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<![CDATA[Pen & Paper Games - Blogs - Sass & Sorcery by Sascha]]> http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/blog.php/2009-Sass-amp-Sorcery Pen and Paper Games hosts a very powerful, but easy to seach and join database of players and game masters in the United States and Canada. Our forums are also a great place to find the most recent news, product releases, tips, and rpg discussion. en Tue, 24 May 2016 15:53:17 GMT vBulletin 60 http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/pnpg_style/misc/rss.jpg <![CDATA[Pen & Paper Games - Blogs - Sass & Sorcery by Sascha]]> http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/blog.php/2009-Sass-amp-Sorcery <![CDATA[Dirty Hippie Gamer Musing: "What Is Roleplaying?" and Gaming Styles]]> http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1590-Dirty-Hippie-Gamer-Musing-quot-What-Is-Roleplaying-quot-and-Gaming-Styles Sat, 09 Apr 2011 03:32:50 GMT I sat down this morning to read through Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness for a pseudoreview retrospective, made it past the table of contents easily and with no offenses taken at the authorial tone ... and then came to the first real page, where Erick Wujcik proceeded to annoy me as a reader. (To be fair, there's more than likely some Kevin Siembieda in those initial paragraphs, as some of the content is - typical for Palladium products - reproduced verbatim in the other game lines. But, Wujcik is the man who brought us Amber Diceless ...) The description of what makes for "good" roleplaying vs. "not good" roleplaying, specifically with regards to randomly generated characters, grated against my style sensibilities in such a manner as to cause me to put aside my intended task for a while and rant. Fortunately, you folks are spared the lunacy and instead I wrote this musing.

(Apologies in advance for the sheer wordiness. It's paper-writing time in school and I'm apparently stuck in academic essayist mode. Though I'm not sure if failing to properly cite sources is a blessing or a curse here ...)

What does any of this mean, you ask. Well, there's this thread over on RPG.net, "The standard 'What is a role-playing game' section of the book", that's been buzzing around the back of my mind for a bit of time - tl;dr version: the thread topic is a question of whether that specific section of a gaming book is really needed. It's assumed that, by now, most of the folks purchasing RPG products are roleplayers and thus a section detailing what they already know and do is wasted space. The off-chance that the reader *is* a new player is the one saving grace of the section. Quite a few of the posters in that thread said they skip those sections of new games outright. If we're being honest, for first (and up to fourth) reads of a new game, so do I. This morning's encounter with TMNT made me think this is a mistake.

Can this section of a game actually give us information about the game, that otherwise would be un- or under-stated? I pulled a few books off my shelf to compare and contrast. These books are The Dresden Files RPG; Vampire: the Masquerade, both second edition and revised; and Shadowrun, third and fourth editions. Reading each of the sections, paying attention to the word choices, I came up with a hypothesis - those oft-overlooked sections actually provide great information to the assumed/intended play style of the game in question. To illustrate this, let's look at the language of each game, and try to glean its intent.

First up, the instigating observation: TMNT. The section breaks down a scene into its component parts - the physical scene (props and decorations), the setting (NPCs and conflict), and the character (a PC). Most of this stuff is GM-driven, barring in-character involvement from the other players. What stands out to me is the implicit value placed on immersion as a goal. "You are not in the [example] room," it says, "but there is somebody in the room whose eyes you see through." It's weak evidence, sure, but the rest of the text is sparse as to how to actually go about the process of roleplaying.

(Naturally, there is more evidence in the other sections. This little musing is specifically focusing on the definitional aspect of RPGs and what, if any, play styles emerge from their definitions. With the other games, the sections are well-written, in that they more or less explicitly state their intended styles. Palladium games that I own all have that short, insufficient blurb, which doesn't communicate intent very well.

For TMNT, there's a section immediately before our topic, where the author sets a rather adversarial GM-Player relationship. The GM section, curiously, is the only place I noticed where developing and portraying a personality is explicitly stated as a player's responsibility. Which is frickin' weird to me. Something concerning players should be addressed to players directly, and not filtered through the GM. But I'm crazy in wanting clarity of intent in communication :P)

We'll look at the definitional sections in Vampire next. The second edition book is, as one would expect from White Wolf, defining roleplaying (and by extension, playing a roleplaying game) as play-acting. This assumption carries over into the description of Vampire players: "You must be both an actor and a player. As an actor, you speak for your character and act out whatever you wish your character to do or say. Whatever you say, your character says, unless you are specifically asking a question of the Storyteller or are describing your actions." It also evokes method acting, as a means for characterization: "You must reach deep inside yourself to find enough that is real and true to produce a complete character." By these snippets, and the full passages containing them, Vampire's second edition is an acting exercise with dice, by design; other styles aren't given much consideration.

Revised Vampire gives a similar, yet slightly altered approach to its style. The game is still largely play-acting: "Each player takes the role of a character [...] and engages in a form of improvisational theatre, saying what the vampire would say and describing what the vampire would do. Most of this process is freeform[.]" This edition explicitly calls out the role of rules and dice, however, in a manner second edition didn't quite manage: "Whenever rules and story conflict, the story wins. Use the rules only as much -- or preferably as little -- as you need to tell thrilling stories of terror, action and romance." The phrasing here states a relationship to the rules that basically says you shouldn't be looking to the rules to give you much guidance or structure, in regards to how to play.

(There's a whole separate rant about using rules, and specifically the Golden Rule or Rule 0, whichever you prefer. I might even get around to writing it someday. Shockingly enough, I'm not a fan :P)

Next, Shadowrun 3/4E. On reading them, both have the same material for us. By its own definition, "a roleplaying game is part improvisational theater, part storytelling and part board game." So we have our play-acting and storytelling core, like in White Wolf's games, but the relationship to the rules is quite different. Whereas Vampire ideally references the rules as little as possible, Shadowrun brings it to the forefront: "The game system comes into play when characters seek to use their skills or otherwise do something that requires a test to see whether or not they succeed." This phrasing suggests that the *game* portion of 'roleplaying game' is fairly important, which is a pretty big style statement.

Finally, we get to The Dresden Files RPG. Like all the others, the definitional section is right in the beginning (barring Vampire and Shadowrun having in-setting fiction to set the tone). And, like the others, I think we can see its ethos in how it defines itself. The act of roleplaying isn't set as theatrics or play-acting, and players aren't expected to actually *be* their characters. "As a player, you get to say what your character says, describe what your character does, and make decisions for that character." The phrasing here is rather interesting. Unlike Vampire second edition, what you say isn't assumed to be in-character (though it could be); the player can, if they choose, merely describe what the character says and how they say it, without having to speak as the character. And, unlike the play-acting of both Vampire and Shadowrun editions or the implied immersion of TMNT, the player isn't making decisions *as* the character, but they are making decisions *for* the character. Dresden also makes the case for rules usage, and how the system is supposed to be integral to play: "You use the game's rules to help you decide how a particular event turns out[.]" That the 'event' is unspecified suggests that it's anything that happens within the emergent narrative, whether it's a physical, mental or social context.

(In full disclosure, I've always gamed in the Dresden model. Sometimes I do in-character dialogue, sometimes it's a short summary of intent and method. But roleplaying has never been synonymous with play-acting. I don't value immersion as something I want to happen during play. And holy heck, do I want the rules to *mean* something, and not just be background for when play-acting won't resolve an issue. I do likes me some game portion of 'roleplaying game.')

So there it is, a rough hypothesis based on a somewhat emotionally-charged observation. Does this analysis have merit? Or am I reading too much into so little of a section? Actually, I can answer that second question right now: probably :P There's the whole rest of a given book to gain insight into intent and assumption. Though, the definition might be an indicator as to the authorial tone. I'd be curious to hear what you folks think, about these games and games not mentioned. ]]>
Sascha http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1590-Dirty-Hippie-Gamer-Musing-quot-What-Is-Roleplaying-quot-and-Gaming-Styles
Wherein I Read Star Wars D6, Second Edition http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1571-Wherein-I-Read-Star-Wars-D6-Second-Edition Mon, 07 Mar 2011 01:32:44 GMT As a kid practically raised on Star Wars (and other pop culture media experiences, often produced by George Lucas), this game was a staple of my... As a kid practically raised on Star Wars (and other pop culture media experiences, often produced by George Lucas), this game was a staple of my formative roleplaying years. During the short window of sixth- and eighth-grades, my gaming lexicon consisted of Palladium's games, Rules Cyclopedia D&D, and Star Wars. Pretty much in that order, too. I have changed in the two decades since first picking up a bucket of dice and pretending to be a Jedi-in-training, so I figured I'd take a second look at some of the things that hooked me into the hobby.

First up is the production value of the book, itself. This is the basic Second Edition, not the later Revised & Expanded: 167 pages of rules, advice and setting information, plus 8 pages of pre-made character templates and a full character sheet in the back. The layout is clean, readable, with lots of sidebars and examples of play. Occasionally, a line or two from the films will head up a section to prime the reader.

ART: The artwork is largely black and white, with some color inserts - stills from the movies, other artwork, in-game advertisements, etc. While there are some pieces in which characters (often Imperials) are not engaging in high-action antics, overall I'd say the artwork sets the tone for what your characters *do* in the Star Wars universe. And what characters do, by and large, is get into chases and fights and other assorted misadventures, and use blasters shoot things in the face. Much like in the films.

