Saturday, November 22, 2008

GURPS Dark Sun!

Seventen years after I first played Dark Sun with Doug, Aaron, Herb and Jim, I'm breaking out the boxed set and running the setting again!

My Runequest group spent the last night talking about the Sandstorm campaign they just voted for, and the question of what game system to use came up. We knew we wanted to aim for a system that reflected the gritty swords and sorcery style world, where life was cheap and survival was a challenge.

I brought up a laundry list of systems, from MnM, Storyteller/ing, BRP, True 20, Reign, and GURPS. They unanimously picked GURPS, so GURPS it is.

Adam is playing a thief who possesses a few psychic tricks, such as the reoccuring vision of his last days being endlessly tortured by a Sorcerer King. (Kind of a bummer destiny, if you ask me.) Either his mother or father is the black sheep of an wealthy merchant house, and knows that Marc's character is actually a distant cousin.

Robin is playing a former templar who was magically augmented by a Sorcerer King into being a highly skilled soldier. Something happened, and his memories were stripped and he was cast into the slave pens. From her character's point of veiw, she only remembers life from the slave pits, but retains some basic knowledge about how templars act.

David is playing a former-templar spy who was sent along with a small group of other templars into a nearby city by a rival Sorcerer King. When the templars discovered a large amount of money, they betrayed David's character and sold him off to slavery, rather than give him a cut of the loot. David's templar only has his fellow escaped slaves as allies, but he still remembers the location of where that large treasure is buried...

Marc is playing a member of a wealthy merchant house, who has recently been discovered to display magical talents, and since sorcery is illegal outside of the Sorcerer Kings and their templars, he joined an underground "Mages Guild", the "Veiled Alliance". Unfortunately, shortly after he joined the guildhall was raided by Templar agents. The more powerful members were put to death, and Marc's character was identified as one of the knowing servants or ignorant apprentices, and joined them after being cast into the slave pits. He has some talent at healing, and his family has ostracised him.

I'm looking at psychic powers being relatively low-key and fixed, with sorcery being more powerful and flexible. Sorcerers have a moral dilemma when they cast magic, as they can defile the life around them for even more power, or use only what energy they can for weaker effects ... but will preserve the life and land around them.

I haven't figured how how the mechanics of magic and psionics work yet, but with GURPS Thaumatology and Powers at my side, it should be resolved fairly quickly. :)

Friday, November 21, 2008

The results are in!

... and the winner is Sandstorm!

Sandstorm and The Night Watch tied for the highest ranking, but Sandstorm had more players that were interested in the setting.

The Isles of Jakandor, Fall of the Camarilla and Wastelands Reborn were all tied in rankings, but with the edge going to Isles of Jakandor when it comes to numbers of interested players.

Coming in at sixth place is Agents of Freedom, with every other campaign idea was responded negatively to by at least one player.

Here are the results:
#1 - Sandstorm
#2 - The Night Watch (very close second)
#3 - The Isles of Jakandor
#4 - The Fall of the Camarilla (very close fourth - tied for fourth)
#4 - Wastelands Reborn (very close fourth - tied for fourth)
#6 - Agents of Freedom

Here is how the votes breakdown (with scores ranking of 0 to 4):
#1 - Sandstorm: 3, 3, 3, 2
(average of 2.75, three players interested)

#2 - The Night Watch: 4, 3, 2, 2
(average of 2.75, one player interested, one excited)

#3 - The Isles of Jakandor: 3, 3, 2, 2
(average of 2.5, two players interested)

#4 - The Fall of the Camarilla: 4, 2, 2, 2
(average of 2.5, one player excited)

#4 - Wastelands Reborn: 4, 2, 2, 2
(average of 2.5, one player excited)

#6 - Agents of Freedom: 3, 2, 2, 2
(average of 2.25, one player interested)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hezbollah Boy Scouts

From a distance, it resembles any other Boy Scout camp in the world. Two rows of canvas tents face each other on the banks of the Litani River, the powder-blue stream that runs across southern Lebanon not far from the Israeli border. A hand-built wooden jungle gym stands near the camp entrance, where pine trees sway in the breeze and dry, brown hills are visible in the distance.

Then, planted on sticks in the river, two huge posters bearing the faces of Ayatollah Khomeini and Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, come into view.

-- NY Times


Speaking as an Eagle Scout, that has to be the single most surreal article I've read in awhile.

Thousand Suns GM Screen

Looking at the early returns shows that the while the Night Watch campaign is doing good, the Thousand Suns sci-fi campaign is also going strong. Since I made a Night Watch GM's screen (and I have time to burn until I get the other half of the ballots back) I decided to put together a Thousand Suns screen together. The graphics are courtesy Hubble, EVE Online and a neat software package I have that makes planets.

Lord knows if we'll actually play this game, but I had fun making it. :)



Click on the image above to see
the entire GM's screen

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Campaign Candidates - Part IV

Freedom's Guard
(Fantasy Superheroes)
On the western rim of the Iron Sea the city of Freedom's Reach is home to one of the largest populations civilized man has gathered in the known world. Originally little more than a hastily constructed harbor built by ancient empire, the city stretches inland from the coast, along twin rivers to the spell-twisted foothills of the Blackfell Forest. The city is a thriving nexus of money, power and magic, and a frequent target for black hearted villains who seek to steal the wealth of Freedom's Reach for themselves. The city watch is often hard at work dealing with the scoundrels and thieves that prey upon merchants or stalk the streets, however there are threats that are beyond even their capacity to deal with. A small number of people possess magical talents. Those who possess this advantage can do so through a variety of means, such as enchanted artifacts, arcane spells, divine blessings, psionic talents, or by being a supernatural creature (such as a werewolf or vampire). These individuals find that few people can stop them, and this fact has led many to be ruled by the vanity and greed rather than their better natures. When those who possess these magical talents consider themselves above the rule of the local lord or the city guards, it is up to magical heroes to protect Freedom's Reach. This campaign is essentially a superhero campaign set in a fantasy environment, but follows standard comic conventions, and not fantasy ones. The PCs will have a supernatural schtick, such as an enchanted ring, magical spells, or be a werewolf, however so will the various villains and monsters who threaten the city!

