Saturday, October 31, 2015

How's the Weather? And Now, The News... (Superhero Sandbox Thing Pt. 3)

Weather helps evoke mood and atmosphere

As I work on compiling and creating Random Mundane City Street Urban Encounters/Dressing I remembered yet another piece of verisimilitude  that served me very well in the D&D Sandbox that would be equally useful here, not only for adding color, flavor, and realism, but could also add some fun complications.

I'm talkin' 'bout The Weather.

As seen in innumerable comics, shots like the one above can really lend flair and authenticity. Fortunately, weather charts are a LOT easier to come by than the aforementioned ones in the last post. I already have a favorite weather chart, that, while created for Warhammer, is really pretty system agnostic.

Now, right after that, while still working on the random encounters, another thought hit me as to a great tool to add to this "process" I'm brewing up to not only add more set dressing, but possibly add an easy "in" or hook for adventures:

I am referring to Newspapers.

Fair and Balanced?

I looked around for a while on line for Newspaper Headline Generators that would generate serious, crime and other news related blurbs, but with no luck. But really, one could sit down with any favorite Adventure Generator and whip up a plot that is the focus of the headline. And now your hero has a hook to start investigating. Maybe it ends up being the focus of the adventure, maybe while heading out for the day/night to begin the investigation something ELSE occurs and the story in the paper falls by the wayside.

My idea is that such a feature shouldn't turn up ALL the time, more like a Random Encounter. SO,  Roll 1d6 each day to see if there's anything interesting in the paper, with "1" = Yes. (Maybe +1 for each uneventful day until SOMETHING happens? This IS the Big City after all,,,)

So the Procedure I'm picturing for a Daily Routine as originally pictured in the first post in this series probably looks something like this:

  1. Roll for Dependent NPC's, Hunteds, etc.
  2. Roll for Weather, roll for duration (as needed).
  3. Roll for Interesting Headline in the Newspaper. (Generate as needed)
  4. Roll on Patrol Encounter table for each "area" moved through/entered.
  5. If no Patrol Encounter generated, roll for Random Encounter,
  6. If no Patrol OR Random Encounter occurs, roll for City Dressing/Mundane Urban Encounter
  7. Roll for Random Encounter (as per #5) to see if any Encounter occurs AT the Destination. If     not, conclude your business there and then repeat 4-6 as you travel to your NEXT destination,   out on your daily/nightly patrol, or just back home.
If doing a Daily/Nightly Patrol, repeat #4-6 for each area/hex/block/borough moved through. 

If simply travelling to/from point A to point B (like on the way to school, job, date, etc) then repeat 4-6 until you reach your destination (#7)

 (Or maybe just one set of rolls of 4-6 on the way from Point A to Point B if you want a more relaxed pace. As I haven't tied this yet, I haven't decided, BUT I'm thinking I'd rather only do the more frequent rolls while PATROLLING and only single sets when TRAVELING).

Following the above, I think I've got the formula to play out "a day in the life" of a Superhero whenever it suits me. 

Friday, October 30, 2015

You know what this town needs?!?!? (Solo Superhero Open World Sandbox Hexcrawl Pt. Deux!)

NOT what he said!

In my last post I laid out my ideas on what I think it would take to make such a beast as a Solo Superhero Open World Sandbox Hexcrawl run, as well as all of the links to blog posts, random tables, and so on that I've armed myself with for such an undertaking. But it occurred to me that I've left out one VERY IMPORTANT element (in my mind, for me, I can't stress HOW important):

City or Urban Dressing.

Call them set dressing, set pieces, stock footage, color, flavor,or whatever you like. I've found in my D&D Solo Hexcrawl that they've been a crucial element at adding that oh so important verisimilitude that I crave. Charts and tables full of little slice of life bits that just add color and flavor as you pass through an area (and that JUST MIGHT lead to something more if you start asking Mythic the right questions, roll a juicy result on a Rory's Story Cube or whatever).

Not the big Random Encounter type results mind you, just little, mundane, everyday details (with a little color and flair).

This is what I want MY city to be like...

...and this....

...or this...

...or even this, and so on.

Raging Swan Press makes a great series of them for D&D/Fantasy RPG's that I highly recommend...

