Monthly Archives: January 2012

The Weekly Assembly: Murmurs From DDXP

The D&D Experience (DDXP) happened in Indiana this past weekend, and people blogged about it. We’ve got some of the links here and on the D&D Next links page in our wiki. Please let us know if we missed something juicy.

Enjoy!

At Home

Articles posted here on The Gamer Assembly.

  • January’s theme at The Gamer Assembly is The Beginning of the End, in honor of the end of the Mayan calendar cycle.
  • Check out 3 Generations After the End, aka 3GATE, our system-independent post-apocalyptic setting which we’re developing this month.
  • 3GATE: Entry Gate Pamphlet by T.W.Wombat lets us read the marketing blurb for Greybar City that’s handed out to every visitor passing through the gate under the watchful eyes of the robotic guards.

Away

Content from people involved with The Gamer Assembly posted elsewhere across the Internet.

  • The State of the Nations by Chris Jackson presents part three of his Swords and Wizardry campaign world, Secaelia, this time discussing the conditions of everyday life within the two nations.
  • The Demi-Human Races by Chris Jackson presents part four of his Swords and Wizardry campaign world, Secaelia, describing the demi-human races and humanity’s opinions of them.
  • Wizards by Chris Jackson presents part five of his Swords and Wizardry campaign world, Secaelia, this time outlining the worst everyday threat to the residents of the two empires: Wizards.

Notes From Abroad

Other interesting articles and cool links.

Wizards of the Coast went public with their announcement about the next edition of D&D on Monday 09 January 2012. We’re collecting D&D Next links in our wiki. If we’ve missed any good ones that you’ve read, feel free to let us know in the comments or join us in the chat.

  • Busted Game Theory by Kris Hansen points out that popular games tend to be imperfectly balanced, and perhaps that explains the problems folks have with systems like D&D 4E.
  • How RPG Rules Work by Vincent over at Lumpley Games shows the interactions between fiction, players, and realspace “cues” in handy graphical form. Read all the comments for gems like, “The goal of designing rules is to change social contract.”
  • Welcome to Kepler-22B attempts to crowdsource a newly-discovered world right next door to Earth and fill it full of science fiction RPG locations and encouters. Grab your sector now!

MetaRoundup

A roundup of roundups featuring links of interest to the tabletop RPG community.
Please let us know about other weekly roundups in the comments!

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3 Generations After The End: View From The Bottom Of Greybar City

The following text was found encrypted with ROT13, hidden in a file tagged “Corrupt Image File”. It has the latest date of the 317 files in the directory, each containing a similar block of hidden and encrypted text.

It’s all coming to a head. I can feel it. It’s only a matter of time before the Keepers switch from masters to slaves, and now it’s closer than ever. I know the Free Data Movement take a look at any new file that comes online. I only hope they’re bright enough to find and read this. I used some skills from the pre-disaster days when I was a total digit head so I could hide my journal, but I kept it simple. When the Keepers didn’t haul me in for treason, I figured they missed these files. Corrupt data is pretty common and there’s no sense scrutinizing every little thing, is there?

I’m an old man who wants to set the record straight about Greybar City before I shuffle off or they take me to Cybernetics to put my brain in one of the Pax bodies.

Let’s talk about life in the big city. The Keepers run everything. They control the entertainment, the food, the medical establishment, access to the data cached from when there was an Internet that they’ve been bastardizing, and all high-tech development. The rest of us go on like sheep, serving our role as proletariat laborers. If one of us gets a great idea, we’re asked to join the Keepers. But here’s the thing: If you join them, that’ll be the last original idea you have. I don’t know what they do for the initiation ceremony or what they cut out of your brain when they attach that infernal metal box to the back of your head, but Keepers are convinced that all the answers already exist online if only they’re diligent enough to find them. Like Internet data came from the heavens to enlighten the world, but only the Keepers have the implanted interface to truly appreciate the scope of the data.

And yet they don’t bother looking at subversive messages hiding in corrupt image files.