The Fall of the Camarilla
(Historical Vampire)
Rome is crumbling and the Empire is near death. Wolves circle the gates, while the mystics claim that the gods have cursed the Camarilla as the prophecies have fallen silent. It's a time of chaos for the vampires of Rome, as the elders flee, entomb themselves deep in the earth, or go to watch the sunrise for the final time. In this anarchy, the PCs have been embraced and now walk the halls of the Necropolis. Set in the end of the Imperial Roman era, the characters are Roman citizens turned vampires, faced with options that were impossible for neonates to choose just decades ago. Do they rise up as heroes and defend the pagan Camarilla or are they instigators of the final collapse in order to gain power with the Lancea et Sanctum - the Christian Kindred that rule Byzantium? Do they take advantage of political opportunity to seize power and steer history, indulge in decadent escape unparalleled in modern nights, or simply bathe in the blood of their enemies?

Sandstorm
(Swords and Sorcery)
Amid the desert wastelands lie scattered city states, each in the grip of tyrannical sorcerer-kings. Protecting their own positions with dark magic, they demand absolute obedience. Priest-templars enforce the will of the tyrants, while placating restless mobs with bread and circuses. Arenas overflow with spectators seeking release from the grim reality of their harsh lives. The land outside the cities belongs to no one. Gypsies travel across crumbling desert roads while insectoid savages satisfy their taste for blood. Slaves labor for their masters on projects beyond the scope of men, and those who have escaped their shackles form drifting communities, eventually to be consumed by the sandstorms. It is a land of deadly magic and powerful psionics that offers no promise of glory or peace. Those who don't have the cunning to carve out their destiny from this harsh life will surely perish - leaving nothing but bones bleached white under the blistering rays of a uncaring sky.

Campaign Candidates - Part III

Spycraft
(Modern Action and Espionage)
Characters are capable spies working for a secret global defense organization called "The Agency." This intelligence directorate sends character teams on missions at trouble spots all over the globe, striving to thwart the objectives of criminal masterminds and evil geniuses everywhere. These missions take the agents on a wide variety of incredible adventures - from high-speed boat chases in Camron Bay to treks through the jungles of Kenya to infiltrations through Siberian military compounds - with downtime in the form of luxurious getaways to Monaco, Casablanca, and other romantic hotspots. A typical game might feature elements of high society politics, urban tension, government intrigue, wilderness exploration and survival, hightech gadgetry, and battlefield dominance all at once, sometimes even in the same mission! Spies travel the world, encounter strange and sometimes terrifying situations, engage in over-the-top pursuits, and use technology years or even decades ahead of its time. Spies have diverse and colorful backgrounds, and well rounded abilities allowing them to become part conspirator, part soldier, part criminal, and part outlaw hero during any mission. Most agents are competent troubleshooters, recruited for their natural talent or voracious devotion, but retained fortheir personal strength and style. The agents' enemies are just as fantastic, commonly fielded by corrupt governments or corporations acting beyond and sometimes above the law. Most of these structures are eternal, too large even for The Agency to topple entirely, though the agents are their best shot.

The Isles of Jakandor
(Fantasy Exploration)
Decades have passed since the survivors from the nations of man fled the howling chaos which enveloped their homelands. The survivors that settled the many islands on the Sea of Jewels still tell tales of the Great King, a Spirit Talker who held together the alliance of men and ultimately led the people to safety when their homeland sunk deep beneath the waves. When the King died, the survivors splintered into squabbling communities, each claiming his legacy. They settled upon various islands and floating raft-towns, worked to provide for their descendants. Over time humans have cleared out and civilized a number of islands, however the majority are wild, unexplored, and dangerous. Humans have discovered that they are not the first to have settled in the Sea of Jewels, as the remnants of an ancient civilization abounds. Everywhere is evidence of sunken cities, stone ziggurats half submerged into the sea, crumbling ruins lost the jungles and swamp. Those who channel the spirits sense native vestiges that speak to them of ancient wisdom, while true namers search for words of power in long abandoned temples. Those who explore must be careful, as the spirits of the dead linger in these ancient ruins. Some scouts have returned from unexplored islands, speaking of natives who worship Gods of Death and master black necromantic arts. The PCs can be a variety of roles, ranging from explorers, scholars, soldiers, or adventurers sent to various communities to help provide aid, restore order, or deal with problems that beset the villagers and land.

The Price of Power
(Modern Occult)
"Magic" is a load of hogwash. Everyone knows that it is simply nonsense. People can't learn spells, powers, or possess magical senses. In fact, the only thing that "magicians" know is how to summon spirits and bind them to their will. That's all. Spirits are wonderfully versatile and ask for so little in exchange. Spirits of greed can give you money, while a spirit of ruin can cause firearms that are pointed at you to misfire. Spirits you have bound are easier to control, and someone else's bound spirit is harder, but failing to properly bind a spirit correctly can mean that it misinterprets or disobeys your commands, or even worse that it screws things up. In short, you play a person -- a normal person -- who knows how to summon and bind beings from beyond for personal purposes. The question is: can you handle it? Where do you draw the line when you see what other magicians are doing?

