Monday, July 22, 2019

Notes on Revisiting Templates: the Diplomat

In an effort to revise and distill my rules on the Wiki, I asked my patreons which template they'd like me to revisit and you'll never guess what they chose... or you wouldn't if you hadn't just read the title, but I sure was surprised to see the Diplomat top the chart!

I see the average player of Psi-Wars as seeking an action-oriented character: a space knight, a bounty hunter, a smuggler, a commando.  Yet they chose for the most political, least action-oriented character they could. Why?  A few patrons chimed in on why, and it seems to boil down to:

  • It's the closest we'll get to a "princess" class and some people really like princesses
  • It's the most culturally bound template, which means working on it will necessarily require me digging into the culture of Psi-Wars.
This last is key.  I don't really have a problem with the Templates as they stand, for the most part.  I'm sure I could nitpick at them.  However, the old, Iteration 5 templates were generic. They were "a" space knight and "a" diplomat, and you can still play that way.  But Iteration 6 and 7 seek to build up a detailed, specific setting.  We've gone from the generic templates of GURPS Action and Monster Hunters to the more specific templates of GURPS Cabal, Transhuman Space and Banestorm.  I want to maintain the idea of fairly generic templates (a diplomat is a diplomat), but I'd like to be able to ground them in a specific culture of concept native to Psi-Wars.

To do this, I needed to dive into the cultures of Psi-Wars, at least a bit.  I'd like, at some point, to write down these cultures in more detail, more akin to the level of detail I've posted about Aristocratic Culture and Imperial Culture, as well as the Patreon Special on the Traders.  These are, of course, subject to change, and will likely be revisited once I do settle down and dig into the cultures of these various groups.  Of course, the Diplomat would only tackle a specific subset of those cultures: the things he needs to know to survive those cultures (language, how to avoid dangers) and ways of collecting reaction modifiers with the right sorts of people (the right social skills, connoisseur, current affairs, etc).

I also needed to double check the template itself, to see if any of the various changes I've made impact the Template itself.  Of course, I find I lose track of some of the more specific changes, so this might require another revisit once all the rules get collated, but I doubt it'll be much.

You can find the current state of the Diplomat Template here on the wiki.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Patreon Content: The Plague Creation System

A second assignment for Orphans of the Stars was to create and integrate biotech into his setting.  One particular requirement was a "viral weaponry" system, and from this, the Plague Creation system was born.  This document uses three basic disease templates, expands them with a variety of special effects and a system of four symptom "themes" to guide you through the process of creating a novel new disease, whether as the GM creating something for his fantasy setting, or a viral genologist pondering how best to destroy the world.

By special request from Patron Jason Crowell, I've gone ahead and released this as a patreon special for all $1 patrons.  You can get it here.

Friday, July 12, 2019

The Ridiculously Huge Action Vehicular Playtest Part III - The Aftermath

This is the finale of the Three Part playtest of the Action Vehicular Combat series.  See yesterday's post for the bulk of the actual "battle," and the day prior for additional context.  This mostly consists of a retrospective on what worked, what I had to change, and what I missed out on playtesting.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

The Ridiculously Huge Action Vehicular Playtest Part II - The Battle

This is part two of an epic playtest for my GURPS Action Vehicular System for Psi-Wars (though you can borrow it for anything Action-inspired).  See yesterday's post for additional context!

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

The Ridiculously Huge Action Vehicular Playtest Part I - Setting Up

It was about three quarters of a year ago that I posted an updated ruleset for GURPS Action chase rules.  The intent was to marry the Dogfighting rules with the Space combat rules to create something that would work for Psi-Wars.  I did a few playtests, but stopped short of a complete one.  I lacked the proper resources at the time (namely, the ships) to run the sort of playtest that I envisioned, which would be the sort of scenario that I would imagine playing out in an actual Psi-Wars game, especially an epic-scale battle, which tend to be fan-favorites and also the most taxing on a system.

However, now that I've completed the vehicles for the Alliance (at least the Maradonian nobles) and the Empire, I have enough material to run the scenario, and thus, we can have the playtest.  For reference, this playtest will use:

(For the Alliance)

(For the Empire)
I had a lot of fun with the playtest, so I hope you don't mind the lurid descriptions (I always thought GURPS and excellent narrative went hand in hand, since GURPS plays a lot like a film, if the film was in slow motion), but this is as large and sprawling as its epic ambitions might suggest.  We'll be at this for a couple of days, and today, we start with the introduction.

Note that the rules I link to above are already outdated as of this playtest, as I did what you should do with a playtest, and made notes and updated them to reflect what "felt right" while I played.  I'll discuss those changes more at the end of the whole playtest series.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Abstract Wealth Retrospective

I've had a busy week (expect me to not respond much for the next while: my son is sleeping poorly which exhausts my wife, and the second little one requires a lot of attention too, so if I'm not working, I'm sleeping and if I'm doing neither, I'm probably looking after kids, so I snatch wht time to write that I can).  Thus, I was unable to announce my posts, but my discord picked them up anyway, and had quite a few thoughts.  I wanted to share them here and respond to them, so they can all be collected in one spot.

If I don't get to your comment, it's probably because there was too much discussion going on (the topic really blew up!) so I couldn't get to everything.  I'm picking out stuff that catch my interest sequentially.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Abstract Wealth in Psi-Wars - Wisdom of the Pyramids

So, recently I touched on Gear in GURPS, wherein I discussed my thoughts on how genre and gear interact.  This matters because Psi-Wars is a different sort of genre than what GURPS, by default, handles well with its gear.  This isn't a problem.  One of the reasons we build campaign frameworks is to adjust the rules of the game to better support our genre.  This is why GURPS is generic and universal because it offers support for a variety of play-styles, but we need to highlight what those differences are.

