Welcome to the Data Haven

•December 2, 2008 • 13 Comments

Hello chummers.  😉

My name is J, but I also answer to Insomniac.  This blog will soon be the home of all my Shadowrun stuff that I have scattered around the Net.  Primarily a place to grab run notes, I plan on reviewing sourcebooks, posting fan fiction and perhaps even commenting on the game itself.

If you’re not familiar with Shadowrun (in the P&P RPG style, rather than the video games), it is a near-future, dystopian, cybernetic future game where fantasy elements have been re-introduced to the world causing an interesting blend of magic and machine.  The storyline is in-depth and there are so many things going on at once that Game Masters should have no shortage of material.  However, if you find yourself short on material, hopefully some of the future posts on this blog will help with that.  🙂

While I will occasionally pipe up like this, the bulk of my posts will likely be “in-character” as my grumpy, sleep-deprived sysop alter-ego, Insomniac.  He runs a board in the Seattle Matrix where shadowrunners can look for work.  He’s a no nonsense kind of guy, but he does welcome some discussion.  So if you’d like to comment on run notes, feel free to do so in character and become part of the dialogue.

Well, I think that’s it for now.  Hopefully, you’ll check back from time to time.


>>Oi!  Who’s grumpy?  Anyways, I figured I’d step up and introduce myself.  The handle’s Insomniac and I run my own little corner of ShadowSea.  If you need work, I’m your guy…assuming legality ain’t a scruple you tend to have.  If you think the shadows might be the place for you, then loiter for a bit and see what’s around.  Who knows…maybe you’ll be the next best thing round here.  Or maybe you’ll end up as the next red stain on the asphalt.  Either way, these should be interestin’ times, omae.  Perhaps I’ll see ya round.
>> Insomniac
“The shadows never sleep, so why should I?”

Let’s Blog Challenge

•October 14, 2020 • Leave a Comment

I don’t normally do these sorts of challenges… but hey, I almost never get tagged in these challenges.  So, I figured I’d take a stab.  Thanks to sopantooth for the nomination and a nod to the creator at Renee’s Corner.

So the rules for this are:

Rules of Let’s Blog

Mention the creator of the award and the blogger who nominated you.
Copy paste the rules.
Answer the 10 questions sent by the nominator.
Write your 10 questions for the nominees.
Nominate 5 bloggers for this award and let them know via comment on one of their posts.

Keep the thumbnail as the thumbnail of this post.
Answer your own questions.

So here are the Asked 10 Questions:

  1. How much is too much?

Context dependent… some things there’s no limit.  Others, even one is too much.

  1. Why are you crying?

Stubbed my toe…. Again.

  1. Are you ready to trust robots?

Could they really do any worse than we have?

  1. Shouldn’t we know better by now?


  1. If countries were people, which country would be your best friend and why?

I’m not sure… Sweden seems pretty chill.

  1. What conspiracy are you closest to believing?

I mean, they’re all pretty out there.  For the sake of getting people’s backs up, let’s go with “9/11 was an inside job”.

  1. What small, insignificant thing makes you unreasonably mad?

Repeating myself continually.

  1. Does that commercial for AT&T 5G where Lily from AT&T talks about sourdough bread kind of make you want to destroy the entire world and everyone in it?

Never seen it.  I’m counting myself lucky.

  1. What animal gets the Darwin Award for Best Evolution?

I’m gonna go with the crocodile… I mean this thing hasn’t changed much in millions of years because it got to the point where it was like, “You know what?  I’m already a crazy death lizard… why mess with perfection?”  You go, crocodile.  Be a murderous bastard.

  1. Why do people get so mad at squirrels for eating bird food when squirrels are a hundred times more interesting than birds?

I mean, birds are flying dinosaurs… squirrels are flea-bitten, poofy-tailed rats.  I choose the dinosaurs in disguise.

My 10 Questions (and my answers to them):

  1. What’s your favourite genre of game?

Science fiction is definitely my go-to, specifically cyberpunk/far-future.