RULES: The basic rules are simple enough, and don't require the funny-looking dice that D&D used. Roll one or more common six-siders, total and compare to a target number, chart or another roll. This was my first experience with a unified resolution mechanic, though it wasn't the last (certainly, I prefer a single mechanic to the alternatives nowadays).

Complicating this is the Wild Die, one die in the pool, which had equal chance of causing a Complication (something doesn't go your way) as exploding and getting better totals. Complications aren't failure, they're just not perfect success - the *task* gets accomplished, but the *conflict* just got more interesting (sort of a proto-conflict resolution mechanic embedded in a task resolution system). Fantastic idea, though I'm not sure about this version's implementation; it seems likely to come up more often than I'd want. (The Revised & Expanded edition addressed this somewhat, but by the time it was published, I was largely not playing Star Wars anymore.)

Character creation is quick and straightforward, defaulting to the template method - grab a template, distribute skill dice, start the opening crawl. Custom characters, those not featured as an existing template, aren't much more involved - distribute attribute dice, pick a skill list, and hooray, you've created a new template. What's neat about the chargen section is it puts a bold section on Communication before nearly anything else: communication with the GM, which is standard stuff, but also with the other players, which is pretty novel, going by the games we played. I don't remember D&D having this, but I never owned the books, so I can't say it definitively wasn't there; Palladium's games, on the other hand, lacked it. I also really like the game puts the burden of group cohesion on the players as part of chargen, with the "Connection to Other Characters" entry on the sheet.

Overall, the mechanics are fairly decent, but they have some warts. There are ten times more charts than I want in a game, covering things from grenade scatter (meh) to lifting heavy things (meh) to equipment cost and availability (bleh). Sure, there are vastly less-elegant ways of handling these things, but really, there only needs to be two charts: the difficulty chart and the damage chart, both preferably also on the character sheet itself. Beyond that, there are only two major turn-offs in the rules.

The first is the character point mechanic. Character points are part benny, in that you can spend them for bonus exploding dice, and part experience. Yep, you use the same resource as a benny and spendable experience. Yep, I realize that you're supposed to get loads of the stuff at the end of a session. I still don't care for them being the same resource. Maybe if they only became experience points after you spend them as bennies, it'd be more tolerable (but then you'd have a third resource to track, after character points and Force points, which goes back into the 'ugh' category :P).

The other big one, and this might get some heat from some of you enthusiasts out there, is the Force. As written, there are three Force skills - Control, Sense, Alter - and a fair amount of powers for each skill, which is two skills and a fair amount of powers too many. (Or maybe three skills. I'm undecided on if there should even be a separate skill for Force-y goodness.) Sure, splitting the Force into three skills helps limit power levels, but with my exposure to FATE and other indie systems, I'm not so sure this is needed. There are ways of making sure a character doesn't dominate play, without using experience sinks to reign in power levels.

(Shadowrun, consider yourself to be on notice, as well. Poor Rayne would like to do something with her karma other than learning slightly more powerful versions of spells she already knows. Er, sorry. Back to Star Wars~)

I could say something about having a damage and resistance roll after the attack roll being a third wart, but it's ridiculously easy just to use the margin of success from attack-minus-defense on the damage chart, and ignore the separate damage roll altogether. Unlike the other two, which require a bit more tinkering, thus time and effort - especially the Force subsystems. Of course, this makes equipment choices pretty close to irrelevant. Which is how I like it ^_^

ADVICE: The vast majority of advice in this book is geared towards the GM, including what the GM's role is and how to use the mechanics to further the pursuit of fun. Pretty standard stuff, and a lot of it is still used in my games today. What's missing, I feel, is advice for the players - how to play Star Wars in a roleplaying context, what behaviors are conducive to the experience, what behaviors aren't. That sort of stuff. There is a general overview of roleplaying chapter, covering stuff applicable to both players and GMs alike, but it's not the same as having a section on being a player and not just playing a character.

To be fair, not many of the games I have on my shelf do this, old and new alike, so it's not a failing of Star Wars d6. Merely an observation based on what the adult Sascha wants to see from games, rather than what the preteen Sascha found. Addressing the player's role at the table, outside of the character, is very desirable, even if the reader's not actually a new gamer. (Arguably, *especially* if the reader's not a new gamer.)

VERDICT: Despite some lingering issues modern me has with the game, Star Wars d6 Second Edition's still solid. It's got some interesting concept mechanics (like a conflict-resolution scope bit in Complications) and a few good years of memories. I'd easily play it again, but I'm not sure I'd run it; gutting the major nit I've picked (the Force) and replacing it with a satisfactory subsystem seems like too much work, when there's a perfectly good FATE sitting there, begging to be run. Still, it's Star Wars and will always have a place on my shelf. ]]>
Sascha http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1571-Wherein-I-Read-Star-Wars-D6-Second-Edition
The Dresden Files RPG: Kickback City http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1527-The-Dresden-Files-RPG-Kickback-City Thu, 03 Feb 2011 18:38:54 GMT A quick summary of our Dresden Files game, up to the latest session.

Washington, D.C.: "Kickback City"

- Themes (Aspect): Entrenched political groups make it difficult to enact change (Us vs. Them)
- Threats (Aspect): Growing dissatisfaction calls the underprivileged to action (What About the People?); New powers make plays for established territory (Small Time, For Now).

The Cast

Jesop Manson (Focused Practitioner)
- High Concept: Mortuary Ectomancer
- Trouble: Prefers Company of the Dead
- Other Aspects: "I can see dead people"; Eerily Skilled; Painting the Bigger Picture; Desire to Help; On the Trail of Third Eye

Lars Christchurch (Pure Mortal)
- High Concept: Regular Shmoe
- Trouble: Lots of Mouths to Feed
- Other Aspects: Loyal to Customers; *Not* the Man of Her Dreams; Gotta Get Out of This Bar

Chris Langley (Wizard)
- High Concept: Warden, Humanity's Last Defense
- Trouble: "I always get the 'best' jobs."
- Other Aspects: A Duty to Others; "Just being honest"; "I know a little about how things work in Washington"; Cautious of Non-Mortal Magics

Jordan Bishop (Changeling)
- High Concept: Sidhe-blooded Sorcerous Sleuth
- Trouble: The Pressure to Choose
- Other Aspects: Bishop Black Sheep; A Promise Made Thrice; Sucker for a Pretty Face; Always a Bigger Fish; Det. King Has a Crush on Me

The Story So Far...

The "Third Eye" ring out of Chicago is no longer in operation, though its remnants are still turning up as far away as DC. But this latest batch is different - seemingly made of nightmares, causing its users to suffer horrific visions - and the fear it generates is starting to attract attention from the Nevernever. Can this disparate group fend off a faerie phobophage (and other supernasties) long enough to find the drug's source and shut it down? ]]>
Sascha http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1527-The-Dresden-Files-RPG-Kickback-City
Roll-Playing, Rule-Playing http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1426-Roll-Playing-Rule-Playing Mon, 25 Oct 2010 17:24:46 GMT Normally in these blog posts, I try to get cute and dance around the point with humorous language. I'm not going to do that here.

These terms - derogatory descriptions of other peoples' fun - aren't helping. They aren't speaking to truth, they aren't adding to the quality of discourse. They're divisive language, whose sole purpose is to draw lines in the sand as to who belongs and who doesn't. Play style differences are absolutely *not* justification for disrespect, and treating another's game / style / rules preferences as inferior paints a better picture of the one making the claim than the target of the claim.

Elitism, in any form, shouldn't have a place in a hobby based on a subjective quality ('fun')*. When there's a play style difference, someone who doesn't fit your groove, it's not because they are something less than worthy; it's because their goals and/or methods for achieving those goals are different than yours. And no less deserving of respect for what they are: avenues of expression, of escapism, of entertainment.

If you find yourself about to use these, or similar terms/ideas, please take a minute and think about the intent of your statement. It's probably a good bet that the point you're trying to make can be said without putting down a group of people who just happen to do things differently than you. If it can't be said, it's a better bet that it probably shouldn't be said in the first place.

*Acknowledging play style and play goal variances means that, yeah, there are going to be times where "fun" is not the goal, and there's something more specific at work. The nuances really, really not are important for these purposes. ]]>
Sascha http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1426-Roll-Playing-Rule-Playing
Wherein I Read the Dresden Files RPG http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1298-Wherein-I-Read-the-Dresden-Files-RPG Mon, 16 Aug 2010 04:36:47 GMT It's just about time for the start of the fall semester, and I decided to give myself a back-to-school treat, in the form of the Dresden Files RPG pdfs. (I wish I could have afforded the physical hardcovers, but alas. There's always the various gift-giving holidays~)

The usual background info: The Dresden Files is easily my favorite series centered on a wizard named "Harry," and fighting hard with the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy 'trilogy' as my favorite book series overall. Also, FATE is my preferred game system, and I really like Evil Hat's products and support. To say I really like the way this game reads is a gross understatement, to say the least. (If it seems like I'm gushing as I write this pseudoreview, it's only because my glasses are, indeed, the color of roses.) So let's get to it, shall we.