I dodged a bullet when they asked me to join. I came up with an idea, but I convinced them it wasn’t me. They tapped a friend of mine, and when I saw him the next year he remembered me. He said he was happy, but he was completely different. He didn’t even think the same way any more. He asked me to join, and I just couldn’t. I like the way I think. So I resolved to keep my head down and do what was required in as unremarkable a way as I could manage. And that’s when I discovered the Free Data Movement.

I worked in the Food Mines for years. The Keepers maintain two sub-levels of hydroponic gardens and livestock genetics labs under the city. The vat-grown flesh experiments turn my stomach, but that’s the tasty meat that keeps the city fed and docile. I swore it off after I saw how it was made. There are more sub-levels under those two, and I saw a guy with a yellow star who looked like he owned the place coming out of an access stairway right behind one of the Pax one time. The Keepers don’t have the manpower to develop and use the lower levels, which is why they’re so keen on recruiting new citizens. They send Pax patrols down there to make sure nobody has moved in. I learned that the Free Data Movement can somehow control the Pax, so it makes an ideal base of operations for them. There are plenty of secret entrances and no other humans go down there.

The Pax are the Keepers’ hole card, an army of perfected robot soldiers who obey without question or hesitation. People say the Pax are built from people, but that’s just rumor. Every once in a while some of them seem to recognize something and act strangely, so maybe that’s not far off. The Keepers read about Nuclear Deterrence, and they’ve been using that doctrine for the past 60 years to hold the wolves at bay outside the city walls. Combat robots don’t feel pain. They’re pinpoint accurate, and their pulse lasers recharge to full given time. But usually one well-placed shot from a click away tends to end fights before they begin. Once in a while a Wizard gets uppity and takes one out before he falls, but that’s been rare. The Keepers trusted the Pax so much that they turned over all security responsibilites to the Pax. Now they can concentrate on finding the truth at the bottom of the pile of data in their heads.

The Free Data Movement hacked the Keepers’ interface a while ago. They’re listening in on everything the Keepers do. I’m not sure if they hacked the Pax or if they just worked out a deal somehow, but I’ve never seen a Pax attack a member of the Movement. According to the subversive propaganda that sometimes interrupts the entertainment shows, new data comes in at random intervals. It looks like there’s some sort of intermittent connection to other sites in other cities. The Keepers think it’s The Word Of God, so they’re overjoyed when new data comes in. The Movement is more pragmatic. They learned about computers the same way I did – hacking and experimentation. I think they’ve got the right idea, but they have no idea how to run a government. They’re specialists, not leaders or even team players. So they’re great for throwing monkey wrenches around, but I fear they’ll take over and the whole city will come crumbling down.

Not that the Keepers are too far off from total meltdown either. It’s a hard world now. The Pax keeps the raiders at bay, but the infrastructure itself is threatening to implode. Gathering genetic material from banished citizens is mostly for show now since they don’t have a working genetic scanner any more. Recycling Is Mandatory, but that only gets us so far. We still need new things to fill the holes left be raids and theft and the passage of time. The Keepers have been ranging farther and farther afield, desperately searching for more technology they can salvage to keep their machines running. I hear they’ve left the valley a couple of times, but they keep absolutely clear of the forests. All their defensive and curative gadgets and they’re afraid of goblins in the woods. Maybe their dogma makes them believe in the Tooth Fairy too.

Food production is always a tricky thing. They’ve tried to move some of the fields outside, but the Pax couldn’t stop the sheer number of raiders in an unfortified field. We lost a field’s worth of seed cord that year and more than a few good people. We’ve got enough for now, and the synthesized spices can make feces taste gourmet, but who knows how long until one of the experiments takes out a whole field. Nobody thinks about the risks involved in what we’re doing every day just to survive.

