Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Thoughts on a Hoth event for Gateway 2013

In just a few weeks we will be hitting Gamex with our Corellian Corvette Event. Since we are down to the wire here and have one more playtest before we open it up to the masses, it's time to look towards the future.

With that in mind we have made some steps towards getting a Hoth Event together. How are we going to do that you say?  Well it started here.

Mounted on Corsec Bases these T-47 Airspeeders will be the first line of defense for the Rebels on Hoth. We have some basic ideas on what we want to do with stats (see scenario sheets below) but really need to get some time on the table to make sure we have the balance right.

On the ground, the Empire brings some big guns.

These All Terrain Armored Transports and All Terrain Scout Transports, better known as AT-AT's and AT-ST's make their landing on Hoth and are tasked with taking out the Shield Generator protecting the Rebel Ion Cannon.

We will be mounting the ST's on these Litko bases.  They don't really stand well without some support and its just easier to have the base there for range purposes and the guides for movement.

But the Battle of Hoth was not simply a ground based engagement. The Imperials suffered an embarrassing loss by allowing the GR-75 Rebel Transports off planet. Speaking of GR-75s.

We are going to take this on as three separate games.  First the Rebels will try to intercept Imperial Probe Droids searching for the position of the Power Generator.

Click here to get the full doc from Google Docs!

Then the battle moves on when the AT-AT's land to assault Eco Base!

Click here to get the full doc from Google Docs!

Finally the last transports are away and the Imperials try to tighten the net.

Click here to get the full doc from Google Docs!

We have a lot of work ahead to make sure everything is smooth for the game, but we are looking forward to September and getting all of these scenarios off the ground.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Reader feedback

Since I started this blog I have managed to coax enough interest out of some people for them to post responses to my ramblings. For the most part, these responses have come from the several Google Plus Communities that I have joined. I have discovered that I have not only found kindred spirits on this social media platform, but a large group of highly intelligent peers who share a passion for gaming.

Communities like Savage Worlds Fast! Furious! Fans!, Gamecraft, Role Playing Game Designers and Board Game Design are incredible resources for feedback on story and design ideas.  I am in your debt and hope that you all continue to follow Plus Ten to Awesome and all of our strange ideas and ramblings.

In this post is all about the evocative and thought provoking responses I have gotten on Google Plus to my posts.  The title will have a link to my post and below that will be a reply to my post then followed by my further thoughts.

Action Vs. Reaction: A discussion about martial arts mechanics in RPG's

+Mark Brown: Love the interview!!! Extremely informative, too!!! But I probably would fiddle with fighting in Savage Worlds too much though..

+Ten to Awesome: Mark, I can see what you mean. More to the point, Savage Worlds is a fantastic system that does a great job of creating a fecund environment for storytelling adventure. As much as I do not want to “fix what ‘aint broken”, it simply provides me with a basis to modify instead of generating something completely new. The Savage Worlds basic die step mechanic and more narrative mechanics like the Wild Cards and Bennies give me a basic framework to work with as I try to experiment with a new style of combat system. Most likely this will end up developing into something that is completely unrelated to Savage Worlds, but for now I will just tinker with it to develop my ideas a little more fully.
+Erik McGrath: The only RPG I have made that I could call complete has initiative in combat being very fluid. If you succeed in your action you have it so if your attack works you get another one but if you successfully defend you take the initiative until eventually you are out of dice and must reset. You can check out Celestial Warriors…

+Ten to Awesome: I didn’t want to share your link here since it’s really not mine to share, but having read through it I like how the combat is based on opposed rolls.  I also like the way you allot for distance, especially since its supposed to simulate those wonderful aerial combats like we see in the Wu Shu movies. You have your initiative as a simple Agility roll though and thats one of the things I want to expound upon.  I also want to have events dictate a change in initiative instead of a simple tick or action/reaction determiner.  All in all this looks like a fun game and I particularly liked your Pairing Method for dice resolution.
+Stephen Gunnell - +Ten to Awesome: Stephen, your response was amazing and exactly the kind of feedback I was hoping for when I threw this out into the internet “ether.” Just to give you a little more background on Kay, he has been training primarily in Eibukan Goju-Ryu Karatedo and is an instructor 5th Dan. He is also a 1 Kyu practitioner of the Covina Kendo Dojo. Most of his training has been from close family. Since his practice of martial arts has always been from not only a Dojo perspective, but from a family perspective, his training has been extremely intimate and uniquely Japanese. That is to say that it has led not only to a practice of martial arts but very much a lifestyle within his close family circle.

Since this discussion was not originally intended to be a post, but was more of a discussion between a complete layman and his better educated friend, I had to edit it into something legible to a larger audience. Your response, was also very much in the same vain, so I had to do some working to continue as both a discourse and something digestible by the reader of this blog, so please bear with me. It is not my intent to create any kind of clash between Stephen and Kay, I just thought that the discussion was interesting and merited posting. (Besides these guys seem to know a lot more about this stuff than me and I wouldn't want to get caught between them.)

I won’t re-post your comment in its entirety here due to length, especially when I add +Kay Sakaue’s response, but will simply frame it in the same manner as the title of the post.

Action: Stephen

Very interesting. Your friend’s comments also match what I have heard from experienced SCA fighters. However there are some points to be aware of. Firstly is the difference between Kendo and Kenjutsu. Any Japanese martial art with a -do suffix is a display or sport skill. The movements of the sport skill are simplified and stylized over the corresponding -jutsu or combat skill. That said, over time the lines become less distinct as the top -do practitioners push the boundaries and the -jutsu practitioners are no longer honed by survival.

Reaction: Kay

I’m not sure how traditional you want to get. Yes… there is a big difference between Kendo and Kenjutsu… however I’d like to point out a flaw in his thinking about the suffix “do”. “Do” or the “Path” is comprised of two different characteristics. 1) Longevity and 2) Neck. Combine those two characters together you get the kanji “Michi” or “Do.” “Do” is the same for Tao in Chinese. It is to symbolize the dedication for your art. You would practice in the “do” but when it really needs to be used it is considered a jutsu. Longevity stands for just that…. And neck stands for your resolve. Meaning that you are willing to follow the path with your neck on the line. It’s not as simple as it seems. In Kendo’s sake the “do” came after the jutsu because of peace time. If no wars are being fought then there is no reason for actual use. People would get hurt… which is why Kendo was developed. I understand where he is coming from by talking about jutsu… but I think he’s looking at it too literally. While Kenjutsu is definitely older than Kendo… Kendo is not only practiced as a sport as the reply alludes to. It’s not only the point sparring… but there are definitely some areas that are derived from Kenjutsu. My style of kendo from the Covina Kendo Dojo practices Kendo with roots from the Hokushin Ittou Ryu Kenjutsu (Mori ToraoàHori SenseiàM. Sakaue/K. Chinen). Stephen needs to understand that regardless of it being Kendo or Kenjutsu… the art is alive and it continues to grow and mature as any living being. There always will be a question between the sport aspect and the “jutsu” aspect but believe me when I say this… there is no difference between the “do” and the “jutsu”, they are definitely interchangeable especially looking at it from a spiritual and philosophical view. (most kenshi spend hours working on Iai and Kendo Kata which is pulled from their kenjutsu roots.) The difference is definitely understood. Off note… there are definitely some Kenjutsu senseis left out there but most of the legacies have passed on to either Iaido or Kendo… their “jutsu” lives on. Just because there is a “do” doesn’t mean that they do not practice the “jutsu.”

Action: Stephen

The movements of the sport skill are simplified and stylised over the corresponding -jutsu or combat skill. That said, over time the lines become less distinct as the top -do practitioners push the boundaries and the -jutsu practitioners are no longer honed by survival.