The game's writing is high on the 'meta' level, in that its "authors" are Dresdenverse characters writing a roleplaying game based on the life of one Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden. Included with the actual text are "notes" by Will Borden, part-time werewolf, Harry himself, and - my favorite character, evar - Bob the Skull; these notes are editorial in most cases, explanations of things referenced in game-terms, using in-setting events and characters. Handy for those new to the system, but not the source material. There are many pop culture references, from Ghostbusters to that *other* wizard-named-Harry, which endeared me to the product after reading the "Nevermore" preview chapter; it felt like Jim Butcher himself wrote them. (He didn't, as far as I can tell, but he did write a bit of short fiction for the second volume, "Our World." Which I have yet to sit down and read. The notes and other text is far too funny-slash-awesome.)

The art shows iconic characters and scenes from the novels, and some even have commentary in the form of the in-character notes; Harry's comments on why he always looks beat-up in the artwork, and Billy's explanations, made me giggle. For the most part, the art looks a lot like how I pictured those things when reading the novels. ('Cept for Thomas. He totally looks different in my head. :P) I like the artwork, even of Thomas; it's nice and colorful and evocative of the source material.

Rules-wise, I like that city creation and character generation are group activities, like in other FATE games. And I especially like that those things are considered part of "actual play," since they frame everything that's to come. The different power levels of a campaign start is nice, too, giving an overview of what Templates (character archetypes concerning supernatural ability) are appropriate for what magical weight classes; some are clearly more powerful, even in the highly non-simulational world of FATE games. The back of the first book contains rules "cheat sheets," which will be incredibly helpful in play (and the website has those same pages, minus the muddy, spiral-bound background, so score~).

I'd usually go into greater depth with this, but I can't quite explain my glee without block-quoting highly-spoileriffic parts (especially from "Our World"). I'm interested in the supplemental material Evil Hat'll release via their site (given that the license was specific in the "no supplementitis" clause); the RPG covers happenings up to Small Favor, and I can't wait to see how they write up some of the stuff from the successive books. (I'm still on an excitement high following the completion of Changes. Gah, I wish my friends would get around to reading them, dangit, so I'd have someone to talk to about it~ :P) ]]>
Sascha http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1298-Wherein-I-Read-the-Dresden-Files-RPG
Another Year, Another Move http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1249-Another-Year-Another-Move Fri, 09 Jul 2010 17:34:05 GMT It was little more than one year ago that I last moved. I hated it then. Color me surprised to find I still hate the process. And now, here I am,... It was little more than one year ago that I last moved. I hated it then. Color me surprised to find I still hate the process.

And now, here I am, mostly settled into a new apartment with new (read: old) roommates - my dad and his wife. It's been over ten years since I last lived with the man, and I've changed a fair amount since then. He's changed a bit, too, though I'm predicting lots more quality time with my laptop than with my kin, heh.

I'm very appreciative of his help, though, what with school starting back up and me formerly without a stable address. Three moves in two years wears on anybody, even my now-former roommate, the queen of moving (I did finally get to meet her gentleman friend with whom she'll be living in Wisconsin; good guy, that one, and I hope she'll be happy ^_^). ]]>
Sascha http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1249-Another-Year-Another-Move
<![CDATA[Turning D&D into an "MMO"]]> http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1187-Turning-D-amp-D-into-an-quot-MMO-quot Fri, 07 May 2010 20:35:04 GMT (Inspired by something I read on rpg.net this morning, and seem to be unable to find again. Sigh. Crazy awesome idea, though.) What if instead of... (Inspired by something I read on rpg.net this morning, and seem to be unable to find again. Sigh. Crazy awesome idea, though.)

What if instead of the "traditional" D&D setting, the world operated as a MMO, in the vein of .hack. The setting would be self-aware: that is, the characters "know" they're just digital avatars; NPCs are either other "players" or limited-response AI, and the difference is obvious to the PCs (the color of their 'name' tag, maybe even a profession descriptor). Quests, loot, rewards, etc. would be "known" to the PCs, as they'd either be explicit "in-game" or indexed on a spoiler site. Any bit of information the players want *will* be accessible, without direct "in-game" experience. (Though "new content" areas could lag behind on the virtual spoiler sites :P)

Mechanically, it'd be rules as written, except for the rules concerning death; the standard 'death penalty' is experience loss or item decay, neither of which I'd be thrilled with introducing. Perhaps the ghosting effect from WoW, combined with encounter regeneration/respawning. Things like D&D 4E's tier structure is great for emulating the expansion model; levels "unlock" with the new content. As for the crafting aspects of MMOs, I could take or leave (despite my EverQuest and WoW days being all about the crafting, heh); for the most part, D&D crafting rules aren't all that great, when present, so it might be best to leave them aside.

"Where's the role-playing?" you may be asking. Same place it's always been, but it really depends on what you mean by "role-playing," and how important immersion is to the experience. This meta-heavy style isn't exactly the most conducive to immersion in your playing piece's history and personality, though it can and does happen in actual MMOs; the other "players" will, naturally, react to such "arpee" with buy-in of their own, or scoff at the "silly folks taking it too seriously."

As for rules ... I don't think any one edition is better- or worse-suited for this kind of tongue-in-cheek play; depending on the flavor of MMO you're emulating (EQ and WoW are rather distinct experiences, despite sharing many similarities), different editions of D&D provide different foci and granularity. For me, I can't decide whether oD&D or 4E is the better fit, depending on how granular I want it. Either way, I just might propose this as a filler spot between campaigns, or whenever someone needs more prep time. Or convince on of the other two to run it, 'cause this looks like a fun break from our more traditional sessions. ]]>
Sascha http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1187-Turning-D-amp-D-into-an-quot-MMO-quot
<![CDATA[[Transdimensional TMNT] Episode 01: The Phantom City]]> http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1119-Transdimensional-TMNT-Episode-01-The-Phantom-City Tue, 20 Apr 2010 23:25:27 GMT Theorizing that one could travel between dimensions, Sariel and Piski were pushed through the trans-dimensional portal and vanished... They... Theorizing that one could travel between dimensions, Sariel and Piski were pushed through the trans-dimensional portal and vanished...

They found themselves in a basement. A musty, dusty, old basement, filled with boxes of stored junk from twenty years ago. Indeed, the house it was attached to was also musty and dusty, with decor twenty(-ish) years old. The televisions they came across had no signals, the radios playing music and automated disc jockey "banter." Of people or animals, there was no sign. Sariel, being the auto-savvy coyote he is, found keys in one of the abandoned vehicles and discovered the increasingly eerie suburb was, in fact, their home city, via the map in the glove box.

The pair drove around, semi-randomly, looking for an in-service gas station. Also, life. (Life, yes; gas station, no.) En route to nowhere, the pair spot a humvee with what appeared to be people inside. Sariel decided that moment was a good time to introduce himself. Unfortunately, the soldiers felt it was a better moment to skedaddle.

Wary of their next move, Piski and Sariel figured that the military base facility and the prison they were held in back home was in the same physical location and, just perhaps, there would be evidence of their quarry. Then, an encounter with a second (armed) humvee; hilarity ensued.

This combat, ran rules-as-written, took nearly two hours of real time. I had forgot my NPC stat-sheet at home, and looking at them now, the NPCs were underpowered compared to how they "should" have performed. I use this term loosely, as they were far, far tougher than I had intended. And they weren't even 'full'-statted NPCs.

With four unconscious soldiers and a new vehicle, our 'heroes' set up shop and interrogate a prisoner: Jones, the leader of the little unit sent to find the strange animals roaming around. After the interrogation, they learned several interesting tidbits.

  • 1) In this world, the Soviet Union never fell and instead the Cold War ended with some hot lead.
  • 2) The sleepy suburb fell victim to a flu-like plague, the people quarantined in a makeshift base, and the limits walled off by the military.
  • 3) The plague apparently caused spontaneous mutation in the wildlife, notably in the dog population. (Rumors of rats in the sewers proved inconclusive.)
  • 4) Sariel makes constant pop culture references. (Sorry, reference. Singular. He only had the one.)

Hearing all of this (especially Sariel's 'army dude' impersonation. over. and over. and over), Piski went on a scouting mission. Perhaps these dog-mutant-things had better information.

Meanwhile, back in the hideout, Sariel saw some suspicious shadows skulking outside. Which turned out to be ... giant rats! Five of them crashed through the windows and back door, looking rather crazed. The coyote did his best Rambo voice, to no effect; the rats were unimpressed. And possibly hungry. They attacked.

I tweaked the stats a bit for the rats, cutting their SDC out entirely; for non-Palladium folks, this cut their ability to take damage by two-thirds. I also gave them a fixed damage output, averaging the d6's output for a flat amount. The long burst rules made those changes irrelevant, in any case :P

Piski returned to the house in time to chase off the remainder of the rats. And find inside a bunch of dead rats, a coyote with a still-smoking gun, and poor Jones stuffed in the fireplace. At the same time, across town, the military base was being overrun with rats, apparently from the sewers. Seeing a chance to slip into the base, the pair and Jones gear up to storm the castle, so to speak.