And that’s my big problem with the Keepers and the Syrinx Corporation they represent. Everybody listens sympathetically, and everybody wants a better place to call home. Some people have great ideas, but once the Keepers give you the implant you start navel-gazing and sifting through data looking for the secret of life. Data acts like a narcotic, and when it’s in your head all the time nothing else matters quite as much. The Keepers get a non-stop information buffet to keep them complacent. The Keepers in turn provide a constant stream of bread and circuses for the masses, and the people stuff their mouths too full to question their self-appointed leaders. So who’s at the top reaping the fruits of this docile society?

If the Keepers and the Free Data Movement ever decided to listen to each other, Greybar City would actually become the beacon of hope in a dark world that the brochures want you to believe. We’d be able to use the Keepers’ archived data as a starting point for innovation instead of an ending point of religious intolerance. We could reinvent the world and get humanity connected again. We could all pull together toward a better life for our children and their children. But I doubt that will ever happen. The Movement wants a say, and the Keepers only hear the data from before the cataclysm echoing in their heads. The Movement keeps grabbing for attention through thievery and vandalism, while the Keepers fight back the chaos without ever analyzing what the city really needs. Both sides butt heads because they always have. And that stupidity will get us all killed one day.

So welcome to Greybar City. It’s crappy, but it’s a far sight better that your alternatives.

Good luck out there.

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3 Generations After The End: Entry Gate Pamphlet

Welcome to Greybar City!

We hope you enjoy your visit to our fair community.

Feel free to ask a keeper if you have any questions about reconstructing a vibrant, advanced, and safe society in these modern times.

Enjoy comfort and convenience!

All aspects of daily life in Greybar City have been designed with your comfort in mind. Any injuries or diseases will be treated as soon as you arrive, and you’ll be back on your feet in no time. Don’t miss our nightly shows in the Central Aud, running the gamut from ancient-style live theatrical performance, to massive trideo shows, to stadium-style music concerts. Our chefs use the freshest ingredients to make you the best meals in the world today. Every guest room has a terminal to explore the vast wealth of information stored on our network, individual environmental controls, a private bath with hot water, and convenient waste reclamation receptacles. Use our communications grid to contact people across town without leaving the comfort of your room. Trideo conferencing is available, as is immersive private entertainment.

If you take the Oath and join our city, all of this can be yours every day. Your Personal Star Pass will be upgraded from Red to Yellow and you’ll accrue credits in our centralized system which can be cashed in for some great rewards, so leave the uncertain barter system at the gate. If you’re interested in becoming a member of Greybar City, please ask any Keeper wearing a Blinking Blue Personal Star Pass.

Please be courteous and follow our simple rules.

Our rules are simple and meant to provide the maximum comfort for all citizens and visitors.

  1. Your Personal Star Pass Must Be Worn At All Times. We cannot protect you if we don’t know your location or status. Your Star is fitted with a communicator and personal life signs scanner. If you travel more than three paces from your Star, a team will be dispatched to determine if you’re in danger and help you out of whatever situation you’re in.
  2. Recycling Is Mandatory. With a lack of raw materials, we strive to reuse and recycle everything. Please use the convenient waste reclamation receptacles scattered throughout the city, marked with a green triangle.
  3. Respect Boundaries. Your Star will warn you if you stray into a restricted area. Greybar City runs on very large machines which could hurt you if you get too close. Restricted areas exist to keep you safe.
  4. Obey All Keepers. If anyone with a Blue or White Star asks you to do something, they are speaking with the authority of the entire city behind them. Please comply with the Keeper’s request as quickly as possible for everyone’s safety and comfort.

Failure to follow these rules will result in a warning from a Keeper followed by immediate expulsion from Greybar City. Further infractions will be met with increasingly escalated responses.

Interested in moving to Greybar City?

We would love to be your new home. After taking the Oath of Citizenship and receiving your Yellow Star, you will be assigned a role in the city. New citizens are tested for aptitude and assigned to help the city in a manner appropriate to their skill set. Unskilled citizens will spend at least six months in Food Services while learning a new trade in the off hours.

We want you to be happy and healthy. We want you to be safe. We want you to unlock your full potential.

Enjoy your visit to Greybar City. We hope you come back soon.

(Produced by Greybar City Printing, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Syrinx Corporation.)

