Sunday, December 2, 2018

Return to Ceteri 4: Home Hunting

Our Cabal:

Aggravaine Tashalan: Inhumanely attractive and a genius spellcaster, Aggravaine is trying to make a name for himself in the supernatural world of Ceteri.

Leo: A werewolf private investigator. Leo has a fondness for Twinkies and is a disappointment to his family.

Ranulf: Paperpusher, ley line expert, and victim of Brimstone Law. Ranulf really wants his old life back, but likely won't get it.

Marv: A man of many hats, Marv hasn't run into many situations that he hasn't run into something similar before.


We get a lead from Cleo about new digs in Boston- a swanky historical building with some kind of fairy infestation, complete with lots of unreturned library books.

The Library. Not just Boston Public Library.

We're given a key, which opens a door that's hidden with magic in the basement.

We hear the rustling of wings once we enter.

We've entered a massive pixie nest.

A pixie lands on Leo, attempting to steal a twinkie from them.

Eventually we're able to get one forward to negotiate- we offer food in return for use of the space and the Pixie's services as guards for the space. They're initially open, although all four of their leaders will need to approve.

With Leo's assistance to ensure no loopholes are in the contract, we seal a deal. The pixies give us a tour- there's an almost completely library, an alchemy lab that's set to explode, and some rooms that used to be for stay overs. There's access to the subway through a door in the basement. 

Aggie begins cleanup of the lab, finding a half-complete homunculous inside, also disposing of numerous magical bits about ready to explode.

Five months pass as we work on our lair.

Besides the resident pixies, we have a Rakshasha valet, and numerous housekeeper spirits.

Our lair includes:
  • A scrying chamber
  • A damper room that negates magic and spirit abilities
  • An alchemy lab
  • Hydroponics room full of secret herbs and spices
  • Library (good for +1 to all Occult Wildcard/Intrinsic Magic covered topics)
  • Magical lab (+1)
  • Summoning Room
  • It's scry and divination shielded 
  • Training room/Gym/Weight room
  • Training room for magical pursuits
  • Magical power supply (Cooked up by Magnus, leeching power from the MBTA's third rail)
  • Meeting Room
  • Ley Line tap
  • Base is self-contained and can be sealed up as a survival shelter
  • Spirit Wards
  • Intruder Wards
  • Can house up to 25 people
  • There's two entrances- via subway tunnels, or down through the basement of the historical building.
During the construction we find Marv, sent on a mission to wipe out the Pixies. We recruit him into our little group.

The head of Hadestown, Giselle, is looking for some help with a magical matter and is willing to pay for help. She's known for being a problem solver, and is half-sidhe.

Giselle runs a bar in Hadestown, which we pay a visit. Her connection to Underhill, and her troll contacts within, has been severed, and finding people willing to travel through Underhill to fetch the portal stone she needs to reestablish the trade line has been difficult. Enter us.

Rumor has it that Underhill has seen recent activity of ancient creatures not usually seen on Earth these times- dragons, chiefly. Ginnar, a norse dwarf, is the craftsman who has made the item she needs.

She hands us a doctor's bag to deliver to him as payment. It's full of reagents.

We have a few options for getting there- the Autumn Road, going through the outlands, or finding a direct portal. Ranulf's gut is that the Autumn Road is likely to be the safest, if weird.

The first two hops along the Autumn Road are pretty mundane, just paths. The third we enter a spider nest, but Ranulf is able to circumvent us around them. We experience 8 hours in the Autumn Road, but arrive almost instantly back in the real world.

The Troll plaza is under The Giant's Causeway, a massive bridge which disappears off into the wilderness.

The locals are viewing us as a mix of prey and curiosity at first- before Leo and Marv decide to put on their war faces, which causes people to actively move aside to avoid us.

Ginnar almost closes up shop when we come close, before he realizes we're carrying his pay. We get the item we've been hired to fetch, and then have to make our way out of town without attracting trouble.

