Saturday, May 30, 2020

WoAF - Game Session 5

The world had suffered through, and been almost entirely destroyed by, the Ultra-War between the years 2023 and 2027.  However, the few survivors, with the help of the Super Artificial Intelligence known as Alt-X, began rebuilding what they hoped would be a better, more responsible civilization.  The Federation was formed among the three surviving cities along the east coast and had expanded eastward to wherever survivors might be found.  Recently they made contact with a small group of scientists living at Kitt Peak in Arizona.  They sent a team of representatives from Federation Command who were to assess the viability of the community, establish an alliance with them, and help with whatever they might need.  This was largely to be an exploratory and diplomatic mission.  Our heroes were among that group of Federation Command soldiers.  The team was lead by Lieutenant Roger Brisbane.

At this point our heroes had already been through quite a few adventures, dealing with the kidnapping of Linda Brisbane, Lt. Brisbane's daughter, by the ex-Mentarian villain "Dr. Danger".  During this rescue mission they discovered a mysterious sheltered vale of voracious plant and animal life in the Coyote Hills southwest of Tuscon.

The heroes, Captain Sam Wise, Pita Tochristor, "Guns" Gunnison, Fred Zeppelin , and Linda Brisbane took on the Black Wind V Mission.  The mission objective was to find the source of the mysterious radio signals were coming from, they believed, the Bonneville Salt Flats, just west of Salt Lake City, Utah, and provide help to any survivors they might find there.  At that point the existence of other communities between Tuscon and Salt Lake City were unknown.  This was because radio transmissions had become nearly impossible beyond short range due to the atmospheric radiation caused by the Ultra-War.  With this commission they boarded their Federation Command Armored Ground Vehicle (AGV), and headed north from Kitt Peak.  

Some fifty miles South of Phoenix along I-10, just outside of Red Rock, they were beset by a squad of Lizardmen equipped with body armor and machine guns.  This was completely unexpected as they didn't anticipate mutations of this kind could wind up being able to sustain any sort of civilized life.  They managed to deflect their attack and kept moving north.  Their observations lead them to the conclusion that the Lizardmen were operating from a series of underground tunnels.  They continued north.  In Phoenix, where they did not expect to find any surviving human communities, they discovered a small military base equipped with several Ultra-War flying Mechs.  This group of survivors were beset by squadrons of Lizardmen as well as giant insect mounds nestled throughout the city.  The Black Wind V team were warned to avoid Las Vegas.  They exchanged information regarding the Federation and the Western Militia, who maintained that they still served the United States of America.  There was a request by their leaders for them to join the Western Militia but Captain "Samwise" (as the crew liked to call him) declined, as he was determined to continued north to complete their mission.  From Phoenix they made their way towards Las Vegas.  They encountered giant mutant creatures that moved in herds, spotted enormous flocks of dire carnivorous birds, and were beset upon by mutant insects of various kinds, and were rattled by frequent earthquakes.  They decided to avoid Las Vegas and head east towards Flag Staff, Arizona.  The Captain's plan was to cut north from Flag Staff to Page, and then head up to Utah from there along I-15.  Alt-X had recommended a different route, but the Captain decided otherwise, for better or worse.

While in the town of Segilman, Arizona, a place they expected to be devoid of life based on Federation War Maps, was occupied by a small group of survivors.  The town was barely scraping by, with small farms supporting the community, governed by a certain Mayor Jenkins Mutmaw and his posse of brutal police enforcers. The town lived in abject terror of this group of villains, but our team didn't wish to risk their mission by getting too involved.  However, when one of the townsmen risked his life to try to get their help to overthrow the tyrants, the team decided to at least leave him with a gun and ammo, which he was grateful for.  They continued east without discovering the outcome.  There was a pursuit wherein Mayor Mutmaw's posse followed after the team for some unknown purpose, and this is where we pick up the story by session 5.  They knew they had been followed, and were preparing for an ambush.

Our heroes stationed the AGV  at the bottom of the quarry on the western side of Williams Arizona. A fog came up while they planned. They anticipated an ambush by the Jenkins Mutmaw Gang from Segilman Arizona, who poisoned two of their members during an initial parley meeting. They figured the Gang wanted to take the AGV. And maybe carry them off to Los Vegas, for unknown reasons. They decided to set up a cross fire ambush for them. Simon "Guns" Gunnison was positoined on the edge of the eastern rim of the quary in the trees with his rifle ("Ilene"). Pita Tochristor was positioned among the sand piles at the center of the quarry. They had micro drones (the size of dragonflies) set up with audio pre-recordings so Linda could trigger them at opportune moments. Fred Zepplin set up a wicked set of traps among the old derelict machinery towards the south of the quarry. Samwise their leader would man the Machine Gun.

Then the birds came at 7:30pm. It was summer, hot and not dark yet. A huge flock of giant black sparrows. Then a mangy bear attacked "Guns", with another bear coming in from the south through the fog. He climbed a tree, and shot the bear as it tried climbing up after him. At this point Sam exited the AGV and started heading to where Guns was located with his Ray gun. Meanwhile Pita holed up inside the cab of a derelict bull doser on the north end of the quarry. At this point the birds began to circle around and head for the bear carcass.

