Sunday, September 7, 2014

Summertime Space Travel

Earlier this year I figured out the rules ye olde DropShips and JumpShips used to construct JumpShips. It's pretty similar to what Chris Hartford(?) devised for BattleSpace.

The common assumption is that Chris couldn't find any rhyme or reason to the earlier stats. But JumpShips were pretty easy to figure out, so I think it's equally likely that he found the system and decided to change it.

DropShips are harder. (One confounding factor is that transit thrust seems to be independent of combat thrust.) I took a break from working them out to do some astrography; unfortunately, that was interrupted, and all such endeavors remain disrupted for me through the present. I hope to resume normal activity in a few weeks.

Notes about DS&JS:
  • Bridge mass of the Scout, Invader and Star Lord round up to nearest whole ton. (The Star Lord entry accidentally copied its bridge mass from the Invader's entry.)
  • The Scout's Bridge was calculated for a 79,000 ton ship, its engine for an 80,400 ton ship. [Edit: alternatively, its engine is a typo (1930 tons for 1920 tons) for an 80,000 ton ship.]
  • The Merchant's KF mass was given as 11,000 tons instead of 110,000 tons. (A zero was left off the end.) 
  • The Invader was listed as 152,000 tons but its bridge and engine were calculated for 153,000 tons.
  • The Star Lord was listed as 274,000 tons but its bridge and engine were calculated for 275,000 tons.
  • The Monolith was given as 380,000 tons but its bridge and engine were calculated for 370,000 tons.
Edit: and apparently the spreadsheet inset, which looks fine on my browser, looks ridiculous on others.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Looking for a New Sci-Fi Show

Rewatched the first season of Heroes, which was great fun, and I've finished watching Earth: Final Conflict. (Can't recommend it, but I will be mining it for Transformers/Resistance plots.) Also finished watching Fang of the Sun: Dougram (from which we get many BattleMechs and possibly some vehicles. It's pretty alright, as "real robot" war stories go). Finally read H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds.

Looking for another new-to-me sci-fi to watch now.

Was actually wishing I had another Whedon show to watch, completely forgetting that Agents of Shield existed and is coming back in September. (Incidentally, I'm very happy how the Marvel Movie-verse has no mutants. It makes these people rarer, and lends the setting a more distinct flavor.)(On the topic of upcoming shows: I'm expecting the How I Met Your Father woman to end up marrying Barney; mostly though I'm hoping for more Twin Peaks tie-ins.)

I'm currently keeping up with Extant, and I like the Pretender-like layered conspiracy it has, but I'm looking for something I can marathon. Tried Alphas but the pilot was disappointing. Not sure what to try next.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Persistent Computerized Mech Worlds

For the rest of this to work, I need to distinguish the winningest human players from spoilers propped up by sockpuppets and robots...

Suppose that before each match, every player's current rating is degraded by some fraction according to their total number of matches to date (i.e., multiply by (n-1)/n), and degraded by some other fraction according to how many days (weeks) have elapsed since the last match; then after each match, their ratings increase according to their level of success, the opponent's rating, their total number of matches to date, and how frequently they encounter this particular opponent (ie, add success*opponent's rating/n/frequency).

Self-Organizing Factions:

Players rate each House (macro faction) on a scale from +100% to -100%. As they go about normal play, these ratings indicate how much the player's activity helps stabilize or destabilize each House. Each House has a baseline territory, and the players' aggregate activity will cause Houses to expand or contract (with diminishing returns) as a ratio of that baseline territory. This affects the availability of equipment, personnel, and other game assets within that House.

Global Events could be generated in a few ways, and should occur with some regularity. Some of these will allow for permanent changes to each House's baseline territory.

Normally, the player's material gains or losses are completely dependent on the player's own victories or defeats. However, players can choose to base a portion of their gains or losses on the success (in varying proportions) of up to eleven other players. This relationship is one-way, and does not diminish the assets of these other players.