Reaction: Kay

In Karate, what the replier is alluding to is more definitely realized. I have conversations and debates over this issue constantly with other practitioners over the world as well as people here in the US. (Goju Ryu Network) What he is saying is true… in sport, technique is flushed out, smoothed out, and speed becomes the driving force. However, speed is nothing without technique. Where is technique flushed out? Traditional training. Martial combat in the form of Martial Art… there is a balance of both. A true practitioner understands this and doesn’t debate the effectiveness until faced with it him or herself. I think this is what Stephen was alluding to… not between the “do” and the “jutsu.” If the above statement were true then juijutsu would have never lost out to Judo. Again… the evolution of martial arts.

Kano Jigoro, the founder of Judo declared that he would not lose to Jiujutsu. In a demonstration in front of the Emperor, Judo went undefeated against some of Japan’s best jiujutsu fighters who clung on to the classical training feeling that their techniques were unbeatable… again… the confidence that “jutsu” would never fall to a “do” (not exactly… but only using those terms to show the difference in stylizations) Yes… the root of the techniques are from jutsu… but they failed to realize that jiujutsu has evolved. Regardless to say we may have seen another paradigm shift in jiujutsu and judo with the evolution of MMA.

Action: Stephen

Secondly in Kendo and Karate the user completely dominates the "weapon" whereas with pole-arms or two handed swords the weapon dominates the user and the wielder must adapt all of their actions to the dictates of the weapon.

Reaction: Kay

We have to be clear of what Stephen is alluding to here. If we are going to lump in Katana and Nunchaku with Broadswords and Lances… then we are completely comparing apples and oranges. Looking at this from a eastern philosophy… yes… in Karate, better yet Kobudo, and Kendo… the karateka and kenshi is measured on the control of their weapon. Attacks are precise and calculated. Western philosophy is completely different as strategy and tactics were different. Both philosophies have polearm disciplines… again apples and oranges if you compare a Naginata or a Yari to a Halberd or a Lance. While they are all polearms they had complete different uses. One thing I do have agree with Stephen… for both Eastern and Western philosophies… the wielder is at the mercy of the weapon regardless of mastery.

Action: Stephen

The final outcome of a one on one battle can often be decided at this time before any blows are struck. Important questions are answered (or not) at this time. Does my opponent have restrictions about how they can move? Do they know their kill zone? Do they know my kill zone? Do I understand their weapon and its kill zone? Are any apparent weaknesses real or false? Can I sucker them with a false weakness? Can I maneuver to a position of advantage? I see this as a straight skill vs skill with bonuses for perception and style/weapon familiarity.

Reaction: Kay

I’m not sure if he knows… but he may already have an understanding of Zanshin. All the questions above are about Zanshin.

Action: Stephen

I don't yet have a good mechanism for reactive combat and I haven't described closing to effect, reversals, charging and other actions. My thought is that a single good strike will end a combat and the combat is about denying your opponent the opportunity to make that strike while setting up your own opportunity

Reaction: Kay

Reactive combat in game situation is hard to see because it’s a “chicken or the egg” kind of situation and how can you put that on to paper.

Summation: Kay

Overall… I understand what Stephen is saying however, I hope he understands that there is a place for the “do” and the “jutsu” Oh… and the argument of which is more effective for Kendo, traditional vs current… wish I could tell you… there haven’t been any sword carrying a-holes around so I haven’t been able to test my skill. For Karate… a balance of traditional training an evolved training has yielded the best results for me.

Helping PC’s create characters for an evil game

+David Berg: I dig the advice about identifying motives and traumas! I actually use something similar in my own supervillain RPG (if you'd like to read/play, just lemme know!), but I've found it handy to start with a Want, and then identify how the villain Suffers from not having what they want (needn't be trauma-based, but many players opt for that). So then it's easy to connect the dark psychological stuff to concrete actions (pursuit of the Wants).

Have you played any games using the approach in your post? If so, how'd it go?

+Ten to Awesome: David, you never sent me your info on the Supervillain RPG you have. Our next Gamex convention coming up here in a few weeks is comics superhero themed and I would love to maybe even run a one shot as one of our RPG events!

I tend to look at character creation from the point of view of an actor. Not that I am an actor per se, (not everyone from Los Angeles is an aspiring actor) but I have had some training in Drama. From that point of view I can tell you that there is some difference between a Want or a Goal and a Motivation. They both drive a characters actions but “Wants” can be more easily resolved than Motivations. When a character wants something, they can actively go out and try to attain that goal. A Motivation is much more internal. It’s an emotional lens by which you interpret interaction.

For example, if a character is motivated by Lust, it will taint their interaction with every person they meet. Can this person be seduced? What are these people’s proclivities? Can I manipulate them to sate my desire? Something like this cannot be a goal because there is no end to it. Unless they deal with the central reason as to WHY they feel this emotion they can never remove that motivation from their actions. They why can be a trauma or variable other reasons. If players develop a motivation behind a want, it gives the characters action greater gravitas.

If a player simply states that their character wants to have sex with every person they find interesting or attractive, it is a far more two dimensional statement. Without some sort of rationalization as to why they seek this “carnal knowledge” it becomes a robotic response to stimulus without any underlying motivation behind it.

I played an Aeon character that was a shape shifter, but the side effects of her powers were that her real physical appearance was hideous. Her primary motivation was to be appreciated for her physical beauty so much so that it became an obsession to find her “perfect form”. This took some villainous overtones as she became very similar to a Snow White Queen type character. When she started to fall in love with another PC, she started to lash out at him because he was getting to close and may actually ask what she really looked like. There was some intense roleplay as the two characters struggled to love each other despite her insecurities and hatred of herself. It was pretty intense and one of the most rewarding RP experiences I ever had for several reasons. I was really in her head and felt the way she felt because I identified with her motivation!

Damage Location Track for my King of Monsters vs. League of Righteousness!

+Mike McGannon: Is that the main board for the game or are there other monsters as well?

+Ten to Awesome: The main board of the game is actually a 4x6 table with 20mm scale buildings and a 1.5 foot tall Godzilla model representing the monster. Like in most Kaiju or Giant Monster films there is one singular monster, although I do plan on expanding the game to have a Giant Monster vs. Giant Monster element like in Godzilla vs King Kong. The Damage Location Track, which is what I posted here is a big 24 x 36 poster with a metal back so I can place the damage cards directly on the board with magnets on an easel. I could have easily made it much smaller or used a dry erase board of some sort, but I wanted everything about the Monster to be on a large scale. You can see the eight “Superheroes” cards which I have on a 6x3 inch handout card.

Breaking into narrative systems

+Stephen Gunnell: I've seen games flounder because half the players became too narcissistic and failed to make any attempt to drive the game forward. The GM and those of the players who did want to solve the problem got bored and the whole thing ground to a halt.

On the flip side of the coin most good GMs have the sense to let the physics slide in favor of progressing the story.

Narrative driven and physics driven rulesets are largely equivalent in the hands of a good GM.

+Ten to Awesome: I am quickly becoming a fan of Stephen Gunnell. If you are ever in L.A. look me up and I will buy you a beer. Truer words have never been spoken. It’s the GM that sets the tone for the game. Being a rules arbitrator and storyteller only skims the surface of the art of GM’ing. The real art of it comes in the careful balance of player needs, mechanical adjudication and being at the helm of the narrative. No one aspect can overcome the other or it will spell disaster. The most brilliantly concocted ruleset will never compensate for a poor GM, but a good GM can turn a game of Gangbusters into Shakespearian tale of triumph and woe.

+Shawn H Corey: Narrative games will not take over the industry. They appeal only to one segment of it. There are people who prefer the more mechanical versions.

+Ten to Awesome: I agree with you Shawn, but that really isn't the purpose of my post. +X2A isn't a proponent of any one style of play. What we are about is promoting the idea of exploration. If there is some element of a game style or system that would make you shy away from trying something new, we are all about providing ways for you to simply explore and see if that’s the kind of thing you would like to dive into more seriously. The game industry is constantly in flux and at the mercy of fad as any other, but as long as it evolves and provides new and interesting things to do, it will always keep the interest of old and new players alike.