Inside the base, the small military presence was vastly outnumbered by the Rattus mutati. Radio chatter held the barracks, where the civilians lived, were most heavily under attack, so the trio heads in to help. Then, onto the science facility, conveniently constructed directly over sewer access, wherein they discover a huge rat and its henchrats. (Also, this rat had a gun.) Boss Fight!

More regular rats, with one much larger rat NPC for the finale. I used a modified Otto Rattus, Doc Feral's own Igor, for the boss rat; he may have proved more effective had I not modified him :P This fight saw the d20 for what it is: a horribly swingy random number generator, as I rolled 20s far and away more than I'd ever rolled them in a single session before. Heather, on the other hand, consistently rolled under 8 for a majority of the night. I also did something I really didn't want to do - run an NPC sidekick against NPCs - but I'm not sure the fight would have ended well without him. We'll see next session, where I will remind myself not to do that :P

The rat threat stopped, the world went white and Sariel and Piski found themselves ... somewhere else entirely.

On the Next Transdimensional TMNT: Technosaurs dance! And turtles eat pizza!
Stay tuned~

Taking a cue from, I think either Narrative Control or This Modern Death, I asked for scene framing as a teaser for the next session. It'll be interesting to see how these get integrated into the next world ^_^

Overall, this wasn't the best session, though it was still pretty fun. Palladium's armor rules made the stuff either useless or next-to-useless, so we discussed some better options. Also, initiative changes each round quickly became too much rolling, and as such we decided to only roll for new initiative if something major changes the fight. What I liked was Scott trying to stunt his way through the boss fight, though my command of the system wasn't enough to fully realize the consequences of improvised maneuvering. If only we were using FATE, heh ...
Sascha http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1119-Transdimensional-TMNT-Episode-01-The-Phantom-City
Transdimensional Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1105-Transdimensional-Teenage-Mutant-Ninja-Turtles Sat, 17 Apr 2010 00:15:02 GMT What if you could travel to parallel worlds? The same year, the same Earth, only different dimensions. A world where the Russians rule America...... What if you could travel to parallel worlds? The same year, the same Earth, only different dimensions. A world where the Russians rule America... or where your dreams of being superstar came true... or where San Francisco was a maximum security prison... And one world with nothing but shrimp...

Season 1

Episode 00: Teaser
Episode 01: The Phantom City ]]>
Sascha http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1105-Transdimensional-Teenage-Mutant-Ninja-Turtles
<![CDATA[[Transdimensional TMNT] Episode 00: Teaser]]> http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1106-Transdimensional-TMNT-Episode-00-Teaser Thu, 15 Apr 2010 01:31:13 GMT *SEASON 1* The place is Earth, though not as we know it. Magic exists as spirit given shape, born in the fighting arts of the Far East. Animals... SEASON 1

The place is Earth, though not as we know it. Magic exists as spirit given shape, born in the fighting arts of the Far East. Animals are born exhibiting all the qualities of humanity, yet are not recognized as human. Activists protest to the boundaries of their legal right, some even further.

A sickness spreads, seemingly random in its victims; a sickness, some say, of the soul as much as the body. A sickness for which there is no cure.

The place is Not Earth, as man pierces the boundaries between worlds. Trans-dimensional travel is a reality, though few are brave (or desperate) enough to face the dangers of other worlds. Some of these worlds parallel the known, variations of what could have been; others defy physics as is understood by the top minds in the field.
Perhaps, among countless worlds, a cure can be found ... ]]>
Sascha http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1106-Transdimensional-TMNT-Episode-00-Teaser
Bad Viacom. No Biscuit. http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1060-Bad-Viacom-No-Biscuit Thu, 11 Mar 2010 16:47:52 GMT Since ditching cable service, I've been reliant on the intarwebs for my daily Daily Show fix. But Viacom pulled their Comedy Central lineup from Hulu starting yesterday (or, at the very least, all two programs in their lineup that I actually watch).

In spirit of supporting the content I love, I watched Tuesday's program last night, via thedailyshow.com. Tried to watch would be more accurate, as the video buffer froze at the same spot during the interview. Multiple times. Reloading the page, fast-forwarding and rewinding did nothing to solve the problem. (And then there's the ads. Dear Haruhi, the ads.)

I guess I'm spoiled on Hulu's delivery, both in network response and actual site layout. The option for HD looks to be missing from the Comedy Central site, which was a huge plus for how the roommate and I watch (though I haven't actually peeked around; might do that later). Also, I really, really like Hulu's simplicity; the official Daily Show and Colbert sites weren't designed with minimalism in mind, methinks, and it shows that episode content provision is something of an afterthought.

Hulu's ads seemed to be more aware of their audiences; Comedy Central, not so much. I guess it's the specifics of an 18-to-whatever male target, but where there's some overlap, I don't identify with the demographic at large. (To be fair, I mute the ads on Hulu by reflex, though the ads on Comedy Central annoy me so much more.)

So here I am, facing a bit of an overblown dilemma: make the move to the Comedy Central site feeds or boycott (in fairly useless protest) the decision to pull quality programming from a professional delivery service. I believe the decision was not in the best interests of the fans, due to content consumption issues (can't watch what doesn't stream, heh), and I don't pretend to understand the ad-revenue economics driving said decision ('cause, y'know, numbers are icky).

It's just, on a deep (read: shallow) consumer level, it goes against my selfish desire for uninterrupted laughing at the pains of modern American life. ]]>
Sascha http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1060-Bad-Viacom-No-Biscuit
Wherein I Have a Horrible, Horrible Idea http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1043-Wherein-I-Have-a-Horrible-Horrible-Idea Tue, 02 Mar 2010 19:09:32 GMT A terrible, sanity-draining idea: running Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness and another game ... as written by Jim Henson.

That is, build mutant animals (or even, gasp, humans) as usual, set them within whatever genre and world, then treat it as a Muppet sketch. Naturally, this is slapstick comedy. Perhaps even a musical number or three.

Some examples:

* TMNT + Ninjas & Superspies: The Karate Pig. The Frog with the Golden Gun. (Kung Fu Panda.)

* TMNT + Palladium Fantasy: Kermit the Cimmerian.

* TMNT + Heroes Unlimited: The X-Muppets.

* TMNT + Beyond the Supernatural: The M-Files.

It can't be coincidence that these things fit sooooo danged well, can it? :biggrin: ]]>
Sascha http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1043-Wherein-I-Have-a-Horrible-Horrible-Idea
Wherein I Read 4E http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1014-Wherein-I-Read-4E Tue, 16 Feb 2010 02:37:17 GMT So here I am, having sworn off any large reptilian magical beasts and the locales in which they nest, with Fourth Edition corebooks. And I gots to... So here I am, having sworn off any large reptilian magical beasts and the locales in which they nest, with Fourth Edition corebooks. And I gots to say, they look a real sight better than the previous edition's, just from a book angle; that is, the 3E books made my eyes gloss over, and the 4E books are *readable.* Lemme tell you, having your game's rules on white (or a lighter solid color) in nice big print makes a world of difference in how I read the text.

Also, the raised foreground artwork on the covers? Tactile awesomeness. No, I don't know why, but it is. So very much. (Plus, I is in lurve with the wizardy-lady on the PHB cover. Over on the DMG cover: dragon with piercings? Neat~ And it's scrying on the PHB cover folk!)

The internal artwork overall is decent, and some of the pieces are just plain fun. The art conveys a sense of actually doing things, rather than planning for contingencies, which is effective in communicating where the intent of the game lies.

As to the writing style, I really appreciate the acknowledgment of how the game's supposed to run. Having the chapter describing the base mechanic and an example of play *before* character creation is very much a good thing. As much as some dislike the concept of "builds" (which exists in 3E, too, from my experience), the intent of the class and its abilities are communicated with a clarity not found in the previous edition (where it was rather needed, heh).

Onto the subject of Powers. I think the name is unfortunate, as it evokes a specific flavor of action; "Abilities" would have been a nice, neutral name for magical and non-magical tricks, but alas, that term is already in use in the game :P Seriously, though, I *like* the implementation of Powers, more than any other change in 4E. Spreading the "interesting combat option" love to all classes and all builds can only be a good thing - unless, of course, you want separate avenues of conflict specialization ... to which I say DnD never had good mechanical support for non-combat conflicts. (Obviously, whether it should or not is, I think, a tangent to what DnD does, as written.)

I also like the tiered power structure, and that it starts you off at 'Heroic', rather than 'Shmuck.' Again, this is where communication of what sorts of things the characters should be doing is helpful, right from the get-go.

I'll gloss over the lists of Feats and gear, as I tend to do that, anyway; in general, though, the variety of options doesn't, to me, seem worth the space. But that's hardly unique to DnD :P Some of the feat differences between 3E and 4E look promising (read: interesting) and some look like math fixes (read: blah); overall, I'm neutral to approving.

Action points. Hooray! Some form of benny is core~ Though, as much as I like them, their implementation needs a bit of work to suit my taste. Or not, depending on what I want them to do, that they currently do not do. It'll take more than a cursory glance, with this one. (Unlike Force Points in Star Wars Saga Edition; those I felt compelled to gut from the beginning. But I digress.)

