Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Contacts (Insurgency)

In Delta Green, bonds are meant to be your character's emotional support network, NPCs you can rely on (at least to a point) to help you deal with the massive psychological trauma inherent in the job.

These bonds could be with your spouse, childhood best friend, Very Good Dog, whatever. The point is that they don't directly represent an in-game resource as written, though they do help agents recover some of their sanity between sessions.

That doesn't model an insurgency campaign very well. For one thing, your closest bonds as a dedicated freedom fighter, after a little while fighting alongside your comrades, are probably going to be with them, not anyone you left behind. For another thing, if you have every reason to assume you're being watched by people who want you dead, you don't go visit your family between missions.

This frees bonds up to do something more appropriate to the context.

Basically what I want is: someone at the table says "hey we need fake IDs to try and get on base and none of us have the forgery skill" and then someone else says "fine then I have a cousin Smirnoff who makes those for a living" and they write it on their character sheet and then the player cell has a new resource and the occupiers may or may not find a new way to get close to the PCs.

Rule Changes:
>Call it "contacts" instead of "bonds".
>Each contact has 85% in one professional specialty.
>You don't have to decide who your contacts are or what they do until it comes up in-game.
>Your contact score = CHA x 4.
  >>Roll under with d% to call in a favor.
  >>If the roll fails, they still have a 50% chance of deciding to help you ("but I swear this is the last time do you hear me!?"). Either way, their contact score goes down by 1d20 points.
  >>If your contact score ever reaches 0%, they refuse to help or even see you ever again.
  >>You can potentially increase your contact score by doing favors for your contact.
>There are conditions that add bonuses or penalties to these rolls (maximum total of 99%, minimum of 1%).
  >>Absolutely no chance of being found out: +20% bonus.
  >>Favor will likely earn money or status for the contact: +20% bonus.
  >>Satisfies a preexisting grudge: +40% bonus.
  >>Secrecy* score is 60% or less: -20% penalty.
  >>Secrecy* score is 40% or less: -40% penalty.
  >>Public Support* score is -10% or less: -20% penalty.
  >>Direct physical danger to self or family: -40% penalty.

You could, if you wanted to, game this system to give you a contact you could use to reduce your PC's mental strain, just like a bond in the rules-as-written. You'd just need to use a contact slot on a mental health professional who could then use their skill to help keep you from losing your shit.

*These are two of the scales I've been using to track how the PCs' actions affect the overall campaign.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Faux Silent Fever

Time flies when you’re busy as hell. This seems like a good moment to step back and take stock.

First order of business: a project I worked on won an Ennie! I did the graphic design for Fever Swamp by Luke Gearing, which it was announced last week won Reece Carter’s Judge’s Spotlight award.

Daniel Sell of Melsonian Arts Council dumped a big messy pile of really great ideas into Jarrett Crader (editor) and my laps. It was our job to make those ideas as usable at the table as humanly possible (and make sure the physical object looks, you know, elegant and shit). Both the print and pdf version have gotten great reviews and every review I’ve seen has at least mentioned the part we played. So that whole project feels like a pretty big win for me.

This has all been a validation of my belief that modules like Maze of the Blue Medusa and Blood in the Chocolate have made a pretty big chunk of the scene realize they were starving for intelligent, well-designed supplements, that they can actually use to make running great games easier. The medium of role-playing games is at a similar moment to one that comics went though, when Karen Berger was in charge of DC’s Vertigo imprint. RPGs are officially for grownups now.

Speaking of Maze, I’m also doing layout on a pretty extensive adventure called Silent Titans, penned by Patrick Stuart and being illustrated by the absurdly talented Dirk Detweiler Leichty who seriously needs to be doing this stuff full time. It’s been pretty slow going because we've been reinventing a few wheels, but holy shit will all this back-and-forth experimentation and refinement be worth it.

And one thing that’s juuuuuuuust about ready to release: Faux Pas, written by Beloch Shrike of Blogs on Tape fame and illustrated by Anxy (plus a couple maps by me,  and it's edited by Jarret Crader). It’s the first issue of a new zine called Hocus. It’d work for a one-shot, but really it’s the sort of module you’d want to slot into a hex on your campaign map, for your players to stumble into when they least expect it.