However, the Troll Market is enticing- lots of interesting smells and curios to be had. Ranulf's swindled into buying a $65k hunk or iron ore, and Aggie has to step in to prevent Leo from eating an entire foodcart of grilled meats.

We get back into the Autumn road, having to take a slightly longer trip. We manage to avoid any nasty encounters, but it's a week later. We drop off Giselle's item for her. She installs it into her portal.

We mull over the options- getting a quick $30k, getting a favor from her, or getting a year of free portal access to the Troll Market. We ultimately go with the favor- having her as a resource to tap when encountering future issues might be beneficial, and having access to the troll market for a year is less beneficial when the campaign has time skips of 5-6 months at a time.

That and playing the market doesn't lend well to adventuring.

Also, a week has passed on the outside. When we hunt up other rumors it turns out one of the other rumors we didn't chase ended up in a House completely getting wiped out- seems House Yagani was closer to the brink than we realized.

We decide to check out a shrieking woman who is rumored to appear at night in the Forest Hills Cemetery in Jamaica Plain.

The cemetery is protected by a robust blessing, which is maintained at least once a year. Leo has some initial issues pushing through the ward, but his lack of malicious intent allows him to push through it.

Once night falls we find the shrieking woman, sitting on a bench in front of a monument in the cemetery. She's crying. All of us recognize her as the Banshee of Boston, a ghost, not an actuall banshee. She tends to become more active as the city undergoes stress, chaos, or mass death.

Marv approaches her, and she stops crying. She asks if Reginald has come back. Marv responds that he can be Reginald for her if she likes. The Banshee proceeds to say that the marriage can now proceed.

Marv plays along. The Banshee starts to turn on him, binding him with Magic, when Aggrivaine interrupts, offering to try and locate the real Reginald.

Aggrivaine uses sticks to make a casting circle, helped by Marv who uses carpentry to make a pentagram out of greenwood that can be transported. Ranulf locates a ley line he's able to allow Aggie to tap into at a distance.

After an hour of casting in a graveyard suffused by glowing blue ley line energy, Aggrivaine calls Reginald's spirit, who appears.

The Banshee is convinced it's a trick. Marv and Aggie attempt to talk her down. Reginald is standing around in colonial soldier garb. Aggie yells at him to state his name and rank, and Reginald responds by demanding why he's been brought back from death.

We tell him his Betrothed has been unable to pass onto the afterlife. Reginald materializes, and the two spirits start to argue about the circumstances of their situation during the war. They eventually reconcile, and ask to be laid to their final rest.

Agrivaine counters that they need to be married first. Marv offers up that he was once ordained as a priest. While we're arranging the wedding a group of spirits rise, to witness the event.

Marv conducts the wedding in his own special way. We get witnesses to sign off on it.

The Banshee asks Aggrivaine to find her book, then she and her groom both begin to glow, eventually disappearing in a flash of light.

We head back to the base and end the session there.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Return to Ceteri 3: Friendly Extraction

Our Cabal:

Aggravaine Tashalan: Inhumanely attractive and a genius spellcaster, Aggravaine is trying to make a name for himself in the supernatural world of Ceteri.

Leo: A werewolf private investigator. Leo has a fondness for Twinkies and is a disappointment to his family.

Ranulf: Paperpusher, ley line expert, and victim of Brimstone Law. Ranulf really wants his old life back, but likely won't get it.

Jackson Taft: A crack sharpshooter hiding a more malicious second half who you won't like when he's angry.


We try and determine what to do next. The initial options seem to be investigating the Lion's outpost, or dealing with their own response to our actions.

We opt to head out to their facility. It's warded up to the gills, clouding any attempts at ley sight or similar. They're using ward tokens affixed to IDs to allow people through them,

This is in addition to mundane security. Main transport in/out is via automobile, and the ley lines deflated like a balloon once we stole their focusing device. There's roughly 12 cars parked outside the wards.

We stake out the facility.

Leo crits on Detective! There's 24 people inside, a very good suite of mundane security devices (infrared, motion sensors, etc). 