+Winchell Chung: +Shawn H Corey more to the point, the majority of players would rather passively consume entertainment generated by the game master, only a few want to be narrativist and actually generate their own entertainment.

In fact, very similar to the proportions of people want to be game masters vs. people who want to be players

+Ten to Awesome: Many would say that this disparity is only right since you only need one GM per 1-6 individuals. I prefer to have the attitude of challenging people to do more. At the heart of every cynic is a disappointed idealist. Please don’t kill me, it’s just my opinion.

+Shawn H Corey: "Drama is anticipation mingled with uncertainty." -- William Archer

I would say some people prefer more anticipation and others, more uncertainty.

+Ten to Awesome: You can't have Drama without tension and you can’t have tension without some kind of unforeseeable outcome. Yet, I would rather have the unforeseeable outcome have meaning, unless the whole point of the story is that the outcome is meaningless, but I never got fully into nihilism.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Action Vs. Reaction: A discussion about martial arts mechanics in RPG's

Recently, as part of my Howard and Lovecraft. Timeless horror through ages undreamt of project, I have been thinking about some hacks I want to do the the Savage Worlds combat system. I wanted things to be a little more bloody and realistic. Not really knowing about fighting (really with me it's a lot of head butting and punching wildly) I decided to go to one of my trusted friends +Kay Sakaue who is not only a Karate instructor but has been training in Kendo for quite some time. My conversation ended up being so fascinating that I decided to edit it into a blog entry. There is a lot of philosophy and other ranting in this discussion so be wary, but it is damn interesting. This is by no means the end of this conversation.

+X2A: I have a question for you sir. As a martial artist, how much would you say that Karate or Kendo focuses on reaction vs. action? Meaning, out of all of the moves, training and drilling how much of it is focused on taking advantage of an attackers move to open up areas for attack and are the forms geared towards offense or defense as a focus.

Kay: Jim... this is a great question. However, this is something that is very hard to explain, even to blackbelts, unless you have trained in either art so bear with me. It’s funny that you chose to look at Karate and Kendo. I’m assuming because I am a practitioner of both... but I’ll be talking about them separately because the way they look at reaction/action is also completely different. One this is certain, due to Kendo being developed before Karate, you will notice some similarities behind their philosophies.

  • Kendo 
    • Action vs. Reaction 
    • Kendo is primarily an offensive “martial” (martial = warlike; aggressive; etc.) 
    • Mainly focusing on that “one true cut/strike.” 
    • Rarely will they teach you to react to your opponent. Kenshi train to act first, to “steal” attack opportunities from their opponents. 
    • While Kendo is looked at from mainly a “safe” competitive aspect... however it goes deeper than people realize. A good sensei will keep getting you to attack and will teach you to create openings with your attacks. It is truly an active way of looking at combat. 一心一剣translates into “1 soul 1 blade.” This philosophy translates well with 一期一会 which translates to “treasure each meeting, for it will never recur.” This is important because while we think that being “active” or initiating equates to being haste, kenshi are just the opposite… they are patient with the intent of striking first and striking last… one shot one kill. 
    • While kendo is an “active/action” rather than “reactive/reaction” martial art… there are points, seldom, where technique is not preemptive… most of the time it is reacting off of missed techniques… but in general there are hardly any techniques where it is reactionary. 

Example of High Speed Kendo and how their technique is broken down real time vs slow motion.
  • Karate 
    • Action vs. Reaction 
    • Karate should be a “reactive” martial art. While due to movies and the promotion of Mixed Martial Arts, it’s becoming more and more of an Offensive rather than a Defensive art. Most of the techniques were developed to react against an aggressor rather than to preemptively attacking one. 
    • Karate was developed to block or deflect that “one true cut/strike” and then counter. To protect oneself was the main goal of a karateka. In the old days in Okinawa, I was told that even though karateka were taught how to strike and kick, they were never allowed to use it unless their life was in danger. They protected offensive techniques as much as they could however with modern day competition and entertainment they have gone away from that. 

(4:40 Kakie Training... reacting to opponent and taking advantage. This show is actually a comedy show… but it was to show how effective karate was if they were not a practitioner. Beat Takeshi has a couple of shows where he does this. Haha)

I guess for your question we can look at it two different ways… armed close combat and non-armed close combat to start with. I always had trouble with gaming systems because I always thought that they never took into consideration continuation of technique. Like you mentioned… you roll initiative, wait for your action, take your action, wash and repeat.

For Armed Close Combat I don’t agree with resetting initiative unless both opponents disengage. Most of the time if you are in close combat with a weapon, after the first attack you either reset because one of you miss or you are clashing with your opponent to see who gets the upper hand. In these kinds of instances, initiative should be decided who has the stronger mind and fit body… the x-factor would be spirit. Initiative should be based on physical and mental conditions alone… not training. Training should be an enhancer once initiative is determined. I’ve seen people who are not trained but naturally faster, smarter and nimbler give black belts a run for their money. But initiative can be negated when the trained individuals training kicks in. I look at initiative as an instinctual function rather than a trained one. A good fighter with good instinct and good training is what all martial artists aspire to become… but it’s something that is not always attainable.

For non-armed close combat, the biggest issue I have is the fact that player characters do not think about continuation of technique. And GMs allow PCs to attempt techniques that do not correspond to the technique beforehand. When going through my Trial of Position during our Mechwarrior Clan back in the day… that is one thing that I wanted to keep real when working it out with Mitch. I didn’t want to do anything that would not make sense. For example, If I lunge punch after my opponent and then follow-up with a thrust kick this would make sense especially if I have initiative over my opponent. The GM would have to realize that if this case I have my character pushing back my opponent so at that point my opponent would be in a retreating posture unless we were acting together (simultaneous). If my opponent is in a retreating posture, most likely he would need to be defensive… any instinctual fighter would be in a parry/blocking posture trying to find an instance where he can counterstrike or move to takedown. In the back of my head I was always miffed because game mechanics, again as you said… wash and repeat, would re-establish initiative. In a real life situation, initiative can change even in change of spirit or even a doubt in one’s mind.

+X2A: Thank you for your insights. There is an impressive amount of knowledge in your short dissertation, especially since it was meant for a total laymen such as myself. The few times I have been forced to fight, it was anything but pretty and technical.

To me it seems that in Kendo there is little defensive posturing, but instead analysis of position and decision on direct and fast attack. I am inclined to think that much of the art is a contest within yourself to focus on being the fastest to come to the most correct decisive action possible, then relying on muscle memory to execute the act with the utmost technical accuracy.

To translate this into a game, I think it would be more accurate to have players take passes on achieving a "Decisive Maneuver" most quickly in respects to finding the most correct action most quickly and then striking. Taking into account elements of physical, mental and spiritual keenness for finding the correct action quickly and then training to execute that action properly.

Would that be a more correct translation of the combat action?

Kay: Sorry it was a bunch of rambling… and I can talk about this kind of stuff for hours and hours.

+X2A: Not at all. Please do ramble on.

Kay: I wouldn’t say that there is no defensive posturing. That is why kenshi focus on establishing and developing their “zanshin” (literal translation is where the heart remains). Think of zanshin as situational awareness but with extreme focus. Posturing in kendo works in conjunction with one’s zanshin. If you zanshin is weak then your posturing is weak. As a kendo novice, my experience has shown me that no matter how big you are or how small you are it doesn’t matter.

I’ve had moments where I can’t act against my sensei because I can’t find an opening (analysis paralysis maybe?) At that point, my opponent has already stolen the initiative. Knowing this… sometimes I’ll rush into a technique where in turn I get rocked because in my haste I leave key areas open for my opponent to take advantage of (many of sensei have kicked my ass because of this).

