Tag: gamma world

An Introduction to Starfinder Character Creation

An Introduction to Starfinder Character Creation

Wednesday, November 8, 2017 | By | Add a Comment

 

An Introduction to Starfinder Character Creation

Well, Pathfinder is here and what an interesting game it is!  Character creation is of course is the fundamental part of any role playing campaign, so I would like to start my long (but hopefully inspiring) critique of Starfinder with that.  So let’s just dive right in to this long awaited hearty meal with the important things first:

Characters in Starfinder have many familiar elements from Pathfinder, but there are differences. For example, characters don’t just have a race and a class, they have race/class/theme. They do, however, have the six attributes we all know and love – Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma (a point buy is the default method of picking these).

Typical of other science fiction based role playing games outside of the fantasy genre, Starfinder does not use hit points in the same way as D&D/Pathfinder. Rather, a character has both hit points and stamina points. Stamina points are lost first, and are relatively easily recoverable (characters have Resolve points to spend every day, and spending a point refreshes all Stamina. Hit points lost represents actual damage to the character, and is harder to heal. Characters gain both hit points and stamina points every level based on character class (characters also get a one-time HP boost from their race).

Leveling up will be familiar to Pathfinder fans. It is still literally leveling up, from 1st to 20th. Following in the refinements of Pathfinder, Starfinder makes sure that characters are getting something new at every level from every class. In addition to class-specific benefits, characters gets a feat every other level, an ability score increase every fifth level, and a theme benefit every sixth level. Multiclassing exists, but is disfavored.

There are seven standard races available, plus several “legacy” races. The legacy races – dwarves, elves, gnomes, half-elves, half-orcs, and halflings – are perfectly playable, are simply not given the same prominence in Starfinder. Some, like the elves, have a relatively limited presence in the setting, voluntarily isolating themselves. But others, like the halflings, are almost as widespread as humanity. Each race gets one page with mechanics and two portraits, and one page of setting information. The seven standard races are:

  • Human: you know what these guys are, right? As with Pathfinder, they get to pick their attribute bonus, and start with an extra feat and get more skill points. These are the same humans who originated on Golarion.
  • Android: As androids are often wont to do, these ones were created as servitors but more recently have been recognized as sentient beings with rights (well, at least they have in the Pact Worlds). They are constructs and have some environmental immunities, have good vision, sometimes have a tough time communicating when it comes to emotions, and can upgrade their bodies as if it was armor. They are nimble and smart, but not very charismatic.
  • Lashunta: Originating in the Golarion system, the lashuntas are near-human in appearance, but with long antenna (they are not insectile). They are mildly telepathic, have a handful of cantrips they can use as spell-like abilities, and get skill bonuses. Lashunta are a dimorphic species, and characters usually get to choose which one they will become (not just that the player gets to choose for their character, but the character themselves gets to choose). All lashunta are charismatic, while one subspecies is strong but somewhat oblivious, while the other is smart but fragile.
  • Kasatha: The kasatha originate from outside the Golarion system. They came to the system in a generational worldship intending to colonize, but found the system too densely populated to just take over a planet. So they stuck around and their ship is now a Pact World. Kasatha kind of look like Eldar with four arms. They tend towards being very traditionalist and consider melee weapons preferable to ranged ones. Mechanically, they get bonuses to Strength and Wisdom, but a penalty to Intelligence. They get bonuses to Culture, Acrobatics, and Athletics. Oh, and there’s the four arms thing, which literally lets them carry more.
  • Ysoki: These ratfolk are generally high-energy and technologically-focused. They have bonuses to Dexterity and Intelligence, but a penalty to Strength and have less HP than most other races. They are small, can carry things in their check pouches, have darkvision, and get bonuses to tinkering, hiding, and surviving.
  • Vesk: The vesk are definitely not a Pact World race. Indeed, these aggressive, martial reptilians were the impetus for the creation of the Pact. But the arrival of the Swarm threatened both the vesk’s star system and the Golarion system, resulting in a hesitant collaboration between the two. Vesk are strong and tough (including extra racial HP), but not as bright. They get extra benefit from armor, have enhanced vision, and natural weapons.
  • Shirren: Unlike the lashunta, the shirren are insectile. Indeed, they are a breakaway portion of the Swarm. Because of their history as part of a forced hive mind, they highly prize individual choice. They are tough and observant, but are considered less charismatic by other races. They have blindsense (vibration), work well as part of a team, have limited telepathy, and get bonuses to Culture and Diplomacy checks.