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The Weekly Assembly: Futuristic Fighting Edition

Welcome to another week of gamer-flavored linky goodness! As always, if you want to promote a link or make sure we don’t miss something in The Weekly Assembly, feel free to drop by and chat.

Now on with the linkitude!

At Home

Articles posted here on The Gamer Assembly.

  • January’s theme at The Gamer Assembly is The Beginning of the End, in honor of the end of the Mayan calendar cycle.
  • Check out 3 Generations After the End, aka 3GATE, our system-independent post-apocalyptic setting which we’re developing this month.
  • 3GATE: Enemies by Brent Newhall presents writeups for more intelligent and crafty bad guys to grapple with across the wastelands and behind fortified city walls.

Away

Content from people involved with The Gamer Assembly posted elsewhere across the Internet.

Notes From Abroad

Other interesting articles and cool links.
Wizards of the Coast went public with their announcement about the next edition of D&D on Monday 09 January 2012. We’re collecting D&D Next links in our wiki. If we’ve missed any good ones that you’ve read, feel free to let us know in the comments or join us in the chat.

  • Dungeon Bastard: Edition Wars (YouTube) sums up gamer tolerance by asking two questions: “Does this game have Dungeons? Does this game have Dragons? Great, then I want to play this game!” Also, a d6000 weighs 2.8 tons and looks like a Volkswagen with acne. Best 150 seconds I’ve spent this week.
  • While I was on YouTube I saw the sci-fi short Archetype (Youtube) by Aaron Sims. Great story, but 7 minutes isn’t long enough to explore this world of combat robots and the problems inherent in producing effective models.
  • Wizards is reprinting premium editions of AD&D core books. ‘Nuff said.
  • Gamer Resolutions by Tracy Hurley covers a smattering of what gamers are working toward in the new year with some suggested sites to help keep those resolutions.
  • Ashoka The Great over at Troll In The Corner gets the creative juices flowing with an example from history of a great leader who converted to a new religion. Ashoka is the first post in the “Reality Makes the Best Fantasy” series, a series of which I hope to see much more.

MetaRoundup

A roundup of roundups featuring links of interest to the tabletop RPG community.
Please let us know about other weekly roundups in the comments!

  • Weekly D&D (now defunct) curated by Mike Shea updates every Wednesday. It looks brand new, but it already has links to some great content, including D&D Next articles, a list of recently-published articles from the Wizards site, and a link to WotC’s Map-A-Week archive.

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3 Generations After The End: Enemies

This article is part of 3 Generations After The End, a post-apocalyptic setting suitable for any role-playing system.

Sure, any setting will have monsters, but what about the all-too-intelligent enemies you might face?

Bandits

'TCP Zombie 3' by Jeff Preston (CC-BY-3.0)

'TCP Zombie 3' by Jeff Preston (CC-BY-3.0)

Bandits cling together to get safety in numbers.

The most feared group of bandits in the Valley are those led by a mysterious, cloaked and masked man known only as Dreadnought.

Bandit
Level 1
D&D/Gamma
World 4E
Savage
Worlds
FATE Apoc.
World

Strength 13 (+1) d6 +0 0 Weird
Dexterity/Agility 17 (+3) d8 +1 1 Hard
Constitution/Vigor 13 (+1) d6 +0 0 Cool
Intelligence/Spirit 10 (+0) d6 +0 0 Sharp
Wisdom/Smarts/Will 10 (+0) d6 +0 0 Hot
Charisma/Per 10 (+0) d6 +0
Speed/Pace 6 6
Initiative +3
HP/Toughness/Health 24 [12] 6 5
AC/Parry 15 5 +1 1
♣ Sword (at-will) Attack
…damage
+6 vs. AC
1d10+3
d6+3 +1 3
♣ Sling (at-will) Attack
…damage
R20, +8 vs. AC
1d8+4
R12/24/48
2d6
+1 3
♥ Perception/Observation +5 d8 +1
D&D/Gamma World Fortitude 13 Reflex 14 Will 13
FATE Aspects Fanatical Devotion to Dreadnought (1)

Dreadnought, Bandit Captain

'TCP Scary 4' by Jeff Preston (CC-BY-3.0)

'TCP Scary 4' by Jeff Preston (CC-BY-3.0)

Little is known of Dreadnought. He’s a smart bandit leader, but is generally brutal and bloodthirsty in battle.