Let's talk PHB2 for a moment. Two things stand out to me, about this book's rules. First, "Barbarian" really should read "Berserker" (I said this about the 3E incarnation, as well). Second, the Bard looks damned fun. Like, damned fun. A 4E version of Sera (my bard from this last DnD campaign) would kick so much butt, and be so true to her character, without the baggage that the 3E-family rules saddled her with (Intimidate is a class skill now, and 'bout time~). Also, gnomes look interesting now, something I'd *want* to have in my games, instead of the earlier "like a dwarf, but not as surly or hairy." I'd prolly change their name, or something; the association with lawn ornaments and dickish EQ players is too great. (Same boat as halflings, really; despite the makeover from hobbit in 3E, I never liked 'em then. Now? I'm warming up to 'em, but they scream "name change," too.)

Okay, enough of this player-oriented material. Let's move on to the Dungeon Master's Guide. I don't have a whole lot to say on it, right now (for several reasons, not the least of which is it's been a long day at school, heh). First, Page 42 should be enshrined somewhere, to be deconstructed and built upon by future generations of gamers.

For those looking at me funny: a) stop that or your face'll freeze; and b) this is the page where it covers contingency actions. It's a rough outline on how to handle Things Not In the Books, like swinging from a chandelier to kick an orc into a brazier of fire. A semi-impartial way of dealing with expected target numbers and appropriate damages for improvised attacks. Which is something that should also have been in the PHB, perhaps, if only to showcase the fact that, mechanically speaking, doing stuff not on your sheet can very much be worth it. As it is, telling the DM it's okay for stuff not covered by The Rules to be effective is awesome.

Other than P. 42, the advice on how to make a game your own, through use of theme and style - as well as the explicit use of what amounts to creative thievery - is good stuff, generally speaking. I love it when a game gives suggestions on how to flavor the setting/abilities to taste, or how to otherwise own the game.

The sample adventure is, bluntly, a meat-grinder. The only thing that made me look twice is, well, they stated as much in its introduction. The end room seems a bit unnecessary, what with the "boss" fight one room back; yes, yes, what would a DnD game be without one of the titular concepts, but straight off? (Though, the fact that you *can* be fighting dragons straight out of the gate is good design :P) Still, I think there's enough here to appropriate and indoctrinate to where it's not just another loot-n-scoot encounter chain.

The only core book I intentionally did not get was the monster book. Not with DDI's Adventure Tools, and access to all the currently-published foes (and the tools to easily make my own~!). I will, however, say that going back to the mindset that NPCs don't have to use the same stat set as PCs was a fantastic move; all I need to know about an NPC, beyond personality and goals, is how it interacts with the PCs. Since DnD's rules are almost entirely focused on sticking them with sharpened lengths of metal, stripping out non-essential mechanical doodads from an NPC's stat block makes it so much easier. There's still some road to go, before NPCs are the right level of complexity, but this is a great first leg.

Also, Minions. Great Haruhi, Minions. Finally, the horde can be unleased~! (Without having to track every damned mook's hp totals. Stoopid accounting.)

As a system, I like what I read so far. And, having listened to the Penny Arcade/PVP podcasts (and started watching the Robot Chicken episodes), I *see* how the game runs. I'm jazzed about getting this one into our group's rotation, though it'll have to fight TMNT & Other Strangeness for "game I run next." ]]>
Sascha http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/1014-Wherein-I-Read-4E
Tempting FATE: Advancement http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/902-Tempting-FATE-Advancement Thu, 24 Dec 2009 09:05:32 GMT There's one aspect of hacking up Spirit of the Century that was neglected in the previous posts: character advancement. That is, characters change in response to their experiences. Usually by getting mechanically better at what they do. Most games that I've seen build on this base model, either with levels or build points. Spirit of the Century, as written, is not one of these games.

By design, characters have already "made it" as pulp adventurers and heroes, so there's nowhere really from which to advance. No zero-to-hero model which, in my opinion, makes SotC so danged appealing - I've spent the past decade and a half doing the grind, so to speak, so I dun wanna track it anymore (in either player or GM capability; it's just not important enough to bother with).

But Star Wars is not Spirit of the Century, despite this series of posts all about modifying FATE to suit the flavor of Scoundrels, Princesses, Walking Carpets and Kung Fu Monks with Laser Swords. The saga itself is a hero's journey, so some sort of "progress tracker" would be appropriate. The only question is how to implement it. Let's look at some models.

First is the traditional, D&D-type model of gaining more mechanical oomph with each advancement unit, which is how Saga Edition handles it; I won't say it's a bad system, in and of itself, but for FATE it very much is. The subject is discussed in SotC's GM chapter, and comes to the conclusion that, for this specific game, adding more power to the characters makes the game less interesting (though not quite in those words).

Instead, one of the options is the idea of "shuffling" - wherein lateral advancement is still advancement. Basically, at the end of a session, the player may swap out one Aspect, one Stunt and/or swap a Skill for one in the rung above it. The character changes, but doesn't actually gain mechanical power. I really like this, as it allows for change without adding extra complexity. But it may not be enough change for a suitable Star Wars game.

One option for mechanical advancement comes with the framework limits we set on FATE in the beginning. SotC characters are supposed to start with ten Aspects, but we cut that number by about half, thus their potential in the form of FATE point refresh. Adding advancement in this respect could be slowly reintroducing those missing Aspects. If we wanted a more heroish journey, we can limit a character more at the beginning, with capping the skill pyramid at half the number of Aspects. Since Stunts are "purchased" with Refresh, adding more Aspects also increases the potential number of Stunts.

The other option I'd consider is just upping the Refresh every so often. Instead of adding more Aspects, or monkeying with the skill pyramid, we just increase the Refresh rate (and consequently, Stunt potential). We'll still see the same amount of Force Points, and the potential need for early and often Compels and tags (which is the whole point of the economy), without having the characters "outgrow" the system's sweet spots.

Of course, you could do both - first adding in the missing Aspects, then giving out Refresh afterwards - so they're not mutually exclusive. As a player (and, really, the GM is just another player, albeit one with a different role than the others), I'd more favor Refresh awards every so often, than having to come up with extra Aspects. Still, as this blog series is still (sadly) only theoretical changes, I'm not ruling out giving players the option for a more "growth"-oriented game; in fact, it'd be one of the things discussed before chargen even happens (then again, since advancement could affect skill caps, it only makes sense :P). In an ideal game, I'd see Shuffling happen frequently and Refresh increase every half-dozen sessions or so.

(We'll see how things play out, if/when I manage to find willing folks to play, heh. Looking at the local climate, it's certainly a challenge. But I digress.) ]]>
Sascha http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/902-Tempting-FATE-Advancement
Tempting FATE: The Force and Other Setting Considerations http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/882-Tempting-FATE-The-Force-and-Other-Setting-Considerations Fri, 11 Dec 2009 23:18:15 GMT We've covered the main mechanical aspects of FATE, as they relate to Star Wars; in both the Skills and Stunts posts, we referenced the Force in one fashion or another. So now it's time to describe the Force, how it works, and so forth, within the context of FATE.

By now, most of us geeky types understand the Force, either by casual watching of the films or a more in-depth, analytical look at the philosophies that emerge. And the arguments over the nature of the Force. Oh, the arguments.

Both of the existing licensed Star Wars games (d6 and d20) treat the Force as an objective source of moral authority, independent of sapient interpretations, and use some sort of mechanic by which the Dark Side gains hold of a character. After doing some reflecting on the films' presentation, I believe this approach to be ... not interesting enough for FATE. (Or any Star Wars game, for that matter, but that's a whole rant on its own :P)

Aspects and the Fate point economy provide us with everything already; there's no need to make anything new. Compels are a perfect representation of the Force's faces (say that ten times fast~!), right out of the box. And the stress of conflict can bring out some pretty dark facets of a character's personality (Consequences!), which are then exploitable.


It occurred to me while writing the last post that I neglected to elaborate on the trappings (read: uses) of Use the Force in the Skills post. A Skill that requires Stunts to utilize is a very dull skill, indeed, so we'll add some basic trappings that don't require anything but the skill itself. To do this, we'll start with SotC's Mysteries trappings, then move onto Saga Edition's skill and Jedi talents.

Sixth Sense is good ("I sense something, a presence I've not felt since..."), as is Fortune-Telling ("I see a city in the clouds...").

I'd also allow Use the Force to compliment other skills (+1 to the roll), when the character can take the time to focus. Which should be uncommon, if not rare, for a pulpy adventure feel ;) One caveat: when used on Force sensitives, augmenting an Empathy roll should be nice and easy ("Much anger in him. Like his father.").

On the Saga Edition side, perhaps telekinetically moving small objects, and Sense Surroundings (tied into Sixth Sense above).

No Star Wars game should be complete without looking at a Jedi's weapon. In Spirit of the Century, weapons aren't anything more than flavor (and range), and Star Wars should be no different. Most of the fancy lightsabering is already assumed by the system as part of combat, so we don't need a mess of new rules.

About the only thing we have to say is on Advantage. In FATE, advantage is the model of superior weaponry (or armor) and is represented as a +1 for the party with it; this is negated by framing an action to take advantage into consideration. When using a lightsaber, one may be able to negate a blaster's advantage due to range, or gain advantage due to only being blocked by another lightsaber.