  1. What’s your least favourite genre of game?

Romance.  I have yet to see a romantic RP game come off as anything but cringe.

  1. What is your favourite new game mechanic?

I am enjoying the departure from standard dice rolling.  Combining deck building, dexterity games and in-game mechanics to alter fate mix up the formula some.  My favourite new idea in a game that I’ve played is the countdown method in Ten Candles.

  1. What is your go-to game and why?

Shadowrun is definitely my go-to game.  I love the setting and the lore of the game.  I’ve been watching the story evolve for 5 editions now and it’s been a wild ride.  Mechanically, the game has been a mixed bag, but I do my best with what’s provided in that regard…

  1. What is the best thing about the RPG hobby?

Collective creativity.  The main reason I got into RPGs was my love for a good story and being able to tell a story with a group of friends is an ever-changing experiment that I have yet to get tired of in 20+ years.

  1. What is the worst thing about the RPG hobby?

Discrimination.  I hate to say it, but there is still a lot of sexism and racism in the community and I’m not a fan… the convention circuit showcases this all too often.  I often find that women are (overall) better players than men, so to find that so many women don’t feel welcome at the game table is genuinely disheartening.

  1. How has your gaming fared during the pandemic?

Strangely, more active.  My board gaming past time has suffered without being able to get together with friends, but my RPG hobby is thriving thanks to Discord and Roll20/Foundry.  Several people have checked out Heroes for Hire for Shadowrun, as it is a seldom offered online offering and I’m being kept pretty busy writing campaigns for newfound clients.

  1. Why use the D20 system?

I don’t.  Don’t like the thing.

  1. Crunch or fluff:  which is more important?

In my opinion, fluff.  Being able to roll a bunch of dice and knowing every rule is far less important than being familiar with the setting and telling a good tale within it.  Without the fluffy bits, it doesn’t matter how clever your system is…

  1. What’s your gaming pet peeve?

Showing my age on this one… devices.  I’m a traditional gamer, in that I like dice and paper character sheets.  When I look up at my players from behind my GM screen and see a group of players all distracted by cellphones and laptops, it annoys me.  Why am I going to all of this trouble when no one is listening?

As for 5 people to challenge to this thing…

Casting Shadows – Cool thoughts about the RPG hobby

Black Campbell – Ongoing resources to several neat systems

Dicegeeks – a nice resource for nerd bloggers and DMs

Adam Jury – Canadian game developer one of the best writers in the hobby today

Corruption Points – Nice analysis of tabletop games in video game terms

First Foray into a new Medium (#Shadowrun)

•October 7, 2020 • Leave a Comment

I’ve been asked by friends and clients over the years about the inclusion of the Matrix in my games of Shadowrun… it’s a notorious subject among those who have run Shadowrun over several editions.

So, I tried my hands at the whole YouTube thing… talking about the shortcuts I take in order to make the Matrix accessible as part of the main game. If you’ve got the time to spare, check out the video and if there’s anything you’d like me to talk about, let me know.


Shadows Over Las Vegas – The House Always Wins (#Shadowrun)

•September 11, 2020 • Leave a Comment

This is the first run for my primary Heroes for Hire campaign, set in Las Vegas.  It centers on a complex mash-up of characters that don’t always see eye-to-eye, which includes:

  • T-Bone, a cyclops adept who is (at least initially) unaware that their feats of strength are magically fueled
  • Grifter, an adept and a former lone wolf assassin whose past is something he has buried deep
  • Helping Hand, a con man who has left a trail of broken deals behind him
  • Parallel, a haunted former Christian who is now a Chaos Mage, coming to grips with a magical gift he didn’t want
  • Blue Screen, a technomancer with no memory of his past after having his brain hacked by… someone.

The story so far has been quite interesting with the player interactions.  The plot has been shaped by their actions, so hopefully the ideas from this campaign can see use in some context.

