Thursday, November 26, 2009

Let me print it

Here's a gripe I have with pdfs. I don't mind they can't be edited, that's fine and while i like to be able to copy and paste turning that feature off is okay but when I can't print the pdf because printing is disabled I'm not going to buy the product.
If it's a pdf preview of a print only title, that makes some sense but it had best be free or almost free if that is the case. If it's a pdf only title it's never going to be purchased by me if the print option is turned off. I like to use my gaming materials at the game table and don't fiddle with electronics there. I also love the ability to scribble the heck all over a printed pdf, I've actually bought pdfs of print books I have so I can in fact scribble all over them as I play and not ruin the nice bound original copy. But no printing , no scribbling, no printing no use at the table top and if I'm not going to be able to use it at the table top I'm not going to buy it.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

First session in the Mutant Box

We had our first session in my MutantBox campaign last night. It was fun.
The Characters:

Fluffy- A 17' long mutant wolverine. Weather Control, Increased Balance, Gigantism
Carhoo- A bearman. Negative Empathy, Phantasmal Damage, Accumulated Resistance (kinetic),Ancestral Form, Toxic weapon (Gas cloud), Phantasm Generation
Bay Aluminum- Basic android, combat model, look droidish. Night Vision, Thermal Vision, Optic Emissions (gamma eyes)
Enkay- female mutant human, Bizzare Appearance (glows, even in daylight), Intellectual Affinity (Tinkerer), Increased physical Attribute(Dexterity)
Craniax- Mastermind. Pain Sensitivity, Quick mind, Control Light Waves, Damage Turning
Gevin- wolfman. Forcs Screen(greater), Plane shift, Ancestral Form, Increased Balance.

I decided to pass on using the hex map and simply use the rough sketch-map instead, it has more character.

The players started with a simple goal, scrape up enough loot to get themselves some armor, Fluffy needs some barding.

They left Freshpond quickly leaving the safety provided by Lookout Hill to travel along the southwest border of The Cinders before they were inevitably drawn to the lure of 175th street.
They discovered the northern route into 175th st was mountains of debris, ancient garbage and useless junk. In the maze of junk they were jumped by a rabid wolf-rat (no one got contaminated) and were ambushed by a potential ally. They managed to claim a damaged laser, two sensor device, an energy grenade and an auto-grapnel after the ambush.

Moving down into 175th st past the mountains of garbage they discovered 175th st to be everything they were told a spooky surprisingly intact stretch of city that was less and less battered as they traveled in towards it's center. They were walking down the mostly clean and broad avenue when they came across a line of old worn sneakers in a crosswalk just laying there as if people had been wearing them walking across the street. Bay Aluminum spotted a sniper looking at the party and they fled to a nearby alley and began to sneak towards the sniper, a while afterward they heard a scream.
Investigating the scream the party found a lair of blood sucking mutants dwelling in the lobby of an ancient hospital. The party took a slight beating against the blood suckers and their pets but the fight was quick. They gathered up the blood suckers feeble loot and are getting ready to explore the hospital.The grenade was used by Craniax to save him from a flock of red roosters but the party found some coin and a couple of medical devices as reward.

I incorporated two dangerous encounters from The Savage After World
I'll leave them up to folks to search out and read there if they wish as I don't want to give more away then I may have above for those fun and enjoyable encounters.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

You got a problem with that Gorethon?

I know it's old news to many, but I liked the D&D segments from Freaks & Geeks, probably one of the few genuine treatments of D&D that was ever broadcast on television:

Importance of Resources in the MutantBox

"Resources" - food, ammo and the cheap treasures. What they are, where they are and how can the PCs get their grubby hands, claws and tentacles on them?

For sandbox play I feel it's important for resources to be scattered about, each town should not have a general store that supplies most adventuring needs. Enforcing travel, risk and contact with NPCs keeps the campaign busy.

Start cheap. I'm all for limiting the amount of starting equipment available. It supports the scavenging/scrounging limited stuff model of post apocalyptic adventure and gives the players early and clear goals. You want to see a motivated player?: have all but the lowest grade of armors be too expensive for initial purchase.

Food. Lot's of folks gloss over this to some degree, food is heavy, takes time to prepare, is sought after by everything else that eats and it goes bad too. A case of cup-o-noodle is a pretty good haul for a post apocalypse scavenger, ready-to-eat and self-heats are even higher value hauls. I like to keep track of food in "meals" and track the use of these meals. Put a random encounter chance on eating/preparing different foods and what rations the players pack becomes more important then scribbling "Iron Rations 1 Week" on a sheet. Another trick I favor but use nowhere near as often as I like is putting food going bad and other food related events on random encounter/event tables; it can sound minor but in campaigns where it matters "bread grows mold" is a fairly notable occurrence and will bother penny pinching players more then 20 mutant tribesmen would.
Freshpond is the place to go for fresh food but that requires one to avoid offending the locals and dealing with an active militia force.

