Monday, 30 January 2012

More future software

Going back to my future software ideas, here are a few more.

Streamers - entertainment software
These are the programs that compile the various entertainment suites of today. Watching documentaries, listening to talk radio, Uservid feeds (think Youtube), the latest fashion idol show. They all feed into the Streamer.
Using the scrobbler function of the Blackbook, and a basic Fetch, you could pull the content you want to hear to you. With a veto function, you could override what the program recommends if you think it's wrong. Pull in the soaps you want to watch, the boytoy band you love, veto the cooking show because you usually get takeout, veto the Uservid that your friend recommended but you hate. Subscribe and your scrobbler can drop related news into your feeds.

Manager - control software
This is the basic software that tells you what your bots are doing at any given time, especially useful if you have a more limited system. Would likely also include your system firewall, the permissions list for sharing across your various devices, and some form of antivirus.
If you have multiple in depth fetches running, this program would let you check in with them and their progress.

Irregular/semi-legal software
Chaff - the re-routers and additional firewalls often employed by hackers, but also by those who need extra security such as government employees and celebrities.
Hunter/killers - the angry antivirus bot in charge of following an intrusion on a firewall back to source, and in some cases neutralising with various viruses and trojans under its command. It's defensive counterpart would be a Cleaner, removing offensive or malicious software from the system it is in.

I was thinking about the depth of information accessible via the World Wide Mesh, and how IP addresses might change. I considered the idea of adding letters, both lower and upper case, but that seems unfair to people using Cyrillic or Chinese keyboards (although maybe we all would by then?).
Either way, extending an IP from a four part to a six or seven part makes sense. Home would now be or something.
Thoughts and comments, feel free to add anything too.

EDIT: IPv6, which I'd come across before and was nicely reminded of, covers this well.

Friday, 27 January 2012

New Year, New Dresden Files Campaign

It's the new year, so we began a new story arc in our Dresden Files characters' lives.

First up, the underhanded criminal duo, the Mortal and the Lycanthrope, have become fine upstanding businessmen, owning several nightclubs and bars. Although, they do of course have a side dealing in supplying places they don't own with narcotics of some form.
They headed to The Bar, what has become of the café bar from our previous adventures. With my Champion of Baltimore now a co-owner, they made him an offer he couldn't refuse. The Mortal returned a book on magic to the small library housed on the premises too.

The Apprentice of the possessed cuddly bunny has started to get frustrated that her master won't translate his 'Sumerian' text when she asks, and is drip-feeding her various pieces of magic. She's now a sorcerer, and would be on track to be a wizard if she weren't learning from a particularly nasty necromancer.
She headed to The Bar to get a borrow a new book on spirits.

A man with a terrible sense of fashion (shades in a dark room, black leather jacket, jet black hair with his blond roots showing) had appeared in The Bar to write a review for the local paper. He called himself Harry (too cool for a surname), and annoyed the Champion by repeatedly ordering craft beer not in stock.
After a short while, the Tanninomancer arrived and began an argument with the Apprentice over her evil lessons, and how she should have her head removed. Harry noticed the argument and made a note.
Hoping the review hadn't been affected, the Champion took a quick glance at the man's shorthand. It talked of an infestation of warlocks that had yet to be dealt with.
The Champion offered to get the man another drink, used the antique phone behind the bar and called his new business partners, ordering a couple of heavies to come over. They arrived just before the next beer was finished, and went to sit on either side of Harry.

Confronting him about the 'infestation', and asking exactly how it would be 'dealt with', Harry claimed to have seen a cockroach. Threatening to instigate a new dress code, regarding Harry's sunglasses, one of the heavies removed them. Harry closed his eyes up tightly, and on hearing the words 'lock the doors', he shortly had a fit and fell to the floor, foaming at the mouth. He had managed to secretly swallow a poisonous pill.

Whilst the bar was in a panic, the heavies moved Harry's body to a back room, and the police were called. They weren't happy that the body had been disturbed and moved, or that there were so many traces of different people. The heavies, both with long criminal records, had already fled, but would have to be called back. After all, they'd only been 'working' as bouncers at The Bar for a few days...