Campaign Candidates - Part II

Wastelands Reborn
(Serious Post-Apocalyptic)
Hundreds of years have passed since the Fires of Heaven destroyed human civilization and created a new world. Scattered settlements have arisen from the ashes, growing into small nations that have been separated from one another by a savage frontier filled with wastelands and ruins. As the years have passed, contact between the new nations has been more successful and trade has begun to flourish again. While centuries of isolation has turned into cautious interaction, more and more young people start to dream of a unified and rebuilt civilization. Despite these dreams for the future are the old fears of the horrors that come when greedy leaders wish to take the wealth and resources of others in order to make themselves stronger. The campaign is post-apocalyptic with a very gritty and serious feel to it. While there will be non-humans, unusual mutations and strange powers, the tone of the game will not be a campy Gamma World game with psychic rabbits, but closer in spirit to NausicaƤ of the Valley of the Wind.

Thousand Suns
(Sci-Fi Exploration)
Barely two decades after the faster-than-light drive was invented, mankind has not only taken to the stars, but has left mining outposts and colonies in its wake. While corporations will be busy for years developing and profiting from these new worlds under their control, the governments of Earth realize that they need to not only provide assistance to the off-world colonies, but contact with other space-faring alien civilizations has made exploring further into the unknown a high priority. The PCs will be part of the crew of a long-range starship, whose primary mission is exploration, research, defense and diplomacy.

The Infinite Prison
(Surreal Occult)
The characters are occult researchers who have recently awakened and discovered that arcane rituals can change their very destiny. While filled with good intentions, they ultimately begin using their new talents for more selfish ends. Papers being published in prestigious journals. Inheriting money from unknown - but wealthy - relatives. Access to certain tomes in forbidden libraries. For a period of time, it seemed like rituals only resulted in good fortune for the characters... but that changed after accepting an invitation to the Batell Mansion, a place rumored to be filled with supernatural lore and occult rituals. Unfortunately, only after entering the mansion did the characters realize that their luck had suddenly run out. The mansion is an unconventional prison-like environment. No door or window seems to lead outside, and rooms and hallways shift and change over time. The mansion appears to expand as the characters explore, and corridors and rooms don't map to any earthly geography. The prison is also a place where strange phenomena and occult powers wax and wane with the passing hour, occasionally threatening the safety of the inhabitants of the mansion. Worse, the characters are not the only prisoners, and some are more than willing to fight over the scarce resources available. The only option for the characters is to escape... but how?

Campaign Candidates - Part I

The Night Watch
(Supernatural Cops)
The PCs are investigators in the modern world who maintain the veil of secrecy between the mundane and supernatural. The Night Watch takes it upon themselves to not only help supernaturals in trouble, but to police the degenerate and unstable creatures who prey upon humanity and threaten to provoke a new bloody inquisition. The organization fears that mortals will discover the supernatural and upset the status quo, but they cannot be everywhere and they do not have unlimited resources. With occasional support from their superiors, the PCs have been assigned their beat, relying on their own skills and wits, performing their role as police, crime scene investigators, judge, jury, troubleshooters and problem solvers.

Northern Crown
(Colonial Adventures)
The PCs have sailed across the ocean to the distant shores of a new world filled with unknown denizens, strange magic, riches and dangers. The characters will be residents of one of the Old World colonies that now dot this new land, one of several groups that have traveled to the new world for riches, fame, faith and/or freedom. Tension between factions within the community as well as relations between neighboring colonies will receive a lot of focus in the game, as well as exploring the unknown, dealing with natives, pirates, and bandits. As members of the colony, the PCs will have a voice in what decisions that the new community makes, as they can attempt influencing the factions and help chart the direction the colony will develop.

Agents of Freedom
(Agents vs. Supers)
Someone going face-to-face with a villain armed only with a blaster pistol is just as much a hero as those guys wearing spandex. Courage is courage, and agents in a world of superhumans have it by the boatload. The PCs will be part of UNISON, the United Nations International Superhuman Oversight Network. They are investigators attached to major crime organizations such as Interpol, assisting in tracking superhuman criminals and extra-dimensional and extra-terrestrial threats around the globe. Elsewhere, they are a peacekeeping and fighting force, with a mandate to prevent superhumans from stealing political power. It is about bad guys who are genuine threats to democracy and how an odd bunch of ragtag agents band together to stop them. It is about one of the biggest threats to the world and their plans for conquest. And it is about you, the heroic men and women who will stand directly in the path of their nefarious schemes and stop them dead in their tracks!

The upcoming important election

No, not 2012 or anything dealing with American Politics. What has my interest is the upcoming vote by my Sunday game group regarding our new campaign! Our City of Theives Runquest campaign has just came to a successful conclusion, and when one game ends we hold an election to find the game to take its place.

Usually I draft up a list of campaigns concepts I'm interested in running, mainly from concepts that I've had on the backburner. I then give each campaign the "one paragraph" treatment, and then provide all of the descriptions to the players. The first step is marking their interest level in each game by using a simple 0-4 point system. (4 means they are excited about it, 3 means they are really interested, 2 is an acceptable replacement, 1 means that it doesn't interest them, but they would give it a shot, and 0 means that they wouldn't show up to game sessions if that's the game picked). After determining those scores, they then rank all of the games in order of interest. When they provide me their answers, I plug them into an excel sheet and compare which potential campaigns the group appears interested in, and eliminate games than any one member isn't interested in. (Anything marked with a 0 is off the list, and usually after comparing the votes, most games that have received a 1 are discarded. Usually we pick something that a few people are jazzed about, but most players are neutral about.)

This all happens by email, and I sent the "ballots" out last night at 3am. Hopefully, I get responses before the Friday session. On Friday night we'll get together and disect the numbers. We'll talk about the most likely candidates, and then go into a discussion about what game system to use.