But when I SCOURED Teh Webz for modern, urban/city dressing, random events, etc I found NEARLY BUPKIS!!! There is ASTONISHINGLY less support for pretty much any other genre you care to name COMBINED than there is for the monster that is Fantasy. *sad face*

Now, I did find ONE product that is (more or less) exactly what I had in mind "100 Modern Happenings On A City Street" ...

and found a long series of forum posts that has a lot of good ones (but it'll take some time to comb through and separate the wheat from chafee).

Beyond that, surprisingly little! So, I guess I know what I'm working on this weekend!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Superhero Open World Sandbox Hexcrawl!

Let's play!

So this post may be a bit all over the place and random, as my thoughts are a bit scattered on the subject, but I will at least try to cram as much stuff in as I can that I have located on the subject of, and that I'd like to use for, a Superhero Open World Sandbox Hexcrawl, along with my ramblings on the subject.

First, I had a bit of a revelation in the past couple weeks thinking on my beloved Champions. I have a suspicion that one of the great unsung heroes of Champions game design could end up being a crucial piece of the type of game I'm looking to play. I'm talking about Disadvantages.

If you're not familiar with Hero System games, character creation is a point buy system. You're given a starting number of points for free, but in order to have enough to build an average character you have to make up the balance with Disadvantages. It's a neat system that helps build a background for your character while handing the GM juicy plot hooks.

There are a couple of types among the various Disadvantages that I have in mind in particular. These are Hunted's and Dependent NPC's 

Hunted's are individuals or organizations that are actively pursuing your character. Dependent NPC's are those regular folks who rely on the hero for their care and well being. There are a few different criteria that determine how many points you earn for both (how weak or capable they are, and so on), but the one I have in mind is FREQUENCY. Both of them have a chance of showing up each session (8, 11, & 14 or less on 3d6), rolled by the GM. An appearance need not mean combat or endangerment, just that person(s) will figure into the session somehow.

I always thought this was one of the areas Champions outshone the competition, and always felt like games like Marvel Superheros could have used it. ( Aunt May, Dependent NPC: Amazing (50). Red roll? Uh-Oh, Aunt May is going to be in danger! Maybe Green is a phone call, Yellow a personal appearance, that sort of thing).

If I end up playing Champions this isn't a problem, but regardless of system, I want to front load my sessions with a chance of Hunted's, Dependent NPC's, and the like. These could then be worked in when relevant results show up on your Random Encounter Tables (see below), or when your Game Master Emulator of choice (like Mythic GME) throws you a Random Event or an Altered/Interrupted Scene, and so on.

(This may not be much of a "revelation" for most, but it was for me, in that as kids we never really used ALL the rules from Champions (Endurance, I'm looking at you!). We were pretty lazy about Hunted's, Dependent NPC's and so on. If we were running an adventure with Genocide, and you're HUNTED by them, well, they're going to target YOU. Otherwise, we just ignored them. We we kids...)


Next, I'll address a question that seems to come up a lot in various online discussions I've Googled up on the subject, which is: why does a Supers game NEED a hexcrawl in the first place? It's not a bad question.

For me at least, it all goes back to subjects I've discussed in previous posts: Immersion, realism, simulation, verisimilitude. I want the world to feel REAL. INTERACTIVE. Not only do I want a GAME MASTER EMULATOR for solo play, I want a WORLD emulator as well.

It would be pretty easy to just plunk the hero down in the city and roll up a random encounter. But I want more of a city that feels like it has all these things going on around me.

SO...that said, simple random encounter tables aren't enough for me. As I'm patrolling different parts of the city, I want greater or lesser chances of encounters, types of crimes, that sort of thing. IMO this will help make the city feel REAL and ALIVE.

One of the games I've heard recommended a lot for this style of play is also the FIRST Supers game: Superhero 2044. It incorporates planning sheets for you to block out how your hero spends their time and charts to roll on for patrols and so on. Very simulation-ish. Okay, sounds promising.

I managed to track down a PDF. The results...? Well...I got a headache, and a couple of nifty charts anyway...

I won't go into much detail on how these are used in the game, as I STILL don't quite grok how it works, other than to say it all boils down to a random die roll to see if you stop the crime, make a conviction, and so on, with a bunch of modifiers and mathematical formulas. Snore.

