Happy New Year!

•January 5, 2017 • 1 Comment

Greetings to my scattered readers!  The blog has been pretty quiet of late and I have no one to blame but myself.  I kind of took the entire month of December off from RPGs, despite having several ideas burning away in my brain.  I will get some stuff posted soon, once I get some traction on the creative side of things.

I have been painfully and slowly working on this ongoing campaign called “Demons of a Fallen God” which I had huge ambitions for and instead it has been moving at a snail’s pace.  Plus going in the totally wrong direction from what I had planned.  If I can get this thing back on the rails, I’ll start posting the runs that comprise the campaign to date.

The concept of the campaign was that the setting was 2075 Eastern Europe (curtain goes up in Kiev, Ukraine).  I asked players to make a slightly-better-than-standard runner (normal build with 30 after-gen Karma and 50,000¥ in additional funds) that would form a mercenary company called “The Fractured”; a mercenary company that operates in 8-man cells globally.  As part of the Eastern EU company the players could choose from this 8-runner pool and maybe choose different characters each time, as the job required.  If a character died, they now had to try and compensate for the gap in the company.  This allowed me to allow the players some flexibility.  Even if the players that attended each session differed, the runners involved could be the same.

I planned 10 “core plot” runs with an undetermined number of additional runs for bankrolling the team, tying off loose ends, etc.

So far, we’ve done 2 of the plot runs (since they happened within 24 hours of each other), at which the players did a hard right and left part of the second run incomplete and have been off on a tangent for one run, going on a second shortly… still leaving business unconcluded and derailing my intended plot arc indefinitely.  They’ve left contacts high and dry, who will eventually leave them hung out to dry if they don’t conclude the business at hand.  Tempted to put the concept to bed and chalk it up to a failed experiment, given that I hinged my plot too greatly on a handful of actions being done.  I really should know better by now…

Convention season is ramping up, so I should have some new material coming soon.  Whether it is the first few runs of “Demons” or the forthcoming convention runs, time will tell.

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A Ray of Hope – 7th Sea 2nd Edition

•November 28, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Since I acquired my copy of 7th Sea 2nd Edition back in the summer, I’ve been getting myself acquainted with the new narrative styling of the game.  After cranking out several characters and working on a few backstories in order to orient myself in the system, I tried to get a game going.

Not an easy feat.

I tried running the game the first time with family for the most part.  The first time out, I was unable to distance myself from my roots in Shadowrun enough and called on the players too often for tests when there were key pieces of the system’s intent that I was still missing (tests are only needed if there is risk involved, otherwise, only RP is involved).  Player interest in the game has been exceptionally hard to come by.  I find it odd, seeing as I’ve run the game for years and the game is loved at conventions when I run it, yet when I put out a call for players to test the latest incarnation, you can just about hear a pin drop.

This weekend, I finally got my opportunity to give it another try.  With a modest three player group, I re-ran the original adventure and employed a more story-driven style.  I think each player rolled the dice three times for the entire thing, allowing the players to embellish and steer the game until they met opposition, where they finally had to spend their rolled successes.  The game went much smoother this time and the players seemed interested in seeing where the story would ultimately end.  The narrative feel of the game definitely felt more natural this time and I think that the system has some definite promise with the right group of players.

Looking forward to getting some mileage out of the game.

Bad Medicine (Shadowrun)

•November 8, 2016 • Leave a Comment

This run concept was put together for the 2016 Phantasm convention.

The runners are contacted by their fixer in regards to a job, where Mr. Johnson would like to meet with them in person to discuss the details of the job.  If they’re willing to hear them out, Mr. Johnson would like to speak with them at 8:15PM at 1512 Broadway.

Scene 1 – Meet Dr. Johnson

1512 Broadway is the location of Capitol Hill Urgent Care clinic.  The location is old and while it has undergone several upgrades over the decades, the building still shows its age.  The hours on the door say 8AM to 8PM.  Entering the building before then sees the clinic in full operation and will likely see them turned away, as the waiting room is still rather busy.  The patients are ushered out as close to 8 as possible.  Once the building is set to closed, the automatic locks on the clinic don’t engage and the runners can enter the clinic.

Mr. Johnson is awaiting them in one of the family counseling rooms off of the waiting room.  Still in his white smock, Mr. Johnson is a Latino doctor with a winning smile and more charm than a doctor might typically exude.