Ironically, I've found that picking a game system is fairly easy for my group. Our "go to" games right now appear to be Mutants and Masterminds, True 20, Unisystem, nWoD, BRP (Cthulhu/MRQ), GURPS. We can kitbash any of these systems we like to run any setting we like, so the real trick is figuring out what setting is interesting. We don't care about the shape of the dice or whether they are called "advantages", "powers", or "feats", but instead they want an interesting game world where they can create and flesh out some dynamic characters. While the choice of game system can influence that, the reality of the situation is that individual gamers have a much bigger impact on roleplaying that systems do.


Anyway, I'm going to post the candidate campaigns to the blog and I'll post the results as I get 'em!


Democrats reach 58




With the Democrats gaining a senate seat in Alaska, the total numbers of the senate have reached 58. Two shy of the fillibuster majority.

The race in Georgia is now going into a special election this December. Since Obama isn't on the ballot, I'm skeptical that there will be enough of a surge in Democratic votes in Georgia to unseat a sitting Republican senator. Then again, stranger things have happened. Let's just say I'm not holding my breath on this one, and we'll see in the first week of December.

The race in Minnesota is definately a wildcard. From all appearances, the Republican won the race, as Al Franken is trailing Norm Coleman by 215 votes, or less than 0.0075%. That margin is so small, that the law in Minnesota requires an automatic recount. The recount starts today, but odds are we won't know the results until sometime in December. Given how recounts rarely ever return the exact same result, and how close the margin of error is, this race might as well be determined by a coin toss. The only thing we can do is wait and see.

Given the situations in both Georgia and Minnesota, odds are pretty long that the Democrats will hit 60 votes. As I said before, I'm happy the Democrats won't have that majority (and will be forced to rule from the center), however there is a theoretical chance they can still reach it.

I'm just happy that on the day before the election, I guessed that the Democrats would get 58 seats in the senate... and it turns out that I actually predicted something correctly for once.

Then again, even a broken clock is right twice a day. :)

Bye bye, Ted Stevens and Sarah Palin


Sarah Palin's best shot at joining the Senate just went to the Democrats.

Surprisingly enough, Alaska has just now called the race between seven-times convicted felon Ted Stevens and Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich for the Democrat. Begich beat the the seven term Republican Senator by just over 1% of the vote, which was roughly 3,724 votes.

If Stevens had of won, he would have been booted out of the Senate for being a felon, and then Alaska would have had to hold a special election to fill his seat. Given her popularity, Palin could have tossed her hat into that race and thus greatly increased her chances of running against Obama again in 2012. (The Senate would be a perfect spot to gain national and international experience, as four years of senatorial experience would really complement her existing executive experience and thus be a credible threat in the future national stage.)

Unfortunately, Begich won. That means the next election for Alaska Senate is in 2010, which is held by Lisa Murkowski, daughter of Frank Murkowski... the former governor whom Palin defeated in the Republican Primary in 2006. If Palin runs for the seat, expect fireworks as influental Republicans slug it out to the bitter end. *If* she won that race, she'd only have two years in the Senate before the 2012 elections which is cutting it really close... but it worked for Obama. Time would tell if she could replicate his success. (IMO, Obama was in the right place at the right time. I'm skeptical that anyone in the near future will replicate that sheer amount of luck he had in this election.)
Her other Senate option is to wait six years to run against Begich, and then she would have to wait two more years before the next presidental election. Eight years is an eternity in politics, and I think Begich's win means that Palin's chances of recapturing the spotlight in a race for the White House is so far off, that we have no idea what politicans will be the latest flavor of the week.

Let's just say I'm not expecting Palin to return to the national scene for a long long time... if ever.

Thank you Mark Begich!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Another Republican that I like

Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's easy red meat for the Democrats bashing Limbaugh, but Chuck Hagel hit the nail on the head when it comes to the biggest issue facing our nation: partisanship. The Code Pink and the Savage Nation fanatics are what will ruin this country.

I sincerely hope that Obama will tack to the center, and not automatically placate the unions, MoveOn.org and the Code Pinks out there. I don't want the Republicans to drift farther towards the religious right, and I sure as hell don't want the Democrats to drift to the loony left.


Oh well. A boy can dream.



(CNN)
— As his Senate career nears its end, Republican Chuck Hagel isn't holding back when it comes to criticizing members of his own party — including conservative talk radio hosts.

"We are educated by the great entertainers like Rush Limbaugh," Hagel said Tuesday during a speech in Washington, according to the Huffington Post.

"You know, I wish Rush Limbaugh and others like that would run for office," a sarcastic Hagel continued. "They have so much to contribute and so much leadership and they have an answer for everything. And they would be elected overwhelmingly. [The truth is] they try to rip everyone down and make fools of everybody but they don't have any answers."

Hagel has increasingly become critical of his party in the aftermath of the Iraq War and notably held back endorsing his longtime friend John McCain during the presidential campaign. He's reportedly under consideration for a cabinet post in the Obama administration.

Speaking at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, Hagel also faulted Washington lawmakers for "raw, partisan, political paralysis."

"The American people don't like what is going on… they want us to start doing what leaders are expected to do, address the problems, find some consensus to governing. Get along. There will be disagreements, sure… but in the end we can't hold ourselves captives to this raw, partisan, political paralysis."

Saturday, November 15, 2008

More thoughts on the supernatural police campaign...

I was on a thread in RPG.net asking about potential names to use for "The Agency" the PCs belong to in this draft campaign, and I ended up getting a few good questions that got me thinking more about the game. The good thing about good questions is that it finds you reexamining your assumptions and you end up with a better idea of what you are doing.