Aggie also crits on seeing the supernatural security setup. Their supernatural defenses are formidable, including a ritual ward that's ridiculously powerful and difficult to put into place. The only hole is that things can gate in, but that's a one-way trip. The Ward will zap any supernatural intruders- a primary concern for Leo.

Leo's enhanced senses pick up the scent of Magnus inside the facility, and groks his overall position in the facility.

Aggie attempts to turn the ward onto the security enchantments in place- and botches horrifically, taking 5 points of injury from magical backlash, and undoing wards in a massive 100 mile radius.

Leo and Ranulf rush the building. Leo rips a door off its hinges using his werewolf strength. Ranulf follows. Aggie limps to the car and preps their getaway car.

Inside, Leo and Ranulf find Magnus chained to a wall. A guard with an automatic carbine sprays at Leo, who dodge and drops out of the way of the spray.

Ranulf pulls a blocking spell to avoid the bullets himself.

Leo recovers and launches himself at the guard, slamming into him and driving the guard onto the ground. The guard fast-draws a cold iron knife plated with silver and stabs at Leo. Ranulf causes a freak accident to happen, and the guard is fried as a live wire from the ceiling is dislodged in the melee and falls on him.

Magnus is surprised to see Leo, and seems concerned about people being able to utilize his work once its done. The work is locked into a gunsafe, which Leo intends to carry out. Ranulf sees about freeing Magnus from the desk he's chained to.

With a 500lb gunsafe on his back Leo's at heavy encumbrance, and moving about 5 yards per second.

Leo and Ranulf manage to get out without running into anyone else. We tie the gunsafe to the roof of Leo's hatchback and then pile in and drive off. 

Magnus confirmed that Taylor Bloise and Morrow had a falling out about 20 years ago- he doesn't suspect that Taylor was involved in the kidnapping.

We use Helen Taft's house as a safehouse again, assuming that it's already been searched and won't be now that it's cleared.

Evidently Magnus got an idea from the events surrounding some of the wards Aldrick screwed around with during the Babel crisis.

Magnus has a prototype and research notes in the gunsafe. He says it's a new form of magical matter.

Leo's convinced that Magnus' work is the equivalent of magical radioactivity and would rather not get zapped by it.

Magnus explains- he's learned how to concentrate quintessence using a ley line, and the process enriches Quintessence to be about 100x more powerful than normal quintessence. Being physical magic, Quintessence makes enchantments far easier, and allows for some badass spells on the fly.

It takes Leo an hour to crack the safe. Aggie takes some time to perform first aid on himself, and also reaches out to Olivia to keep her appraised of things.

She's very unhappy about the wards thing, but is relieved that Magnus is alive. She instructs us to drop him off with his house, and to return to her to get our payment.

We talk a bit about what to do with the research when Olivia knocks on the door.

She's particularly unhappy with our methods, and isn't surprised when we mention that Magnus has developed paradigm changing tech.

Olivia completely understands the process to the make the stuff once explained. Olivia casts a spell on Magnus, catching him once he falls. She then placed a geaus on us to not speak about what we found.

All of us are handed three grand as pay, plus whatever we grabbed from the safe. Olivia strongly encourages Aggie and the others to get a stronghold into place, and to integrate more into society,

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Return to Ceteri 2: Lines of Influence

Our Cabal:

Aggravaine Tashalan: Inhumanely attractive and a genius spellcaster, Aggravaine is trying to make a name for himself in the supernatural world of Ceteri.

Leo: A werewolf private investigator. Leo has a fondness for Twinkies and is a disappointment to his family.

Ranulf: Paperpusher, ley line expert, and victim of Brimstone Law. Ranulf really wants his old life back, but likely won't get it.

Jackson Taft: A crack sharpshooter hiding a more malicious second half who you won't like when he's angry.


Last we left off, Ranulf just caused a large explosion. Thankfully, no deaths, but it's still quite the scene. It's chalked up to a gas line leak in the press and 'official' documentation.