The Apprentice's master told her of a spell that might allow her to find out who Harry had been working for. Against his better judgement, the Champion was talked in to sneaking in to the morgue so she could perform her spell.
She managed well, but found out nothing more than Harry's feelings at the time of his death. Whilst the bunny cackled that the spell functioned exactly as it was supposed to, and the Champion realised it had been, if not black magic, then extremely morally grey. He seized the bunny and began to leave, threatening it with the incinerator.
The Apprentice got very angry, and began using her new powers to try and take back her master. Whilst causing her own ears to bleed and the ground to shake, she didn't manage much. The Champion, still angry at the necromancer (and since he had been Under the Doom for far too long because of the evil old spirit), pulled the stuffed toy apart as best he could and handed it back to the Apprentice. Another powerful spell sucked the Champion into the sidewalk, stuck in place whilst she hit him. And then she ran off into the night, promising to fix the stuffed rabbit as soon as she could, whilst the Champion had to shout back to the morgue and hope they didn't ask too many pressing questions about his feet being encased in solid concrete.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Sands of FATE development

Hello potential new readers.

My pseudo-Arabian Nights game is currently sitting in a folder on my desktop marked Sands of FATE. I'm not happy with the name, it's far too close to Strands of Fate, but it will do for now whilst I continue the development.

I've run a couple of playtest games with my Dresden Files group. We've managed to use the new skills I've had set up, and the mish-mash of powers taken from both Dresden Files and Legends of Anglerre, and then some more twiddling. I need to run some more social scenes to see how the powers fare.

Since running, I've decided to change how spells are cast by adding a second component - using Arcane or Elementalism to know what you're doing, and Resolve as the actual casting skill. That way, rolling really well might allow you to cast a spell well beyond your ability, but you'd take extra mental fatigue for it. Debating whether to add a skill like Tactics that would allow physical characters to come up with something similar despite not having a power or maneuver in their arsenal that would normally allow it.

I'm really pleased with the response to the system though. Everyone seems to like how the Jinn live and work, and how the world fits together. In play I've realised I've added in a whole third kind of sentient, so there's humanity, Jinn and the Peri, a sort of Persian spirit/faerie. I had them in, but had to expand them a bit more off the cuff. Now there's two kinds, and one of those is akin to a mermaid. I'll see if I need to diversify them further.
I was glad to see the FATE system worked so well in the setting too. Exactly what I'd hoped. Now if we can only sort out the customs and laws of the setting, I think we're on to something good. So far I've got indentured servitude as a punishment for some crimes, as a way of letting criminals see the error of their ways and make amends. A bit soft, but I didn't want the only punishments to be death and mutilation.
Unfortunately, I don't think the players have understood my terms, since our physician character has decided he has one as an assistant and isn't treating her too well. I think I can fix that if I remind him that the sign of a good man is how he treats others.

Oh, a roll call.
A wealthy physician who is attempting to inaugurate the field of psychology, he has talked about training indentured workers a trade in nursing to better themselves (however he is rather arrogant and treats his current servant little better than a slave in most respects).
A dao town guardsman who 'almost caught the infamous bandit the One Eyed Demon' once, whilst riding 'the horse of the old hero Panther'. During his ride, he saw a falling star. As luck would have it, 'he knew the finest blacksmith in the known world' and so 'had the metal of the fallen star made into a sword'. He's known for telling outlandish stories among the townsfolk. So far, all his outlandish tales are actually true. Knows some rudimentary earth magic.
A former adventurer known as Panther, now an old man and fisherman. He is known for his knowledge of coffee, and distant lands. He used to have a wildly fast horse with improbable stamina, said to be able to run from horizon to horizon. He recently won a wager by harnessing a giant fish to pull his boat.
A widowed caravan merchant, known for her ruthless business acumen. Sadly she was the second wife, but manages to keep the business afloat. She's recently hired a caravan guard who is rumoured to be the One Eyed Demon.
A janni caravan guard, capable of some moderate wind magic. He has only one eye, lost in a fight many years ago. Rumours abound that he is the bandit prince, the One Eyed Demon, although he's not as tall, his eyes don't glow, he has no horns or wild hair, he doesn't drink the blood of his enemies, and he looks after a young janni boy like a son. Sadly, he really is the One Eyed Demon, but has turned over a new leaf, and is attempting to find peace and prosperity.
An astronomer and arcanist, who lives in seclusion, but wanders into town to order odd pieces of equipment from the caravan. He teaches esoteric lessons to the children in town.