Water. Three days without water and you are probably dead. People need a surprising amount of water to stay healthy and active. Less then a quart a day is almost as bad as no water. Most adventurers are going to need 2 quarts or more a day, even more if they have mounts.
I've got a lot of water sources on my mutantbox map, deciding where to collect it is something the players are going to have to learn. Would you drink water from a pool in the tar-pit? Is it safe to drink out of the centuries old cistern? Can you drink acid rain (you know that really dangerous RPG acid rain)?

Ammo. Sure you got a bow, crossbow, musket or SMG but just where does one get ammunition?
The presence, manufacture and availability of ammo can play a biggie on choice of tactics and influence where and how far the PCs will wander.
Spillside is the place to go in my MutantBox if one is looking for blackpowder, this requires travel, dealing with wily merchants and dangerous gangs of toughs to get a large and economic supply.

Wild Goods. The goods of the wild wastelands and all they offer will certainly keep players busy and on the move searching out supplies. Some mutant powers could carry over to the hides or other goods scavenged from the remains of mutant kills; surely leather armor made from the hide of a gamma sloth has more going for it then then that made from some three horned cows.
The mutant berries I've posted in my blog are a resource to be sought out with some recognized value, some of them require processing and these secrets require PCs to learn them from NPCs.

Recreational Consumables. Drink, smoke and stupider ways to abuse ones own body for entertainment have been popular since the birth of civilization (I once read that bread was invented as a mobile beer kit instead of as a food source itself at first). These make great bargaining devices, moderately portable treasures and some players just can't be kept away once they discover they are available. Who makes them, where they are stashed and how much you can score the goods are again a reason to keep the PCs moving and involved with NPCs.

To keep resources important have NPCs treat them like they are important. The old RPG hooks of monster X is threatenign the village, the caravan needs guards and we need macguffin X from village Y but no one has come from there in a while all require resources someone in the campaign cares about. If that someone who cares is the players then the campaign can acquire a life of it's own.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Time Marches On

Just spent the weekend in a Inn/resort in New York full of family fun and relaxation. While there one can't help but notice the march of time.

My extended family has been going there once a year for over a dozen years now and while much is familiar seeing a place once a year shows time. The working farm that was once part of the inn has declined to garden plots for the family that lives there. The new tree-house built by the young teenager who lived there is long abandoned and a little decrepit, it's builder now a college graduate living states away with his wife and children.

Further afield and the old saw mill on the property which was once falling to shambles has new metal shutters and has seen repair and re-purposing as a storage facility. Not far from there along hidden by and overhang by a small water fall you can still see the slightly stylized carving in the rock face of the inn as it existed in the late 19th century, if the nearby waters don't wear it away that otherwise sheltered carving could outlast the inn.

There is an old gazebo now blocked with a warning sign that has had the names of youths and lovers carved in it for over 70 years , Ive done so twice myself, it probably will not be standing much longer.

A covered bridge stretched over the previously mentioned waterfall and a few hundred yards upstream there is was another wooden bridge that I once walked on (careful) that is now gone and the fading trails that led to it are barely visible. Further away across the property is another broad stream where one can find the decrepit stone footings of a bridge built over a century ago, nothing remains of the wood that once spanned the water there and no clear trail leads to it. If one wanders out from the stone remnants of that bridge a nearby hill has a gentle incline that slowly reveals an old road that climbs along a ridge that stretched away along a local river, a road to some center that people have built new routes to over time or simply forgotten.

The inn itself , revealed by photos on it's walls, has grown from little more then a house with a kitchen attached to a sprawling building an other outlying buildings with several dozen rooms. No one who vacationed there before the civil war would be able to recognize the place today but to a modern eye the place looks old and quaint.

There are many little secrets on those grounds, old foundations, long over grown farm plots outlined by stone walls, soot smudges in little caves along the brooks that are decades old.

It's one place a charming country Inn and the march of time can be seen all over. How much more would there around a thousand year old temple or "lost" city?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Trial Hex Map

I whipped up a trial hex map for my MutantBox setting using the free version of Hexographer. I screwed up the horizontal dimension a bit so east-west isn't as large as it should be; I counted hexes east/west instead of carefully figuring out the distance conversion to hexes when measuring from the original map. I'm figuring on 1 mile hexes as I want things to all feel local. I'll have to come up with shorter then one day long outdoor turns considering the map scale.
There are no labels on this lo-res sample map just in case one of my players checks out the blog.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

PCs for the MutantBox

Tonight we put our regular D&D game on hiatus and rolled up characters for the MutantBox.