Q: I would start off by working out when and where this organization was created. Is it something crafted centuries ago, or did it only come into existance in modern times, when fast communication and travel means that enough monsters can be in contact at once to form an effective police force?

Me: I think that there has always been a few supernaturals who took it upon themselves to police the excesses of other local supernaturals, this activity didn't exist as an hierarchical organization or agency. It was probably born in the modern era, given the dangers of quick communication, information retreival and global travel. While those factors would help an agency function, it would do wonders for mortal hunters and also enflame local mobs to be a much larger and more difficult to manage scale. The fear would be that in the past the local village would flip out and kill the local supernaturals, but now these mobs could engulf entire regions - if not entire nations.

This would also create a nice rift between the needs of the supernaturals to keep the "masqerade" intact along with the powerful "old school" monsters/wizards who don't like young turks policing them or telling them what to do.

Q: Is it purely a police agency, or do they have the power to carry out trials and pass sentences?

Me: I'm envisioning that supernatural "society" is best described as anarchy. There is no law, conventions, or constitution, although supernaturals are definately aware of and interact with other types. (A cabal of witches can hook up with a werewolf for a bit of security muscle). What "The Agency" has is the consent of many weaker supernaturals who are acutely aware of the danger that mortal hunters present, and thus tolerate "The Agency" having a group of troubleshooters not only putting a lid on the problem, but providing services to said supernaturals. ("Vince the Vampire lost his blood bank access due to tight security and record keeping and now Vince is reduced to assaulting mortals in dark alleys. If the PCs help him get a stable herd, the risk of hunters detecting the supernatural drops, and it gets Vince indebted to the Agency when they need his services to figure out how to deal with the crazy elder vampire, Baron Belial and his brood.")

So, they have the power to carry out trials and pass sentences, so long as they can convince others that what they are doing is in their best interest. As a result, I'm planning that there will be supernatural antagonists in the game will try to frame "The Agency" as the tool of other elders to seek out and destroy their enemies. (Baron Belial might realize that the Agency is a threat to his power, and thus could try removing that threat...)

Q: Do agents join for life, or are most of its operatives volunteers for a limited term of service?

Me: I'm envisioning that it's largely a volunteer force, however there are some that are roped into it for life. If you are a supernatural who is somehow dependant on your master for some reason, and he supports "The Agency", he could probably easily compel you into a lifetime of service.

The majority of supernaturals who join do it because of personal reasons and because they believe in the cause. Kinda like why people become police officers.


Q: Based on [my responses above], it seems like the organization is going to have a very decentralized, informal structure. They are probably less organized than the Boy Scouts, much less the FBI. Actually, the organizational structure of the Boy Scouts would probably be a weirdly appropriate starting place. That is, there's a national organization that sets standards and gives approval for individual "Troops" to call themselves Scouts, tracks membership records, and organizes national events. Yet at the same time, the national organization has little say in the day-to-day operation of an indvidual Troop, which must secure its own meeting area and (generally) fund and organize its own activities. The national organization is only likely to intervene if there is some complaint that the local Troop is in some way not living up to Scout standards.

Me: "The Agency" is structured that way because while I want a police-style game, I really don't want a heirarchy that tells the PCs what to do. I don't want Bureaucracy: the Procedural. I want the characters to be the primary drivers of the local law enforcement community, and not a precinct captian telling them what to do. The PCs will be largely responsible for handling the day to day affairs of their "turf" and insuring that their broad mandate for maintaining the veil of secrecy is their responsibility #1. The PC's superiors will give them broad marching orders, access to resources (information, guns, money, safehouses, etc.), and the requirement to regularly report on their activities. In fact, if their superiors show up, it's either to help out with something near the end of some investigation (such as to incarcerate someone) or because the PCs screwed up bigtime.

Q: Have them operate according to a "Night Watch Handbook" that lays down the operating principles and rules of the organization, with some handy operational pointers. Each Watch is probably organized on a town or metropolitan area basis. Each Watch is responsible for getting funding and support from the local community and sending dues to the national office. (It's funded from the bottom up, not the top down.) More than anything else, the whole thing is held together by a common reputation. People trust the Watch because it's been effective elsewhere.




Food for thought!

Friday, November 14, 2008

If we can't have Xena, we'll keep Orcus

I'm still dissapointed that boring scientists changed the name of Planet Xena (and Gabrielle, it's moon), to Eris. Still, it's nice to see that another (likely) dwarf planet in our solar system has been named something near and dear to my heart: Orcus.

Of course, when I think of Orcus, I'm not wondering about a Roman god of the underworld. I'm thinking of the Big Lebowski himself, the abyssal demon prince of the undead in Dungeons and Dragons.

Yeah. I'm a geek. Sue me.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

New GM Screen

click the above picture for a larger version


This is the central logo of the agency.
The slogan is Amat victoria curam,
which means Victory favors those who take pains


I've been creating a roleplaying game campaign for the last few weeks and tonight I decided to make a custom GM screen for it. I did all the work on it tonight using Adobe Illustrator and a few vector graphics I've gathered up and tweaked.

The game would be be a modern occult "police procedural" style game. Think NYPD Blue meets the supernatural. The PCs will be assigned a city and told to maintain the peace and make sure that problems are solved. More importantly, they need to keep the mundanes in the dark as to what is going on behind the shadows...

Essentially, the PCs will bust the heads of those supernaturals (vampires, werewolves, mages, etc.) who really get out of line and threaten other supernaturals. That, and they will solve the problems of everyone else (ranging from mysteries to diplomacy). It's a crap job, but they have no choice. The characters pretty much get an offer they can't refuse...