Lower level practitioners will not be able to take advantage of these kind of situations… and hence they will turn to defensive parrying… but at this time it is certain that the person in retreat will most likely not have a chance to strike and would most likely have to tie up with the attacker or be in constant retreat.

Higher level kenshi will turn their offensive posture to maintain their defense… their posture or their guard (kamae) is their defense. A kamae can be used as a deterrent. The way they hold their sword and how they stand and use their footwork is how kenshi maintain their defense while maintaining their offensive mindset. 6th, 7th, and 8th degree masters have developed their own posturing and if you have a non-practitioner or a novice like me go against a high level kenshi… they can strike you at the instance you move. I’ve walked out of a dojo with bruised wrists because my sensei was trying to show me that I can’t strike if my arms are gone. True story… my uncle’s specialty. I think he made his point.

In game terms… It’s been really hard for me to combine elements that could really mimic or bring actual conditions into a game system. While most of the time the GM can set the tone during and encounter it’s hard to simulate the difference between a 1 on 1 (straight up duel) or 1 on many (Kill Bill Tea House) or a furball chambara (13 Assassins). But in any sense… yes… the elements of physical capability, mental strength and ingenuity including instinct (which I believe is both mental and physical due to it being a part of our natural/wild nature… understanding your zanshin or situational awareness), and spiritual development which includes combined physical and mental control… not only that but it covers control of all your emotions… in combat mostly your fear and anger. I think this drives a “decisive maneuver.”

How do you cover all of these elements that a combatant needs to have under control? I’m not sure where to start. It’s not that easy in the real world and sometime I always think during game that man it would be so much easier if real life combat were that simple. You know something like a small smirk can disrupt that split second you need to act on that “decisive maneuver.” Haha… I get it all the time when I practice with my old man. He has this grin on his face that pisses me off. This grin is the only thing holding me back because every time I need to make that crucial decision I have to question my … but when I ask myself and I ask him why it bothers me… he always replies that because I know deep inside that he’s taught me all I know; but in reality he hasn’t taught me all he knows. The only way to get around this issue I have with my old man is to surpass my old man myself.

I think you are heading in the right direction… sorry for the long winded responses.

+X2A: I always thought that initiative should be interpreted better as situational awareness. The order of combat doesn’t really matter, what does matter is who makes the correct decision first. A bunch of misses and fumbles are irrelevant. What is relevant is how well the character has analyzed the tactical situation and in turn what information he has available to make the correct Decisive Action.

Another element of initiative is pace. Deciding who directs the pace of the combat gives you initiative. So in essence a correct initiative mechanic would determine:

A) Who has the best situational awareness to come to the correct Decisive Action.
B) Once that action is initiated, if not immediately deadly will determine the pace of the follow up maneuver.
C) Once that pace is set, a logical follow up maneuver should be initiated by the player that controls the pace giving the opponent fewer options because they find themselves in a defensive posture.

As you indicated earlier, there needs to be a mechanic that determines the types of maneuvers that can be initiated after a first maneuver in a “combo” is initiated. The person with the initiative should simply have more options than the defender. Once the attacker runs out of options or the defender manages to lock or outmaneuver the attacker there should be a tactical reset.

This is part of situational awareness. Finding an opening in an opponent’s kamae is crucial to determining whether you can take Decisive Action. The thing about it is that here is where a Knowledge Kendo roll can be extremely useful in a combat situation simply because you know the kamae stances and sword grips and know what they mean tactically.

There should be something in the mechanic that will allow a player to make a Decisive Action roll even when they do not have superior situational awareness at an extreme penalty. It could very well turn into a strategy for a player with better stats.

I think that in a lot of ways this concept is abstracted to the point where it is unclear as to what exactly is represented. I always thought of Dungeons and Dragons combat not really being attack hit repeat. I always thought of the HP system as an abstraction of “Battle Mind” and the exchanges back and forth are not really attacks but the two opponents chipping away at weaknesses, psychologically faking each other out and fatiguing each other until someone got the master stroke. Really it’s a poker game. There is a buildup and only you know what cards you hold and there comes a time to show or fold.

Do you think that the one man versus 20 situation is a winnable one for even a master swordsman? I always find this type of scenario to be completely fantastic and should be mostly narrated than rolled out.

I have always defined instinct as the ability for the subconscious to absorb, parse out and organize sensory input in such a way that reaction becomes instantaneous without the need for rational thought. That is to say that it’s a program running in your brains background that alerts one to danger and reacts through muscle memory. It’s something that only comes from being in dangerous or strenuous situations over and over again, training the mind to react without thought. I think that many people who have claimed to have ESP simply have a greatly developed instinct that taps into a far greater variety of subconscious inputs than normal people. The trick is to not be interrupted by imagined sensory input that could be brought about by emotions like fear, self-doubt and rage.

Focus should also be an element and should have something like Bluff or Acting to counter. Being able to psyche out your opponent is a very tangible element to combat.

Or surpass the emotions that come with being a student. Perhaps the only thing that he hasn’t taught you is the knowledge in your own heart that will lead you to the fact that you in fact do know everything he does but cannot accept the change in roles between you and your father. Kinda hurts your head if you think about it too much.

Kay: I can agree on your interpretation of initiative. However initiative is determined by situational awareness through the ability to act by means of the physical body, mental readiness, and spiritual development. Relevance is the tactical situation… while order of combat might not matter in game terms it matters in real life as a split second can mean a clean strike, a clean block, or even a clash. The other thing is that even though a correct decision is made… it is not guaranteed that it will be the correct one. This is due to technique fluidity and instinct. There is a chaotic aspect of instantly acting upon the instinctual action or reaction that can affect motion and action. Simply… not everyone has the same cookie cutter technique. Also… while working on the concept of zanshin… while in combat your focus should be there… there should be penalties (because in real life if your zanshin lacks or you lose zanshin in the middle of combat you can get really hurt… I mean really hurt). Things where PC interaction in character or things that may blow their concentration… it is very important. As a kenshi and karateka… I develop my zanshin through situational discipline, meditation, and kata. Keeping focus for a period of time is not an easy feat.

The combatant that decides the pace of a combat absolutely has initiative. I never understood why in game if I had the technical upper hand, why I would have to wash, rinse, and repeat! It’s so frustrating when thinking about momentum. You can trade jabs… or trade exchanges… but the fun begins when you actually land techniques and see the effects on your opponent. This is what creates openings for your offense allowing you to keep the momentum. (also… find ways to evaluate their weaknesses to keep them on move and keeping you one step ahead.)

Yes your whole goal is to give your opponent few options meaning that technique should be manifested from a defensive posture. This is my specialization in Karate. My black belts hate it because I don’t mind being put in this position. I’ve learned to fight from this aspect from the get go… so my situational awareness is usually one step ahead of one who is offensively minded. Simply… I’ve learned to fight from that defensive posture for 1) this is what Karate should be about… its defensive minded and 2) I can lull them into a false sense of confidence because they are on a offensive posture. In game terms… a person who does not understand this and is at the mercy of the pace of the controller will have to find a way to block and parry or takedown the opponent to stop the momentum. Killing momentum is the primary objective in that kind of a situation.

When an attacker runs out of options the combat stalemates. This is what I call a “reset” when teaching kumite to my students. There are times when you rush into an attack because you see an opportunity… but that doesn’t mean you are going to be successful. Once the momentum is severed then a reset is validated. When I see my students getting into this situation I always let them know it’s not a bad idea to move to a defensive distance without turning your back to your opponent (my goodness… you should see some of the interpretations of this) and find a way to regain momentum. This distance factor is very important to this. It’s called ma-ai in Japanese. Every fighter should know the effective radius of their techniques. Again… there is no cookie cutter technique.