That's it for now. I should be running a social experiment involving the court of the Sultana of Mawjabad, the City of Waves. I'm looking forward to seeing how the rules and abilities hold up.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Computer-assisted living

I've been thinking about a futuristic setting recently, and specifically about the computer programs available within it. The setting comes from a series of novels, and they're told from the point of view of a deck jockey, a computer programmer, but he makes a point that most of his job is management of various programs that act on their own algorithmic agenda.
So I've been coming up with programs that would follow these different fits, based on what I think a character would want.

Aggies - aggregator bots.
A cross between a search engine and a RSS feed, you could keep them running at all times or send them out on a specific task. Examples would include:
Fetch, the basic searchbot. Would go out on request, crawl through the World Wide Mesh and collate what it found into a hyperlinked digest, similar to what we see on Wikipedia. Depending on the nature of the search query, and the nature of user/fetch, the data mined might appear immediately, or added to over time once various darknets are trawled, or even securities bypassed.
News, the basic feedbot. Would collate headlines from topics that the user has already inputted. Could collate data in a similar format to a news website or in a similar hyperlinked digest to Wikipedia. Would be programmed to pull from different sources, so an engineer or biologist could pull from journal publications, a glamour-bopping tween could pull from various celebrity magazines and so on.
Shopper, a feedbot that brings you the best deals on the products you want, groceries or tech. Would also have a fetch function.

Blackbooks - organiser bots.
The trend in online software suites makes me think this would be the natural extension of certain parts of Google's products, as well as Apple's Siri.
Would naturally include a calendar/organiser function, a contactbook for keeping phone/mail addresses (I don't think we're far from them being the same things, looking at Skype or Google Talk or Viber). Would collate emails for the user.
Would also likely have access to basic business or work software, so could produce documents or spreadsheets and so on.
Might include a scrobbler function, collating various pieces of data across different programs, so allows a news feed to update based on user location with local events, or a shopper bot to pick up on recent developments in tech that the user has been looking into via a fetch, or concert tickets for the latest boyband craze based on music preferences.

I'm currently working on others. Any ideas people think everyone would use in the future?

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Questionnaire from Zak Smith

Zak dropped a fun questionnaire over at D&D with Porn Stars, so thought I'd fill it in.

1. If you had to pick a single invention in a game you were most proud of what would it be?
In Vampire: The Masquerade, I once made the Storyteller scream with fear at the idea of a Setite with a magical pool of purification that would make his vampirism a curse instead of a blessing (using his penchant for corruption to corrupt a pool of corruption... if that makes sense).

2. When was the last time you GMed?
December, running a playtest of an Arabian Nights inspired FATE game.

3. When was the last time you played?
I spent today sort of playing, working on advancement for a city in Dresden Files. Otherwise, Friday 13th January in a one-shot Dresden Files adventure called Evil Acts.

4. Give us a one-sentence pitch for an adventure you haven't run but would like to.
Roman Empire D&D with the party encountering weird and wonderful monsters in either Persia or Northern Africa.

5. What do you do while you wait for players to do things?
Go over notes, listen to what they're talking about, prepare for my turn if I'm in combat.

6. What, if anything, do you eat while you play?
Pizza for preference, but usually more snack based cuisine.

7. Do you find GMing physically exhausting?
I can find it mentally exhausting. It depends how animated I get.

8. What was the last interesting (to you, anyway) thing you remember a PC you were running doing?
In the above mentioned oneshot, I had to make a decision between a roomful of people being killed with juju I didn't understand, or shooting my surrogate daughter (and probably following that with a nervous breakdown in the least).