The server will periodically map these connections. Each player's rating will be multiplied by whatever % they assigned to the eleven other players, and then added to those player's ratings, which is multiplied by those % and passed on, and so on. Each player's final value is then divided according to the player's factional loyalties to generate a rank (sergeant, colonel, marshall, etc) for each friendly faction. (The value might similarly be used to periodically put a bounty on the player's head for enemy players to collect.)(These values should possibly be divided by faction to start with, to prevent enemy officers manipulating another House's internal balance.) Rank determines how much influence each player's actions have on global equipment and events throughout the faction; highly ranked players may also have a great deal more specific regional control.

Large scale (or highly ranked) movement of players from one faction to another may be treated as defection, secession, or civil war.

Self-Balancing Battle Value:

The winningness of every 'Mech, the average lifespan between purchase and destruction, and the average cost of repairs per usage will be tracked continuously across all matches and players. 'Mech winningness will be weighted according to player winningness, with highly rated matches counting highly and low rated matches counting little. It will be used to periodically update 'Mech BattleValues, similar to how player ratings are updated. The updated BattleValues will be compared to a baseline (universal across all 'Mechs) ratio of lifetime value : lifetime cost, and used to rescale each 'Mech's purchase price and upkeep costs.

Purchase price and upkeep will have small random deviations on a 'Mech by 'Mech basis, will vary according to House loyalties, and will step incrementally toward their new calculated values over time. Availability of 'Mechs and parts will vary according to House loyalties, recent missions, and possibly other factors; there should be an overall tendency for a player's force to regress to House norms, thereby giving new players a chance against entrenched players.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Character generation for MechWarrior, Transformers, or Star Trek (part 2)

As a rule of thumb, characters should be as likely to lose their Individual Resource ('Mech, informant network, etc) as they are to lose their own arm, and as likely to have it replaced as they are to have their arm replaced.

When a resource is lost, roll to see how long it will take to replace (or if it will be replaced at all). Then reduce the resource score by 1 and, if necessary, reroll the specific item, rank, etc.

Items or resources gained via shared skills (such as Driver or Small Arms) indicate shared resources (such as a shared truck or common armory) which can be lost and replaced more easily.

The following skills, when allocated as an Individual Field, have a particular effect on resources:

Streetwise: ability to navigate the bottom of a social pyramid (common merchants and laborers, low-level military personnel, common criminals, whatever). The Individual Streetwise Field indicates cooperative relationships with spies or information brokers. The breadth & usefulness of this network is proportionate to Resources; how quickly the character can connect with a local network depends on skill. Expands rarity of this individual's Field items and shared items.

Bureaucracy: ability to take advantage of local laws and regulations, and efficacy when requisitioning supplies. The Individual Bureaucracy Field indicates a trusted place in the local bureaucracy or on-planet garrison. Resource points indicate how much intelligence and non-hazardous assistance (licenses and facility access vs. restricted information and rescue from legal or administrative difficulties) the character can get without risk; the speed and cost (in bribes or favors) of the assistance depends on skill. Expands legality of this individual's Field items and shared items.

Protocol: ability to navigate the top of a social pyramid, and to negotiate contracts. The Individual Protocol Field indicates a place in the interplanetary House hierarchy. Ability to improve the party's status or future assignments is proportional to Resources. Improves selectivity of this individual's Field items and shared items.

Leadership: ability to command NPCs, keep NPCs loyal, and expand the amount of situational bonuses party members can give each other. The Individual Leadership Field indicates higher rank, or a more prestigious lateral assignment, with authority proportional to Resources.

Administration: ability to keep an operation running smoothly. The Individual Administration Field indicates a land grant, business or other interest which generates surplus revenue in proportion to Resources. Elevates this individual's Field items and shared items into a pricier tier.