A quick overview of the characters (I'm sure I missed something):

A 17' foot long wolverine (thanks to giantism) with weather manipulation
A Basic Android that is obviously a mechanical man with thermal vision, night vision and optic emissions (radiation)
A bipedal albino wolf with a force field, increased balance, planar shift and ancestral form.
A bipedal bear with pain sensitivity, phantasm generation, kinetic resistance, negative empathy and a toxic gas weapon.
A Mastermind with light manipulation,damage reflection, phantasmal damage

I've started everyone poor with 3d6+18 U.P. (I'm using my alternate wasteland coinage)
We are using a slightly expanded price list that incorporates some of the extra equipment and weapons I've posted here on this blog.

We have two other players joining us who haven't rolled up characters yet.

I gave the players a look at the sketched map and explained a couple of the features to them.
We'll be starting in Fresh Pond.

Monday, November 9, 2009

To Hex or Not to Hex?

So I find myself wondering, should I use hexes in my MutantBox ?

Hexes make lots of sense for wargames when you have two players competing over large areas and regulating movement to be as fast as possible without having to fall back on using rulers to measure distance.

Directions with hexes aren't very organic, depending on alignment of the hexes relative to north and south you have: North, Northeast, Southeast, South, Southwest and North West or East, Northeast, Southeast, West, Southwest and North West; in both cases you are losing a cardinal direction.

Hexes work when numbered for placing of encounters and features but again it's a short hand and not absolutely ideal. Dots (or other symbols) on an un-ruled map with an index code would function just fine and some features could be less then a hex apart from each other. A numbered grid would also work just fine, it's also pretty easy to use coordinates listed om the map edge with a grid and not fill a map with numbers as one often sees with hex maps that are so keyed.

Hexes for regulating movement seems nice and simple and is if one doesn't worry too much. movement is usually factored for the hex being entered (if moving into a mountain hex yuo pay the cost for the mountain terrain to enter that hex) but it doesn't consider how far one enters the hex or how easy it is to get from one hex to the other. Possibly figuring out the cost to cross the border from one hex to another based on the nature of each hex is the way to go?

Subdivingor reducing hexes for smaller scale details can be a pain. Often detail scale hex maps align 90 degrees to the larger scale hex map they are detailing, I find this annoying in the extreme. Also if one has a 24 mile hex (for example) is it measuring from center to center, edge to edge or point to point, it doesn't' matter too much on the large scale but when zooming in for a smaller scale detail map it makes a difference.

So hmmmm... to hex or not to hex, that is the question?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Civilization Among the Ruins

There are a couple bastions of "civilization" in the MutantBox I'm brewing.

FreshPond and Lookout Hill- A Small Township composed of two villages, the agrarian village that rests mostly along the western side of Fresh pond and the remainder on the nearby fortification of Lookout Hill.
Fresh Pond is mostly Agrarian with communal and individual farm plots spreading about the pond and towards the Merry Gloom River. People tend to live clusterd in the village proper with only those farm plots nearest to the center of the territory occupied at night in small farmhouses.
Look Out Hill is at it's core an ancient structure that has been reinforced, expanded and fortified over the years. The population of Lookout Hill serves as the local militia as of late with members drawn from among the general population of Fresh Pond with about 100 militia composed of a handful of officers and lifers but mostly 4-year men who serve before gaining the right to farm nearby. Lookout Hill provides a good view of all the farms of Fresh Pond and notable incursions can be quickly spotted and reacted to; the fortification also provides a goodly view of The Cinders, The Shells and the somewhat ominous towers of 175 street.
Current rule is by "The Coop" a Cooperative of established elder farmers and three senior officers from Lookout Hill.
population: 1,200 mixed (30% Pure Human, 50% Mutant Human, 20% Mutant Animal)
goods: food,cloth, some alcohol, beasts of burden and leather goods

Spillside- Once a growing concern this center of rubble scavengers and chemical distillers has shrunk in recent years due to incompetent leadership and rampant crime. The community still holds together by inertia waiting to utterly fail or for new leadership to guide it along a new path.
Current rule is divided among merchants and gangs, no one has dared to call themselves mayor for 3 or 4 years.
Population: 500 mixed (mostly Mutant Human with a few resident Mutant Plants)
Goods: Alcohol, Black Powder, Junk and numerous Chemicals.

Bay Town- Nestled among the half sunken ancient structures of Black Bay is this growing religious community permits outsiders to travel and fish in the waters but not to go treasure hunting above or below the waves in it's territory. The Sea Temple is run by approximately 40 priests known as The Acolytes. Androids, cyborgs and Robots are "deactivated" and stored beneath the waves.
Current rule is divided between The Commodore and The Acolytes.
Population: 800 (40% pure human , 55% mutant human, 5% mutant animals)
Goods: Salvaged metals (seldom irradiated), newly forged weapons and armor, seafood, pearls and the best boats in the area.