Psi-Wars emphasizes social status and wealth. Like many Space Opera settings, it revels in the travails of the poor and emphasizes the grandeur of the wealthy.  It has a positively feudal wealth disparity!  Thus wealth should matter.  However, it tends to matter narratively.  Both sorts of characters have interesting story hooks that arise from their position.  The wealthy often don't have to deal with things that poor characters do need to deal with (such as where their next meal is coming from, or how to afford a gift for that girl whose eye you want to catch), but these problems can usually be overcome with clever gameplay or good skills.  Skill, broadly, should matter more than wealth: yes, the wealthy can access better gear than the poor, but not so much better that they can "pay to win:" a knight can be defeated by a farmer with a staff, so to speak.  The differences in station tend to also manifest superficially and symbolically: the poor can expect to look "more street" than the rich while the rich can expect to look "classy," and both can expect rough treatment in the world of the other, but both can contribute to a group.

Psi-Wars allows characters to access cool stuff regardless of wealth level, and the coolest stuff tends to a character signature.  Almost everyone who wants one has a spaceship, and the space knight always has his force sword and, if appropriate, his armor.  Soldiers have whatever weaponry they've been issued, and even the most poverty-stricken, indebted smuggler has a totally sweet gun.  Characters often pursue ancient relics, and those who make regular use of them tend to be drawn into their symbolism.  Characters do not "trade up" with such gear: the character with his grandfather's Valiant starfighter doesn't "upgrade" to a Valiant 2.0 at the first opportunity, nor does the space knight go through a selection of force swords at every space port to see if he can find one better than the one currently equipped.

Psi-Wars doesn't really care about gear beyond this; player characters generally have what they need unless the narrative requires otherwise. Gear in Psi-Wars is largely about what your character looks like and their niche in the story.  A poverty-stricken space knight has a force sword and never upgrades it, and has a particular look (say, a rough jacket and boots and a low-slung belt over a simple battleweave garment) and needs to deal with hassles from richer space knights who look down on him for his lack of "proper breeding."  If it comes to checking to see if characters have rations or if they have proper lockpicks, then the GM shouldn't demand to know what the player characters have on their sheets.  Saying something like "I'm sure I have something like that in my utility belt" should be enough, unless the scenario calls for deprivation ("You're stuck in a dying space station with no food and only the air you have in your vacc suit").  At the same time, this shouldn't allow players to have infinite gear: after all, being poor should have some sort of consequence!

Does GURPS have the tools to handle this? Yes it does!  But most of it is in various Pyramid Articles.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Meditations on Gear in GURPS

Recently I had an interesting conversation over on the Psi-Wars discord.  It started with my statement that I didn't want to see players "saving up" to buy better force swords, that I didn't want them buying "better force swords" at all.  This triggered an entire conversation on gear, RPG genre, and the reasons gear is treated the way it is in RPGs.

I've found myself pondering the topic a lot lately, especially in light of people requesting revisions to Psi-Wars' templates, to update them, and my increasing dissatisfaction with how gear is handled in Psi-Wars.  Why do we have gear in games? What purpose does it serve? And what can we replace it with?

What is "Gear?"

Before we go on, we should define some terms.  Gear is fairly obvious in GURPS: it's stuff you buy with your money!  I'm talking about "loot" in Dungeon Fantasy, or any equipment that you can pick up and discard. It's anything that enhances your character that he doesn't pay for with points, really.  It's an important distinction, for reasons we'll get back to (or may well become obvious over my meandering musings).

GURPS seems to have inherited its concepts for gear from D&D and the other games of the early era of RPGs.  This includes a starting budget for your character, a big shopping list in the book that you're expected to pore over for hours to find exactly the right gear, encumbrance to prevent you from carrying too much gear (thus, creating a decision matrix of effectiveness within a given monetary and weight budget), and scaling levels of effectiveness whereby the game assumes you'll give up your starting gear for better gear "later on."

These are the concepts I wish to discuss here.

Monday, July 1, 2019

The July Roadmap

Normally I post this before the month ends, but child-rearing (and wife-tending) got away from me.

As usual, we had the patreon vote and that's what I'll be focusing on this month.  Expect to see:

  • A discussion of Gear in GURPS and how I'd like to tackle Abstract Wealth in Psi-Wars
  • A Revised Diplomat Template, and a discussion of the Cultures of Psi-Wars.
  • The Multi-Part Action Vehicular Combat system playtest. It's gonna be huge.
If I can get to it, I'd like to continue with:
  • The Eldoth as Conspiratorial Menace
  • The Vehicles of RedJack
Last month Patreon shows a surplus thanks to the elevation of one of our own into the Secret Council.  We lost one of my first patrons, though, a silent fellow who had bid more than anyone else until the Secret Council joined.  He never made us of his patreon benefits, which I always thought was a shame.  He'll be missed, but I'm also grateful he supported us for so long.

The blog also broke records when it came to views, but I'm pretty sure that 20,000 views over the space of a few hours is probably not coming from a single person.  I got spidered!  And it ruined my statistics.  Why am I still on Blogger?  I have no good answer for that.

In any case, thanks to everyone who voted and here's to the next month!
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