Technically finding an opening in an opponent’s kamae does technically lead to you being able to formulate a good attack. However there is a whole another aspect to this we don’t see. Just because we understand the kamae stances doesn’t mean that we’ll find openings in the individuals kamae. While a Knowledge Kendo roll should give the information about what the kamae can do and how to defend against them, we are overlooking a big thing about the situation. There are kenshi who practice a certain kamae because they feel it to be invincible. They know the ins and outs of this and train to be “invincible.” Miyamoto Musashi was one who mastered from all levels which is why he is so famous. Again… even in my limited experience, I’ve stood in front of a sensei and have frozen in place because I did not know where or how to move. It is the most frustrating thing in the world. You stand toe to toe with your opponent and analyze your situation knowing that any move you make you will be your last.

Having traits like overconfidence, etc. are often a good way to represent combatants that will misinterpret the timing of a decisive maneuver. Things like bluffing or psyching people out is another thing that should be played off of some traits to enhance or penalize depending on the situation.

I really never looked at D&D that way. It is an interesting rationalization of the system.

These kind of massive 20 on one combats in reality… maybe in a Chinese Kung Fu novel. Has it ever happened? Most likely not. On the battlefield… a little different. For game… I agree this could be followed in the sense of storytelling like the old Chinese Kung Fu novels. I’ve simulated 1 vs 2 and 1 vs 3 but nothing like Isreali Krav Maga 1 vs your Platoon. For training it is ok… but for a real life scenario… I think the master swordsman is not that stupid… he’ll look to be executed or look forward to seppuku. Western ideals would be to say the hell with it and go out blazing. Either way it leads to good storytelling.

Your interpretation on instinct is where the Japanese talk about mu-shin… or the classic no mind philosophy. Because of the rigorous training and building muscle memory, they let that sensory instinct and the natural/wild instinct take over. I used to coach football with an old Master Sergeant in the Marines who was at Iwo and he told me the most amazing WWII story. His unit was called in as reinforcements to the first landing and immediately his unit was enveloped in fire. Over the next 3 days he has no recollection of how he survived or managed to get off the island. It was only his radio operator and himself that got off Iwo. I thought about it a lot… but the only thing I can think of was mu-shin. All his basic training and his will to survive got him through that experience.
Haha…. Yeah that is my realization about me and my father too. I’ve also realized that I’ve come to a point that I need to take what I’ve learned and make it my own. Lately I’ve been working on my “karate” and have been developing it further and further. It’s funny… it’s like a sculptor… you always start out with the big chisel and the big hammer… and then you work your way down to a smaller chisel and a smaller hammer to the point where you start refining and until you just work on detail. My karate is the same way. My foundation is based upon many different philosophies… I will not grow until I have surpassed what I have taken to learn and make it my own. Again… there are no cookie cutter techniques.

Haha… I’m glad. Let me know if I lost you.

+X2A: I think I am keeping pace OK, but I will let you know if I get confused.

The matters in timing, execution, environmental elements, your opponent, the several attributes involved in executing technique/situational awareness and the general chaos created by the myriad different things that incorporate into combat are reflected in the randomness of dice rolls and the “opposed roll”.
All combat mechanics in games are abstractions of the real thing. I find that they key to making a convincing yet fluid mechanic is being able to identify the specifics that you want represented and to leave the abstraction to things that will ultimately be randomized due to the application chaos and random chance.

Therefore we need to identify and quantify certain things and develop a formula that takes these variables into account to produce a satisfying yet somewhat random set of results, while applying a certain structure to the variable elements of the formula that account for skill and natural talent to a greater degree than random chance.

These key elements and correct me if I am wrong here are “physical body, mental readiness, and spiritual development” which are in general terms abstract concepts, but concepts that can be quantified to a certain extent. If they weren’t this whole exercise would be moot.

You and I share a general frustration then about constantly loosing the upper hand to turn resets. I always thought that in combat once someone lands a move or generally gets an upper hand, the ability to follow through was generally limited.

When dealing with this mechanically we can go one of two ways in my opinion. The more complex option is something like Exalted. Several trees of maneuvers that link and have different effects to simulate “chains” of maneuvers. I find this method to be a little top heavy and overly complex. Alternatively, a system that develops modifiers for situations can be simpler, but you have to construct a formula to allow for the momentum of combat. It’s much more difficult to create since it is more abstracted and requires better narration to apply realistically.

This really gets me thinking about having momentum as a variable in the system as well as Defensive and Offensive posture. Sort of a stance mechanic that can be modified by combat as a way to damage an opponent without applying damage but instead changing their posture by enforcing your Initiative.

It reminds me of Italian/Spanish fencing that focuses on the concept of circles that represent your area of effectiveness and working within these circles as they intersect with others from different angles of attack/defense. I think that this can easily be represented in some kind of threshold within the momentum system that I was talking about. Once that threshold is reached it would cause a reset. Once again we need to identify the specific factors for the following.

1) How does follow through for a follow up maneuver affect that next maneuver and the kind of maneuver your opponent is forced to make.
2) How do we determine when a combat stalemates and needs to be reset.

I think that the no win situation is perhaps one of the most difficult concepts for some to understand. It’s a form of Kobayashi Maru don’t you think? The Know Kendo roll can very well just come up and tell you that there is no way to win. This would cause a rational character to try to find another solution, like fight it out and know you are going to die or run like a half crazed jackrabbit.

I have a few strong opinions about game mechanics. One of those is, if you don’t want to simulate something real, then don’t roll dice. There are two kinds of RPG’s, I call them Physics Driven RPG’s and Narrative Driven RPG’s.

In a Physics RPG, the goal is to create a decent simulation of environmental effects for the purpose of creating tension and drama from things like falling down, getting hit by a bullet or dodging a punch. They generate a relationship between your game persona and the physical world they live in.

A Narrative Driven RPG on the other hand provides limited tools to simulate “reality” pretty much delegating that to common sense. For example if a character is “Good” at jumping the GM narrates a jumping task and decides whether you have to be “Average”, “Good” or “Fucking Awesome” at jumping to generally pull that off. There is no, it’s a ten foot gorge and your Strength + Athletics is…. Generally something like this example wouldn’t even matter if it weren’t critical to the Narrative. The purpose of these games mechanics is to give you just enough feedback to write a story. If part of the story is Superduperheroguy goes into a room and a dozen schmucks with clubs attack him, he is “Fucking Awesome” at fighting and the mooks are “Average”. Just explain what happens in the fight and you got it. If it’s not reasonably possible, just narrate it instead of wasting everyone’s time with justifying it with endless dice rolls.

I very deeply believe in the concept of mu-shin. The speeds at which one needs to react to survive have to come from a place in the brain that can’t think in If/Then commands. I don’t know if it can really be represented in a game mechanic, but it could be some form of high level technique.
In Native American belief the Bear Totem is often depicted as a stylized bear with an arrow leading from its mouth into the center of the body. The basic philosophy is that all of the wisdom in the cosmos can be found internally through knowledge of self. The second lesson of the bear is that creation comes from the consumption of knowledge and the transformation of that knowledge through the self, thus creating personal truth and wisdom. You are following the path of the Bear and didn’t even know it.

Kay: Yes. physical body, mental readiness, and spiritual development should be the core of a combat attribute set.

I’ve been wrecking my head over this for years… but just food for thought. Momentum and Momentum Break… these are two categories we can lump these chains of maneuvers in.

We’ll have to talk more deeply about this… things can be interpreted in different ways. As for follow through on maneuver chains we’ll have to walk through some real life scenarios to flush it out… this can be based off of instinct. Again we’ll have to talk through this one as well. Stalemates and momentum resets are key so there has to be a mechanic that allows us to see when momentum ends or a momentum break.

I think of the no win situation to be an interesting aspect to 1v1 combat, don’t you think?

Being able to interpret RPG systems like that is one of your talents.

Mu-shin takes a lifetime and one still cannot master.