The team is contacted by their fixer, Brick-Base, and told that they’ve got a line on some work.  A Mr. Johnson has a need for a team to handle a “delicate matter with an indelicate touch”.  If they’re interested in hearing more details, Brick-Base will meet with them at The Classic for 8PM.

Scene 1 – Blast from the Past 

The Classic is a brick and mortar restaurant in the Downtown core styled in mid-20th century Vegas.  The place looks like an old diner with the wait staff carrying on that aesthetic.  The media system pipes classic Rat Pack music and the place completely and shamelessly cashes in on old Vegas nostalgia.

In the back corner of the restaurant sits Brick-Base.  The diner table in front of the massive troll seems almost comically small, even though the booth is one of the few that was “built for trolls”.  The massive bouncer sits with a large diner burger the size of a dinner plate (troll-size me!) which he is heartily digging into when the runners arrive.

Once the entire group has gathered, or 8PM arrives (whichever occurs first), Brick-Base will get down to business.  “Glad you guys could make it.  I’ve got a client who needs some work done…stuff that he doesn’t want becoming public, if it can be helped.  Mr. Johnson has recently been swindled out of thousands of nuyen thanks to the introduction of counterfeit chips to several casinos on the Strip.  It’s a pretty ballsy move, given the players that own those establishments… The quality of the counterfeits is solid.  Unfortunately for the distributor, one of the fakes was dismantled and a stray hair was found in the label.  While not enough for a magical trace, it gave them a name:  Alejandra Garza.  Find Ms. Garza, find her operation and shut it down.  Mr. Johnson wants the equipment destroyed and all physical counterfeits destroyed before they reach circulation.  Provide video evidence of the destruction and he’s willing to pay each of you 7,000¥ for the effort.

Brick-Base is willing to negotiate up to a maximum of 9,000 each runner.

Once the runners have agreed to the terms, their contact nods.  “Excellent.  I’ll let him know he has a team.  Good hunting, guys… and try not to wreck too much of the city.”

Alejandra Garza
Professional Counterfeiter/Pro Poker Player
Possible Sources – Underworld Connections, Gamblers
2/3 – Alejandra is a known gambler at the Flamingo and Bellagio.  Decent card player and uses her good looks to distract marks.  A good hustler, but no criminal record.
4/6 – Given the people she has been seen to fraternize with, it is believed that she is part of the Verontesse family.
6/8 – Has been spotted spending a lot of her time away from the Strip at Bruno’s Laundry.
8/10 – Don’t let her lack of criminal record fool you, she runs the counterfeiting ring…

Matrix:  The primary network they access is PuebNet, represented by a dreamcatcher rimmed by idols from each of the tribes that make up the nation.  The iconography here is simple, a vast prairie with rolling hills and deserts, each landscape varying slightly depending on the city you log in from.  For Vegas, the prairie is split by bright lights, a long road and large stacks of poker chips.  The old “Welcome to Paradise” sign standing prominently over everything.

Scene 2 – Reaching Out

Working solely from a name, the runners will need to figure out who Alejandra Garza is.  A Matrix search can yield some results, as can hitting up contacts.  Some information is publicly available, such as her likeness and her personal life info, as per social media (learning she’s a professional poker player is pretty easy, looking at her online profiles).

This legwork can be a double-edged sword, though.  Should their inquiries reach the wrong people, such as a Mafia contact or a forum post in a Matrix host, Alejandra can be tipped off that a group of runners are on the lookout for her and make herself scarce, cashing in a few favors to make their lives more difficult, if they get mixed in with her business.

Track the actions the runners take to see if it warrants siccing PuebSec or random thugs on the runners as the conduct their investigations.

This scene is abstract, allowing the runners to hit up contacts, dredge the Matrix and generally get a feel for doing research to complete their job.

If the runners decide to hit up the Strip, Paradise is her usual busy self.  Knowing her hot spots, the runners can learn that while Garza is a known player, she missed the last tournament at the Bellagio.  These two establishments have had no incidences of counterfeit chips entering circulation, but almost every other casino on the Strip has.