Then two men were seen by Pita entering the quarry through the fog from the North. He followed behind them at a distance. He also spotted another figure up on the north road outside the query with his 20x magnification googles. That person disappeared behind some trees. They made their way stealthily towards the AGV.

Meanwhile, as Samwise rounded the north edge of the query to head up to the cliff side, he encountered another bear. It nearly got him, but he killed it with his Ray Gun in the nick of time, and then continued on southward to meet Guns. Together they made their way back north. Meanwhile the black sparrows were making an incredible cawing racket tearing the bear carcasses to shreds and devouring them down to the bones.  Guns took another shot at a third bear (there were four in total), hitting it down its spinal column, felling it instantly.

Fred tried using the drones to distract and then attack the two intruders, with some effect. He managed to fly a drone into one of their mouths. Definitely a distraction. He then tried leading them away from the AGV by use of the audio drones. This worked to some degree.

At this moment Pita, who was standing stock still in the fog trying not to attract the attention of the gun-toting intruders, was attacked - by a wild boar. He shot it at point blank range, and killed it but good.

However, this also caused the intruders to take pot shots at him, wounding him pretty badly. He made a run for it to the other side of the sand pile. The men began to follow him, but Fred, taking control of the situation, manned the pilot's seat and threw the AGV into forward drive. As it lurched forward on the small road on the eastern
side of the quarry, Linda leapt up into the gunner's seat. When they came within line of site, she let one of the intruders have it. He was riddled with machine gun bullets. The other man ran for his life southward and hid behind some broken down cars. Linda destroyed him with the machine gun in short order.

At this point Samwise and Guns were on the north corner of the quarry so they entered the AGV. No one appeared to be around so they grabbed Pita and pulled him inside. He needed medical attention, but his wounds were not life threatening, despite a considerable loss of blood.

And that's where we ended it for the evening.

Next week they will decide whether or not to declare victory and continue with their mission to the Salt Flats of Utah, ... or ... hunt down the mystery man (and whomever else he was with).

Questions that were left hanging... what the hell just happened? Why did the animals attack them?  Where did the man to the north go, and who was he?  Was it Jenkins?  What else do the villains have in store?  Or was the demonstration of the AGV's fire power enough to convince them to run away and leave the heroes alone after all?

These and more questions may be answered in the next game of "The Way of All Flesssssshhhhhhh!"

Sunday, May 24, 2020

What is a Homebrew RPG?

There I was enjoying a nice warm cup of java the other morning when the topic of Homebrew came up in conversation, as it often does. Some people were saying that they homebrewed their game by altering the rules of a popular RPG. After spewing some java out my nose, I let out an anguished cry. How can that be what you mean by Homebrew?! I asked incredulously. I was offered a few quips in reply, but nothing that was said assuaged my feeling that this really was not the right word for what they meant. So I'd like to clarify what I mean when I say "Homebrew" in relation to RPGs.

I started GMing in 1978 with my first World, and first rules system, both going by the name of Elthos RPG. The rules I created after a skim-reading of "Men & Magic", the first volume of the original three (and highly magical) D&D booklets. My rules system had a couple of design goals. One was to eliminate the odd zig-zag math used by OD&D. I wanted even charts with easy to remember values. The second goal was to centralize (what later became known as) Conflict Resolution. I created one centralized chart that pits Difficulty Level vs Skill Level for all possible skills. In this way I wanted to avoid the need for endless additional charts for all of the doodads I might want to add to Elthos over time. The goal was to create a Homebrew system that I could rely on to only change in ways that make sense for me as the GM, and to avoid being tethered to rules systems that would inevitably alter the nature of the world itself. Thus I would be able to maintain my world for a long time exactly the way I envision it, and my world's history would not be subject to the whims of TSR's rules editions over time.

These two design decisions resulted in a system that has served me well for 40+ years.

The second leg of Homebrew is the Setting. My world is my own creation. Sure, of course I borrow ideas from many sources, historical and literary, but there is no tether that is tied to any of them. As such my world's only cannon is it's own history. The reason I wanted it this way is to keep my players from being "in the know" about things in the world that would be much more entertaining as surprises, than facts they encountered elsewhere. To me this is much more fun for everyone.

So for me, the word "Homebrew" suggests a creation from more or less whole cloth by the Gamemaster. Filled with surprises and idiosyncrasies that make sense to their creators, and are not beholden or tied to some corporate behemoth. It is the freedom and versatility of Homebrew that attracts my ardor. I think from a creativity perspective Homebrew is definitely the way to go.

As for what I think the correct word for what was mentioned by my buddy online the other morning is "House Rule". Homebrew and House Rule are two different things. There is some overlap, of course, but they are really quite distinct in my mind.

What do you think? Am I right about this? What's your definition of Homebrew?