The game will ge structured like a mortal hunters game, but with the PCs possessing their own supernatural powers, some agency support, and they also have to problem-solve issues for other supernaturals (like cops getting cats out of trees or intervening in domestic disturbances).
The PCs will have some supernatural powers of their own, but they won't be that overwhelming. They will be competent, but other trained humans (such as the FBI) can be a danger in this game as well.

A driving antagonist in the game will be non-supernatural human hunters, similar to the Inquisition in the World of Darkness. If the mundanes catch wind of what is happening with the supernaturals (such as encountering blood sucking vampires), the PCs will have to make sure that the Inquistion doesn't find out and or make the problem worse. If the situation blows up and grows out of control, the risk is that large numbers of mundanes could freak out and next thing you know every supernatural (even the ones minding their own business) are getting torched by the angry mob with pitchforks.

That is why the PCs exist. They are tasked with keeping the peace, and making sure that other supernaturals don't cross the line. The PCs will determine where the line is, and how to deal with situations as they come up. so long as they keep their nose clean as well as making sure that those other supernaturals who flip out don't attract the human hunters, the PC's employers will be happy.

In a way, the PCs are like the Aurors from Harry Potter, except they don't have much of a Ministry to call for backup.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Largest game book in the world


It's an Italian copy of My Life With Master, which is about 140 x 100 cm big. You probably need some big dice to play this game... :)

Election Art 5


Election Art 4


Election Art 3


Election Art 2

Click on the image for the full thing

Election Art 1


Friday, November 7, 2008

Smart Republicans

"The time is now to set in motion the changes needed to rebuild our party from the grassroots up, modernize the way we run campaigns, and attract different, energetic, and younger candidates at all levels," the site says. "We must be conservative in philosophy — but bold in our approach. We don't need a slight tweak here or there. We need transformation. We can't keep fighting a 21st century war with 20th century weapons."
...
To develop a more-“people-powered” party in the future, the group of activists is encouraging the RNC to reform how its organizes Republicans at the most local, volunteer-to-volunteer level, to move away from large-dollar donors that have historically financed the party and toward fundraising on the Internet from a base of small-dollar donors in the model of the Obama campaign, recruiting 25,000 new campaign workers, and making use of online technologies pervasive throughout the RNC’s operations.
...
"We must trust the online grassroots who want to take action on our behalf, and who need a decentralized, peer-to-peer volunteer community supported by our campaigns to really be successful. That will require giving up some control — more control than our traditional institutions are used to giving up — in exchange for an exponentially larger and more effective volunteer/donor/activist ecosystem.

Obama tapped the Internet successfully because he made it about "you" and "us" not "me" and "I." You were invited in. You were a key part of his campaign/movement. Your help was truly appreciated. Republican candidates need to grow more comfortable talking in these terms and focus less on being inaccessible objects of hero worship (the "me/I" strategy)."


Wow. These guys get it.

Time will tell if the old guard follow the Clinton model of smothering themselves in the past, or blazing a new trail like the Obama model. It will certainly be entertaining to watch!

Lieberman is unhappy about bed he has to lie in

(CNN) — An aide to Sen. Joe Lieberman tells CNN that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told Lieberman he wanted him to give up his position as Chairman of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, and instead take the helm of a lower profile full committee.

A Senate Democratic source familiar with the meeting confirms that account and tells CNN that one of options Reid gave Lieberman in a private meeting Thursday is Chairman of the Veteran’s Affairs Committee.

But the aide to Lieberman says the Connecticut senator made clear that was “not acceptable” to him, and reminded Reid that he was one of the Senators who wrote the legislation creating the Homeland Security Department, and that’s where he wants to stay.



Hello? Lieberman? You left the Democratic party, and not only bashed Obama but spoke for McCain during the Republican convention. What the (@#*&#@ did you expect is going to happen?

Honestly, there are Democrats (of which I'm not one) that believe that he should be stripped of all of his positions in the party he abandoned and kicked to the curb. Personally, I think that is short-sighted and that every vote the Democrats can count on in the Senate matter, so the guy shouldn't be driven into the Republican party... but I understand why the rank and file want to light torches and wave pitchforks on the way to Lieberman's house. (Just like how Republicans howled for Jim Jefford's blood when he became an independant and started caucusing with the Democrats in 2002.)

Larry King and Bill Maher

So, two guys that don't really interest me that much had a conversation that hit something I agree with:


Larry King: Is Karl Rovism dead?


Bill Maher: Never. Negative campaigning, mudslinging, tearing people down -- that will always be in vogue. McCain did make a classy speech last night. But, you know, they all make a classy speech when they lose. What else can you do?

And it does ring a little less true when only a day before you're calling the guy a socialist, a communist, a terrorist, anti-Semitic, anti-American.

Oh, we lost? He's a great guy. Forget what I said yesterday. Let's all get behind the guy I just said was a communist. Please.

Tack harder to the right! Blame the center! Keep losing elections!

If the GOP keeps this up, their next step will be to form a circular firing squad.

According to articles like this, influential conservatives are blaming their loss at at the polls on moderates, who they blame for leading the party away from it's core principals. Along with recent reports that conservatives are painting Bush as a "moderate" (in the hopes of removing that albatross from their neck), it looks like they are moving full speed ahead into reef and are talking about people like Sarah Palin (who couldn't even articulate a single Supreme Court case she disagreed with other than Roe v. Wade) as the future of the party.

What really amazed me was this line from the CNN article:

"What has made the conservative movement strong is when you have social conservatives, fiscal conservatives and foreign policy conservatives working together," [Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council] said. "This was the first step in what will be a long journey in rebuilding that communication and that common vision."


Fiscal conservatives? Where are those fiscal conservatives, because I sure as heck haven't seen them in decades. Certainly not during the Bush Administration, and we rarely saw them in the Congress under Clinton.