“Welcome and thank you for coming.  I am hopeful you can assist me in a matter of some concern.  This clinic has been participating in the clinical trials for a pain relief medication that we hope will see launching on the market soon.  All of our patients have reported back on how the drug worked for them, save for three.  Since we don’t want our competition learning about their most recent competition just yet, we would like you to locate the missing patients and collect the data we’re missing.  If our rivals are attempting to gain information about our latest drug, destroy any evidence they’ve collected.

“I am willing to pay each of you 5,000¥ for the job, negotiable on delivery if  you’ve encountered significant resistance.  Is this something you feel you can accomplish?”

Mr. Johnson is really Julio Espinoza, a medical technician and developer for Aztechnology.  While the clinic has been partaking in testing of a new drug, it is far from legal and the patients here are guinea pigs for a newly developed BAD (Biological Awakened Drug) pulled from the Yucatan jungles.

If the runners sign on, Mr. Johnson nods.  “You have my thanks.  I was told that the side effects of the drug were to be minimal, so I would hate to think that my patients fell prey to undisclosed side effects.  Here are the dossiers for the three missing patients.  I hope you can find them safe and sound.”

The dossiers contain the names, addresses and commcodes for the patients that haven’t reported in.  The runners are required to bring the patients back to the clinic, or barring that, come back with a blood sample.  He tells them to call the clinic and ask for “Dr. J”

The three people they need to track down are:

“Braaker” (Or’zet for Bruiser) – Ork Male, Age estimated to be around 20.  No specific address – Commcode provided

Braaker has been a regular at the clinic for broken bones, gun shots and stab wounds.  Despite numerous attempts to kill the man, none have succeeded.  Known member of the Skraacha (Scorchers).

Rick Tol – Human Male, Age: 37, Address included, Commcode Included

Rick is a known hypochondriac and agoraphobe, who is on a cocktail of anti-anxiety meds.  Lives on disability and welfare after an accident on the job forced him into early retirement.  Has mobility issues from moderate spinal damage.

Jenni Kallio – Elven Female, Age 32, Address included, Commcode Included

Jenni is a relatively new patient to the clinic, claiming to suffer from neuropathic pain as a side effect of juvenile cancer therapy.  Unable to locate previous physicians to find out of pain is physical or psychological.  Admitted into the program with the caveat that the exact nature of her pain be established first.

Matrix:  The Seattle Grid is easily accessible from here with no Noise modifiers.  The clinic itself shows it’s age and it doesn’t appear that the facility has been fully integrated into the wireless Matrix.  Breaking into the system can be done, but there are definite holes in the security grid.  There is a public  ARO for the clinic, but aside from scheduling appointments, it offers little information.

Scene 2 – The Coward

Upon hearing the descriptions of the patients, the runners will likely want to deal with Rick Tol first.  His commlink puts him in his apartment.  The building he calls home is nothing spectacular.  The lobby has a couple homeless people squatting in it and the elevators feel slightly less than secure as they lurch upward to the fifth floor, where Rick calls home.

Knocking on the door yields nothing.  Astral projection on the room is another matter.  The room has a vibrant aura and the room seems almost alive, with the energy coursing literally through the man’s veins.  The aura almost masks the presence of the shedim inhabiting the body of Rick.

Rick reacted poorly to the BAD in his body and made him into an astral beacon.  The spontaneous appearance of spirits scared him badly and between his excitement and the drug, he suffered cardiac arrest.  The shedim the aura attracted decided to take up root in the now deceased human, but due to the strength of the aura, it can’t leave the host.

Stepping into the room, the spirits will take offense to their trespass and attack.  The shedim cannot be banished from the host… the only way to kill it is to destroy the host body (which might complicate getting a blood sample).  Hopefully, once they destroy the shedim, they will have enough of the body left to get an uncontaminated blood sample.

Rick (Shedim Possessed)

B4, A4, R6, S5, C4, I4, L4, W4, Edge 2, Magic 4

Init = 10+1D6, Astral Init = 8+3D6

Skills:  Unarmed Combat 4, Perception 4, Astral Combat 4, Assensing 4

Powers:  Deadly Aura, Karma Drain, Fear, Immunity (Age, Toxins, Pathogens), Paralyzing Touch, Sapience

Weaknesses:  Sunlight (Mild), Evanesence

Matrix:  The Seattle grid is accessible from here, though Rick has personal access only to the public grid, rather than anything nicer.  His commlink is almost at it’s factory defaults, with no names in the contact list and only a handful of games on the device.  The onboard biomonitor shows his overall health levels and tells the team that he died from cardiac arrest two days ago.