Next up is the theme, which is layered on top of the class. A character can be a priest (theme) whether or not they are a spellcasting mystic (class). A character can be a mercenary or a bounty hunter (themes) without being a soldier (class), or can be a soldier and a spacefarer (theme). The themes are ace pilot, bounty hunter, icon (as in, a celebrity), mercenary, outlaw, priest, scholar, spacefarer, and xenoseeker. Each theme gives +1 to a specific attribute, a bonus class skill at first level and a boost when using that skill (or some related skills), and unique abilities at levels 6, 12, and 18. For example, the Ace Pilot always has Piloting as a class skill, gets a bonus on Piloting checks, and has an easier time with Culture checks to know about starships and vehicles. A character can also be themeless, which provides generic bonuses.

As one might anticipate, a character’s class is the most mechanically significant mechanical choice at character creation. Class defines attack bonuses, saving throws, hit points and stamina points, skill points and where they are best spent, and weapon and armor proficiencies. The baselines for these are about 6 HP/SP a level, 4 skill points a level, a moderate base attack bonus, two good saving throws, and proficiency in light armor, basic melee weapons, grenades, and small arms. Every class also gives Weapon Specialization (bonus damage) at 3rd level for every weapon it gave proficiency with. Most classes have a class feature that every few levels lets the player choose an ability off of a substantial list, permitting a lot of customization. There are seven classes:

  • Soldier: The soldier will be instantly recognizable to any Pathfinder or D&D fan as the fighter of the system. They have increased HP/SP, the highest base attack bonus, and are proficient with pretty much every kind of weapon and armor – indeed they are the only class that is proficient with heavy armor, heavy weapons, and longarms (rifles). Soldiers receive a bonus combat feat every other level, and get to select gear boosts every four levels (such as a bonus when wearing armor or attack bonuses with certain weapon subcategories). Soldiers choose a primary (and eventually a secondary) fighting style, such as arcane assailant, armor storm, blitz, bombard, guard, hit-and-run, or sharpshoot (a soldier with the right specialization can also use powered armor). This fighting style gives bonuses every four levels. Soldiers also get enhanced ability to make extra attacks.
  • Envoy: The social character class (the “face,” if you will), the envoy is also very good with skills generally, gaining the highest available number of skill points per level and class features that make them even better at select skills. They envoy gains envoy improvisations every couple of levels. These abilities tend to involve social combat effects, such as taunting enemies or bolstering allies.
  • Operative: The operative is the other skill-heavy class, with some aspects traditionally associated with the rogue, like Evasion and a Sneak Attack variant (Trick Attack). Operative exploits are chosen every two levels, and include abilities such as a bonus combat feat, the ability to use skills untrained, or extra mobility. Each operative chooses a specialization, which gives several powers and a bonus exploit. The specializations include daredevil, detective, explorer, ghost, hacker, spy, and thief. Operatives aren’t proficient with grenades, but they are proficient with sniper rifles. They also have the potential to make more attacks than most other classes.
  • Mechanic: The mechanic is a “pet” class, with the pet being an AI installed either in a drone or in an exocortex (a brain implant with an AI) that levels up along with the mechanic (and is very customizable itself). The mechanic is also bonkers at breaking into computers and related systems. The drone AI tends towards combat, while the exocortex makes the mechanic even better at hacking. The mechanic chooses from a variety of mechanic tricks every two levels, such as a bonus ability when repairing starships or a visual data processor for enhanced perception.
  • Mystic: The mystic is, along with the technomancer, one of the two spellcasting classes. Neither spellcasting class is “arcane” or “divine,” but the mystic leans more towards what you might expect from a divine spellcaster (they have the healing spells, for example, while the technomancer has magic missile; their spellcasting is also based on Wisdom). Reading the descriptions, I almost wondered if mystics were Starfinder Jedi, as their powers are all about “connection with some force.” The concepts involved are broader than that, however, as a mystic’s “connection” is their philosophical power source. If the mystic draws their power from a deity, then this connection is probably related to that god, but the connection need not be divine in nature. Some of the connections are akashic, empath, healer, mindbreaker, overlord, and xenodruid (note that some of those connections are not exactly pleasant). Connections grant a few more spells known, and then a specific power every three levels. The mystic has a certain number of spells cast per day and spells known; there is no memorization of spells. The mystic also gains telepathic powers. The mystic has a few more skill points than is standard, but is not proficient with grenades and has subpar saving throws.
  • Technomancer: The other side of the spellcasting duo, technomancers are Intelligence-based, with fewer HP/SP and skills than the mystic. Technomancers have a spell cache for extra flexibility, and get a magic hack every few levels that can be used to modify spells or use spell slots for additional effects. Magical hacks include disrupting technological attacks, using a battery to fuel spellcasting, or changing any basic land type into another.
  • Solarian: The solarian is the most distinctive Starfinder class. The solarian’s concept is tied to the stars in their various stages of life, and the power of gravity, light, and heat. During combat, the solarian will either be in graviton mode or photon mode (and will fluctuate between the two), gaining access to particular powers depending on what mode they are in (the solarian will get to pick particular powers as they level up). In addition to these stellar modes, the solarian is also accompanied by a solar mote, a physical manifestation of their solar power. The solarian must choose whether this mote can become a solar weapon or can become solar armor. Of course, the solar equipment improves as the solarian levels. The solarian, like the operative and the soldier, has improved access to extra attacks. Solarians also join soldiers in having more HP/SP than other classes and in getting a better base attack bonus, and trade in their grenade proficiency for advanced melee weapons.