9. Do your players take your serious setting and make it unserious? Vice versa? Neither?
If it's a serious setting, it's usually understood that any unseriousness should happen out of character. However, it depends on the group, how a particular session is going, and the energy in the room.

10. What do you do with goblins? Depends. I quite like replacing them with these brutes.

11. What was the last non-RPG thing you saw that you converted into game material (background, setting, trap, etc.)?
Arabian folklore from Wikipedia and a handful of other encyclopedias. Other than that, maybe Medieval European eating habits.

12. What's the funniest table moment you can remember right now?
Having the rest of the Cyberpunk group looking dumbfounded when, after their goading that I should enact my secret plan, having it turn out to be a full-scale attack on a school for psionic children, whilst one of the other player characters was inside.

13. What was the last game book you looked at--aside from things you referenced in a game--why were you looking at it?
Synapse by Greg Christopher. Giving it a proper read through to decide if it would make a suitable system for my currently brewing sci-fi idea.

14. Who's your idea of the perfect RPG illustrator?
If I see a picture that makes me say 'Wow' every time I see it.

15. Does your game ever make your players genuinely afraid?
I don't tend to get too terrifying. Maybe if a TPK is looking likely.

16. What was the best time you ever had running an adventure you didn't write? (If ever)
I don't often run them. I've run the adventure in the back of Legend of the Five Rings 1st edition plenty of times, and it's always fun to see how different groups do different things.

17. What would be the ideal physical set up to run a game in?
A decently sized roundtable that fits between five and six players happily, with space for dice, books, sheets of paper and pizza.

18. If you had to think of the two most disparate games or game products that you like what would they be?
Mechanically, Feng Shui and the Alternity. The former rolls 2d6, subtracts lowest from highest and adds modifiers. I understood that straight away. The latter involves all kinds of different dice and confused me on the core mechanic the first few times I read it.

19. If you had to think of the most disparate influences overall on your game, what would they be?
Probably creative writing workshops/assessment in university and general historical interest/interest in breakthroughs in technology. Though that last one is a bit more genre specific.

20. As a GM, what kind of player do you want at your table?
One who pays attention, enjoys themselves, and makes the game fun for everyone involved.

21. What's a real life experience you've translated into game terms?
Probably just various social situations in bars, although I've known a few historical reenactment people so I've gotten to see how swords actually feel in your hand. Archery during scouts maybe?

22. Is there an RPG product that you wish existed but doesn't?
A few, but I'd prefer to develop them myself. Hardware-wise, perhaps a cheap tablet that's perfect for reading pdf rulebooks on.

23. Is there anyone you know who you talk about RPGs with who doesn't play? How do those conversations go?
I've had people fall asleep when I've been talking about it. That's perfectly fine, right?

EDIT: Zak's now asked why your significant other doesn't play too. Well, I've had an S.O. that did, but currently don't. The reasons I've heard tend to follow the lines of 'playing make believe is a little immature', although 'it's all very complicated' has come up too I'm sure.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Further 12-sided Ramblings

I've been mulling over a d12 based system for a little while now, and I have the dice mechanic more or less worked out. My only big thing now is rolling doubles.

System so far is thus: roll 2d12, subtract the lowest from the highest, and add a skill value between 0 and 3. Compare that to a target number.
At first I thought rolling double 1 and double 12 would do something special, either bad or good, but then I thought about the poor numbers in the middle, and wanted to give them something to hope for.

The current idea buzzing around my head is have them play out for the 4 seasons. Only problem now is working out the spread. Do I have 1-3, 4-6 and so on, or 1 4 7 10 and 2 5 8 11 and so on as sets. I don't want to make it too complicated, but I don't really want to involve other dice like a d4 at all.
Avoiding complication is why I'm trying to avoid each double doing a different thing, but I don't want it oversimplified with odds and evens or 1-6 and 7-12 (although I may give up and simplify to Summer and Winter if I have to).

