him to be the King of Toyland when he was 8.

As his thirteenth birthday approached, Damien realized he had already been replaced and that toyland had selected a new king, Tommy Tinkerton, who would ascend to the throne on Damien’s birthday. Furious at the prospect of losing all the wonderful toys of Toyland, Damien turned to Belphegor, who was all to happy to agree to help him. Belphegor and Damien found Tommy Tinkerton and kidnapped him. Damien keeps Tommy locked up in a dungeon in the bowels of toyland in a magical cage that slowly drains the youth from Tommy and keeps Damien eternally twelve. Soon, Tommy will be too old to be king, and Damien will be the immortal emperor of Toyland.

As the toys of toyland become increasingly aware of these, they have rebelled and tried to free Tommy. Damien has responded with brutal crackdowns and secret police. The toys of Toyland are now divided between those who support Damien’ revolution, enforcers and informants, and those who fight it: rebels and guerillas.

Damien's flowers are aconite, the Key of Rage, and oak, the Key of Something That Hasn't Changed.  He follows the Path of Hell, and his anchors are Tommy Tinkerton, the True King of Toyland, the Pinup Princess, the Great Toy Hoard, and Toyland itself, his Sanctum.

Estate of Toys

-Toys are the playthings of others (3).
-Toys tempt you to use them (1).
-Toys spark nostalgia and fond memories (1).
-Toys bring fun and amusement (1).
-Toys are childish (1).

Domain Miracles of Toys

  1. Summon a common toy from nothing, or change one toy model to another, common toy model.
  2. Know a toy’s true name at a glance. Know everything about an obscure toy. Talk to a toy, get it to talk back, to find out whatever it knows.
  3. Make a toy even cooler: More fun, more tempting, more nostalgic. Upgrade a common toy to a limited-edition, exclusive, high-end toy. Make a toy physically stronger and tougher.
  4. Create a toy to spec. Bring a toy to life, so that it’s animated and able to act according to its will. Make a toy enact your will. Give a toy a new function (“Kung Fu Grip!”)
  5. Use a toy like a ouije board or a magic 8-ball to see the future. Damage or destroy a toy. Strip a toy of its value, or its color, or some of its functions.
  6. Change a toy’s destiny, what purpose it serves, or how the world sees it. Make a toy haunted, or extremely valuable, or the last of its kind. Make a toy epic, making it immortal, unbreakable, or magical.
  7. Animate all the toys of a region or a city. Summon one of the Seven Fabled Toys. Create a magical toy from nothing. Create a new genre of toy.
  8. Destroy all toys in a nation. Destroy a genre of toys. Create an item capable of destroying even one of the seven fabled toys.
  9. Empower a toy to become one of the Seven Fabled Toys.. Forbid toys from ever entering a particular area.

Persona Miracles of Toys

  1. Make someone a little more plastic, a little more fun, or a little more childish
  2. See through the eyes of any single toy. Become a specific toy.
  3. Make yourself tempting. Make it so that someone remembers you fondly. Become enormously fun. Become a child.
  4. Turn someone into a toy, or a toy-like creature. Make someone into your plaything. Curse someone with childishness.
  5. Strip a toy of its fundamental toyness. Remove any fond memories someone has of someone else. Remove all of someone’s childishness. Destroy a toy-like quality of toys, such as making them boring (“An educational toy”), or remove the fond memories associated with them. Become an army of toys.
  6. Connect someone to their toy. Change who is connected with a specific toy (“This teddy bear is now fundamentally yours”). Bless (or curse) someone so that they can see the true lives of toys around them as those toys come alive in their presence. Bless someone so that they may enter toyland, or that they may never enter toyland. Become a truly epic toy. Create a specific fond memory about yourself and put it into the mind of a god. Tempt the whole world to make use of you.
  7. Turn someone into a magical toy, or into an entire genre of toys. Make someone into an eternal child. Bind someone into eternal servitude as your plaything.
  8. Remove an entire genre of toys from your estate. State that all toys within a nation no longer count as toys. Curse someone so that nobody will ever have fond memories of them again, or that nobody will ever have fun with that person again.
  9. Connect someone to an entire genre of toys, so that they are its king and defender, existing so long as they exist, granting them access to a minor estate associated with that toy genre (like one of the seven fabled toys).