BattleMech [or Tank/Starfighter/Spaceship/Etc] Operations: ability to pilot the vehicle and operate its sensors, weapons and other systems. (Note that the "driver" common skill applies to ubiquitous everyman transportation, though [Vehicle Type] Operations may be a common skill as well in some settings.) Resource points indicates how much regular support the character's vehicle receives from a larger military. This may be a little high or low for the vehicle actually assigned.

Transform [Vehicle]: Transformers gain their "resource" bonus only when transformed. The bonus applies not only to Individual Field tasks, but also to any tasks which are dependent on (or characteristic of) their vehicle type.

Transform [Gestalt]: All characters on the sheet combine into a single larger robot, which receives the "gestalt" bonus to strength-based tasks and to firepower.

[The way that these Individual Fields affect the character's supply situation is inspired by the way that a user called Monbvol uses the Vehicle Trait in the 3rd edition MechWarrior RPG.]

Monday, May 19, 2014

Character generation for MechWarrior, Transformers, or Star Trek (part 1)

Star Wars Tapestry

Multiple characters per player. The player has 10 points to divide between the Individual Fields of his characters; another 10 points to divide between the Shared Skills of his characters; another 10 for Background; another 10 for Resources. The points each character spreads across Individual Fields, Shared Skills, Background and Resources must combine to the same total as each other character. If four characters, then each character must total 10 points; if five characters, then each must total 8 points; if six characters, then four must total 7 points and the others must total 6 points.

Using "Falco" as an example:

Individual Fields describe a broad area of expertise. Central tasks (e.g., Gunnery, Piloting, Sensor Operation) are made as trained rolls with full skill bonus. Fringe tasks normally associated with other skills (paperwork, repairs) are made as trained rolls but without any skill bonus. Field tasks which somehow relate to the character's Shared Skill (e.g., firing a 'Mech weapon carried like a giant pistol) receive the Shared Skill bonus as an additional bonus.

Shared Skills are basic training common to every character on the sheet (e.g., all four characters "Drive" as a 2-point trained roll). They also indicate the strongest attributes of each individual character. Any untrained roll which relies on the same attributes as one of that individual's Shared Skills receives the Shared Skill's points as a bonus (e.g., Small Arms requires steady hands and good eyes, so "Falco" gets a 2-point bonus when catching a thrown object, which also relies on steady hands and good eyes).

Background skills represent the characters' upbringing, affiliations, hobbies, or other specialized fields of knowledge. Social class or geography/climate indicate familiarity with associated culture and survival skills; affiliation skills represent knowledge of culture, language, and specific social hierarchy. Ridiculous future sports, future pop media genres, and specialized careers (gastroenterology, archaeology) are background too.

Resources indicate the quality of equipment all characters receive for any Shared Skill any character has, and the quality of equipment individual characters receive for their own Individual Fields. (E.g., all four characters receive a 1 point medkit and 1 point survival kit; "Falco" alone receives a 4 point 'Mech.)

2 points of skill is equivalent to "Green" MechWarrior skill.
4 points of skill is equivalent to "Regular" MechWarrior skill.
6 points of skill is equivalent to "Veteran" MechWarrior skill.
8 points of skill is equivalent to "Elite" MechWarrior skill.

[Edit: "Advanced Field" and "Basic Skills" renamed to "Individual Fields" and "Shared Skills," respectively.]

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Apropos of Nothing

I have bunches of .txt files containing notes for writing an RPG, in the (increasingly hypothetical) event I should want to write an RPG. Those notes can be divided into certain broad categories. I wonder if the proportion of notes I have on each topic corresponds to the proportion of pages I would want an RPG book to devote to those topics. 

(Crunch week for me, so have some stream-of-consciousness.)

Monday, April 28, 2014

Instead of Vanilla 2d6

My work back here rolling "lower of two dice" made me wonder if I could emulate a 2d6 curve that way. " 7 + (lower of 2d8) -- (lower of 2d8) " turns out to be almost indistinguishable from a 2d6 curve! Were I actually using this die mechanic for something, I'd be tempted to have results of 0 and 14 "explode" with further "lower of 2d8" rolls.