Scene 3 – The Warrior

Tracking down Braaker is easier than the runners might think.  The Scorchers are a gang from the Ork Underground, but tracking the ork down by his commlink shows that he’s above ground.  If the runners go into the Ork Underground and ask around, they learn that Braaker has been missing for a couple of days and is suspected in killing one of his own.

When they catch up with Braaker, he is in the middle of a rival gang’s turf and leaving a trail of bodies in his wake.  His eyes glow with a vibrant green light and if assensed, shows the same energy coursing through his aura as Rick Tol, despite the cybernetics in his system.  He shows signs of having been attacked and there are even knives still lodged in his body.  He is on a mindless rampage, tearing apart his enemies with inhuman strength and feeling no pain.

Braaker

B7, A4, R6, S7, C3, I4, L2, W6, Edge 3

Init = 10+2D6

Skills:  Unarmed Combat 6, Perception 3, Clubs 7, Intimidation 7

Qualities: Toughness

Implants:  Wired Reflexes 1, Aluminum Bone Lacing

Powers:  Immunity (Pain) – functions like a Pain Editor, Magic Resistance 3

Armor 9

Gangers

B4, A4, R3, S4, C3, I3, L2, W3, Edge 2

Init = 6+1D6

Skills:  Unarmed Combat 3, Blades 4, Clubs 3, Etiquette (Street) 3(5), Perception 4, Pistols 4, Intimidation 4

Armor Vest (9)

Browning Ultra Power 8P

Knife 5P, -1AP, Acc 5

Matrix:  The area Braaker is in has some basic Matrix access, but it’s spotty, conferring a -2 Noise modifier due to the shoddy infrastructure.  The gangers have poor commlinks and little information of value on the devices.  Remotely disabling Braaker’s cybernetics don’t appear to slow him down.  His biomonitor shows levels of adrenaline and a heart rate that would kill most people.

Scene 4 – The Mole

Jenni Kallio turns out to be a false name.  Tracking the commcode leads to the address she provided, but the apartment it leads to looks vastly empty, with only a cot, some fast food containers and cables from a commlink connection.  The bathroom shows trace evidence of theatrical make-up that she used to change her appearance.  A Logic+Disguise (3) test against the still of her face in the dossier will give the runners a better look at her real face.

Her real name is Jennifer Gibbons, a professional actress at Shiawase.  Doing research on Ms. Gibbons shows that she resided in the apartment since the start of the clinical trial and she hasn’t returned for the past several days.  Searching for her likeness on the Matrix, shows that three days before, she was wandering the streets aimlessly, speaking gibberish.  A van pulls up alongside her and three men get out.  After a brief conversation, she unleashes a blast of green light into one of the men, while the other two tackle her and sedate her before dragging her into the van.  The third man’s limp body is pulled into the van and they drive off, heading into a Shiawase compound, where the camera is unable to see.

The Shiawase compound is primarily residential, but there is a mall, private police force and, of greater interest to the runners, a private clinic on the grounds.  Jennifer is being restrained in the clinic by magecuffs as the doctors in the clinic are running a full analysis of her blood.  The runners will need to either rescue Jennifer or get some of her blood, before destroying any data Shiawase has already collected.

Shiawase Corporate Clinic

Shiawase Security

B4, A5, R4, S4, C3, I3, L3, W4, Edge 3

Init = 7+1D6

Skills:  Unarmed Combat 4, Clubs 4, Running 4, Perception 4, Pistols 4, Leadership 4

Armor Jacket (12)

Ares Predator IV (9P)

Defiance EX-Shocker (11s(e))

Stun Baton (9S(e), Reach 1, AP-5

2 doses of Jazz

If the alarm is raised the general police force will retreat and elite security will be called in (pg 384, SR5)

Matrix:  The Matrix signal here is solid, but you must be a Shiawase citizen to access the local grid.  Breaking into the grid will put them on borrowed time, but the runners will have to deem the importance of the Matrix access.  While the enclave itself doesn’t have an ARO, the clinic where Ms. Gibbons is being held does, helpfully providing directions around the clinic (with your Shiawase ID, of course).

Shiawase Corporate Enclave

As part of Shiawase Central, the node seems that little bit too bright, as they show off what they are famous for: providing the world with power.  A warm beach with rolling waves chruns nearby while the waters edge is dotted with submersible turbines and windmills spin over the bluffs.  All of the wonderful electricity being created from Shiawase’s branding funnels into a picturesque white picket fence style neighbourhood.