Dreadnought
Level 3
D&D/Gamma
World 4E
Savage
Worlds
FATE Apoc.
World

Strength 14 (+3) d8 +1 1 Weird
Dexterity/Agility 14 (+3) d8 +1 2 Hard
Constitution/Vigor 13 (+2) d8 +1 0 Cool
Intelligence/Spirit 11 (+1) d6 +0 0 Sharp
Wisdom/Smarts/Will 12 (+2) d8 +1 0 Hot
Charisma/Per 15 (+3) d10 +2
Speed/Pace 7 6
Initiative +9
HP/Toughness/Health 40 [20] 6 5
AC/Parry 17 5 +1 1
♣ Chainsaw (at-will) Attack
…damage
+8 vs. AC
2d8+3 phys & 5 ongoing
d8+3 +1 3
♣ Arm Cannon (at-will)
…damage
R20, +10 vs. Reflex
3d8+5 physical
R12/24/48
2d8
+1 3
♥ Perception/Observation +5 d8 +1
D&D/Gamma World Fortitude 14 Reflex 14 Will 16
Darkvision
Special Ability: Strange gaze: Dreadnought has line of sight on all creatures within 20 squares of him.
FATE Aspects Strange Speed (1)

Tomas the Warlord

'TCP Dwarf 3' by Jeff Preston (CC-BY-3.0)

'TCP Dwarf 3' by Jeff Preston (CC-BY-3.0)

Tomas united the people of his kingdom, Stronghold, with the promise of safety. He’s mostly made good on that promise, but life in Stronghold is hard.

Tomas sees the world in black and white terms: wizards are unnatural and should be killed.

Tomas
Level 8
D&D/Gamma
World 4E
Savage
Worlds
FATE Apoc.
World

Strength 17 (+3) d8 +0 0 Weird
Dexterity/Agility 9 (-1) d6 +1 2 Hard
Constitution/Vigor 13 (+1) d6 +0 0 Cool
Intelligence/Spirit 16 (+3) d8 +0 0 Sharp
Wisdom/Smarts/Will 10 (+0) d6 +2 1 Hot
Charisma/Per 18 (+4) d10 +0
Speed/Pace 6 5
Initiative +3
HP/Toughness/Health 95 [47] 10 9
AC/Parry 20 8 +3 4
♣ Sword (at-will)
…damage
+13 vs. AC
2d8+10 physical & prone
d8+3 +3 6
♣ Shotgun (at-will)
…damage
Ranged 5; +12 vs. Ref
3d6+8 phys.
R15/30
d8+5
+3 6
♣ Fear My Wrath +8 vs. Will 2d8 +3
…(encounter) All nearby enemies (5 squares) take damage:
…(damage) 2d8+5 fear 5
♥ Perception/ Observation +7 d8 +2
D&D/Gamma World Fortitude 21 Reflex 19 Will 21
Encounter Power: Extra Strength: As a free action, Tomas gains 20 temporary HP and makes a free sword attack.
Savage Worlds Special Ability: Extra Strength: At any time, once per fight, Tomas immediately stops being shaken and makes a sword attack.
FATE Aspects Fearsome Presence (2)

Shedra the Sorceress

'TCP Elf 2' by Jeff Preston (CC-BY-3.0)

'TCP Elf 2' by Jeff Preston (CC-BY-3.0)

Shedra is rarely seen, even inside her own domain of Sanctuary. She usually sends her priestesses to collect supplies for her strange rituals.

In persona, Shedra is calm and mysterious, always seeking her own ends.

