Monday, February 27, 2006

[In-Character] Truth & Justice, Episode 4

[More of Hikaru's in-character observations. The player of Raz has decided to so something similar.]

This morning Raz surprised me by acting somewhat civil and even saving me the trouble of asking him to show me how to fight. Through blind luck I managed to get one over on him and he just lost it and came after me full force, shapeshifting, super-strength, and all. I'm trying to figure out how to explain to him that different people learn differently. I need to be able to take a thing apart and understand what it's made of, while he seems to prefer to throw someone into the water and hope they figure out how to swim. Combat has an emotional dimension, to be sure, but it can also be understood through "numbers." The body has various strengths and weaknesses, points of attack and defense, limitations of perception, and so forth. An opponent is likewise a mixture of positives and negatives. Victory is a matter of taking away strengths and/or exploiting weaknesses. Thinking about it that way I can wrap my head around it, but when a rampaging visual rock lunatic is charching towards me I can't.

Maybe that has something to do with why I decided to accompany him on "patrol," which is his word for going to a bad part of town and getting into an unproductive brawl. Yes, crime is bad, drugs are bad, etc., but there has to be a better way of improving things. Moreover, we underestimated Pinnacle. We were in an alleyway and while Raz was busy ploughing through a gang of 15 or so, Pinnacle somehow managed to abduct me before any of us even knew what was happening. It was only through careful analysis of the surveillance footage after the fact that Glenn figured out that Pinnacle had used some kind of optical camouflage to sneak in and chloroform me and slip away. I had been expecting a cold-blooded killer and a skilled soldier, but it hadn't occurred to me that a man who could afford cloned soldiers and powered armor could also get his hands on an optical camouflage cloak. I was very, very lucky that for the moment Pinnacle only wanted to use me to deliver a message. He wants us to turn ourselves over by 6 p.m. tomorrow, or he'll let his soldiers loose in the middle of San Francisco. He's playing on our desire to protect the innocent, something he obviously lacks.

We went over the powers available to our group members. Dynamo's kinetic energy enhancement, Jack's shadow power, Raz's shapeshifting and super-strength, Sam's hydrokinesis, and finally my rider powers. When I demonstrated the transformation an odd thing happened though: the armor was different. It was smaller and, frankly, more feminine. It looks like it's adapting to my physiology much faster than I had dared to hope. (I should think about what to call myself when it stabilizes.) Supergroups have always had a diversity of powers, but I feel like we're blatantly mismatched. The Watchmen were varied, but we seem to all come from completely different worlds. I am very much a Japanese transforming hero, Dynamo is a rank-and-file American superhero, Raz seems to be part demon, Jack comes off as a homeless guy with weird powers, and Sam... is a pro-wrestler.

I had a dream last night, and when I woke up at 5 in the morning I couldn't get back to sleep. (Not that I've been sleeping well the past few days anyway). In the dream I was a little girl with magical powers, and I was fighting alongside my father. I can't remember any more. I don't dream often, and I don't often remember the details, but the remaining fragments of this dream are still right behind my eyes. I didn't even see him that much, but I miss my father. I miss the way he would make us feel like everything would be all right.

That's right. The Japanese government is looking for me. And mom isn't well. The Mega-Brace has to figure into the situation somehow, but... Can I risk calling home? Mom and Ryo should be alright financially with dad's pension, but what if the need me? Maybe it was dumb of me to come to America, but I can't even think about going back until we deal with Pinnacle. Maybe circumstances will force the issue again and I won't have to choose.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Halo: The Covenant War, update

My friend Thinh (who also did art for Mascot-tan) has started in on the paper minis for my Halo RPG. I saw the sketches he did for the Grunt and Jackal last night, and was (predictably) very happy. I need to find a digital camera so I can take pictures of the minis from our superhero game... The Halo scenario I want to run is likewise coming together, though it's mostly a collection of set pieces for battles strung together. I need to get around to buying a bigger dry-erase battle mat thingy too...

I'm also working on putting together a "soundtrack" for the game. Since it's based on a series of video games (with pretty damn good music to boot), I'll be using a combination of the Halo and Halo 2 soundtracks, plus some of the fan-created music that's out there. I'm still debating whether or not to go to the trouble of using HBO's dialogue databank to include snippets of dialogue from the video games. It could be fun (especially for the Grunts), but a lot of extra work too.