Tabletop play seems to have a tension between providing interesting results (usually means increasing numbers of dice) vs. keeping record keeping reasonable (means keeping pip totals small). World of Darkness and Shadowrun solve this by rolling lots of dice and counting each die as a pip; Betrayal at House on the Hill is similar, in that its dice are numbered from 0 to 2. ...I guess my personal holy grail here would be a simple, manual die mechanic that'll produce a smooth 1/x curve.

2d6 is really easy to use on the tabletop. It does have some problems--cannot roll higher than 12 or lower than 2, "lucky" streaks are pretty common, and "unlikely" results may be more or less common than players think appropriate.

My first thought is that I can break "lucky" streaks by rolling lots of times and discounting all results until a given value has been discounted a certain number of times. (The quota for each value would be proportionate to the chance of rolling that value.) This would be terrible to execute manually but could work with a computerized die roller.

My second  thought is to replace 2d6 with 4d6 / 2. This makes middling results more likely and extreme results much less likely.

I'm not sure I'd want to use any of these as a straight replacement for 2d6 rolls in (say) BattleTech, but I think it might be interesting to designate individual pilots as cautious (4d6/2) or swingy (quotas).
(I'd like to eventually do my own computerization of BattleTech, and I have some thoughts on how I'd modify specific BattleTech mechanics, but that's not a project I can start soon.)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Time War

Somebody's collected all the Time War references from New Doctor Who.
(It wasn't super cafe, obviously.)

Would you believe I forgot how silly and melodramatic Doctor Who can be?
Peter Capaldi returns in autumn. No firm air dates though.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Dejarik Holochess

Such a gorgeous game! But phantasmic as well as phantasmagoric. Non-existence makes the heart grow fonder?

Dejarik Holochess box art
art by PJ McQuade

Thursday, January 2, 2014

What Do I Play?

Two irregular campaigns, both on break for the holidays. Not sure if/when they'll resume.

One is a New World of Darkness mish-mash with the same 5-7 players meeting biweekly. We blunder into lots of little evil plots which we always (mistakenly) dismiss as unrelated and unimportant. This lead naturally to my Frankenstein and friend's Wolfman getting themselves killed just before Thanksgiving.

Necromancers are behind everything in that game so I need to optimize my next character for hunting necromancers. I know little of Mage: The Ascension Awakening and would welcome suggestions.

The other is fantasy adventures in a West End Games D6-derivative. (I designed my character for big parties and he feels flat with small ones; I didn't expect him to survive so long. I know what kind of character I want next, though, so I think I'll just start tacking those skills and persona onto him.) This group happens anytime any 4-9 of about 15 people are in town. We play weekly when we're lucky, quarterly when we're not, and whoever has a quest idea gets to run that day's game.

I'm not active on any RPG forums or social media sites, so instead of actually discussing RPG design, for the last few years I've been finding good blogs to read through from beginning to end. Anything interesting gets either paraphrased into a .txt file or bookmarked, depending on its length and complexity:
Jeff's Gameblog had ~1.98 irreducible posts per month
RPGPundit had ~1.73 irreducible posts per month
LotFP had ~1.23 irreducible posts per month
Zak S has ~8.71 irreducible posts per month (I'm only up to May 2010)
Those four happen to focus on old D&D, which I haven't played. I have tried D&D3.X; it's a bit too fiddly for me, and I tend to forget modifiers. BRP Cthulhu I've played even less but like much more (I'm very curious to see how Raiders of R'lyeh turns out).

What I'd really like is to run or play in a MechWarrior campaign. Problem is there's no good way to step the level of detail up or down during combat. So instead I might try running a game of TRANSFORMERS CTHULHU. I originally envisioned the players as humans and the robots as Lovecraftian horrors, but prospective players all want to play as the robots. I can work with that. It puts all the action on the same scale as MechWarrior while being more flexible.