Archetypes exist in Starfinder like they do in Pathfinder, but work somewhat differently. Each base class has a standardized list of what it loses from an archetype when an archetype puts a feature in at that level, allowing archetypes to apply to any class (instead of being class-specific). There are only two archetypes presented, however, making this more something that will be expanded in later books than used directly out of this one. The two archetypes are the phrenic adept (psychics) and the Starfinder Forerunner (from the Starfinder Society).

Roleplaying Apocalypse World

Roleplaying Apocalypse World

Monday, December 19, 2016 | By | Add a Comment

 Roleplaying Apocalypse World

It has been quite some time since I have actually gone out and played role-playing games with a group or campaign.  Lately, however, I have taken part in a couple of games hosted by a meetup that I frequently attend around my locality.  Last weekend, I was introduced to a fun post-apocalyptic game called Apocalypse World.  This was not my first introduction to the game, although it was my first time actually playing the game in a group setting, so I was in for a bit of a treat.  The game is mostly a narrative type game, with the characters telling the MC or “Master of Ceremonies” their actions and if need be, rolling 2d6 with modifiers for the results.  As a roleplayer who enjoys rolling dice, I do not particularly like this system, but it does, however, allow more narration in the game.  With a good group of roleplayers, the game can be a lot of fun.

The game is set on a few simple principles.  PCs have 6 stats that help define how well they can do certain things:

Cool: As in clear-thinking, calm, rational
Hard: As in hard-hearted, aggressive, violent
Hot: As in attractive, gracious, inspiring
Sharp: As in smart, perceptive, educated
Weird: As in uncanny, psychic, strange
Hx (History): As in shared history, how well one character knows another

These stats are given a value from -3 to +3, and they can change based on actions in the game. When one of them hits -4 or +4, it reverts to -1 or +1 (respectively) and the PC gets to advance (usually picking a new skill or move for the PC).