Aggravaine is wrapping up tending to some of the wounded, and has successfully implanted a SPY Protocol spirit into the foci of a Silver Lions mage leaving the building.

Ranulf schmoozes to get the names of the lawyers for the building and for the Silver Lions organization at large.

We decide to not stick around. We decide to visit Helen Taft, an aggrieved former employee of the Conclave who raised a stink in the department of Celeric Regulation.

Helen's fighting an aggressive magical cancer, which she's been using magic to stave off for as long as possible. She's busy smoking a cigarette when we arrive, swaps it for a joint later in the conversation, and obviously hasn't lost any of her wit. Aggravaine and Leo help her roll a joint, earning some brownie points.

When we bring up the Lions Helen's willing to talk shop about how much they suck. We bring up the discrepancies with their ley line. Helen brings up Silver Lions recruiting genius magical prodigies that are up and coming, then making them leave broken or disappearing them once they are done with them.

She suspects that they're developing something likely illegal. Helen also makes it clear that taking them on without help is unlikely to go well. Helen suggests that we recruit her nephew, Jackson, to our cabal- he failed the trials, has an anger management issue, and needs a job.

She tells us he's living in her house in Dorchester, before getting wheeled inside for her medicine.

The house in Dorchester is a ranch style apartment. Aggravaine walks in without being invited, summons a housekeeper to clean the place for twelve hours, and begins asking Jackson if he's really satisfied with his unemployed existence.

Jackson takes some motivating, but eventually seems down to join our efforts.

We check out the garage and find her stacks of files on the Silver Lions. The files are about five years out of date, but are chock full of interesting info. Aggravaine locates a facility that they have that's in a state forest North of Boston.

We find a photograph of Bloise Cagliostero, Morrow, and Anton J. Dyer together in army fatigues some time during the Vietnam Era. Bloise is a serious heavyweight battle mage, and has been skulking around trying to improve his standing and that of his own house. Dyer is also a badass combat sorcerer. He lacks Aggravaine's raw magical oomph, but has studied and honed his skills for a long time. Dyer founded Silver Lions.

Ranulf confirms that their North Facility is sitting on a Dragon Well. That particular ley line was approved by Morrow himself, and was grandfathered in once the leyline was 'discovered' to be stronger than initially surveyed.

It was originally surveyed by Morrow. It really looks like Morrow was planted as a mole within the department that regulates ley lines to get Silver Lions a cushy deal on numerous ley lines.

Aggravaine loops in his boss Olivia, sharing we her details of what's been dug up. The explosion in Boston went unreported to the Custos and the National News Media. Olivia wants Aggravaine and the others to continue investigating- without stepping on Cagliostero's toes so that she doesn't have to confront Taylor Bloise about anything.

The SPY Protocol comes back and reports in, typing out what it managed to eavesdrop. They're talking about a valuable subject that they're working with, who's from Cagliostero. They're planning on getting rid of him when they're done. The spirit reports that they have photos of us outside of the office we blew, and they proceed to accuse Aggravaine of sticking his pen in company ink.

They're also aware that Aggravaine is in contact with Olivia. They don't believe that we know about their other facility, but they are locking it down and sweeping for bugs. The SPY Spirit fled once it heard it might be detected.

We take pains to ensure that Olivia gets the new intel we received.

We oscillate a bit on what to do, eventually settling on checking back on the place that exploded after Ranulf brings it up.

The local emergency response has left except for a single cop car. The cop seems out of it, like he's not really paying attention. The mists are significantly stronger than they should be. Ranulf looks at the leyline and whatever the Lions were doing + the Twist Ranulf pulled means that the leyline is more or less permanently busted.

Ranulf believes that they were attempting to create an artificial dragon well to harvest quintessence from.

We try to ascend to the 13th floor, where we meet a guard. Ranulf and Jackson attempt to fast-talk and intimidate the guard. The guard eventually demurs, and Aggravaine spends a moment to commiserate with him about how bad "Mr. Twiddles (Jackson)" is.