(Well, advantage, consequences and concessions. Consequences and concessions are FATE shorthand for "your lightsaber cut off my arm / hand / gun barrel / speeder bike stabilization doohickey." Followed by the Wilhelm scream #4.)

I think that'll do it for this Star Wars hack. I really can't think of anything else that needs to be added or changed in FATE to make it more Star Wars. Now to find some poor suckers ... erm, intrepid players to play it ... ^_^ ]]>
Sascha http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/882-Tempting-FATE-The-Force-and-Other-Setting-Considerations
Tempting FATE: Stunts http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/878-Tempting-FATE-Stunts Fri, 11 Dec 2009 05:30:27 GMT _STUNTS_ So, here we are at the last of the major elements to FATE, those little abilities that allow one to break some rules. Default Spirit of the... STUNTS
So, here we are at the last of the major elements to FATE, those little abilities that allow one to break some rules. Default Spirit of the Century has a long list of Stunts that, while neat, can be somewhat intimidating to wade through; for starters, we'll go with Spirit of the Blank's generic stunts (which are similar to the ones in Diaspora, a hard sci-fi FATE game).

In keeping with the, erm, spirit (pardon) of the game, we'll keep Stunt rules simple and to the point. Basic categories of stunts and how they work are in the link, so we'll go into their use in this hack.

+1 to a Skill, in a broad, yet limited fashion.
Simple, effective method of describing a character's specialties within a given Skill, like Han Solo's piloting the Falcon ('specially combined with his "I've made a lot of special modifications myself" Aspect~).

+2 to a Skill, in a very specific area.
I read somewhere - prolly in one of the rpg.net threads - about this particular brand of Stunt only being applicable for maneuvers and declarations, which I really, really like. Instead of a flat bonus to a given Skill, it requires the attempt of something that players might not otherwise try; besides, adding temporary Aspects to things = Awesome, so let's give incentive to see more of them in-game.

Ignore a penalty to a Skill.
Seems straightforward enough. I can't quite think of any examples of this use in the films (though, I haven't watched them since Labor Day? It was a few months ago, at any rate :P)

Use a Skill for another Skill's trappings.
I'm thinking this is where the bulk of Force powers can be described. A Stunt that replaces Might with Use the Force could be telekinesis; one that replaces Athletics with Use the Force could be the Force-augmented movement powers.

Have a Thing
For all your special gadget needs. Stunt-powered Things have some enhancements that set them apart from other, similar things - in game terms, two Improvements (Spirit of the Blank also added a +1 for using the gadget, but I think that'll be on the list of Improvements, rather than automatically given). The Millenium Falcon is definitely a Stunt-powered Thing.

Force Point.
These are Stunts that break rules, but to use them you spend a Force point; powers not easily emulated by the Skill-swap Stunts are probably these. Depending on the nature of the Stunt, there may or may not be an associated Skill roll, as well. Examples of this type of Stunt are Resist Energy, Force Lightning and (using the d6 terminology) Injure/Kill.

Something I like, and am therefore appropriating, from Evil Hat's Dresden previews is how Stunts affect the Fate Point refresh rate. Spirit of the Century's Refresh is equal to the number of Aspects a character has; each session, characters with less Fate Points than Aspects refill up to their max. Dresden plays with this, by having Stunts 'cost' Refresh. In game terms, a Stunt-heavy character will need compels and tags earlier in a session; as compensation, they get more ways of being interesting.

Another interesting bit from Dresden is the Normal Mortal bonus: a non-supernatural character gets +2 to their Refresh (and thus, more Stunts and/or starting Fate Points) than a powered one. I may use this to further differentiate Force-using characters from non-Force-using characters, but I'm not convinced that it's necessary. Tempting, but not obviously a gimme change. We'll see ;) ]]>
Sascha http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/878-Tempting-FATE-Stunts
Tempting FATE: Skills http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/875-Tempting-FATE-Skills Thu, 10 Dec 2009 02:53:33 GMT SKILLS
In this installment, as it is, we're dealing with skills and how they relate to both FATE and Star Wars. What Saga Edition did for the property, in this regard, I really like - a nice, tight skill list (compared to other d20 games of its era), and no skill points to fiddle with. It's also here that I'm deviating some from Kiero's adaption.

I like FATE's skill pyramid, so we won't be switching to the column model like he did. We're also not using skill points; I don't think mucking about with point-buy anything is much in the SotC spirit.

With that, we'll move on to the skill list, itself. SotC's default list is somewhat long, but it's understandable given its goals; not all of them apply to a space opera pulp setting, or to Star Wars, specifically. Like Kiero, we'll take Saga Edition's list as a base.

For a start, we'll look at skills common to both games. Where names differ, the more Star Wars one will be kept (the unused name is noted in italics):

  • Academics / Knowledge
  • Alertness / Perception
  • Contacting / Gather Information
  • Deceit / Deception
  • Endurance
  • Engineering / Mechanics
  • Mysteries / Use the Force (I'm not fully sold on this name, but can't think of anything better :P)
  • Pilot
  • Rapport / Persuasion
  • Stealth
  • Survival

Then, SotC's remaining skills we'll take on a case-by-case basis. Some skills aren't as appropriate for a pulp space opera as they are for an early-20th Century pulp adventure (Art, mainly), so we'll remove them by default. Others will get rolled into more setting-fitting skills (Drive rolled into Pilot, Sleight of Hand rolled into Deceit); their trappings still exist, but use different skills now. And one or two will get renamed (unused name in italics).

  • Athletics
  • Burglary (again, the name, but can't think of a better one)
  • Empathy
  • Fists => Unarmed
  • Gambling
  • Guns => Blasters
  • Intimidation
  • Investigation
  • Leadership
  • Might
  • Resolve
  • Resources
  • Weapons

And finally, Saga Edition's remainder:

  • Acrobatics, Climb, Jump, and Swim are assumed under SotC's general Athletics, so no separate skills seem appropriate, really
  • Initiative is handled by conflict-type, so a single skill is inappropriate to the system
  • Ride is included in SotC's Survival; besides, it doesn't come up much in the films enough to warrant its own skill, really

Now for two special cases:

Treat Injury: I don't think a medic-type skill is really necessary for Star Wars; almost all of the injury treatment is done between films by robots, and with the way FATE's Consequences work, it'd be allowing the removal of an interesting way for characters to interact with the system.

Use Computer: I'm torn on this one; on the one hand, R2-D2 makes this skill Awesome. On the other, it's pretty much *only* R2 who uses it for anything more than gathering information. I'd rather see its potential trappings rolled into various skills than having them in a skill that may or may not be taken.

After all that, we're left with the following skill list:
  • Alertness
  • Athletics
  • Blasters
  • Burglary
  • Contacting
  • Deceit
  • Empathy
  • Endurance
  • Gambling
  • Intimidation
  • Investigation
  • Knowledge
  • Leadership
  • Mechanics
  • Might
  • Pilot
  • Rapport
  • Resolve
  • Resources
  • Stealth
  • Survival
  • Unarmed
  • Use the Force
  • Weapons
Sascha http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/875-Tempting-FATE-Skills
Tempting FATE: The Basics and Aspects http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/862-Tempting-FATE-The-Basics-and-Aspects Mon, 30 Nov 2009 04:06:18 GMT As with writing a novel or doing academic research, the first thing to do when hacking FATE is look to see what work has been done before you. So, we... As with writing a novel or doing academic research, the first thing to do when hacking FATE is look to see what work has been done before you. So, we go to the Series of Tubes for inspiration in reflavoring Spirit of the Century for use with Star Wars.

Over at rpg.net, there are two bits by the poster Kiero - one on tweaking FATE, and one on creating a Saga Edition inspired Star Wars hack. There are lots more over there (as well as over at the Evil Hat wiki), but I think these two will provide a lot of the base changes. (Deviations from that template may or may not be discussed in the appropriate sections :P Except the Force stuff. That'll be deviant, I guarantee~)

The basics of FATE, as presented here, are only going to be changed in a very, very minor manner: Fate points will be renamed Force points. They otherwise work exactly as they do by the book - to invoke or tag Aspects, to make declarations, to power Stunts, or to avoid being taken out in a punk fashion.

The rules that have changes will pretty much be along the Aspect, Skill and Stunt lines. Aspects have the least amount of changes, Skills slightly more, and Stunts are somewhat gutted.

Let's start with Aspects, since they're the least-changed. For the most part, the biggest complaint with Aspects is the sheer number of them; ten per character is rather a lot. The other thing, relating more to character creation, has to do with the phases being out-of-genre for anything but pulp adventure.

First, thinking up ten BAM! Aspects (technical term :P) can be far more challenging than it really should be. And, as a GM, I certainly don't want to keep track of 30-50 Aspects of my players, plus those of NPCs, and those of the current scene.

The second, Aspects from phases, I'm not so certain it doesn't belong in a Star Wars game; Lando and Chewie both have backstory with Han, and including an Aspect to describe that relationship is very appropriate. But, and this is the awesome part about Aspects, only if the players think it's a good idea. Also, having Aspects describe different time periods in a character's life is, frankly, genius; they can show how layered a character's personality is, accumulated by life experience.