Shedra the Witch
Level 12
D&D/Gamma
World 4E
Savage
Worlds
FATE Apoc.
World

Strength 18 (+4) d10 +3 2 Weird
Dexterity/Agility 18 (+4) d10 +3 0 Hard
Constitution/Vigor 15 (+2) d8 +1 0 Cool
Intelligence/Spirit 21 (+5) d12 +4 1 Sharp
Wisdom/Smarts/Will 19 (+4) d10 +3 3 Hot
Charisma/Per 21 (+5) d12 +4
Speed/Pace 6 5
Initiative +10
HP/Toughness/Health 400 [200] 17 14
AC/Parry 26 5 +4 7
♣ Beam (at-will) Attack
…damage
R20, +17 vs. AC
2d10 electricity
d8+3 +5 8
♣ Dazzle (at-will) Attack
…damage
+15 vs. Will
1d8+7 & dazed
2d8 +4 9
♣ Organ Twist (at-will)
…damage
R20, +15 vs. Fort
3d6+7 phys.
3d8 +4 10
♥ Perception/ Observation +10 d12 +4
D&D/Gamma World Fortitude 24 Reflex 24 Will 25
Regeneration 10
FATE Aspects Dazzling Powers (2), Cruel Streak (2)
Special Ability: Once per combat turn, remove a point of damage.

 

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3 Generations from the End: Technology is Magic

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” – Arthur C Clarke

Religion meetsTechnology by RinzeWind on Flickr

In most of the cities within the post-apocalyptic world of 3 Generations After the End (3GATE), the priests rule. These are very different men of the cloth than we see in our current time. These priests do not revere an unseen god or the words of prophets translated from ancient tomes and scrolls. Instead, they worship the remnants of a once great society, pulling words from PDFs of technical manuals on computer tablets.

In most fantasy tabletop games, a priest or cleric, is very different thing from our techno priests. In D&D, clerics are warriors of their god, able to wield divine magic to smite foes. It’s a very different style, and you have some choices to make as a group if you want to include these classes as an option for your players. By default, there is no divine magic in 3GATE. The apocalypse brought back the wizards and witches of old, but not the gods.

The easiest way to deal with divine magic is to ban it outright. That means no paladins, clerics, or oracles, at least not in the mechanical sense. Instead, these characters would take classes like engineer, artificer or alchemist. When they step into battle, no godly force intervenes more than the advanced technology that only they seem to be able to master.

In this way, a priest could appear very differently depending on the tech level of the city he hails from. I imagine something like Carl from Van Helsing, wearing simple brown robes, and then pulling out clockwork rifles, and numerous wondrous items created from astounding future tech repaired into new uses. On the opposite end, a priest from The Keepers of Syrinx might dress in a perfect suit, accessing databases remotely with nano-implants, and calling laser strikes down from satellites. Either style works, and there’s no reason why they can’t exist in the same campaign.

Which brings me to the other way to run things, and the point of the opening quote: Allow divine classes, but play all their abilities as the result of technology. A searing bolt spell is really a wrist laser. Healing with a Lay on Hands ability isn’t the work of the gods but advanced ointments or bio-repairing nanobots. Even a pillar of divine fire doesn’t need to come from the heavens but from a satellite, or a tossed vial of properly mixed chemicals. The priest might understand the technology he works with, or he may only know the ritual of it all and really believe it’s the work of the gods. The gods did, after, all give the priests the holy texts to tell them how to accomplish these miracles. Like any good technology, some people seem to be naturally gifted or have a calling. Then again, sometimes no matter what you do it just won’t work until someone breathes on it the right way. Sounds like the work of gods to me.

There’s no need to make it all one way or the other. Perhaps the re-fluffed divine characters only come from the more advanced cities, or represent those that are naturally gifted in understanding technology. They may be in the same party with another priest who is just as devout, but their technology equates to only to a few special items, and play a fighter mechanically. These differences can give depth to your world, as long as they retain links to each other. It shouldn’t look like whole different worlds happened to be next to each other for the sake of the adventure. Make sure some things carry over, even if its just a few symbols, sayings, and beliefs.

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