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Seven Fabled Toys (and the Thirteen Hell-Toys)

The Estate of Toys is vast. Damien rules over far more than just toys. He rules over the balls that bounce in playgrounds, over the dolls that rest in a child’s crib, the teddy bears that watch over their children as they slumber. The Estate is so vast that no single Power can rule it directly, and the Estate of Toys has seven additional guardians, the so-called Seven Fabled Toys, who act as its lesser gods. When the Estate of Toys is harmonious, the Seven Fabled Toys are the servants and lieutenants of the Power of Toys, and the True Power of Toys approaches an Imperator in total power, his sanctum almost a chancel, and his Estate encompassing at least seven other estates! But Damien has lost control of the Estate of Toys, and the Seven Fabled Toys have fled him.

The Seven Fabled Toys are Spirits of the Ogdoad. They are not powers, but they are like them, only lesser. Each rules over a lesser Estate associated with one form of toy, and has power similar to a Noble, but lesser (typically between 10 to 20 character points, rather than 20 to 30).

Toys do not die, but they do break down, fade or become lost. Thus, in time, even Fabled Toys must leave their estate behind and when they do, a new Fabled Toy rises to take its place. This churn means sometimes the nature of the Estate of Toys change. There hasn’t been a Fabled Toy of Tin Soldiers for a long time, for example. Not all Fabled Toys are listed below, and Snickersnack is not listed here (it’s one of Jack Livingston’s anchors), but is the Fabled Toy of Toy Swords.

New Template: Psi-Hunter

If we're going to have a psionic template, and psions need to fear Anti-Psi characters, then we should have Anti-Psi characters.

The Psi-Hunter is a cross between the Bounty Hunter and the previous version of the Space Knight, but with a focus on Anti-Psi as their base of power.  A Psi-Hunter is skilled at protecting those in his charge or in finding, hunting down and killing a Psi.  He's not nearly as good as a pure Bounty Hunter or Body Guard, but he comes with the added advantage of 40 points of anti-psi power.  The result is a character who can afford to be completely immune to your psionic power, or who can shut down your psionic powers completely, or who can blast an area with his power.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The NPCs of Toyland


Ace (“Asu”) Daisho

Passions and Skills

Passion: “I believe in Justice” +2
Passion: “I am better than you” +1
Superior Quality: Elegance +1
Skill: Assassination +4
Cool +5

Bonds and Afflictions

Bond: I am the Coolest Doll (1)
Bond: I must protect my sister, Alice (1)
Bond: I serve the Doll-Maker (1)
Bond: I’m in love with Hazel (2)

As a Japanese ball-joint doll, Ace is among the most expensive and prestigious of dolls, hand crafted from porcelain like the rest of his family, the House Daisho. Their prestige means the Daisho family resides within the Great Toy Castle, and often act as the courtiers, body guards, knights or maids-in-waiting for the King of Toyland. When Damien became the King, he allowed the Daisho to remain in the castle, for while they weren’t his favorite sort of toys, he acknowledged and admired their  collectability. Even so, he shelved them, preferring his franchise toys and his Commando Elite.

With nobody to play with, Ace watches the life slowly drain from his sister, Alice. He would tend to her, setting up tea parties for her, or inviting her to some of the most prestigious dollhouses with other Japanese ball-joint dolls, but nothing worked. So, in an effort to prove how fun it would be to play with him and his sister, Ace put himself in service to Damien as an assassin and spy par-excellence, working with the tyrant to take take down the Resistance. But when he hunted one of the Resistance members to Damien’s great vault of Packaged Toys, and Ace saw what an abomination Damien was turning Toyland into. Shortly after, he met the Doll-Maker, the leader of Toyland’s resistance, and he pledged himself to her, vowing to play both sides of the conflict.