Ranulf finds the epicenter of the explosion. Strange stone shards have been strewn about by the explosions. They had the equivalent of a magical nuclear reactor going on, and the residual energy is quite powerful.

Jackson uses Archaeology! and thinks that the pieces are from some kind of ancient statue- which he tries to piece back together.

A guard starts heading upstairs, so Leo falls in behind him to stalk him as he goes upstairs. Jackson and Ranulf toss the research floor- grabbing random harddrives, research notes, and so on.

Leo does his best to signal that there's more people present. He then goes on to loot some important files himself.

Aggravaine finishes distracting the guard with some life advice, bugging out once he feels the rest of the team would be finished.

Some Silver Lions folk are approaching the building. We do our best to avoid being seen by them.

Aggravaine locates the security room, and asks Leo to lockpick the door so that security footage can be erased. Leo scrubs the team's presence from the security footage completely.

We leave and return back to Helen's house.

Jackson starts piecing together the Egyptian tablet he rescued from the explosion. He makes out a single word/string- HEKA- which is the deification of magic in personified form.

The tablet is going to take days to piece back together. Aggravaine speaks the LOGOS Shift to return the tablet back to its original state. It's returned to normal, including the ley line focusing crystal in the middle of it. The tablets are exceedingly valuable and bounce the power of ley lines up a level.

There's a quartz cylinder carved into the tablet.

Jackson's able to read the tablet. He translates the instructions on it to English. The tablet acts as a focusing device, increasing the power of ley lines the longer they're in place. Ranulf can tell that they've been altering the method, because even the tablet and the instructions couldn't produce the results we saw at the office Ranulf exploded.

We eventually realize that when Aggravaine used the Logos he stole the cylindrical quartz that was originally attached to the tablet from wherever it happened to be- likely the state woods facility run by The Lions.

We make plans to hide the focusing tablet and to make sure that Helen isn't retaliated against if they piece together that it was used at her house. Aggravaine drops the ley line tablet off with his girlfriend Trish, while the others go to ensure that Helen is safe.

It appears initially that Helen is just fine. She's interested to hear that we've stolen from the Silver Lions.

Some guys in suits show up at Helen's house where Jackson elected to stay. Jackson locks up, and prepares for a fight.

They breach the back door. Jackson rushes towards them, shouting that he's going to blow their brains out if they don't leave. They screw their resistance roll and retreat. Jackson chases them off the property.

Ranulf casts Off the Grid on Helen, making it unlikely that anybody will be able to track her down or target her.

We end there.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Return to Ceteri 1: An Explosive Twist

Our Cabal:

Aggravaine Tashalan: Inhumanely attractive and a genius spellcaster, Aggravaine is trying to make a name for himself in the supernatural world of Ceteri.

Leo: A werewolf private investigator. Leo has a fondness for Twinkies and is a disappointment to his family.

Ranulf: Paperpusher, ley line expert, and victim of Brimstone Law. Ranulf really wants his old life back, but likely won't get it.


It's a month after we toppled the new Tower of Babel and defeated a master vampire that had crippled the Boston supernatural community.

Brimstone law was quickly dissolved. Mike and Suzette left together to chase down leads on his parents. Yannay is busy trying to figure out how to get Aldrick out of the Labyrinth. Raleigh is "not intervening" as much as possible. Landon is still comatose, and Cormac is working overtime for The Library.

That leaves Leo and Aggrivaine as the only members of the Brimstone Law cabal who are still in touch and not otherwise engaged in projects.

We're at the Conclave HQ. Aggravaine is dropping off paperwork for Olivia- nicely forged in her handwriting to reduce her workload.

She hands over forms finalizing the end of Brimstone law as an entity within the Conclave.

Olivia asks Aggie and Leo how they're doing, where they're living, what they plan to do, etc. She's unimpressed that Aggie is mooching off local startups by posing as an employee to sleep and eat on their dime.

Unimpressed when Aggie suggests taking control of the mundane remnants of Brimstone Law, she suggests taking on some of her non-paperwork.