With enough sources, they will get a clue pointing them to Bruno’s Laundry in Spring Valley.  It’s a neighbourhood laundromat where there is video footage of Alejandra visiting very frequently with the same basket of clothes every time.

Scene 3 – Going to the Cleaner’s

Bruno’s Laundry is a nondescript laundromat set into a strip mall in a subdivision of Spring Valley.  The area is busy through the day with people traveling to and from stores on the daily errands of the day.  The laundromat also has several customers inside, carrying on with their casual labors.

The only employees on staff upstairs are Bruno (in the office), two civilians (Annabelle in the office and Jimmy on the floor, helping customers with the machines when needed) and two guards protecting the stairwell to the basement in the service hall in the south west of the building.  The laundromat is a legitimate business, save for what goes on in the basement.

In the basement, the storage and maintenance space has been converted into a side hustle under the eyes of the locals.  A group of Mafia thugs are working to stamp out fake chips for the Luxor.  When the runners enter the space, the Mafiosi go for their guns.

Odds are, the runners will make quick work of the opposition and be able to smash the equipment, but there is the chance that someone in the laundromat upstairs will hear the gunshots and have alerted PuebSec.  

One indication that they’re not done is the lack of their target.  If the runners take any of the Mafiosi alive, they can learn that Garza is accompanying a shipment of chips bound for Circus Circus.  Plundering the man’s commlink reveals their planned route and that they can catch up if they speed a little.

Depending on the time they take, they may have to shake off PuebSec on site or on route.

Scene 4 – Chasing the Chips

Armed with the information that the chips are on their way to another casino, they will need to drive aggressively to catch up, or get there before the chips enter circulation at Circus Circus.  

The vehicle is parked in a side street, not far from the Strip in Paradise, where select people are able to receive a number of “complimentary chips” that they can spend to get them into circulation and cost the casino money.

If the runners catch up to them on route, they will have an armed caravan of vehicles to deal with, while they attempt to stop the Aztechnology Governor (Bulldog) from escaping.  If they catch up to Garza after they’ve stopped, they find a series of vehicles parked around the street and the Governor parked, with the back door open, distributing chips.

Alejandra Garza

Alejandra is a striking brunette Latino woman with hair just past her shoulders and a permanent smirk on her face.  Dressed in modest attire compared to the plunging necklines of her poker tournament days, she has done her best to ensure her life as a mob counterfeiter and her life as a professional poker player don’t collide.

B3  A5  R4  S3  W5  L4  I4  C5  Edge 3  Init = 8+1D6
PL5  ML6  SL7

Armor 9

Skills – Clubs 5, Etiquette (Street) 4(6), Con 5, Pistols 4, Unarmed 5
Qualities – First Impression
Gear:  Armoured Vest (9), Browning Ultra-Power (Acc 5(6), 8P, AP -1, 2RC, 10c), Stun baton (Reach 1, Acc 4, AP -5, 9S(e)) 

So long as the team recorded the destruction of the machines, the chips and the death/punishment of Garza, they will get paid.

Karma reward max for the job is 6.  They can earn Notoriety by killing Garza in a way that can be traced back to them.  If they end up in a firefight and/or kill officers in PuebSec, they gain Public Awareness.

>> The Strip, cheating casinos, the Mob… all these years and some things really never change, huh?
>> Joseph Brightfeather

>> Coming from those who cook the books?  That’s rich… we have Rispetto, unlike you thugs.
>> Johnny O’Crap

>> Yes, because cheating the system is respectful.
>> Joseph Brightfeather

>> If you bring this old fight onto my server, I will brick the both of you.  Take it offline, before I break out the Black IC.
>> Insomniac
“The shadows never sleep, so why should I?”