Passions and Skills

Passion: “All the world is corrupt” +1
Passion: “You can change yourself for the better” +3
Skill: Flirtation +3
Shine: +1

Bonds and Afflictions

Bond: I serve only myself (1)

Brat belonged to a tween girl, who didn’t like barbies. Brat was terrified that she’d be discarded and end up in the Dungeon of Lost Toys, but no, her girl changed her. She took a pen and paints and remade her face. She sewed new clothes for her barbie and changed her name to Brat, and Brat loved it. Other Barbies wore prissy dresses and attended dreadful tea parties, Brat got to attend the scene. She turned Ken’s head, and flirted with G.I. Joe, and danced her heart out in a tin-foil disco.

Eventually, her girl grew up and Brat slipped away into toyland. If she’d learned anything, it was that the status quo was broken, but she didn’t have to accept it. She violated convention, crossed boundaries, dated teddy bears and took joy rides with Transformers. She was her own doll, and she was on the look out for her and her alone. If she didn’t like her situation, she’d just change it.  As she strutted about Toyland, she saw whole broken and ruined the rest of Toyland was and felt better about being abandoned: It was all a lie anyway, and she was going to make the best of it.

Teddy Bears

Inspector Bearington

Passions and Skills

Passion: “Everyone lies” +3
Passion: “I want to bring justice to the dispossessed” +1
Skill: Conspiracy Theory +1
Skill: Street brawling +3

Bonds and Afflictions

Bond: I refuse to follow the rules (1)
Bond: I’m in love with Brat, even though I know better (1)

Inspector Bearington used to work for the TCDP, until his instistence on solving crimes and exposing corruption in of Toy City forced Commissioner Gadget to take his badge away for being a “loose cannon.” Thus, Inspector Bearington was cast out into the mean, rain-wet streets of Toy City, where he became a private investigator.

His work for the poor and outcast of Toy City led him to the femme fatale, Brat, and into conflict with that other force against corruption, Commando Bear. He’s begun piecing together a vast web of conspiracies: the sock puppet mafia, the Commando Elite, the All-Former’s disappearance, Percival the Bear Knight, and the rantings of the Mad 8-Ball and he now believes that Damien has made some sinister pact with a devil who has secretly ruled Toyland for years, and through this pact now holds the True King of Toy Land captive and is somehow maintaining a grip on Toyland to become President for Life, but he doesn’t know how to reveal this to the toys of Toyland.

Commando Bear

Passions and Skills

Passion: “Evil must die!” +1
Passion: “If violence doesn’t solve your problems, you’re not using enough of it!” +4
Skill: Commando Bear Stare +3

Bonds and Afflictions

Bond: I must finish my crusade (3)
Bond: I always have enough firepower to finish the job (2)

Once one of the Care Bears, Commando Bear and his friends and family were cut down by a battle between the Sock Puppet Mafia and the Commando Elite. His fluffy belly was ruined, with stuffing spilling out as a pool of growing foam around his still body. The local doll-hospital managed to preserve his stuffing, but not his adorable Care Bear symbol, which had to be cut away and replaced with scar-stitching. Driven mad by the loss of who and what he was, he had a skull stitched into his belly, and took up an armory of toy guns, and began to clean up the streets. His crusade took on religious connotations when he cornered the Sock Puppet Don and nearly died under a hail of gun fire, but was possessed with the righteous rage of the Primeval Teddy Bear. He didn’t defeat the Sock Puppet Don (who managed to get away), but now he believes that he is ordained by the Fabled Toys to clean up Toy Land, and he has his sights set on the highest prize, Damien Bogsworth.