Go American Indian philosophy! Off tangent… funny… when I was young they used to call me the “bear killer” due to defeating this huge guy that growled like a bear. I watched him throughout prelims and wondered who this guy was. I eventually met him in the finals and was determined to defeat the guy regardless of his size. Put it this way… I was big and solid… he was bigger and more solid… must have had six inches on me. We met up in the ring and when the judge pulled the ropes I out growled the MF and countered everything this guy threw at me. The fact that I out growled the MF threw him for a loop and it hit me… he used his size and intimidation to beat his opponents… his offensive nature was his downfall… its one of those defining moments. When you brought up the bear… it triggered this memory… haha.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Pilot Cards for Ichiban's Raiders

We found a really neat little app for X-Wing players that want to make up some house rules or just have a little fun.  The website by Jason Fuller allows you to make custom Starfighter cards.  Its super easy to use and generates a nice little image of the card for you to print out.  I experimented with this site and came up with some personalized cards for members of the 42nd.  Check em out.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The story of the 42nd Tactical Wing, Ichiban's Raiders

42nd Tactical Wing, Ichiban’s Raiders

The Raiders are a squadron of 12 pilots that formed soon after the transformation of the Galactic Republic into the Galactic Empire under Emperor Palpatine. Many of those in the squadron were in fact formerly members of the Grand Army of the Republic right before its transformation into the Imperial Army or right after the Sector Governance Decree was passed by the then Supreme Chancellor Palpatine.

The squadron started off as a group disaffected former Imperial officers who were disillusioned with shift in principals of their former government. Lieutenant Colonel Kyan Ichijyo, a former high ranking Imperial officer, his first officer Major Zebulon Akarimas, Lieutenant Zane Forest and Captain Baz Qieles resigned their commission after the bombardment and subsequent obliteration of all life on the peaceful planet of Caamas.

Moff Yates Fol aboard the Majestic did not take kindly to their resignation and protestation of a direct order from the Emperor. He had the dissenting officers arrested for treason. Immediately after their incarceration they were set for execution by firing squad.

Hon Paiv, one of the Bothan agents responsible for sabotaging the Caamasi planetary shields was immediately struck by the realization of what he had done to the Caamasi people. Lied to by the Empire and made to take part in what was effectively genocide, he hatched a plan to exact revenge on his former masters. Paiv single handedly orchestrated the escape of the imprisoned pilots and managed to smuggle them off the Majestic. Not without leaving Moff Fol a little present near the star destroyers solar ionization reactor which destroyed the flagship, covering their escape.

Living as Imperial citizens in exile, the four men and Bothan managed to gather a substantial war chest from Kyan’s family who were recently ordered to nationalize their starship production facility on Corellia. From there, they gathered together whatever material they could and fled to the outer rim and Hutt Space.

While in exile, they managed to fight their own guerilla war against the Empire using whatever means were at their disposal. Picking up pilots who, for various reasons had a grudge with the Empire the group grew to full squadron size quickly. They formally proclaimed themselves “Ichiban’s Raiders” after Lt. Col. Kyan “Ichiban” Ichiyo. Kyan picked up the nickname after the squadron helped a Nemodian trader retrieve a valuable load of foodstuffs which was confiscated by the Empire. Ichiban being the Nemodian word for “the highest in quality” the greatful merchant kept insisting that Kyan was “Ichiban!” for recovering his cargo and the squadron liked the sound of it. Not that Kyan ever agreed.

Flying everything from modified freighters, shuttles, Sienar Skipray Blastboats, Incom Z-95 Headhunters, TransGalMeg Ixiyen/ Rihkxyrk fighters and Sienar Tie series fighters, the pilots of the Raiders are rated to be some of the most versatile men in the galaxy when it comes to flight experience.

The group found notoriety and distinction not only as a starfighter squadron, but for several commando style operations they carried out during the first years of their organization. New members trained others in guerilla style tactics, demolitions, hand to hand combat and a variety of weapons. Often resorting to sabotage, infiltration and espionage, the group earned the ire of Imperial Governors and Moffs all over the Outer Rim region, giving them the nickname “Scourge of the Outer Rim” amongst Imperial intelligence. In fact, each member of the squadron has a price on their heads, which also attracts the attention of the galaxies Bounty Hunter organizations.

Soon after the battle of Yavin, the squadron formally joined the Rebel Alliance. The squadron was never fully trusted by their Alliance superiors because of its members individual past affiliations. Many times over, the 42nd Tactical Wing was given “suicide” missions that were deemed too dangerous for truly loyal members of the Alliance. Time and time again the Raiders would be able to pull off the improbable.

Squadron organization.

Alpha Flight (The Privateers)
Lt. Col. Kyan “Ichiban” Ichijyo
Capt. Baz “Assasin” Qieles
Lt. Arn “SST” Sandeen
Lt. Van “Gunslinger” Jaine

Beta Flight (The Buccaneers)
Maj. Zebulon “Zeb” Akarimas
Capt. Xriss “Dutchess” Mor
Lt. Axel “Chu’la” Xon
Lt. Vesten “Brick” Warcrof

Gamma Flight (The Outlanders)
Maj. Jayan “Spanner” Mako
Capt. Hon “Mullit” Paiv
Lt. Zane “Checkmate” Forest
Lt. Rish “Mud Bug” Kazon

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Helping PC's create characters for an Evil game.


As a special note I want to preface this article by stating that I am assuming that the GM is confident in running this kind of game. The intent of the article is to give the GM tools that will help him/her guide players in creating characters with non-heroic motivations convincingly.

Ra's Al Ghul
Most commonly, fiction revolves around protagonists who are motivated by a set of characteristics like courage, sacrifice, virtue and integrity. Although some “Evil” characters might share some of these values, their interpretation of said values is often quite skewed and should cause them to react differently than the more traditional protagonists.

There is a common misconception that a protagonist is a good guy. That, by definition isn’t always the case. The protagonist is “the most important character in a novel, play, story, or other literary work” and is not necessarily a Hero or “somebody who commits an act of remarkable bravery or who has shown an admirable quality such as great courage or strength of character”. In an “Evil Campaign” the protagonists are not Heroes, but their dark motivations are at the center of the plot and drive the story.

Since these motivations will inevitably create the tension and conflict in the story, it is imperative that characters are able to follow through on these motivations convincingly or the story itself will lack any and all substance. This sometimes causes a conflict or disconnect with players who are used to “doing the right thing.” To quote Han from Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon,“Very few people can be totally ruthless. It isn't easy; it takes more strength than you might believe.”

Playing a character that is bereft of conscious, sadistic or outright cruel can be very difficult for most players. We have spent our whole lives in polite society, respecting the limitations that make said society function. It can be difficult and downright scary to work outside boundaries that we consider to be simply humane. The problem that I have come across is that of getting the players to wrap themselves around the right motivations thematically, instead of just running around doing bad things for no better reason than they are bad. True Evil has purpose and finding that purpose should be central to these characters. Discovering these motivations can sometimes be difficult without going into more cartoonish caricatures of Evil.

These types of games ask players to tap into their dark side. Personally, I enjoy the challenge of exploring parts of my personality that I generally do not get to express. Playing a “bad guy” can be quite cathartic at times, since the character is not generally bound by the same rules as “civilized” or “good” people. Getting over the fear factor of cutting loose on the dark side can be challenging and rewarding, but may require some guidance.

There are many truly complex characters that can be considered at some times sympathetic, yet amoral. The classic Anti-hero usually fits this bill. Sam Spade from the Maltese Falcon is the quintessential example of this kind of character. Although Anti –heroes are not motivated by morality, they are portrayed as survivors and scoundrels who live by their wits and do whatever it takes to come out on top. These characters lack a focal element or ambition that would cause them to be truly villainous. Anti-heroes cannot be truly labeled villains because their agenda is not necessarily antisocial, just self-serving.