A Game of Inches – In Pursuit of a Traitor (#Shadowrun)

•September 4, 2020 • Leave a Comment

This was the seventh run in the Bogota campaign and was a diversion from the main plot, as the players sought to catch up with their traitorous Johnson before he had a chance to escape.

The team has spent the better part of a week to rest up and heal their injuries after the last job and are now ready to pursue their previous employer; a mercenary named Ruben Ortiz.

Scene 1 – Tracking Down the Villain

Using Switch’s tracking bug, they can locate the chip they handed off to the most densely populated part of the Western District.  Whether it’s via research or boots-on-the-ground reconnaissance, they discover that the address is the HQ of the 10,000 Daggers mercenary company.

As the normal of the Western District would dictate, the runners are going to have to deal with the local gangs, who are looking for the latest means of showing off.

Once away from the gangers, they find the building that the mercenary company calls home:  an old medical clinic converted into a barracks.  The mercenaries engender themselves to the nearby residents by opening the doors to locals in need of medical care, but with a carefully worded inquiry, the runners can arrange a meeting with the company. 

A Middle Eastern man is their liaison with the company.  “Welcome.  The name’s Hakan Mirza.  What sort of problem do you need to have solved?”

Hakan is a consummate salesman, willing to spout off prices for services his company can perform (and those prices are beyond the reach of standard residents), but won’t discuss current contracts.  If the runners insist on meeting with Ruben Ortiz, Hakan is dismissive.

“Our agents are busy in the field on Company business.  I cannot give out their location.”

When confronted with the notion that Ortiz has been feeding info to the Aztecs, Hakan is dismissive at first.  If the runners tell him about the previous job, the tracer and his deliberate concealment of target information, Hakan will escort them onto the base to the location of the tracer signal.  It confirms that Ortiz has the chip, as it leads to his foot locker.

Only with significant information will Hakan tell them that Ortiz was taking on a “private contract” and took a small group with him.  Knowing the intelligence is bad, Commander Mirza acts on his men being put in jeopardy.  He heads to the command center and attempts to reach Ortiz, only for comms to be jammed and him not being able to get through.

“If Ortiz is sending intel to Aztechnology and is walking good men into a trap, then he has betrayed the Company.  Here are the coordinates he stated he was investigating.  He has burned his bridge and we will not seek vengeance.”

Scene 2 – The Consequence of Betrayal

With the coordinates of Ortiz’s expedition, the runners can converge on the location.  Judging by the area, the firefight hasn’t been over for too long.  The wall protecting the ABC from the locals looms overhead, but is just outside the perimeter defenses’ range.  Insurgents are still in the area (not Bogota Libre) and the way the runners conduct themselves will determine how the insurgents react to more heavily armed intruders.

They’re already riled up from the exchange with the Daggers and these insurgents (at least claim to) only speak Portugeuse.  If the runners converge directly on the coordinates that were relayed to Ortiz, the insurgents will open fire, thinking that they were fed the same bad intel.  Being able to meet with them and relay that they are not with the Aztecs is in their best interests, but could prove difficult to convince the skeptical and jumpy Amazonians.

Whether the dissidents fall back or a peaceable solution has been found, the runners can see that the building that the intel they handed to Ortiz has been peppered with gunfire and shows signs of grenade detonations.  A total of seven bodies are found among the debris, none of them are Ortiz.  The Daggers operate in ten man teams, so they evidently took heavy losses in the attack.

An Outdoors (3) check is required to pick up the trail of the survivors out of the blasted building.  Once they find the way the fleeing soldiers took, it doesn’t take long for them to pick up a slow and steady blood trail.  After a few minutes of following the trail, they find a Daggers soldier slumped against a wall, life signs faint. He took a round to the leg and is bleeding, despite the field dressing designed to stop it.  The runners can try to stabilize his condition to keep him from dying for his comrades to rescue down the line, if they’re so inclined.

The blood trail continues, though with less frequency.  If they hadn’t already rolled enough successes, an Outdoors (4) test can help them reacquire the trail.  Otherwise, they’re going to need to save the soldier to find out which way they went.