Silver Lion is a PMC on the Mundane side, chock full of dangerous sorcerers on the Supernatural side. Olivia offers per diem, expenses, and $2,000 each for us to check them out. She says that they are using a leyline for security, and suggests that we get in touch with someone who just got put on administrative leave.

Olivia clocks Silver Lion as about 100 people. They operate out of Boston, renting space in a financial district skyscraper.

We decide to hunt down the expert Olivia suggested. He turns out to be Ranulf, paper pusher and ley line expert.

Ranulf greets us at his cubicle. He's pretty pissed, because evidently he's getting fucked because of the Brimstone ley line shenanigans we pulled to save the world. We help Ranulf with his paperwork mountain over the course of 4-5 hours.

Ranulf finally looks over the files we have on Silver Lion- they've got permission to tap directly into a powerful ley line to power their security measures. It looks like Ranulf signed off on the original paperwork. The Lion's request is unusual, since they've tapping into a magnitude 5 out of 6 ley line.

Aggravaine uses speed-reading to go through records to find out more about the authorization- and the supervisor, Richard Morrow, who originally signed the order is now working for the Lions. At the time, he wasn't, meaning there wasn't any obvious conflict of interest. He retired from the Conclave about a year ago.

The Lions would have been activated during the Babel crisis, but we don't know just how active they may have been during the crisis. Aggie and Leo suspect that they might not have been as helpful as they could have been.

Aggravaine uses his "I Know a Guy" advantage to seek out somebody who didn't particularly like Richard Morrow. Helen Taft was fired from the Conclave about a year ago, and the reason listed in her profile is clear HR-Speak for bullshit. We don't have any info on her current status.

Ranulf seems determined for us to make his life better, and is going to doggedly follow us until we do.

The Silver Lions are on the 13th floor of their office building. Surprise surprise.

We opt to case the office from the outside. Leo succeeds by 9, Aggie by 10. Ranulf tries to find a coffee shop to assess the leyline from.

The mundane security is terrible- overweight, inattentive, and too interested in Boston sports to pay much attention.

Ranulf approaches them and asks to get into the basement. Meanwhile, Leo tries to slip past them into the basement.

Leo's caught by someone from security. Ranulf is promptly shown inside to "check on the boiler". Leo and Ranulf try to play it off as if Leo is with Ranulf.

Aggravaine takes the opportunity to cast Intercom and Remote Teamwork on Leo, allowing him to communicate with and make Complimentary Skill rolls for Leo.

Once in the basement, Ranulf uses his ley sight to look at the leyline. It's being actively tapped. The wards for it are on the 13th floor. Ranulf attempts to sabotage the leyline while making it appear like an accident.

Agrivaine, sensing that this is likely to end poorly, pulls the fire alarm.

Once Ranulf finishes sabotaging the ley line, an explosion rocks the 13th floor of the skyscraper. (OOC: Aggravaine used Foresight to pull the fire alarm after Ranulf's tinkering blew things up. Aggie got to keep the use of Foresight because he crit on the mastermind check to see Ranulf's actions ahead of time.)

The ley line tap breaks in the basement. Twisting the line while it was being actively drawn on helped contribute to the explosion, but Aggravaine can't tell if what Lions was doing with the leyline played a part or not.

The evacuation reveals a number of Silver Lions folk- most of whom are carrying "canes" or "walking sticks". Some wounded are starting to trickle down into the lobby.

Aggie casts Echoes of the Dead and is surprised to learn nobody actually died in the explosion. He assists with stabilizing a bystander who was caught in the explosion who is bleeding heavily.

Agravaine takes the opportunity to implant an eavesdropping spirit into the foci of a Lions executive leaving the scene.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

You Might be Doing it Wrong- Getting Weapon Bond to Work in GCS

So, you're using GCS to design a new character in with Signature Gear, or a tricked-out gun that you dropped some Character Points on to be able to purchase. Obviously you're going to slap on a Weapon Bond because that extra +1 to skill for the low cost of a Perk is bananas strong.