BUT, that chart for determining types of crime by area patrolled is pretty awesome. It reminds me of another one I found at Republic of Replicants from the DC Heroes RPG supplement Night In Gotham:

Add that to this map from IO9 that is keyed with the 24 boroughs on the chart above:

And you're off to a great start on prowling the city looking for crime.


Marvel Superheroes has a pretty good one too, in the accessory New York, New York
that you can get for free at Classic Marvel Forever

This one runs more of a gamut, incorporating Daily Life, Miscellaneous Crimes, Robberies, Burglaries, Rampage, Vendetta, Organized Crime, and Catastrophes. It's closer to what I think of as a Random Encounter chart.

Which brings me to Random Encounters. I have nothing against them. Heck, I love them. I think they're just the spice a sandbox needs. So while the ones above and to the right would be good for "hex stocking" tables as you move through the city, I also think a Supers Open World Sandbox Hexcrawl would need true Random Encounters.

In my mind the Random Encounters in this type of game would be more of your "big" encounters. Supervillain attacks, Alien Invasions, and so on.

Fortunately there are several good ones I've scoured up in my  searches of the internet like the DC Heroes RPG one linked to above at Republic of Replicants or here's a good one for sale at Drive Thru RPG...

Worlds of Pulp: Generic Random Event tables for Super Heroes

The thing that makes the Wandering Monster/Random Encounter work in D&D is the simple 1 in 6 on d6 (or 1-2 in some cases). So I'm picturing something like that here. Each "hex" (borough, neighborhood, whatever) you move into or through you would check on your Patrol Encounter Table. No crime in the area? Roll for Random Encounter. If one is generated, roll on Random Encounter Table.

I haven't decided on frequency though. In D&D, for Wilderness you check 3-4 times per day. In a Dungeon it's every other turn for Wandering Monsters. Every other "hex" could be a good metric here?


So, overall the basic procedure would look something like:

1. Check for Hunted's, Dep NPC's etc. at beginning of session.
2. Roll on Patrol Encounter table for each "area" moved through/entered.
3. If no Patrol Encounter generated, roll for Random Encounter every other "area".

Between this procedure and all the randomness your GM Emulator of choice (like Mythic) throws at you, plus any and all other oracles you might employ ( like Rory's Story Cubes) SOMETHING has to happen! If not either you're not looking hard enough for trouble, or it just wasn't meant to be. Go back home and go back to bed.

Needless to say, all of this is only if you're just out patrolling the city, on your way to work, whatever. If you have a specific mission or agenda from a previous session or whatever then obviously that would take precedent (unless you WANT to add the chance of added complications. Could be fun!)


As a bonus, here is my collection of all the most useful blog posts and downloads that I've gathered on the subject (in addition to the ones already posted above!).

Blog post on Superhero Sandboxes by Jeff Rients

Alien Shores blog posts on Sandbox superhero campaigns (3 parts. Recommended!)

Rogues and Reavers blog: New York, New York inspired Campaign Frames

Random Encounter Tables for GM's by Ty States

Polyhedron Magazine article collection for MSH. (Of note are the articles "Constructing a Solo Campaign" from issue 80 and "Constructing Random Adventures" from issue 91)


Heroes Unlimited Random Encounter Table

Elfmaids & Octopi blog: River city encounters for Marvel Super Heroes

Mutants & Masterminds Random Events (pg 6)

CrimeTable+Toolkit for Icons


I wasn't even aware when I drafted this list and post, but apparently +John McMullen  was already ON this track before I was, hitting on some of the same thoughts regarding Random Tables and Disadvantages back in JUNE! Check it HERE.

+StevenLincoln also gave me a tip to a great City Blocks Generator, that while intended for Sci-Fi/Cyberpunk, could work great in this context with minimum tweaking.

Look! Up In The Sky! It's...wait, who's THAT guy?!? (What I'd Like to Play pt.4)

The two greatest Super Hero RPG's ever IMO.

After a slight pause due to a mild manic episode followed by a more severe depression, I'm back (for now). I decided to skip the next game I planned on talking about (Ghostbusters) as the mood has passed. Instead I’m following my passion and talking about a couple of games I actually DO feel like playing.