Other Toys

The Mad 8 Ball, Prophet of the Sandbox Wastes

Passions and Skills

Passion: “If reply is hazy, you must try again later” +2
Passion: “Embrace randomness” +1
Skill: Prophecy +3
Skill: Sandbox Survival +2
Shine 2

Bonds and Afflictions

Bond: I serve the will of the Seven Fabled Toys (1)
Bond: My cult can rely on me (1)
Affliction: I know the future (4)

Toyland is a vast realm, encompassing Doll Town, the Teddy Bear Reach, or the Asphalt Courts, full of chainlink and home to feral tribes of balls. But amongst the most dreaded are the desolate Sandbox Wastes. Exiled from Damien’s court for an unfavorable answer, the Magic 8 Ball found himself lost in them, his inner liquids draining out as he stared up at an unforgiving sun, and saw visions of wavering sandcastles in the distance. The outlook was not good: He thought he’d gasped out his last and would be a rattling, desiccated ruin when he looked up and the shadow of the All-Former looked down upon him. He spoke words, in his glorious, Peter Cullen voice, the last words any Toylander has ever recorded: “Without a doubt, you bear the truth of Toyland within you. Spread my word.” And it was decidedly so: The Mad 8 ball sprang to his feet, filled with religious fervor. He scribed new words into his hide, into his answers, and became the mad prophet of the Seven Fabled Toys. Toys from all over Toyland flock to the Sandbox Wastes to try to catch a glimpse of him, and to ask him about the future, and a new religious has begun to form around the All-Former and his wild prophet.

Rubik’s Tessaract, the Preacher of the Lost Toys

Passions and Skills

Passion: “The Puzzle Box is the answer” +1
Skill: Sermonizing +3
Skill: Dungeon Navigation +2
Shine 2

Bonds and Afflictions

Bond: I serve the Puzzle Box (3)
Bond: My words hypnotize (1)
Affliction: I can see a puzzle from all sides simultaneously (2)


Originally just a traffic consultant for Toy City, a hot cars traffic snarl was blamed on him and he was thrown into the Dungeon of Lost Toys and promptly forgotten. As some toys do in the Dungeon, he managed to escape his cell and wandered the endless labyrinth of the Dungeon, trying to avoid ravenous Hungry Hippos and haunted dolls, when he found the Puzzle Box, floating serenely in one of the vaults of the Dungeon of Lost Toys. The Puzzle Box seemed to speak to him, glowing and humming as it floated from the ground. Parts of itself unlocked while Rubik’s Cube watched, solving itself before his gaze, and then unleashing a fragment of its horrifying cosmic truth, and Rubik was enlightened. The world shifted, and he saw it from an impossible new perspective. He knew what he had to do. He took his message to the rest of the Lost Toys, his wild, charismatic sermons hypnotizing them into following him deeper into the dungeon, where they meet the Puzzle Box. Some are devoured by what it shows them, but others are changed, and become as fanatical as Rubik’s Tessaract.

New Template: the Mystic

I find it difficult to build a "generic" Psion template for Psi-Wars because it's so tied to the Action genre, so we need to know what role the psion would serve on the Action team.  A telepath or electrokinetic might make a good spy, an ESPer might make a good military officer, a psychokinetic might make a good combatant, and so on.  But the best way to handle those sort of concepts is to attach the power-set to a given template (that is, a psychokinetic soldier becomes the Commando + Psi with Psychokinesis).

What we need for a "generic" Psion template is a characters whose role is dealing with psionic power in general. Unlike Monster Hunters, though, we don't have much call for a role of a character who investigates psionic power just to investigate psionic power.  We usually do it in a specific context, and those contexts, here, are understanding Communion, finding relics, grasping what Path someone is on, and thus how to defeat him.  And, of course, having a character who schooled and powerful in the ways of Communion and psi is, itself, worthwhile.