Any feedback much appreciated.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Wrapping up the Dresden Files from before the winter break

Ok, so I've gotten a little lax with posting this past little while. Blame a whole slew of things, but mostly Skyrim. It's been far too long to write a detailed account of what exactly happened, but I can detail it with some obvious highlights.

The Mexican got a lot closer to the horrorific wildfae Bill the Babykiller. He managed to kidnap a police officer, who was tortured and flayed, and possibly made into a bed of some kind, which the Mexican was fine to sleep in. His home became the Nevernever, specifically Bill's little glade of nasty. At one point, looking at him in the Sight, he was seen carrying a dead baby. He managed to accidentally kill some children at an ICU at a hospital because of his magic hexing the technology keeping them alive. This was enough for Bill to give him some formed of Sponsorship...

The Ectomancer was able to bind the ghost of a ancient wizard (a necromancer we took to calling Sir Rothbert of Bainbridge, because why not?) Sadly, she bound him to a cuddly toy bunny rabbit. She was paid a large sum of money to introduce the bunny rabbit to Walter, which obviously did not end up in our best interests.

The Mexican was shot and beaten inside a Church by the Mortal and Lycanthrope. It being a full moon (we had been keeping track), the Lycanthrope more or less melded the Mexican's face with the floor. His player immediately drew up a new character, who I shall be calling the Tanninomancer (all her powers came from tea).

Other than witness the death of the Mexican, the Priest only really managed to get drunk with Clint the Ferromancer. He briefly met the rest of the Baltimore 'God Squad', but didn't understand why a Catholic priest was actively working with a Rabbi and an Imam.

My Cryomancer got himself a cold iron gauntlet from Clint. He then managed to get an athamé dagger made out of the stuff too. The Ectomancer had Clint craft full armour for her from the stuff.

The Warden was found shot through the head outside the bar. His cloak, sword and staff were collected by another Warden a few hours later. My Cryomancer had by this time taken any other items from about his person.

The Ectomancer was being schooled in basics of magic by Bunnybridge (see why he might have turned against us?) He also kept trying to get her to read his book (the same book which was responsible for the Doom hanging over the Cryomancer). The Mortal did find an original copy of Bunnybridge's book on Craigslist, but touching it caused uncontrollable fear and he shot it several times (the pages have subsequently healed. They are made of skin after all...) The Ectomancer's soul in the Sight is starting to show signs of tentacles...

The Lycanthrope and Mortal stole a boat. They had their faces changed several times, notably the Mortal wandered around looking like the Warden briefly, before they became Jake and Elwood Blues. The Mortal's magic grandfather, an old Indian medicine man, did not approve of his 'wearing the white devil's skin'. Somehow, they've managed to retain the boat by moving it to a swimming pool (that Lycanthrope is very strong).

Walter invited all the magic practitioners in town to a little meeting, gave the standard 'join me or die' speech, then detonated several devices across the city, causing havoc. It became apparent that Walter and the Blight were co-existing because in the Sight, he was two people.

After spending time working on a ritual, my Cryomancer managed to speak to a leyline. This wasn't a good idea, since he then managed to form a pact with the biggest leyline in town, and barely came out of the deal retaining his humanity.

Walter was summarily defeated with several gunshots, wild punches from a very angry Lycanthrope, and an eventual punt of the box containing the Blight spirit into the Nevernever.

The Mortal is currently reading some basic magical textbooks. He is enjoying them much more than Bunnybridge's book, since they don't scare him when he touches them, and they're made of paper.
The Mortal and the Lycanthrope have taken over the reins of Walter's gang. We'll see how well that works out for the 'shoot first, ask questions later' duo.
The Cryomancer is now upgraded, and since he's now labeled as the White Champion of Baltimore (powered by the leylines of the city), I'll refer to him in future posts as the White Champion. I suspect the GM may introduce a Black Champion after I suggested that such a thing could exist.
The Ectomancer is now known as Bainbridge's Apprentice, so I might refer to her as the Apprentice. There's nothing scary and forboding and Star Wars-y about that, after all...

And that's about it I think. I'm sure people will find things to add that I've forgotten.
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