What makes someone bad? It’s a big question that I am certainly not qualified to answer completely, but for the purposes of this article I am going to go with one of the more straight forward and obvious answers. Trauma. Most well developed villains can trace their motivations back to some traumatic event in their lives. This forms the nucleus of their dramatic intent and drives their motivation. Identifying their trauma is the first step towards creating a convincingly evil character.

The second step is visualizing how that trauma has shaped their lives and goals. What conclusions did these sinister forces in the character’s background cause him/her to make? Does the world have to burn? Does he/she have to find a way to make sure that never happens again by exerting total control? Does the villain need to exact revenge at all costs? The source of the trauma can lead you directly towards this reaction or it might take some thought, but it must lead the character to act out in an antisocial way. Adversity can lead someone towards positive or negative ends, but we are creating villains here, not Batman.

Lastly, it is important to keep in mind that a basic element that binds evil characters together is a disregard for how the consequences of their actions affect the large majority of others. For the most part, although passionate, the tendency for some form of emotional detachment is necessary for villainous concepts. This is the basic essence of a sociopath. The attainment of their goals must be achieved at all costs and they cannot be restrained by things like sympathy. After all you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs right? Sometimes they understand that there must be a sacrifice and solemnly accept it. Others have a total disregard for those who are made to suffer. Some particularly disturbed individuals fail to even recognize that what they are doing may be harming another. For a villain, the ends always justify the means.

These games, if incorporated in a broader campaign can also be beneficial for the GM. Looking at things from the flip side can not only challenge a players RP chops, but can expose them to parts of your Metaplot that would otherwise not be visible to characters from another point of view. It can serve to shed light on the other side’s motivations or give them more clarity as to the ultimate goal of whatever person, persons or organizations they usually struggle against. It also provides the GM with the unique opportunity to play the characters that would more traditionally be the protagonists. A myriad of other story opportunities might arise, like tales of redemption or of star crossed romance.

Below, is a list of common evil motivations, along with examples of pop culture characters that fit these archetypes. This is by no extent a comprehensive list, but should serve as a decent springboard to explore the dark side.


Primary motivation: To acquire as much wealth as possible

Possible Trauma: Growing up poor. Having a life of luxury only to have it stripped from you. Having lived as a servant to the rich, all the while knowing you are smarter or in some way superior to the entitled fools.

Example: Kingpin (Marvel Comics), Beni (The Mummy)

Kingpin – “Crime is on the rise -- and therefore so are our profits.”

Rick: “So what's the scam, Beni? You take them out into the middle of the desert and then you leave 'em to rot?”
Beni: “Unfortunately, no. These Americans are smart. They pay me only half now, half when I get them back to Cairo, so this time I must go all the way.”
Rick: “Them's the breaks, huh?”

Villains who seek wealth for its own sake are in actuality seeking to comfort some sense of inadequacy, seek to acquire the rewards they always deserved due to their superiority and see wealth as a way to proclaim their own superiority. The character is obsessed with acquiring wealth by any means. Whether it be legitimate, like for example Lex Luthor’s corporate empire or more shady means like the Kingpin’s criminal underground. The welfare of the machine that generates the characters vast wealth must be cultivated and protected at all costs. Anyone threatening their wealth or the acquisition thereof must be dealt with decisively and sometimes even violently. This character is beyond simply wanting to be rich; he wants to be the richest and will use anyone or anything to achieve that goal.

Of course this search for wealth does not have to take such an epic scope. Maybe characters are still actively seeking to build their financial empire. The same rules still apply. Characters motivated by greed will sell out their friends and family, poison their communities and even outright murder people to become rich. Mercenaries, thieves, muggers, burglars and drug dealers commonly have this as a motivation. (Please excuse my over use of Batman villains. I can't help it they are so good.)

Lust for Power

Primary motivation: To make others kneel

Possible Trauma: Raised as an outcast with while harboring a superior intelligence or power. Somehow convinced that they are born to rule by birthright or some other inborn superiority.

Example: Victor VonDoom (Marvel Comics), Khan Noonien Singh (Star Trek)

Zebediah Killgrave: “I should own the world, Doom! The true power belongs to me! You’re just a manipulator! You use electronic trickery to wield forces you’re too weak to control without gimmicks! You don’t deserve to rule!”
Dr. Doom: “No? Leave me!” (The obedient technos comply; the room is quickly emptied.) “I am removing my mask, Kilgrave. Within it is the circuitry that shields me from your power. I am totally vulnerable.”
Zebediah Killgrave: Then release me! I-I said release me! Stand on your head! T-take a flying leap! Impossible! N-not this close! No one has a will that strong! No one.
Dr. Doom: Now Zebediah Kilgrave….. who deserves to rule?

Capt. Kirk: You fled. Why? Were you afraid?
Khan Noonien Singh: I've never been afraid.
Capt. Kirk: But you left at the very time mankind needed courage.
Khan Noonien Singh: [angrily] We offered the world ORDER!

One of the most common “villainous” motivations, the lust for power can take many forms. This motivation is one of the easiest to take towards the cartoonish, because many people mistake the goal for the motivation. Not to be mistaken for the Greed motivated character since wealth is only a means to an end for those who seek only exert their wills on others.

Does the character, much like Dr. Doom seek to take power because he is ultimately confident that he is superior and therefore entitled to the throne? These megalomaniacal motivations have to have some sort of source to be convincing. What qualities does the character have that makes him feel superior? Heritage, advanced intelligence or simple madness can be the root cause of such entitlement, but usually the character has to have some form of powerbase to reasonably achieve this goal. Dr. Doom is the ruler of Latveria, a genius mad scientist and a sorcerer. Khan was the leader of a genetically enhanced group of supermen, bred by misguided scientists to rule. Without something to justify the characters overblown ego, he or she simply looks impotent and foolish.

Often these characters hold on to some misguided sense of altruism. They offer the world order and reason which would accompany their rule. Of course at the cost of personal freedom and liberty, but that’s a small price to pay.

Kink for Chaos

Primary motivation: To disrupt order and/or civilization and prove that order is a joke and chaos is the natural state of the universe.

Trauma: Any event that is so drastic and random as to convince someone that there is absolutely no reason or order to the universe. Betrayal by those who are supposed to enforce order or being the victim of random causality. Events that cause such a deep and overwhelming despair that it causes the character to rationalize it by completely embracing nihilism. Being in a state of total and complete repression to the point where they are ultimately resentful of order.

Example: The Joker (DC Comics), Tyler Durden (Fight Club)

Joker: "Ladies and Gentlemen! You've read about it in the papers! Now witness, before your very eyes, that most rare and tragic of nature's mistakes! I give you: the average man. Physically unremarkable, it instead possesses a deformed set of values. Notice the hideously bloated sense of humanity's importance. Also note the club-footed social conscience and the withered optimism. It's certainly not for the squeamish, is it? Most repulsive of all, are its frail and useless notions of order and sanity. If too much weight is placed upon them... they snap. How does it live, I hear you ask? How does this poor pathetic specimen survive in today's harsh and irrational environment? I'm afraid the sad answer is, "Not very well." Faced with the inescapable fact that human existence is mad, random, and pointless, one in eight of them crack up and go stark slavering buggo! Who can blame them? In a world as psychotic as this... any other response would be crazy!"

Tyler Durden “You are not special. You're not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You're the same decaying organic matter as everything else. We're all part of the same compost heap. We're all singing, all dancing crap of the world.”

As Alfred said, “Some men just want to watch the world burn. This is perhaps the maddest of all of these motivations. Justice is a lie and trying to find meaning in joy or suffering is fruitless. To someone like this the concept of karma is the most ridiculous of fantasies, because the world is by nature, random, cruel and unfeeling. Nothing is special, unique and immune to the mercilessness of random fate. He/she is a trickster god a force of nature an embodiment of Loki and Coyote remorseless as the cosmos and as implacable as fate. He/she has been entrusted to teach the ultimate lesson and it must be taught to everyone, usually by creating a chaos that makes people question all of society’s false moral and ethical moorings. They actively seek to bring down any person, group, organization or system that tries to impose any form of order on the world other than the order of pure nature.