When I was first starting out as a RPG’er back in ’82, after my intro via B/X D&D, my first true love was Champions. After being introduced by a classmate at school it was love at first sight. I had been a big comic fan as a kid, and the chance to make my OWN heroes as playable characters in my favorite genre was mind boggling to 12 year old me.

That Christmas my parents and I rode a bus across town to the Drowsy Dragon (RIP) to get my own copy (same edition as seen above left) as my present that year. One of the greatest presents I ever got. (Right up there with the Mego “Batman & Robin” action figures I got when I was 5 & the “Six Million Dollar Man” action figure when I was 6 or 7).

Supers was my genre of choice, & Champions my game of choice (though TBH in those days there wasn’t a huge amount of competition. Villains & Vigilantes, Superworld, & Heroes Incorporated were the only ones that I was aware of, but I had no desire to try them. Champions was the 800lb gorilla on the block of Supers gaming, and I was perfectly happy with it.

Until 1984. Imagine my shock when I walked into one of the local hobby stores and there was that bright, shiny box (as seen above right) for Marvel Super Heroes. It was from the legendary TSR. It had “official” stats for “real” characters. (Which tied in nicely to the “Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe” that had just come out, and was hot stuff in my world.)

Champions got dropped like a bad habit, and thus began a brief, intense affair with MSH, running through every module TSR released and writing a fair number of our own. Eventually the novelty of running someone ELSES characters wore off, and back to Champions we went, moving up to the 4th edition hardcover when it came out.

Gerorge Perez cover FTW

Over the course of time, I’ve drifted away from Supers in general (as the cost of comics rose so blasted high, and they moved from local stores, gas stations, and so on, into specialty only stores), which also included gaming. But the genre and characters have always held a special place in my heart, and I’ve never given up on them entirely.

As I’d started evaluating other games that I might like to play besides my solo D&D hexcrawl, MSH was one of the first to get unpacked. Not for playing MARVEL characters mind you, but purely for the ease of play and character creation (one of the few downsides of Champions is both how long it takes to run large battles AND character creation, though I’m quite proficient with both, so not TOO big a deal).

One of the things I’ve waffled over is campaign setting (as always). Most of me is STRONGLY torn to do my own world. My own characters. My own background. A lot of work if you try to do it all from the beginning. I’ve been really tempted to just let it all emerge from play. But then I’m torn again.

ANOTHER part of me is tempted to drop my own characters into a “it’s always 1984-ish” MSH campaign. Focus MOSTLY on my own heroes and villains, with occasional guest stars. This temptation comes from using a system with all those characters nice and statted up. Plus it DOES have the advantage of a comfortable, familiar backdrop. Just less room to world build.

Which leads me back to Champions. Lots of looking at old stuff, seeing pics online, etc has made me majorly nostalgic for it. I’ve gotten over SOME of my reservations about difficulty (if not character creation, ESPECIALLY when considering creating new villains on the fly!). Running an original (ie not LICENCED) game like Champions opens me up more to doing my own thing, and less “playing in someone else’s sandbox”.

In ANY case, what I’d LIKE to do with EITHER game is an Superhero version of an open world, sandbox, hexcrawl. I want to play as a superhero and go out and patrol the city, fight crime, rescue people from burning buildings, almost have my secret identity discovered by my girlfriend, get yelled at by my editor-in-chief, all that good stuff. The full superhero experience.

As I’ve already gone on quite a bit as it IS, I’ll save my thoughts on THAT subject for the NEXT post. :)

Saturday, October 3, 2015

...of Immersion and Verisimilitude: Pull a seat up at the Table

One of the finest examples of Old School Random Tables
Random Tables. I've made no secret of it in the past, I absolutely love them. While still high on the post from last night, I celebrated by buying up PDF's of a ton more random tables from RPG Now. (My version of going out and painting the town red, but with less hangover the next day).

While spending the day browsing all of the new acquisitions, not only was I filled with joy and inspiration (which would be worth it alone even if I wasn't actually using them in play), but I was also suddenly hit with another trendy word from video game design:  Immersion, defined as, deep mental involvement.