The trail ends in a section of collapsed road.  The last member of the team lays in the rubble pile.  He has several wounds, but a Biotech (3) check reveals that he was killed recently from a gunshot to the back of the head.  Ortiz took out his own squadmate.  A faint blood trail heads under the road, towards the ABC.

Scene 3 – Into the Loving Arms

The blood trail Ortiz is leaving is heading directly toward the ABC.  As the runners pursue him through the tunnels, they may notice that the tunnels are growing wider and better maintained as they progress.

A visual/Matrix Perception (5) check is required to notice the trap laid in their path.  If they fail to notice the motion sensors built into the walls here, turrets pop down in front of them and behind them, while two gun drones sweep in from adjacent hallways to pin them down.

Gun Turrets
Body 2, Armor 6, Pilot 3, Sensor 2

All drones are Smartlinked and feature a Gas Vent system to avoid extra recoil.

The time the runners spend avoiding the drone net buys Ortiz enough time to reach the Aztec checkpoint under the wall of the ABC.  The runners will need to decide whether it’s worth it to pursue Ortiz, or abort the pursuit and plan to catch up with him later.

Ruben Ortiz
Aztec Merc

Ruben is a grizzled, muscular man with numerous scars and tattoos, including a prominent Huitzilopochtli glyph on the side of his face.  Always seen in fatigues and images of him fighting in wars around the world are available.

B4  A4(5)  R4(5)  S3(4)  W5  L3  I4  C3  Ess 2.8
DR = 12, Init 8(9)+1D6(2D6), 1 Maj, 3 Min, Move = 10/15/+1

Skills:  Athletics 4 (5 for anything involving balance), Biotech 2, Close Combat 4 (Blades 6), Firearms 6, Influence 3 (Intimidation 5), Perception 4 (5 for audio), Piloting 4, Stealth 5

Knowledge Skills:  Back Alleys, Aztec Cuisine, Military Tactics, Aztlan Spanish (Native)

Augmentations:  Wired Reflexes 1, Muscle Replacement 1, Dermal Plating 3, Cybereyes 3 (Smartlink, Flare Comp, Low Light, Vision Mag), Cyberears 3 (Balance Aug, Damper, Spatial Rec, Audio Enh 1)

Gear:  Full Body Armor (+5DR), Commlink Rating 4

Weapons: Browning Ultra Power (Heavy Pistol, 3P, SA, 10/9/6/-/-), Laser Sight
FN HAR (Assault Rifle, 5P, SA/BF/FA, 3/11/10/6/1), Laser Sight, Gas Vent
Combat Knife (Blades, 3P, AR 8 (2 if thrown)

If they decide to breach the checkpoint and kill Ortiz, Jose Salazar is grateful for a thorn in his side being removed, but the kingpin is still trying to rebuild his empire.  He offers 5,000 apiece for a bounty on the rogue merc.

>> I tell ya… vengeance against a corp is ill-advised.  If you retaliate, keep it small… too much damage and they’ve come back and ensure the job is done right the second time.
>> Revenge

>> Speaking from experience, are we?  That’s new for you.
>> Wraith

>> I got lucky and survived my first mistake.  Then made a second mistake.  You were with me for those… I’m fortunate to still be breathing.  I can learn… it just takes a lot of pain and violence.
>> Revenge

RPGaDay 2020 Day 31 – “Experience” #RPGADAY2020

•August 31, 2020 • 1 Comment

Today’s prompt is “Experience”.

This challenge as certainly been an experience… but I think that Experience is the single best tool for a GM.  No one starts as a great GM.  The best storytellers out there made plenty of mistakes along the way as a GameMaster and will make errors yet in the future.  The day a GM stops learning is the day their story stagnates.  Do not fear failure at the table.  When I started, I didn’t have a GM screen, the steeped fingers and the practice “All right” when the players have stepped right where I wanted them to.  Instead, I had a sea of books open, reams of loose papers, detailing my plot and a fevered scrambling to find the note I wrote for this situation.  We all start somewhere.