You go to the Power Ups library and pull the Weapon Bond advantage onto your sheet. But the Weapon Bond advantage doesn't have any features included that will make it add +1 to your appropriate skill, even after typing in what weapon it's for.

On this sheet I've added Weapon Bond, as well as two BSA Welrods. One is named Nancy, because that's going to be the gun that Reita finds especially well suited to her. With no further changes, GCS doesn't account for Weapon Bond, and both are at skill ten.

In the past, I would have dug around the Weapon Bond Advantage trying to add a feature that would bump Pistol Skill only while using Nancy, but this leads to problems:
  1. The Feature "Gives a Skill Level Bonus" affects Character Skill- not effective skill using a weapon, meaning it will bump defaults, affect non-weapon bond weapons, and force you to remember to take -1 if you're using a weapon you're not bonded to.
  2. Separating out a specific skill via skill specializations gets messy quickly.

The Right Way:

When you open up the dialog box to edit a weapon and click on the line that allows you to edit a weapon's attack, you want to edit the line that dictates which skill is used.

Change the +0 to +1, and click apply.

And looking back at the sheet, we can see that one Welrod is showing an increased skill level, while Guns Skill is still 10, and the other Welrod isn't bumped.

Added Bonus:

This is also the correct way of modeling Reflex Sights, Bonuses from Fine/Very Fine/Balanced equipment, and can also smooth over RoF calculations when using shotguns. If it affects the weapon and not the base skill, you likely want to add the bonus to the weapon, not via a feature which increases skill.

Equipment Bond:

This method breaks down when using equipment bond, things that affect Fast-Draw, etc. I'm still noodling on the best method of handling some of them.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Relational Maps

Zmadpoet posted a tweet talking about the relational maps/flows used by old school game devs when making adventure games.

I have gotten into the habit of using relational maps for my most recent GURPS campaign, Pine Box Consulting, and figured I could talk about why I started using them. I don't use them to map physical locations or a series of events, but the layout of influence and connections between all the actors at play in my games.

I use to produce my maps.

This is just the diagram for the First Mission my players went on

I like relational maps because they visually show the connections and influences between disparate factions and individuals better than a spreadsheet or word document, although a wiki might do a decent job at matching a relational map if well done.

Now, relational maps don't contain deep information on the entities contained within- I keep most of that in my head. It is possible to include more in-depth info, but the effort vs. reward isn't the best on doing so.

It can be very hard to document how every group relates to one another without significant amounts of repetition. Especially when it comes to doing writeups of groups/factions, there's a lot of times where you'll see "Group X hates Group Y" and then in the entry for Group Y you'll see "Group Y hates Group X". You can't not list it- otherwise looking at just Group Y might lead you to miss the rancor, but it's still redundant to a degree.

I don't muck around with different arrows all that much, or put much effort into showing which are friendly or adversarial connections- I can remember the nature of the relationships off the top of my head, and these diagrams aren't player facing. Player facing diagrams should have more careful attention paid to whether arrows are bidirectional or not. 

Now note, these diagrams are less "flowchart" and more "If I need to know the police are connected to". Looking 1 or 2 hops out very quickly gives a sense of who is directly and slightly less directly influenced by one another.

I don't use the diagrams to tie into mechanics, although I suppose there could be a way of rigging number of hops to a skill penalty (For instance, trying to pump Flavio for for information about Hubert, who's roughly 5 hops away, not counting the mystery informant, might not go very well because he's too distant from the info being sought.)

It's generally pretty easy to update, even mid-session. Other maps that I've done for more recent missions involve big X's placed over individuals deceased during the course of the mission.\

Now, that's not to say that they can't be used for physical Dungeons, and if I ever run the Castlevania DF game I had in mind, the castle might just look a little like the diagram below.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

My First Impressions of the MapForge Beta

A while back, some GURPS bloggers were pushing the MapForge Kickstarter, and since I've recently gotten the itch to make a Megadungeon (better use that inspiration while it's still hot), I figured I should get a beta copy and try it out.