While contemplating that word, another one sprang to mind, one that I'm quite fond of: Verisimilitude, or something that gives the thing into which it is integrated the appearance of being true or real.

In this case, it is Random Tables, as many as I can get my hands on, from as many sources as I can, crammed full of all kinds of little nuggets of inspiration and ideas that I wouldn't have come up with on my own, that I can stash away until needed, unremembered, and in most cases UNREAD, that give me the deep mental involvement and appearance of being true or real that helps create for me another of those words mentioned last post: Simulation.

Now the same may or may not work for you, but I think it is worth consideration that you find whatever that thing is that gives your games a sense of Immersion and Verisimilitude and include it.

Friday, October 2, 2015

...of Simulations and Sandboxes

By George, I've GOT it! (I think...)
While stuck at work on a slow Friday night, I've been mulling over the "What I Want To Play" series (#4 is sitting half finished in draft now), D&D, & RPG's in general, when I had another minor epiphany.

While thinking on some of the other games I'd like to play that I haven't covered yet versus D&D, two words burbled up from my subconscious that have been rattling around in my head for a couple of weeks now:



While re-reading the 4th edition "Pendragon" RPG (one of those "Games I'd Like To Play") and looking up things online in regards to it, I stumbled across one quote that said (paraphrasing from memory) that "Pendragon was less of a RPG and more of a simulation" due to its system of Virtues and Vices to ensure that characters behave in a certain, consistent way, to their beliefs and character.

..."less of an RPG and more of a simulation." I rather liked the sound of that.

I think one of the things I've been consciously seeking, without necessarily being AWARE of it per se, is simulation in my RPG's. I want tables and rules that run the world and everything that happens in it, other than my character. (Hence my recent comment that I want my games to be "virtual reality" and that I want "to control my character, and the game to control everything else".

I know one of the reasons, among others, that I chose D&D for my first Solo was the huge amount of material available for it. Random tables for nearly any occasion and situation if you look hard enough. I think this is one of the reasons it worked so well. That kind of plethora of material powers the Simulation.

The other thing I want (that I've been more aware of) is for all of my games to be like a sandbox. Less "sit down & just have an adventure" and more "go anywhere, do anything, live the life of my character". Again, this is why D&D worked so well. Plethora of material, fits the style of play.

And I think this is also why I've had such problems otherwise (except for the "Monster-of-the-Week thing, which by its NATURE is episodic, thus I DON'T want or NEED a Simulation OR a Sandbox).

The problem I've been having is I want a bunch of the other games I'd like to play to be Simulation Sandboxes.

Star Trek? I wanted to live the life and career of a Star Fleet officer fresh out of the academy with an open world space sandbox to explore and unfold around me.

Superheroes? (Another genre I'd like to be playing) I want an open world sandbox simulation city where my character can and go and patrol like Spider-Man and crimes, events, and THINGS just HAPPEN, while maintaining a personal life, a secret identity, and so on.

Now, to be fair, I have scoured far and wide on ye olde intrawebz, and HAVE acquired a fair number of resources for both of the above (and maybe a few others). Supers in particular I was able to amass a decent collection of "stuff" to enable this type of play.

But for some reason I think I've had a harder time of wrapping my head around a "hexcrawl" sandbox-y style of play for the above. (Though I feel like I'm close to a breakthrough on a Supers game...there's something in my subconscious that just feels like the pieces are ready to fall into play and make sense...)

With D&D, there is so much material available, and sandboxing and hexcrawling are such well trod paths, that it wasn't a huge stretch to get started, to figure out what to do, or how to do it.

With others, even though there IS material available (as stated above), there is still lots of prep to be done, and the style of play for these genres feels like strange, uncharted territory, that when contemplating, I've had trouble figuring out where to start, how to approach.

I don't know if I have any point to make. Just thinking "out loud" here. But I think quantifying and qualifying, putting a label on,  what it is you're trying to do in Solo RPG-ing (and maybe life in general, really) helps in some way to accomplish it. When you do so, it clarifies, sets guidelines, expectations, helps identify what the challenges actually are.

Maybe now that I have a clearer idea of what it is that I really want to do I'll have an easier time figuring out how to do it.