If you’re a new GM, looking to gain that experience, know that you will make mistakes and that it’s perfectly fine to do so.  If you’re good at winging it, you’ve already got a big chunk of what it takes to run a game down.  Can’t remember a rule?  Make it up so the game keeps moving and look it up after.  Players disputing a call?  Declare GM fiat and talk about it after the game.  The main trick is to keep the game from getting bogged down in a dissection of the rules.

So, as the RPGaDay month comes to a close, get out there… take up the mantle, make those mistakes and play the game of your choice.  Get those XP and you can become the GM your group has always dreamed of.

RPGaDay 2020 Day 30 – “Portal” #RPGADAY2020

•August 30, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Today’s prompt is “Portal”.

I mean, when it comes to playing an RPG, isn’t it kind of like a portal to a different world/dimension?  We aim to escape our present reality and enjoy an alternate existence for a time, where we get to be somebody else, doing something heroic.  Perhaps not heroic, but dastardly or selfish… live through the tension of a no-win scenario without the actual risk.  It allows us to indulge ourselves in ways we wouldn’t allow ourselves to in a real world situation and it challenges us in so many ways.  It’s why RPGs remain my personal favourite hobby.

It’s a short one today, but hey, there isn’t a lot more I can say.  RPGs are awesome.

RPGaDay 2020 Day 29 – “Ride” #RPGADAY2020

•August 29, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Today’s prompt is “Ride”.

This whole RPGaDay thing has been a bit of a ride… I don’t think I’ve posted so frequently on this blog since the initial setup of the site.  It’s been interesting to just kind of babble about various topics without any real plan.  Stream of consciousness about all things nerdy…

Then again, the whole RPG journey I’ve taken has been quite a ride.  Uncertain beginnings, to finding a system I loved and a hobby that would, without word of a lie, transform my life.  Friends I’ve gained and lost throughout my time indulging my creative endeavours.  I’ve had to find out the best way for me to tell a story, how to run a game, how to advocate for myself and how to finally break out of my shell.

I’d like to think I’m a better person for all the ways gaming has changed me and the people it has brought into my life.  Hopefully, when this pandemic is over and I can attend conventions again, I’ll be able to see old friends and game with familiar faces as well as meet new ones, where we can bond over our common interests.  Until then, I hope my online games continue to evolve.  Demand for Heroes for Hire has continued to grow and I’m running more regular games now than I ever have before.  My gaming business has been another interesting ride, that is only just beginning and I hope that it will keep going for a long while yet.

RPGaDay 2020 Day 28 – “Close” #RPGADAY2020

•August 28, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Today’s prompt is “Close”

I wasn’t sure whether to take today’s prompt as in proximity, or as in shut… I’ve decided to take it as the latter.  Specifically, why I’ve never been able to close a campaign.  Much like everything else I’ve done in RPGs, the reason as to why has evolved over the years.  Originally, my writing was still indicative of story writing, rather than anticipating variance from allowing the players choice.  There were plot holes so huge that the whole premise came undone, strictly from a series of choices my players made that were completely logical.  I refrained from campaigns while I learned to adapt my writing style and managed to finish a couple of mini-arcs that went well.

Things came undone after that, however.  My players enjoyed a long period where if I tried to introduce continuity, they actively thwarted any attempts at having a continuing story line.  Characters that were to be recurring would be hunted down, killed, dismembered and reduced to ash, while they watched in order to ensure the villain wouldn’t return.  Buildings leveled to ensure nothing inside could be found and resumed… after a while, I simply gave up on ongoing campaigns.  As evidenced by a lot of the older material on this site, I ran one-off missions for years, because I felt there was no point in even trying to run a campaign.