For the actual game itself I mostly need to round out the combat rules and stat up things. Midterms are starting to kick in at school (and on top of that I have to rush to apply for grad school), so I don't know how much time I'll have for to work on RPG stuff.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Halo: Combat Evolved RPG

One of the players in the T&J campaign I'm playing in has been going hog-wild making paper minis on cardstock and with original art (he happens to be IMO a pretty brilliant artist too), which were surprisingly helpful all around when we had a big battle against a bunch of mooks. For no apparent reason he made a Master Chief, and I wound up getting inspired to try and tackle an idea I'd been toying with for a looong time now -- a Halo RPG. It seems like minis are at once underrated and overrated in RPGs. They make a really kickass visual aid, but they can also turn an RPG into a boardgame sometimes. Still, a lot of the fun of Halo is in the tactics, so it makes sense to include minis and maps in some capacity.

I'm kind of designing with a specific mini-campaign in mind, about a group of marines who, after endless weeks of boredom, find the planet they're stationed on suddenly under attack by the Covenant. I'll be using a highly customized flavor of Fudge--basically a simplified version of the stuff I was talking about for Ether Star, with templates and hit points--with character creation geared towards getting characters put together and into the action as quickly as possible. You pick a profession (just Marines for my first game) and a specialty (demolitions, sniper, ODST, etc.) to determine all of a character's skills, one free Gift, three personal skills at Fair (+0), and a Quirk (Whiner, Ice Queen, Slick, etc.) to give some personality.

Fudge Points are definitely going to be an important part of the game; it'll be not unlike Cinematic Unisystem how PCs use them to stay alive. Also, there'll be an NPC Spartan whom the players can spend FP to give tactical direction, thereby giving them the collective tactical brain of the whole group (and the badass with the regenerating force field is someone you want to stay alive, after all).

The actual adventure is still a bit on the sketchy side, but between various Halo machinima series and entirely too many Megadeth songs (Return to Hangar, The Disintegrators, Crush 'Em, Rust In Peace, Train of Consequences, etc.) I'm starting to put together what I hope will be a rocking experience. As usual, I'm going to put a lot of time into having a soundtrack for the game, in this case a mix of heavy metal, Halo OST selections, and whatever other soundtrack stuff seems appropriate. A lot of it will play out like an action movie (or god forbid an FPS) with a bunch of action sets where much asskicking happens, and some of these will definitely be based on Halo multiplayer stages.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

[In-Character] Truth & Justice, Episodes 1-3

[This is my character, Hikaru Hirose, a.k.a. Mega-Rider II, eventually to be known as Victory Rider, trying to get her thoughts in order.]

Every time I think the world has completely turned upside down, it manages to invert itself in some new, unforseen way. I got into this mess because I acted on my conscience, because I was arrogant enough to think of myself as some kind of martyr shouldering a burden. A lot has happened over the past few days, and as more puzzle pieces come together I find myself asking some uncomfortable questions.

Through what seemed like a coincidence, I was among five people exposed to some mysterious substance, of which there is no trace and which I am now fairly certain is intended to activate metahuman potential. I can't even begin to contemplate the implications this could have for the world. With the exception of Dynamo--whose metahuman abilities were already active--we all show the same single genetic modification. It's hard to believe it could be something so simple, but there it is.

My case is different from the others though. Rather than gaining inherent powers, I've become able to activate the Mega-Brace and take on Mega-Rider's powers. I really wish I had the facilities to study it properly now that it can be activated, because it's opened up a host of new questions. Dynamo (a.k.a. Glen) said he had been told that only men can become riders. I seem to be able to transform at will now, even though I take on a distinctly male form when I do. The first time the experience was completely overwhelming, and... I kind of threw up on Raz. The second time, when we were attacked by some kind of mercenaries, I fought exactly as Mega-Rider would've in the old days, even shouting out ridiculous attack names. ("Rider Press"?) The fact that I can transform suggests that either the thing about riders being all men is merely cultural nonsense, or something about my genetic makeup--whether being half-human or a side-effect of the metahuman triggering agent--somehow "tricks" a failsafe mechanism in the Mega-Brace.