Thus, the result is the following template: the Mystic.  The mystic embodies the sorts of characters we see in Yoda, Obi-Wan (eventually) and Emperor Palpatine.  The mystic's focus is purely on psionic powers and communion.  These characters have a few additional traits, meant to allow them to behave in an appropriately action-esque way, but they tend to be extremely non-physical, with a greater focus on IQ, Will, mental strength and mental powers.  These characters are also extremely well-situated to begin walking a Path.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Psionic Powersets

So, now that we've defined Psionics and Communion and how they'll work with Psi-Wars, we should offer players the chance to explore them.

A power set is 50 points we set aside for purchasing powers of a specific set.  So what's the Psionic Powerset?  Well, spend 50 points on psionic traits!  There you go, have fun!  We can do the same for Communion, provided you have some kind of psionic power already.

That's not enough?  You need something more specific?  Well, alright.


Properties of Toyland

  • Nobody dies in Toyland
  • Only children and toys may enworkmenin Toyland.
  • Any toy can be found in Toyland.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Psionic Character Considerations

I've put off building characters for this because, if I'm honest, I find it intimidating.  Mainly, Communion doesn't really work like the Force anymore, because it's bigger than Star Wars now.  I find that partly necessary for building an RPG based on a movie because (and this will be one of the things I always say) movies make terrible sources for RPGs.

A movie needs to tell a singular, short, self-contained story that should be finished in a couple of hours.  It doesn't have the time to stop and expound on a vast and nuanced setting, nor should it as that would detract from the movie's focus!  A book series, a comic series, a tv series, can afford to expand greatly on a setting and create the huge variety of characters necessary for real PC flexibility, but a movie lacks this.

The result is that Star Wars has exactly one power set (the Force) and one sort of character that uses it (the Jedi) unless you delve into the expanded universe, where we start to have the room necessary to detail the setting, but even this is has problems because the expanded universe has been conservative.  It has tried to stay true to the movie, which means you get things like "All Twi'leks are hot dancers" and "All force users are Jedi" with a few, occasional exceptions (like the addition of the Sith, which are really Jedi of a different philosophy, and some witches).  You don't see things like "The Jedi are just understand one side of the force and are but one set of users" and then proceeds to introduce a dozen new force users and three new concepts of the Force we'd never seen before.  Contrast this with, for example, D&D where we have arcane magic, divine magic, primal magic and psionics/chi, and several users of each power source.

In most GURPS Campaign frameworks, when you include a power-set, you get a template that deals exclusively with that power-set: the Martial Artist uses Chi.  The Cleric uses Divine Magic.  The Wizard uses Arcane Magic, and so on.  Sometimes, you'll see hybrid characters, such as the Paladin, who specializes in both combat and divine magic.

A Jedi, and thus a Space Knight, is more like a Paladin than like a Cleric.  He combines martial arts with the Force to be a master of both.  Psi-Wars, however, has a composite system blending the divine with psionic powers, and between them, you have a huge smorgasbord of options.  The Space Knight needs to have martial arts and psionic powers (but which ones?) and Communion.  The net result is going to be a very different character from our previous iterations of the Space Knight.

But this also leaves room for (and perhaps even requires) other character types.  What about a character that focuses entirely on Psionic Powers?  Or a character who focuses exclusively on Communion?  What about anti-psi characters? I intend to have power-sets that anyone can take (so we can have psionic bounty hunters and psionic spies), but these will represent something minor, an addition to your core concept (You're a bounty hunter who happens psionic, as opposed to a bounty hunter who happens to be cybernetic).

This has the added problem of being deeply tied to the setting.  A character focused entirely on communion might be something like a priest, but a priest needs a church and a belief system.  What does that look like?

But we may be getting ahead of ourselves.  One step at a time!

Today, I'll take a look at some character considerations that pop out, like general traits people can take that have to do with Psionic Powers and Communion (skills, advantages, disadvantages).  Then we'll take a look at building some power-sets so that people can jump in and start adding psionic powers to their characters.  And finally, I'll see if I can add a few templates that focus exclusively on Psionic Powers and Communion.

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