Since when has the last time fiscal conservatives had any influence on the GOP? Heck, beyond saying that they will cut government and tossing out non-starters like earmarks, when has any member of the GOP who has a serious chance of getting elected laid out any policy vision that is in line with fiscal conservatism? Ron Paul is about the closest I can think of with any degree of credibility, and frankly, he led the "3% revolution" which went absolutely nowhere.

Republicans need to face it that they are a closet big government party. They love talking about cutting, but they never really do it... much less articulate a coherent vision for what the budget will look like post-hatchet job. It's a great thing to talk about when they don't have power, but when they do, they certainly don't live by that credo.

Kinda like their lip service to state's rights. Really, that's another motto that should be ammended. Perhaps "States rights for issues the GOP cares about, and no states rights for issues we dislike." While we are at it, perhaps the Democrats can stop talking about being fierce protectors of American jobs, while simultaneously shipping them overseas...


Anyway, I agree that the Republican party needs to rebrand itself. They need to refocus on a coherent message, but one that absolutely has to resonate with voters and not just harken back to tradition, because it worked for Reagan 28 years ago. The Democrats learned the hard way that sticking to core liberal values regardless of what the electorate feels at the moment is the path to destruction. That's why they were in the wilderness for so long, and it took them six years to broaden their coalition beyond their traditional base. Now there are blue dog Democrats which are staunchly anti-abortion, and aren't going to go along with a crazy left-wing agenda.

Republicans really need to learn this lesson. The Democrats were able to grab large numbers of seats in the house, senate and the the golden prize of the presidency not just by having a charismatic presidential candidate, but by also broadening their coalition to include moderates. In the end of the day, those moderate Democrats should help prevent the the extreme fringe of the party from dominatating the agenda and passing whatever MoveOn.org and Code Pink wants, and thus keeps the party relevant.

The Republicans not only a new transformational figure who can articulate these goals to the common man, but the philosophy of the party needs to transform itself for the 21st century, and not keep running as if every election is Reagan vs. Carter.

She'll be back in 2012? Please! I want the Democrats to win.

Two fascinating clips regarding Palin and her grasp of basic geography. Talking Points Memo video and The Young Turks video.

Wow.


Palin didn't know that Africa was a continent, but instead thought it was a country? She didn't know what nations signed NAFTA? (Hint: it's called the North American Free Trade Agreement. That should narrow it down...)


Holy crap. Thank heavens she refused interview prep before the Katie Curic interview. I count my blessings that this woman didn't end up as McCain's Vice President... a heartbeat away from the being the leader of the free world.


*shudder*


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Remember, remember, the 5th of november

Four hundred and three years ago marks the failure of the Gunpowder Plot, an attempt by Catholics intended to kill the English king, his family, and most of the Protestant aristocracy in a single attack by blowing up the Parliament. It's interesting to see how popular culture has reimaged this event (which has been symbol of anarchy and terror for hundreds of years) into the struggle of honorable citizens against the fears of their nation sliding into totalitarianism. This is similar to how we romaticize pirates nowadays as noble Robinhood-esque characters like Captian Jack Sparrow. The reality is that these folks were theives and murderers. Kinda makes me wonder how Al-Qaeda will be remembered in two hundred years...


The Gunpowder Plot is now a remembered as symbol of the struggle of freedom against tyranny, just like how the meaning of most holidays and historical events drift from their real origins (Christmas and Easter, anyone?). A good example of the symbolism of November 5th has on people was when Ron Paul set the GOP record for the largest online single day fund raising on November 5, 2007. It's now a feel-good date, as you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who likes totalitarianism and tyranny. Let's just ignore the fact that everyone's definition of tyranny is wildly different. After all, most partisans believe that totalitarianism and tyranny is what the *other* political party is offering...


So, in the spirit of the new meaning, I think I'll watch V for Vendetta again tonight. That said, here are some of my favorite quotes from that movie:




"But I'd only told them the truth. Was that so selfish? Our integrity sells for so little, but it is all we really have. It is the very last inch of us. But within that inch we are free."

"Beneath this mask there is more than flesh... Beneath this mask there is an idea, Mr. Creedy, and ideas are bulletproof."

"There is a face beneath this mask but it's not me. I'm no more that face than I am the muscles beneath it or the bones beneath them."

"But again, truth be told, if you're looking for the guilty you need only look into a mirror."

Barack and The Onion

Black Man Given Nation's Worst Job

WASHINGTON—African-American man Barack Obama, 47, was given the least-desirable job in the entire country Tuesday when he was elected president of the United States of America. In his new high-stress, low-reward position, Obama will be charged with such tasks as completely overhauling the nation's broken-down economy, repairing the crumbling infrastructure, and generally having to please more than 300 million Americans and cater to their every whim on a daily basis. As part of his duties, the black man will have to spend four to eight years cleaning up the messes other people left behind. The job comes with such intense scrutiny and so certain a guarantee of failure that only one other person even bothered applying for it. Said scholar and activist Mark L. Denton, "It just goes to show you that, in this country, a black man still can't catch a break."

--
The Onion (America's finest news source)

Super Barack!


The video is goofy, but I love watching stupid stuff like this. I've always loved Superman 2, and seeing Bush, Cheney and McCain as the escaped Kryptonian criminals from the Phantom Zone fighting Super Barack is just too surreal.

The Great Moderator: 56 to 44

The Senate appears to be at 56 Democrats, and it could potentially reach 57 once the Minnesota race is sorted out. Georgia might be going to a special election, so they will hold another race in December (which odds are will favor the Republican), and amazingly enough Ted Stevens appears to be winning in Alaska. Is your candidate convicted for seven counts of bribery and as a result is facing up to thirty five years in jail? No problem! He has an 'R' next to his name... Stevens will be ejected from the Senate when they get back in session, however that just means that Alaska will have to hold a special election to fill the seat. If Ted Stevens could get reelected in the "Year of Change", then the special election would exist for figuring out which Republican takes the seat. Honestly, I'd be curious to see if Palin decides to run for it...