The PCs

Here is a list of the playsets (character types) that come with the main rule book:
Angel: Basic healers, post apocalypse doctors
BattleBabe: Main Strongarm, brute strength and charisma
Brainer: Weird psychics, strange mind-reading and mind-f*%$*ing characters
Chopper: Motorcycle gang leader, heavy duty security
Driver: Car and truck drivers, your post-apoc transport service
Gunlugger: Arms dealer, black market merchant
Hardholder: Landlords of the apocalypse, slumlord or savior
Hocus: Cult leader or religious prophet? you decide
Operator: Opportunistic popular jack-of-all-jobs, post apoc utilitarian?
Savvyhead: Stuff breaks, this guy can fix anything
Skinner: Artistic attention whore, charismatic bard

The main mechanic is very simple: When a PC does something they roll + a stat. The roll is always 2d6. If 2d6 + stat is less than 7, the roll is a miss. If the roll + stat is 7-9 that is a hit and the PC decides the outcome of the move based on a few seemingly limited choices. If the roll + stat = 10+ it is a very good success and the choices are different.

The things that PCs can do during the game are called moves and each PC has a set of basic moves that are available to everyone as well as special moves that only that PC type can use. Each type of PC also has a special sex move that (usually) provides some benefits to the PC when they have sex with a PC or NPC. Each game can only have 1 of a given type of PC so there will be no overlap of special moves or sex moves.

One of the most interesting aspects of this game is that it is highly scripted and upon reading sounds like a player’s options are very limited by the scripting. However, an amazing thing happens in-game and one finds that the restricted choices do not actually limit the game at all. This is because the game is built on the narrative and the outcome choices for moves are relatively vague and leave space for the narrative to take over.

Example of Scripting:
One basic move is called Going Aggro on someone. It means that the PC is using violence or the threat of violence to control someone else’ behavior, without (or before) fighting. On a roll+stat of 7-9 the target chooses 1 of the following outcomes:
a. Get the hell out of your way
b. Barricade themselves securely in
c. Give you something they think you want
d. Back off calmly, hands where you can see
e. Tell you what you want to know (or what you want to hear)

On a roll+stat of 10+ the target must choose 1 of:
a. Force your hand and suck it up
b. Cave and do what you want

Note that on a 7-9, the target can choose to force or cave as well as the initial 5 choices.

The scripting is altered by the actions of the player, and therefore the narrative is altered as well.  The scripting is just a generic example of what type of result you can expect from your role.  But, it is really up to the MC to describe the results of the actions or roles and tell the storyline.

Countdowns
If you would like, you can also ascribe a countdown for the threat. What is a countdown? Well, this is one of those things that is hard to grasp, at least for me it was when I first read the rules. A countdown is basically a way to escalate a situation based on previous interactions or events. It’s called a countdown because it is depicted on the face of a clock (a concept almost everyone understands at a glance), but it doesn’t really denote time per se, it just denotes what stage of escalation a PC is at. The clock face is just a handy way to visualize the chain of events surrounding the issue. As things escalate, the notches on the clock get closer together and the situation becomes more dangerous and sensitive.

The countdown mechanism is, for example, a great way to track disease. Here is that as an example – note that I simplify the rolls here, only giving failure, but each roll will have a different outcome for 1-6, 7-9, and 10+:

Imagine the face of a clock…

A) At 1pm, 3pm or 6pm you can be exposed to a contagious disease. At that time you make a roll and a failure means that you have become infected. Since you have become infected, the clock automatically fast-forwards to 9pm. That doesn’t mean that it becomes 9pm in the game, it means that now the time on the clock-face that depicts the situation you are in is 9pm.

B) An infected person must make a roll at the start of every session (or you could say every morning when the PC wakes up if you want). A failure on the roll means that the disease has progressed and you are contagious. Everyone the PC comes in contact with has been exposed, and they jump on the countdown clock at part A described above (i.e. it is 1, 3, or 6pm for them).

C) You are still infected, so you are making rolls at the beginning of every session. If you fail another roll you succumb to the disease and move up to the 12 o’clock position – your PC is now taking physical harm from the sickness and may possibly die or have psychological effects (the consequences here would be described as part of the narrative).

Here is a picture of the disease countdown I just described:

Apocalypse World can be a extremely fun game, depending on the players and the MC.  This game is absolutely my genre of science fiction and apocalyptic role playing that I like to play.  I look forward to experience more role playing in this future, dystopian world.