For this version of Spirit of the Force, I think 5 Aspects per character would be a good-enough start. (With advancement, we could even expand the list to the full ten; should we do that, though, I'm thinking only five Aspects would be applicable for a given session. In other words, where more than five Aspects exist, the player chooses which five will be "in play" for that night.)

That should do it for now. Skills are up next, though I don't know exactly when, since break is over and I go back to the academic grind tomorrow. A paper due this Friday, and another next Friday. Blerg. ]]>
Sascha http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/862-Tempting-FATE-The-Basics-and-Aspects
Tempting FATE http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/861-Tempting-FATE Sun, 29 Nov 2009 20:47:35 GMT Or: How to Hack Games for Fun and Profit (Minus the 'Profit')

So I've been jonesing for a good Far-Far-Away galactic romp, since the release of the d20 Saga Edition. The series has fascinated me as far back as I can remember ('specially when a six-year-old me got to rent Return of the Jedi; it was a big frickin' deal to rent a movie, since we didn't own a VCR then). It's a huge slice of space, with a near-unlimited potential for awesome (read: interesting characters doing interesting things).

"But why FATE?" you might ask. Why not use a premade, supplemented line for this game? Well, there are a few factors involved.

First up, the existing rules for Star Wars - that is, the current d20 Saga Edition line - seems to be an odd fit for the pulpy action-adventure serial that is Star Wars. There are things I like about it and things I really, really don't. I don't want to go into detail here, but I've talked about some of them on the forums. Namely the lackluster approach to Force points, the class- or feat-specific abilities that should have been standard options, and, quite frankly, the d20's range and distribution.

I could hack up Saga Edition to excise the unnecessary detail and inject the important stuff, sure, but at that point, the underlying engine looks a heck of a lot more like FATE than d20. Especially when the d20 is never rolled :P So, FATE.

The other major factor is the players. I offered a few times to run a Star Wars one-shot for my DnD group, when we lacked enough (or the right) people to continue the campaigns, but the reception was lukewarm at best; it never actually made it to the table. Which is fine, really. I'm loathe to run a game for people who don't really want to play it. I think everyone, GM included, needs to be interested in the game, for it to be worth the time invested.

Anyways, back to the purpose: I'm going to post the process of repurposing FATE for Star Wars. It'll most likely be a multi-post series, as I don't have everything worked out right now, and will likely ramble on and on over the details of changes. Plus, I can already foresee a rather lengthy essay/rant (rantssay?) on the nature of the Force and its relation to game mechanics, specifically with regards to the Dark Side (which is a whole can of space slugs, but I'll spare you folks the details 'til later ;)).

- Spirit of the Century SRD: the base rules
- SotC Rules Summary: Quick 'n' dirty explanation

Star Wars
- Databank: official compilation of setting materials
- Wookieepedia: the Star Wars wiki ]]>
Sascha http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/861-Tempting-FATE
Television: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Internet http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/705-Television-or-How-I-Learned-to-Stop-Worrying-and-Love-the-Internet Wed, 16 Sep 2009 05:42:23 GMT It's been about three months since the move, and three months without any sort of television service. And I can safely say I don't miss it one bit.

(Well, maybe one bit; Dexter is rather good, and I'm not sure how we'll swing watching the new season without a Showtime subscription. Le sigh.)

Turns out we didn't really pay for television service so we could watch it; we watched television because we paid for it. The shows we follow are on Hulu - barring Dexter, of course. Which leads to something I read ... and subsequently can't remember the source. (Sometimes having this scatterbrain mind of mine isn't a benefit, at all :P) The era of television as an event, a shared experience of a specific moment in time, is largely coming to an end.

(Now I remember. Amy Poehler, on p. 68 of Newsweek, Sep. 21. Though she didn't quite say the era was ending, more changing.)

In any case, I'm fine with that. It used to be that we cleared our schedules for specific shows' airtimes, even taking classes at odd hours so we could be home for House or Bones. Now we watch when have the time, using Hulu or Netflix, and we save the cost of a service we rarely used.

(Of course, whether this behavioral shift, from shared experiences to personal-scale consumption, is a good thing or not, well, that remains to be seen. Then again, there are folks who theorize that agriculture was the biggest mistake in human history, even bigger than bell-bottom pants and Bon Jovi hair. So, yeah~) ]]>
Sascha http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/705-Television-or-How-I-Learned-to-Stop-Worrying-and-Love-the-Internet
Moving Frustrations http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/408-Moving-Frustrations Tue, 02 Jun 2009 23:51:37 GMT I hate moving.

Like, a lot.


And yet, I seem to do it every other frickin' year. It's like the Olympics - just when you forget, it pops up again two years later. Argh.

This move didn't even have to happen, either; we leave California, find a nice little house within walking distance of the campus, and hope to Spongebob we'd be there til we're both done with our respective schooling.

Naturally, the owner of the house decides to sell. So we were stuck in housing limbo, negotiating our schedules with those looking to show the property. It sold, finally, and the deal closes on the 10th. Hooray, it's over.

Except it isn't. We still have a week before the new place is ready, and an additional three days til we can get a moving crew together for the big stuff. Have I mentioned I don't like moving? :P

I think it'll be okay ... 'cept for our rooms being wall-neighbors in the new house; it hasn't been that way for a few years and we rather enjoyed having areas of space on opposite ends of the house. We're on vasty different schedules - her being quite a morning person and me, well, not so much.

I really just want the whole ordeal to be over already. Stoopid moving. ]]>
Sascha http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/408-Moving-Frustrations
Seattle by Night: Interlude http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/345-Seattle-by-Night-Interlude Tue, 05 May 2009 21:39:21 GMT Interlude: Tomorrow's Shadow

This session had half as many players - just the one, Anthony's - as the first, so we played out a lot of the investigative legwork.

Last time, our protagonists found themselves in the Carter family mausoleum, from a tip by local ectomancer Juno Shadix. A zombie-and-weird-spirit-thing fight left them with a few leads to follow. But which to pursue first? And how much information should be shared, in investigating the violation of the Fifth Law?

Anthony's player defined two lines of investigation from last session: the Carter family, specifically any occult connections, and how one might use magick to raise some zombies. Again, taking cues from
Dresden, the Council frowns on pursuing necromancy. And by "frowns on," we mean Queen of Hearts-style declarations.

Anthony decided to contact Juno first thing the next morning; perhaps she can help make sense of the night's activity. But wait, did she give him any contact info? He realized fairly quick that, no, all they exchanged were names; our mage high-tailed it back to the Council house.

So I had a slight oversight on the contact info; still, this provided me with the idea that Juno explicitly *didn't* leave a number or address ... which is rather suspicious, isn't it?

While at the Council, Anthony consulted his "library" - a collection of friends and acquaintances, rather than a room full of books - and find out more on how a zombie is theoretically created. The name "Nephandi" popped up, but only in reference to trials of Fifth Law violators; any deeper probing might have drawn undue Warden attention, so Anthony left the subject alone. Until later that evening, that is, when the personnel at the Council house are much more friendly.

I changed the Nephandi up a bit from the stock Mage group, turning the name into something the Council uses for those who violate the Laws and dive into the black areas of the Art. In this case, it's an older term, where 'warlock' is more common in the modern era. Also, as Anthony is a probationary member of the Council, he doesn't receive their full cooperation; mostly it's the evening and night folks who give him most of his info.

Anthony used his investigative skills to uncover Juno's work address and a P.O. box, the only real things in her name; he called the number, but it went straight to voice mail, and left a message updating her on the situation at the cemetery.

The next avenue was the Carter family. Info on this item was cake: as a prominent shaper in Seattle's development, the Carters traced all the way back to the post-Reconstruction era. After reading more news on graves being tampered with, Anthony also had the idea of checking into cemeteries that were "vandalized," finding trace magickal residue; the evidence was too old to provide anything but confirmation magick was used. Not to be dissuaded, he made a list of undisturbed cemeteries and waited for tomorrow's news. He also found rumors of European vampires who can manipulate the dead.

I took some liberties with the Giovanni: not all are surnamed 'Giovanni,' and their clan name will be different. Just haven't decided on the new name yet :P They're also decidedly *not* high-profile, what with the Council's wardens watching over dead-magicks, mortal or otherwise ...

Using his P.I. licenses, Anthony gained quick access to the public records on his missing ectomancer friend; the office where she works is a small subsidiary of a larger holding company. The contact numbers were ones he already knew, so he set the paperwork on the holding company in motion and went back to the Council. Hazel was almost on duty; if anyone knew Juno's address, she would.

As luck would have it, Hazel did have the information Anthony needed. However, Council protocol prevented her from just handing out contact information and she told him as much ... while scribbling on her notepad. One of those scribbles even ended up in the wastebasket, which she asked him to take to the bin on his way out. She also passed on word - rather hush around the Council - that minor practitioners were starting to show odd behavior, or outright vanishing.

This was a fun scene. It came about during discussions on Anthony's relationship to the Council and we ran with it. Plus delicious foreshadowing~.

Anthony checked out the address Hazel had most certainly *not* given him, finding a quiet, very old neighborhood; the magickal signatures of the area, he saw, denoted major thresholds, which kept the inhabitants largely safe. Juno's house itself had one of the stronger thresholds; of course, all the magickal safeguards in the world meant nothing if you leave the door unlocked ...