Anyway, the Democrats aren't reaching 60 seats. Odds of it reaching 58+ is very slim, but within the realms of theoretical possibility.

While Democrats might be saddened by this news, I think that's a good thing. Regardless of what I think of the current crop of Republicans, our system is based on checks and balances. If you go too far, there needs to be someone else with the power to reign you in. I argued against the nuclear option back when the Republicans tried to shut down the Democrats back in 2005. Blocking the Republicans from fillibustering in 2009 is would have the same stifiling effect.

I want Obama (and the congress) to govern from the center and focus on being non-partisan, so naturally I don't want one party stonewalling the other, regardless if it's fillibustering or preventing the minority party from expressing their concerns.

Sounds like Democracy in action.
(Although, I'm really looking forward to seeing what the Democrats do about Leiberman's committee chairs. The guy endorsed McCain and spoke at the RNC for christ's sake. I understood why the Democrats tolerated him to get the 51-49 Cheny-proof seats in the Senate, however the Democratic gains in the Senate eliminates the need to treat Joe Leiberman like "one of the guys". My guess is that other Democrats are going to enjoy being the chairmen of several commitees he was in charge of.)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Yes we can!




Obama 364, McCain 174

So much for predictions! Barack Obama landed 83 votes more than my pessmistic prediction, and was fourteen electoral votes shy of my "overly optimistic" scenario. (Good thing I don't do this professionally...)

Of the four EV poll tracking sites I monitor, only one was close: Electoral Vote.com. It was eleven votes off, but that was because they declared Missouri a tossup state... and as of this posting, it's still considered a tossup state.

What's ironic was how off it was in 2004. It blew the EV count on that poll, but Election Projection (a site ran by a Christian evengelical) nailed the Kerry/Bush vote within three votes. So, I was surprised to notice that the situation was reversed four years later, as it was off by 24 votes. It's close... but that's the same amount of votes that eight states can generate (AK, DE, DC, MT, ND, SD, VT & WY).

So now what? Robin is probably going to be happy that I'm no longer obsessing about the race... but honestly now the best part of the race begins. Not only do we get to watch (and praise and complain) President-Elect Obama tackle the disaster that Bush has left us, but I get to dive head first into the endless analysis and deconstruction of the campaigns. What worked and what didn't, not just in the Obama campaign, but more interestingly in the McCain campaign. I'm really looking forward to the yet-unwritten book which deconstructs exactly what McCain and his campaign was thinking...

So while the future is going to be interesting, I get to laugh, cry and shout triumphantly into the heavens tonight. My candidate won... and not just a candidate that I cast my vote for, but one that I honestly believed and really wanted to get into office. I believe Obama has a great opportunity in front of him, and I'm glad to see that he is poised to do the right thing. It's only time that will show how he handles the upcoming trials and tribuations in the world. I have no idea if he will shine or stumble and fall, but I know that right now, I'm filled with optimism for the future and what we as a nation can accomplish.


Yes we can!

Tracking the electoral votes

This is my electoral vote tracking sheet which I've been updating with the latest poll data since May 22nd. It pretty much charts the course of the campaign.

The data sources are RealClearPolitics, CNN, ElectoralVote.com, and Election-Projection.com.

My Election Scenarios and Prediction


I've been maintaining my electoral vote tracking spreadsheet since May 22nd, and so I feel arrogant enough to make an prediction as to how the election will turn out.

First thing to note is which way the undecideds will jump. Historically, undecideds tend to break away from the incumbent and support challengers. It could be argued that McCain is the incumbent in this race, but I think it's best to assume that this won't be a factor. A more damaging issue is when you study voting trends of the undecided when it comes to African American politicans. On the whole, undecided whites tend to break away in large numbers from African Americans when casting their vote. I don't know how much that will be a factor with Obama, however I think it's safe to assume that some of it will transpire, given how the majority of some key swing states (Ohio, etc.) are white. IMO, McCain will probably gain at least 80% of the undecided vote.

Additionally, there is the chance that the polls will continue to shift. The race hasn't been fluid for weeks, as it appears that it's been slowly crystalizing into place, with only some slow shifts in direction in these past few weeks. Given that it takes a day or two for polling to trickle out, current polling is showing us how people felt on the weekend. So, I'm going to assume that the polls could potentially swing another two percent or so.

So, where does that leave us?

Scenario A
Candyland (polls swing 2% to Obama w/ Obama getting 100% of the undecideds)
Obama 402, McCain 136

Scenario B
Overly Optimistic (polls swing 2% to Obama w/ 50% split in undecideds)
Obama 378, McCain 160

Scenario C
Optimistic (current polls w/ 50% split in undecideds)
Obama 338, McCain 200

Scenario D
Realistic (polls swing 2% to McCain w/ 50% split in undecideds)
Obama 331, McCain 227

Scenario E
Pessimestic (current polls w/ McCain getting 100% of the undecideds)
Obama 291, McCain 247

Scenario F
Worse Case (polls swing 2% to McCain w/ McCain getting 100% of the undecideds)
Obama 235, McCain 303

On the whole, I think Scenario E is the closest to what is going to materialize tonight. That I think that Obama will keep all of the blue "Kerry" states (including Pennsylvania), as well as picking up at least Virginia, Iowa and Colorado. That puts Obama at 281 to McCain's 257, and everyone will be calling Barack Obama the 44th President of the United States of America.
At least, that's what I'm praying for.