Minion of Evil

Primary motivation: To do the dark one’s bidding

Trauma: Usually from a background where they are powerless and marginalized. Resentful of a culture that abandoned them. They are lifted from the lowest of stations by a mentor who leads him/her towards a path of evil.

Example: Darth Maul (Star Wars), Harley Quinn (DC Comics)

Darth Sideous: Move against the Jedi first. You will then have no difficulty in taking the Queen back to Naboo to sign the treaty.
Darth Maul: At last we will reveal ourselves to the Jedi. At last we will have revenge.
Darth Sideous: You have been well trained my young apprentice.  They will be no match for you.

Harley Quinn: Well, now you're working for Mr. J, you chowderhead.  You'll do what he says, and take what he gives, and hope it is not - A BULLET!

This character is a henchman.  A well trained and powerful henchman, but a servant nonetheless. They are fanatical zealots who are totally devoted to their master and their cause.  The great thing about this motivation is that the character can be focused and directed easily, but the downside is the character lacks a certain amount of autonomy. 

Vengeance Seeker

Primary motivation: To destroy all who wronged them

Trauma: You love something? Have someone take it away from you and see how you feel about it.  You want payback.

Example: The Hulk (World War Hulk), Atrocitus (DC Comics)

Hulk: "I didn't come for a whisper.  I came to hear you SCREAM!"

Atrocitus: "With blood and rage of crimson red,
Ripped from a corpse so freshly dead,
Together with our hellish hate,
We'll burn you all-- That is your fate!"
This is probably the simplest motivation here and the most sympathetic.  This is a motivation of love gone mad.  In seeking retribution, this character's pain spreads like a plague. Mad thrashes of rage. Unrelenting and blinded to anything but their own hurt these characters, these characters are tragic, but ultimately destructive.

The Destroyer

Primary motivation: To bring forth the destruction of the world

Trauma: This is usually the aftereffect of a disillusioned idealist. Disappointed by a people or society to such a great extent that he/she believes that everything needs to be obliterated so that something better can take its place.

Example: (Ra's Al Ghul), Ozymandias (The Watchmen)

Ra's Al Ghul: "In the new world, all peoples will be united, every race, every faith, every creed will find common purpose... our world is not for everyone. Only those who prove their worth will enter it. The rest will be purged... and if nine hundred and ninety-nine must perish for everyone who lives... so be it!"

Ozymandias: "It doesn't take a genius to see that the world has problems."

There are many many more villainous motivations available. Look at your favorite villains and there is always a story to be told about how they came to be.  The final element I want to leave with you is this. The farther away from your nature a character is, the more imagination it takes to play. Finding the characters motivations will allow you to get into the head of the monster and you may find something about yourself.  You will find what it is that you think is the most heinous kind of person someone can be. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Sedition Wars Interview

Last year we had a chance to check out a game called Sedition Wars by Studio McVey and Cool Mini or Not. At this point the Kickstarter had just taken off, but now its out for sale online and at your local retailer. Plus Ten to Awesome's own Mike James got into the Kickstarter deep and early.  I cannot say how much we love this game.

First of all the miniatures are fantastic. If you don't know Studio McVey and like fantastic sci-fi and fantasy art, you are missing out. They are one of the finest miniatures studios out there and they produced the miniatures for this game. Check these out.

Capt. Kara Black (Vanguard Faction)

Vokker Dargu (Firebrand Faction)

Phase 4 Heavy Exoform (Strain Faction)

These high quality plastic miniatures are easy to assemble, extremely detailed, have multiple poses and come with textured bases.

Secondly, the game has fast paced and tactical game play which mixes the best of miniature games like Warhammer and Descent. Creative objective based missions pit three factions against each other in a dystopian corporate controlled universe.

Here is the interview we had with Greg from Cool Mini or Not who demoed the game at Strategicon last year.  We talk about game play, background and details on how the partnership between Cool Mini or Not and Studio McVey.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Corellian Corvette Event Playtest Episode II Attack of the Waves

The initial setup was along the short edge of the table.  We wanted to make sure that the Corvette had a decent amount of distance to travel in order to ensure that the Rebels had enough time to at least disable the small capital ship before it got off the table.  We also wanted to make the velocity of the big ship believable since its also a blockade runner and designed to move quickly.  On the first playtest we had the TIE Advanced escort on each side of the ship.  After thinking about it, I imagined them coming out of Hyperspace first, slightly ahead of the Corvette to make sure the coast was clear.  So we set up the TIE Advanced in front of the Corvette.

We set up the A-Wings inside range band three of both the bottom and side edge.  The interceptors were facing the Corvette on setup, but we are strongly considering changing that to having them run along the long edge instead.  The A-Wings aren't supposed to engage the TIE Advanced fighters directly.  Their mission is to draw the Imperial fighters away from the Corvette.

We had the TIE and X-Wing fighters start at a distance from the edge of the table equal to their fastest straight movement, (5 for the TIEs and 4 for the X's). The trigger for these ships to show up was any exchange of fire between the A's and Advanced.  Another reason I want to have the A's facing the other way. It might give that an extra turn to get the fight closer to the middle of the table.  One of the balancing factors we have to consider here is to make sure that the Corvette moves just fast enough to keep the game well paced but not so fast that it gives to great an advantage to the Rebels.

Concussion missiles kill A-Wings.  That is a cautionary tale.  Homing Missiles kill TIE Fighters.  That's just duh. The big deal about this turn is whether the X-Wings are going to be free enough to unload some Proton Torpedoes. In this turn the X-Wing player decided to split the difference.  Two decided to hurl some hurt at the Corvette and the other two decided to hit some TIEs. I don't really know what happened to the A-Wing that decided to hide behind the X-Wings, but the galaxy is crazy like that.

It's crunch time now.  Once a TIE Fighter shoots at an X-Wing or vice versa the Y-Wings come in.  The Imperials get no reinforcements this turn.  The reason we went with that was because the Y-Wings already have an adversary, the Pontiff itself.  The only ships that really have a chance of pulling this off for the Rebels are the Y-Wings. On the flip side, the Y-Wings are the only ships actually threatened by the Turbo Lasers.

I have to say that this turn really made me happy.  We got to see the lowly Y-Wing shine.  This is a true bomber mission and it really turned out that way.  I don't know if the dice gods were all in favor of the Y-Wing's vindication, but it was the perfect storm of Proton Torpedo awesome. Out of 16 dice attacking and 12 dice defending the Y's got ten points of shields down. With a second deadly load of torps still slung snugly underneath, things were looking grim for the Pontiff.

The fight between the fighters was not as deadly as we thought it would be.  I think that it will be different when we have players that aren't so involved in the meta of mission design. There is so much on the board its going to be fairly impossible to really predict any outcome, especially when we get random people from Gamex playing.  We decided to allow the Ion Cannon to be a little more versatile against the capital ship.  It does not have the classical effect of halting movement.  What it does do is "Ion Damage".  This damage does not have a chance to destroy the vessel but will disable it.  But the CR90 will recover from this "Ion Damage" and if the Y-Wings don't keep the pressure on, it could re-activate and start moving and shooting again.

Also, the TIE Interceptors come in on the turn after the Corvette's shields go down.  We might change their start zone so they get into the mix quicke.

Here is where we came into a problem. We decided to let the CR90 keep shooting after it was disabled.  Stupid.  Well needless to say it shot down the Assault Shuttle.  We used  a YT-1300 with an evade value of 1.  Mercenary Market was closing down so we decided to shut it down.  If you want to see a PDF of the playtest click HERE to get it from our Google Drive.  We also learned a few things which are all summed up by the good admiral down below. We are another step closer to getting this ready to play and thats good since we have a little less than a month to get it ready for Gamex.