Most of the houses are subsystems for each of the residents but there are other icons that can tap into other aspects in the node.  There are community buildings in the node that reflect non-residential buildings.  Commlinks of the residents show as generalized Japanese people in icon form.  Security personnel appear as people in Shiawase uniforms.  IC appear as patrolling drones.

Host Rating 7

Standard Configuration – Attack 8, Data Processing 9, Sleaze 7, Firewall 10

Security Protocol – Patrol IC running at all times, Junior security officer on regular patrols

Once an alarm has been triggered, IC activates in this order: Probe, Scramble, Track, Jammer, Marker, Crash.  If an IC is crashed, the host will reboot the IC before moving on to the next stage.  A security spider will log on after 3+1d6 combat rounds after the alarm is triggered.

The runners will likely want to re-negotiate the terms of their arrangement, but Mr. Johnson will remain tight lipped about the nature of the drug these people were injected with, even with everything the runners have discovered.  As long as the runners are professional in their conduct, they will get paid as promised.

>> Rounding up guinea pigs, huh?  Sounds like easy money to haul away a few body bags.
>> Burn

>> If the whole tempo thing taught me anything, never trust that any brain bender that comes out is fully tested.  Who knows what you might find…
>> Revenge

>> I’m not finding any public record of legal drug testing on the Matrix.  Somehow, I think this new wonder drug is being rushed to production, consequences be damned.
>> 404

>> That would explain the remote nature of the testing.  If it was above board, they’d want all the rich kids blabbing about the latest pharma-wizardry…
>> Sapphire

Jewel of the Atlantic (Shadowrun)

•November 1, 2016 • Leave a Comment

For those that have been following me for a while, the name might ring a bell.  I originally wrote the “Jewel of the Atlantic” back in 2002, during the days of 3rd Edition.  The game was pretty popular back then, doing the convention circuit with it and grinding my home group up on this bizarre ship that was a group effort on the old Dumpshock forums.

When I switched away from my original online archive, I had a couple of people send me copies of the run to ensure it wasn’t permanently lost on the Matrix.  I finally took the time to do some modifications to the original notes to try and make it at least somewhat 5th Edition compliant.

Because there is just so many pages of maps and the like, I’m attaching the full document here for people to download and use, if they feel so inclined.

Jewel of the Atlantic

Hope you enjoy this blast from the past.

>> Boarding a cruise ship that’s been submerged in magic since the Awakening?  Yeah, I think I’ll take a pass on this one…
>> Burn

>> What makes you think that spirits will have even been interested in this floating hotel?
>> Briar

>> If you go to the metaplane of fire, there aren’t oceans this thing could float in.  Heaven forbid it went to an insect plane, or the home of the shedim… Gods only know what hitchhikers this thing dragged back into our world with it.
>> Reaper

The Latest Experiment and State of the Haven

•October 11, 2016 • Leave a Comment

So, the site has been pretty quiet overall this year… but I haven’t been resting on my hoop doing nothing all this time…

I will have some material to post (both new and old) again very soon.  I’ve been busily developing a campaign over the past year and it has taken a very long time to get off the ground, but we’re now three runs in and I will probably be posting the first pieces of that soon.  Plus, I have some material from a recent convention to post as well.

Given that the feedback on the podcast I posted was overall positive, I will also post another episode (hopefully soon) in hopes of keeping some new material regularly posting here.  Of course, I’ve said similar things in the past and look how that’s turned out… but I will do my best.

The most recent experiment was this past weekend, where I ran a full game of Shadowrun for a group of players where the oldest player was 13 years old.  I was expecting a more frustrating game than I got.  My daughters played (13 and 9 years old), my daughters best friend (age 12), as well as a long time friend of my daughters (age 13) and his friend, both of which had played Pathfinder once before.

I refused to “tone down” my material… I think many people underestimate the maturity and intelligence of kids these days (Lord knows I’ve met a few that have shaken my faith in humanity), and perhaps I’ve been blessed with friends that have done a great job of raising their kids…  But I pulled no punches and they impressed me with their inventiveness and resourcefulness.  I joked around and kept the atmosphere fun, until it was time to drive home the gravity of the situation.  I let them kick ass and take names, but also allowed them to experience the darkness of the setting…

They didn’t question the nature of the setting.  It was native enough that they recognized it, but fantastic enough to distance themselves from it.  It was fun for both them and myself.