In any case, I'm starting to understand the nature of the Mega-Brace a little better. Whatever it is, it isn't just a tool to be used as you might a screwdriver or a pistol. I think it contains some of my father's memories. It remembers how he fought and is passing that knowledge on to me. And if the differences between the first and second time are any indication, it's already started adapting to my physiology. I can only hope that it will manage to adapt further and let me transform into something a little more like myself. I wouldn't mind being taller, of course...

Anyway, five heroes. Or metahumans at least. At the moment, I don't see a team, and I think I'm part of the problem. At first I kept wanting to strangle Raz; he just didn't seem to understand the idea that words mean things. I was waiting for my chance to tell him off, to say, "We're not your enemy, so why is everything that comes out of your mouth meant to hurt?" It was perfect in my head. But there's more to him than that, and this evening I felt like I was being a jerk.

And, I didn't want to get into this kind of thing. I spent a decade resenting my father for getting himself killed, and now I'm ready to go off and do the same thing. I kept telling myself that I'd consider being a hero only if there were innocent people that needed saving, but when we tore into those mercenaries I enjoyed myself. A lot. I remember reading somewhere that men get a high from seeing bad guys punished that women don't... It's all complicated.

The thing that had Raz suddenly becoming so quiet is probably the same thing that's weighing on all of us. We have the proverbial jigsaw puzzle in front of us, and we've just uncovered a big, disturbing piece. The cloned mercenaries and the metahuman trigger substance both look like they've come from one man, a German supersoldier named Pinnacle. It looks like he wants to build a metahuman clone army, and for the moment we're the only ones who can do anything about it. And he knows who we are and has at least some idea where and didn't mind making himself known when Raz and Sam were out and about.

Glen called him a stone killer. A lot of superheroes have died over the years, but from what I've seen not too many supervillains are the type to just take a human life in cold blood without any hesitation. When I think about who we have, I really wonder if we're ready to fight a monster like that. When I think about the things he could do to us... Human beings are fragile in so many ways, and someone with the knowledge and power to exploit that... Ugh. The worst kind of evil must come from being able to treat a person as though they were a thing. It would be convenient if I could just ignore Raz, but he's at least as human than I am.

But wait a minute... If Pinnacle really wanted to wipe us out, he wouldn't have let Raz and Sam get away. Sam can control water and Raz has super-strength and can reshape his body, but neither of them are anywhere near bulletproof. If he's a "supersoldier" he could've hit Sam's car with a lot more than a cigar. So either he wants something from us, or he likes to play with his food.

And there are still other mysteries. Sam's former tag-team partner (which will Ryo be more excited about? Me being a superhero or me knowing a real live wrestler?) vanished. All those classified military files on metahumans. They can't all be related, but I can't help but try to unravel it all, even if it gives me headaches.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Blearg/The Little Model

With school going at full blast I haven't had too much time to devote to any kind of RPG stuff, apart from playing in my group's weekly Truth & Justice campaign (I'm not sure I would be able to keep up if I were running a game right now...). For that matter I haven't really been keeping up on RPG blogs much either, just doing my usual lurking on and occasionally having some RPG ideas percolate in my brain. I'd really like to get some more stuff done for Tokyo Heroes and Thrash 2.0 once I have a better handle on school stuff, especially since I'm starting to get more ideas together for the aforementioned Ether Star and its own custom flavor of Fudge.

Anyway, what prompted me to post was this thread on Levi Kornelsen has basically laid out a new (still evolving) set of terms for discussing RPG theory, based on the idea that the terms used should be as intuitive as possible, and created partly in reaction to GNS and The Big Model. Right now it's primarily new terms for Forge theory, but the 'little model' (as one poster called it) has already started to evolve some on its own. Of particular interest to me is how in addition to Challenge, Theme, and Simulation-Focused games, it has "Open Focus" and "Multi-Focus," stemming from the idea that an RPG that doesn't concentrate on a particular focus/mode isn't inherently flawed. To the extent that I've found Forge theory useful, I think moving away from "crazy moon language" is a step in the right direction. Where it'll go from here is anyone's guess though.