I mean, I paid for it. Shouldn't investigate other options before checking out the product I backed, right?

Despite a post opining the lack of people requesting beta keys and putting out a call for testers, I had a rocky go of getting access.

5 updates. FIVE UPDATES.

This wasn't limited to just me, either.
Baffled he says, as if all of us are moronic twats
I can actually address why people are having so much difficulty:
1: To avoid getting 20,000+ emails all at once asking for keys, the creator broke them into five waves without giving people an easy way to check for which wave they are a part of
2: Most people don't feverishly check Kickstarter every day for updates- I only seriously check Kickstarter once every couple of months, and all five updates had blown well past in the time frame between paying actual attention to kickstarter
3: Way too much fucking reading to do before getting to the relevant info (marked in red below)
4: I never received an actual email from Kickstarter going "MapForge wants you to try out the thingy"

Plus when your Beta access process is to download the beta program from your website, email you a computer-specific code, and then wait for a response, most people would consider that convoluted. Obviously you're not running some kind of centralized licensing server that the program phones home to to check that everything is hunky dory, because this is twig and spit level setup going on.

How does it actually run?

So, I get the program, I get the key, I have to manually type the key (despite being told in the email that typing it is inaccurate and I should copy and paste) because copying and pasting didn't work 3 times and forced me to restart the program to actually enter the key (who the fuck is going to brute force a license key when some script kiddie is just going to develop a crack anyways, are you fucking kidding me?).

So I fire it up ...and find it has no tiles. Because despite all Kickstarter Backers getting some free assets to play around with, they're not bundled in the fucking install. Adding them is admittedly easy, but why the fuck should I have to dig through Kickstarter posts to find free stretch goals? 

So I sort that out- and BAM, memory errors.
Boy, I wonder how much of this is legacy code from like 2005?

Evidently there's a specific exe required to run it on Windows 10 x64 machines (only one of the most FUCKING COMMON OPERATING SETUPS CURRENTLY IN THE WILD).


So, I grab the right exe and fire it up. It works. Works in that navigating the various tiles and items is deathly slow. There are frequent hangs of 10-45 seconds, windows throws up "not responding" fairly often, sometimes alternating with hangs, and has a habit of starting up as a half-loaded zombie if you focus on another window (like, this pithy blog post you're currently reading) while it's in the process of opening.

It's stuck like this
It not quite as bad at eating up RAM as Chrome, but it's pretty RAM hungry.

Performance seems to be directly linked to the size of resources available to actually map with. Official recommendation is to disable content you don't plan on using, which really sucks given than changing said content requires a restart. Sucks to be you if you want to browse through a gigantic library of assets to mix-and-match what's best for whatever fucked up game you want to run.

So, to summarize:

  1. The Creator seems to be baffled and slightly annoyed that their convoluted processes and lack of clear communication to backers is causing confusion, and that they're being expected to do rote customer service tasks.
  2. MapForge runs like utter shit on my machine.
My Specs, for those wondering:

I'm running a GTX-1080 for my video card, and I really should double my RAM, I'm aware.

Actual Beta-User Feedback:

  1. Frequent Hangs/Stops
  2. Serious lag navigating addon assets
  3. No Hex Grid option (I run GURPS, GURPS uses hexes, I need hexes)
  4. No scrollwheel functionality for scrolling asset lists
  5. It currently feels like a map-stamper and not much else. 
  6. UI would be nice if it weren't unresponsive and sluggish
  7. Ease of adding addons is good
  8. Need a way to disable addon content from within the program
  9. No options menu for a v1.0? Seriously?
  10. No option to choose where exported maps save? Really?
  11. Love the interplay between the UI and the bog-standard windows error and alert messages
  12. Lots of pitfalls to avoid and/or hoops to jump through to get barely usable performance out of it
  13. Thunking down 5 Tavern items and attempting to export has lead to an indefinite hang