Shadowrun Online Games

Shadowrun Online Games

Sunday, May 15, 2016 | By | Add a Comment

Dice six sided for the role-playing game Shadowrun

Dice six sided for the role-playing game Shadowrun (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Shadowrun Online Games

It seems that every big name Hollywood movie series and every big name pen and paper role playing game have merged into a modern day conglomeration of money making productions.  As a person who has been a huge gamer for most of my life, I always view these things as the greatest catastrophes ever.  I believe I share these sentiments with a growing majority of gamers as well as it seems that these always turn out to become absolute flops that we like to believe do not really exist and avoid like the plague.  This tends to be the case with the extremely limited video games that represent the extremely unlimited pen and paper role playing games.

As a player of mainly science fiction role playing games, one of my favorite role playing games happens to be Shadowrun.  The video game release of Shadowrun for the XBox 360 was an absolute, completely horrid failure of a game.  The game, which was a shooter type game and had incredibly bad graphics, effects, and design even for its time, involved characters with relatively no character customization and extremely minimal weapons and spells who ran around extremely small areas and fought each other in order to capture flag like items in a race for time.

So, after playing this utter monstrosity of a game, I came under the illusion that when the recent catalog of Shadowrun online games became available, the new games had to be so much better than the previous games turned out to be as a result of the rising demands that critics are now placing on video game developers.  So, I have played a little bit of Shadowrun Returns, which I have purchased for my Android phone and Shadowrun Chronicles: Boston Lockdown, which I have for my home computer.

I am still quite disappointed in the new games, as they are turned based games and not something new like a combination of action and turned based games which I was hoping for.  Character customization seems to be good with the ability to gather more accessories throughout the game to design your character however way you want.  The storylines and quests seem to be lacking in depth, and although I have only played a few hours on the games so far, the missions seem rather quick and too easily won.

Maybe with time I will be able to appreciate the games a little bit more, but as far as graphics and the turned based game layout of the game goes…..I stand disappointed.

Gaming, online gaming, and pen and paper gaming

Gaming, online gaming, and pen and paper gaming

Thursday, March 24, 2016 | By | Add a Comment

Gaming, online gaming, and pen and paper gaming

Gaming, online gaming, and pen and paper gaming has such a wide audience and not every gamer is into or plays the same games as everyone else.  I am a gamer who enjoys games over many genres and that includes video as well as RPG or role playing games.  Mostly I am a huge fan of sci-fi based RPG’s.  One of my most favorite pen and paper RPG’s by far is Shadowrun.

Shadowrun is a role-playing game set in a fictional alternate universe.  Shadowrun combines cyberpunk and high fantasy to create a near future world where technology has advanced beyond our understanding, powerful mega corporations control everyday life, and magic and classical fantasy races have returned to the world.  The game also has a rich history and novels to go along with the game to keep the player inspired when not actually involved in a “campaign” or role playing group.  There are currently several video games also related to the RPG which are rapidly becoming more and more in depth with all of the elements of the original game and with expansions as well.

The fourth edition of Shadowrun uses a point-based character creation system. Earlier editions and later in the fifth edition, used a priority-based system with point-based character creation as an advanced option. Priorities are divided into race, magic, attributes, skills, and resources.  All things that do not explicitly fall under the first four classifications, including contacts in third and earlier editions of Shadowrun, are given cash-equivalent values to be bought with resources.

Shadowrun characters are created with contacts, friends and acquaintances who serve as key nodes in the character’s social network and who will often help the character out. Through the contacts system, players may uncover information that their characters cannot independently acquire.  Additionally, players can often negotiate for the use of skills that their characters do not themselves have, a radical departure from most role-playing games.

Although the skill system is freeform, certain combinations of skills and equipment work well together.  This combination of specialization in skill and equipment is known as an archetype.   So whether you want to be a street samurai with magic skills, or an adept with fighting skills, you can mix things up however you want with certain restrictions and consequences of course.

Check out the video above for more on learning the world of Shadowrun for your first time.