There’s always a part of me that has feared that, in this age of video games, smartphones and short attention spans, that the role-playing game in all of its tabletop glory, was on its deathbed.  That fear that my generation would be the last to enjoy the art of collective storytelling.  But this little experiment gives me hope that imagination and spontaneous creation will carry on.

Plus it makes me feel that I’m winning as a parent.  😉

Data Haven Podcast Episode 001 – Inspiration

•September 13, 2016 • 1 Comment

So, I decided to go ahead and try my hand at this podcast thing.  I have talked about how I go about finding inspiration to write Shadowrun material.  I’m not entirely sure about the format, so any feedback you have is greatly appreciated and suggestions on potential future podcasts is also quite welcome.

If you are interested in my point of view on these sorts of things, please give a listen and any/all constructive criticism is welcomed.

About the Blogger – 1:00
Finding Inspiration – 4:45
Expanding on a Concept – 21:28

I hope it’s not too dull or rambling.  Thanks for listening.

Fruits of Investment – 7th Sea 2nd Edition

•August 12, 2016 • 2 Comments

So, a while back, I jumped on the crowdfunding bandwagon when it was announced that John Wick was releasing a new Edition of the much-loved game of 7th Sea.  I’ve been GMing the original game for over a decade, so when I heard that it was getting an update, I threw money at it pretty promptly.

I don’t do crowdfunding often.  The only other time I’ve done that kind of blind faith, it was for Shadowrun Returns.  So, I kept my fingers crossed that the new Edition would be worth the wait and the cash.

Did I get what I was expecting?  Not exactly.  Am I happy with my purchase?  Yes, I am.

I had expected some re-tooling of the original game and perhaps updated mechanics for some of the sorceries and sword schools.  Instead, the system has been re-invented to a more story-based game.  Since I got into RPGs for the ability to tell a collaborative story, featuring dynamic, three-dimensional characters, this was right up my alley.  Will this system be for everyone?  No.  Players who want to roll dice to try and smash things in impressively big ways, are likely to find this system unsatisfying, since damage (and combat in general) is somewhat abstracted in favor of drama and flair.

Character creation is greatly simplified, especially in comparison to Shadowrun.  I can draw parallels to several newer systems in how damage is tracked and how characters are assembled.  The process is very straightforward and yields a relatively balanced character.  Limits that are in place, such as Trait caps, prevent min-maxxed characters at character build and makes it that min-max builds will require a long amount of game time to implement.

The most interesting (and enjoyable for me) part of the new system is the lack of experience points.  All improvements are directly tied to the resolution of a story arc… it’s an addition I enjoy.  You want to improve your combat ability?  Undergo a journey to topple a nemesis.  You want to Improve your Convince skill?  Banter with the nobles in a Montaignian court to obtain a rare artifact.  There is a logical reward for a given tale.

There are things of first Edition I will miss… several of the sorceries are gone and replaced by something new, for example.  Ease of setup will be missed as well.  I was able to crank out 7th Sea adventures fairly quickly in 1st Edition, but with the incorporation of Consequences, Opportunities and giving the players a true voice in the direction a story will take, it means a lot more designing for the GM and a much greater need for improvisation on the storyteller’s part.

However, the system has gained a lot.  I love the dramatic, action feel of the game.  The new parts of the world, like the Sarmatian Commonwealth are great additions and add an interesting new venue to explore.  Two of the new sorceries, Hexenwerk and Sanderis, are delightfully dark, capable of taking players down a much darker path where they can either seek redemption from, or ride the spiral downward until they are irredeemably corrupt.  I like that characters with a flair for the dramatic (and player to match) get to shine and are rewarded in the system… that descriptive language and allowing your character to falter at times all provide reward, in order to tell a dynamic story that you laugh about later and have those “remember that time when…” moments.

So, overall, I enjoy the dramatic feel of the game.  The new system is very light in comparison to the crunch of Shadowrun and with the right group of people, promises a light-hearted game that you will share laughs over.  The system won’t be for everyone… not everyone wants to describe everything with flourish and crave a more defined mechanical system.  Some of the powers (I’m looking at Sanderis here) in a convention or one-off setting are prone to abuse, where players won’t care about consequence, but for an ongoing campaign, I think the system will work well.

Once I have play experience, I may weigh in on this again… see if my opinion changes overall after practical use.