The house's interior showed no signs of struggle, evidence of activity within the past day or two (food packaging and dishes), and a rather cute black-and-white cat hanging around. The only oddity was the lack of mirrored surfaces, even in the bathroom. Not sure what to make of this discovery, Anthony headed back to the Council for further research.

In the meantime, the preliminary reports on the holding company came back; the primary name attached was one Royce Martin, a local billionaire playboy heavily involved in Seattle's art scene. Apparently his grandfather (and namesake) had bought the house back in the 50s. Anthony, being suspicious of Hazel's warning, checked up on Martin's whereabouts the past few nights - all very public appearances, gallery openings and whatnot.

The next day's research uncovered more graves disturbed, in the cemeteries Anthony was watching; he made fast work getting down to the sites and analyzing the residue before it disappeared. The Prime threads looked like a "shell," though without more, fresher magicks, he couldn't determine anything else about the case.

Back to the research, and Anthony hit the mother lode! His investigations turned up names - Jonas Carter, Jennifer Leicester - a group called the "Iron Riders," and something called the "Voice of the Storm," all revolving around an incident with vampires in the mid-1870s. He made a note to check his vampire sources for cross-reference; maybe they have more information than the Council does on the subject.

Still, while he was there, he inquired about the magickal shell, talking with a student of the Correspondence Sphere; the student analyzed the construct description and revealed it as support magick for someone else's effect. He even offered to demonstrate, once his studies wound down, but time seemed pressing for Anthony.

Further rolls netted zero successes, so we rationalized Anthony as getting tired, and decided it was a great place to stop for the session. What does all this mean? Find out next week~!
Sascha http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/345-Seattle-by-Night-Interlude
Seattle by Night: Episode 1 http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/321-Seattle-by-Night-Episode-1 Wed, 22 Apr 2009 18:22:09 GMT Episode 1: "Three Times a Corpse"
"Dark magicks skitter across the Seattle cityscape, stirring the dead to return to the world of the living ..."

It was a dark, not-so-stormy night. Suddenly, a shot rang out!
... Or would have, had Saresh not been taking precautions in the hit contracted by Uncle Enzo. As the Assamite left the hotel building via the fire stairs, a child appeared in the hallways, asking about his lost kitten. Saresh, true to his path, ignored the boy and continued to make his exit.
At the bottom of the stairs, he heard mewling; so, apparently, had the kid. The boy rushed down the stairs, gaining on even the vampire until a collision was to be. Or was it? The child passed straight through Saresh, disappearing beneath the stairwell, along with the cat. Somewhat offset by this, and wanting to avoid the encroaching sirens, Saresh vanished into the night.

This is the first World of Darkness game I've ran in many years; I'll admit I'm way rusty on the details-side of prep, and stumbled a bit on getting the plot moving, but this was an acceptable start.

On another side of town, Anthony Reason ("Ant'ny," as he says it) was doing research into the Kindred side of Seattle in the local chapter of the Council of Nine. During his reading, something strange brushed across his senses. All the glass in the library bursted inward, dancing around the mage; a quick jolt of probability later and the shards whirled about, deftly striking where he very much wasn't.

The Council of Nine is what the Traditions go by in this neck of the woods, based more on the White Council of the Dresden Files than the standard Traditions; Anthony is one of their members, though on a probationary basis.

While dodging flying shards of glass, Anthony scanned the area for signs of life, and returned with nothing unusual; the only human presence other than himself was the librarian, an older woman by the name of Hazel. The two mages pooled their investigative powers, yet still came up with little explanation for the weirdness. The library's physical wards weren't disturbed, Hazel mused, which left a spirit entity; spirits weren't Anthony's thing, so he examined the glass shards, finding a gooey residue, a vaguely familiar magick, clinging to the once-windows.

Unsure what to make of the night, Anthony left the library with his research material, nearly running into a determined individual storming into the chantry; he recognized the woman as an ectomancer, though not one strong enough to have full Council membership. She scowled at him and went inside.

Neither person noticed the chameleon-form trailing watching from a distance ...

Saresh, having finished his business with Uncle Enzo, tailed Anthony to the chantry gates.

On the periphery of his sight, Anthony noticed *something* near the surly woman's bycicle, a dark-energy blob waiting just outside the safety of the chantry. Not wanting another encounter like in the library, he rolled into a nearby bush to spy on the ethereal form. As he's crouched, he felt something tugging at his coat ...

Anthony looked down, noticing first that the tugs are coming from a cowboy: duster, chaps, spurs, ten gallon hat, the works. Secondly, he saw the cowboy's injured, gashes across his chest throat; fatal wounds, were it not for the third realization. The tugging wasn't at his coat at all, but at his perceptions. The cowboy appeared to be telling Anthony something, but no sound came from his lips. And as quickly as he appeared, the cowboy vanished.

Saresh, unaware of the spiritual presences around him, took note of the mage hiding in the bushes for an uninterestingly long period of time and moseyed along to find something worth his attention.

By now, the ectomancer returned from whatever her business inside was, and happened upon Anthony still hanging around. Being a "friendly" guy, he introduced himself proper-like; she returned the courtesy, giving her name, Juno, and her disdain for the Council's priority for those without the full Gift. Anthony mentioned his encounter with the cowboy and suggested that maybe whatever's happening he can help; Juno agreed, giving him an address - presumably the same bit she wanted the Council to look into.

Saresh wanderd the streets, looking for trouble yet not expecting to find much worth his attention. As he walked he noticed weird shadows, flickering, following his footsteps. The streetlamps dimmed, almost going out but not quite. Saresh knew this weirdness was not his realm, and hurried along. Then, exploding lights; lamps along both sides shattered, showering the street with sparks. Just as the weirdness died down, a car squealed from behind; someone leaning out the window threw bottles at Saresh's feet - missed, naturally from the reckless driving, though the resulting flames prevented accuracy in the Assamite's retaliation.

Anthony reached the address given to him, a new-ish cemetery built sometime in the last century; as if by Fate, Saresh ended up at the same place. Our mage analyzed the gate, using his knack for Entropy, and determined the lock was, in fact, forced open by non-magickal means. The swirling aura of whatever was in the library, on the other hand ...

The two crept amongst the graves, wary of the night's weird factor creeping every upward. Anthony followed his magick to a well-maintained mausoleum, its door already cracked open; Saresh merely followed the mage. Shuffling and creaking noises emanated from the mausoleum, marked "Carter," and ... what's that? More dark energies swirled around the area, disrupting what sparse lights remained active. The ground itself seemed to shuffle as decaying arms clawed their way out of the earth. Zombies! The creatures surrounded the mage and his associate.

Saresh, being the combat-oriented creature of the night he was, cut through many of the zombies in short time; Anthony, being *not* a combat-oriented creature of the night, made for the trees. As our two protagonists prepared to finish the zombies off, the mausoleum's doors flew open and out raced a swirly-shadowy being that looked quite like many people grafted to each other. Saresh moved to engage the thing, while Anthony sparked the weeds in the grass to grow, entangling the lingering zombies. Several strikes with his sword proved enough; Saresh killed the monstrosity .. or the swirly-shadowy-creature equivalent of killing, at least ... then cleaned up the zombie mess.

Here White Wolf's combat system began to *not* emulate what I'm trying for, so we'll be discussing a couple rules tweaks next session. All in all, this wasn't a huge fight - really the first act break, if it were a traditional story - but I can see some future problems when I bring out the big guns of the story. Ounce of prevention, and what have you. ]]>
Sascha http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/321-Seattle-by-Night-Episode-1
<![CDATA[Adventurer's Tip #1]]> http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/254-Adventurer-s-Tip-1 Wed, 01 Apr 2009 20:52:18 GMT Feels good to get to drawing...]]> http://gray-sascha.deviantart.com/ar...p-01-117807008

The paladin wishes this was fiction <evilgrin>
Feels good to get to drawing again, though :P ]]>
Sascha http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/254-Adventurer-s-Tip-1
<![CDATA[Coming Soon: "Seattle by Night"]]> http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/248-Coming-Soon-quot-Seattle-by-Night-quot Mon, 30 Mar 2009 17:36:41 GMT The Seattle scene in the early 21st Century holds many secrets best kept hidden: Vampires stalk the nightlife. Shapeshifters prowl the wilds and,... The Seattle scene in the early 21st Century holds many secrets best kept hidden: Vampires stalk the nightlife. Shapeshifters prowl the wilds and, occasionally city streets themselves. Conflicts between the Faerie courts spill into the mortal realm. The dead themselves return to the living world on unfinished business. And otherwise normal people Awaken to power undreamed of in their everyday existences.

Relations between the various factions are stressed at best, largely due to a Pact of Non-Aggression signed between the World Wars; officially, no open hostilities between the supernaturals are tolerated. Unofficially, tensions are high, notably between the vampires of the city and the werewolves, displaced due to the caern in Rizal Park's corruption and ultimate destruction. Only time will tell how long this tenuous peace will last ...

"Seattle by Night," premieres Thursday night. Check local listings for time and channel. ]]>
Sascha http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/entry.php/248-Coming-Soon-quot-Seattle-by-Night-quot