I came to a conclusion a year ago.  I wasn’t happy.  I wasn’t telling stories I even cared about… I was simply running games for the sake of running something.  It was a by-product of a greater problem… I was miserable in my life in general and my games (naturally) followed suit.  I put the brakes on and stopped running games all together and spoke with my players about what I was unhappy with.  When I decided to resume gaming, I came back with a campaign that had the depth and the character/player types I wanted.

Now, that campaign that had been going strong has been put on hiatus due to a misread series of texts and two players quitting.  Relying so much on text, when context is lost without tone, is one of the many struggles of this pandemic.  Soon, the campaign will resume with new players… the plot will need to be altered slightly in order to accommodate, but like all of us in this age of COVID, stories can adapt too.  And I’ll be damned if I let yet another story I want to tell go untold.

I will get those chapters of stories up on here after August… I’m hoping that this daily post thing will have gotten me more accustomed to logging in and posting new material… time will tell, I suppose.

RPGaDay 2020 Day 27 – “Favour” #RPGADAY2020

•August 27, 2020 • 1 Comment

Today’s prompt is “Favour”

There are some systems and mechanics that I tend to favour as a GM.  Perhaps it’s my mathematical way of thinking, but I prefer a distributed model as opposed to putting my faith in a single die.  It is my number one complaint about the D20 mechanic.  No matter how good your character gets, there is always that 1/20 chance that something will go horribly wrong.  Yes, I know it’s not as straightforward as that… but there is something more realistic about dice-heavy systems.  If you aren’t skilled at something and you have few dice, the risk of failure is high.  However, with years of training and being an expert in your field, you get a fistful of dice and the odds of failure are far lower.  As they should be (in my opinion).

The systems I gravitate toward tend to follow that same principal… the better you get, the more control you have over your fate.  Don’t get me wrong, I have rolled 30+ dice for a test in Shadowrun and still managed to glitch… the dice and I have a ‘special’ relationship in that way.  But the odds of that happening are so remote that it’s noteworthy, even when it happens to me.  Me rolling a 1 on a single die happens all the damn time, which is why I’ve never really had a great D&D experience.  I’ve had great stories told, but my character never really gets to be much more than comic relief, thanks to that special relationship I mentioned.  Ten Candles has a similar arc, just in reverse.  When you start and the characters still have hope, you have 10 dice (d6) to try and get a single six.  Odds are good, right?  But as hope fades and the light dims, you lose dice.  As that pool of dice shrinks and character traits are burned away, you know the odds are against you and you feel that noose tighten.

The system should aid the game, rather than distract from it.  I’ve never enjoyed a game of D&D, primarily due to the mechanics (what good is a story when your character face-plants in every fight?) and the mechanics should never ruin the experience.  Of course, this is my heavily biased opinion and your mileage may vary substantially…  ultimately, play what works for you and find a system you enjoy.

RPGaDay 2020 Day 26 – “Strange” #RPGADAY2020

•August 26, 2020 • 1 Comment

Today’s prompt is “Strange”

It’s always nice to have a weird (plot) hook in your back pocket, as a GM.  It can help throw the players off the scent of your plot line, toss out a fun curveball or even just change the tone of the game, even if only for a brief moment.  Each system has within it a few curiousities that, when correctly used, can shock your characters and generate a general “where the hell did that come from?!”.  As you familiarize yourself with your system of choice, take a look at some of the more obscure threats that face the world and save those ones for later.  If you bust it out too often, the impact will be lost, but if you’ve been battling orks for several sessions, running into something ethereal, something twisted or something extraplanar… the characters (who are kitted out for ork bashing) suddenly need to react to a new unexpected problem.

Even outside of combat, adding in a splash of comedy in a dark scene can pull the attention away from the main arc for even just a moment, as people try to figure out what the significance of a maniacal clown, hitting them with a banana cream pie has to do with anything.  It can lighten the tone, but also seed doubt and misdirection.  It’s a fun gimmick in moderation… so bust out your stranger things every once in a while and keep the players on their toes.