Oh and of course Beloch is recording an audio version of Faux Pas, just to see what the reception looks like. I’m pretty sure the usage case he’s got in mind is you listen to it while you’re driving or painting or gardening or masturbating or whatever and then when you actually want to run the game, just a glance at the description should remind you of what’s going on. Also maybe it helps out the vision impaired? That would be pretty cool, I guess we’ll see.

There’s more stuff lined up but it’s way too early to talk about most of it so I’ll just stop now.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Kovakistan Liberation Party

This is not about a political faction.

So… we’re at a point where everyone reading this has tried out Jeff Rients’ carousing rules right?

If you aren’t familiar with it, the idea is PCs can get a bunch of XP if they blow hundreds or thousands of monies throwing a giant party. If they do that, they have to make a saving throw vs. poison or get shitfaced and have to roll on the table to see what they did while they were blacked out.

The other evening, I was running Kovakistan and an unusual situation came up, where I actually wanted to play the party out. The PCs weren’t looking for bonus XP at all, they wanted to throw a party and invite everyone in the same high-rise project as their safe house to build support for the revolution.

I didn’t tell them this but the risk they were taking was that the party might get too loud (with celebratory AK-47 fire and patriotic shouting and whatnot) and be heard by a passing USIncorporated patrol, possibly triggering a massacre that would be the PCs’ fault.

There wasn’t anything stopping me from still using the carousing rules but in a different way, making the PCs roll saving throws to avoid blacking out whenever they get more fucked up. But some of these players were doing a good enough job of keeping up with their characters that there was no need to artificially handicap their judgement.

If all goes well and all encounters are dealt with successfully, public support for the revolution goes up by 1% for every hour the party goes on for (this is for Delta Green, which uses a resource roll instead of keeping track of the players’ money. if i was using this for D&D, it’d just be 1% per 100 monies spent on the party or something). If your characters are open about their identities with the party guests, this also affects public support for their cell and/or faction specifically, but there’s a risk of someone giving away your location to USInc. forces.

Every hour (or more often if you feel like it, just adjust the public support reward to compensate for the added risk) roll 1d8 and 1d10. If the d8 results in a 1, two Kovakistani Police officers show up. They’ll call for backup and try to shut the party down if they aren’t dealt with somehow. KPs are usually open to large enough bribes, but they'll know they can come back to shake the PCs down in the future. Kidnapping them and using them for an execution video may be an effective propaganda tool, but would harsh the partygoers’ buzz enough for them to leave.

(and if the KPs had recognized any of the PCs from wanted posters the jig would be up, but they had all disguised themselves earlier)

The d10 is to see what happens at the party that the PCs now have to deal with. Things can happen more than once; ref's discretion whether they involve the same NPCs as the first time or not.
1. Someone has gone and grabbed their AK-47 and starts shooting into the air, while bellowing the Kovakistani national anthem. If this keeps up long enough for the Americans to notice, they’ll send a reaction force to “disperse” this illegal gathering.
2. A skeezy looking dude with a coke ring and his hair slicked back just pulled up in an American muscle car. He’s got a duffel bag in the trunk full of drugs that he’s willing to share, but it won’t be long before he starts creeping out the women. If they start leaving, everyone else will, too.
3. Someone is stealing peoples’ cell phones (1d20+6 so far) and people are starting to notice they’re missing. The thief will try to sneak away after realizing the jig is up. Public support goes down by 1% for every phone lost, so catching the thief is advisable.
4. A couple twenty-something dudes with a few years of krav maga training have lost their shirts somehow and are fighting for fun in the parking lot. People are laying down bets (yes of course the PCs can get in on this). Everything is fun and games unless someone loses an eye. If a PC challenges the winner and beats him, public support goes up by 5% in addition to the normal boost just for throwing the party. If the PC injures their opponent badly enough to hospitalize, maim, or kill him, public support goes down by 10% instead.
5. Someone catches their significant other at the party with the S.O.’s side piece. First words then blows are exchanged and a pistol will soon be drawn.
6. Basically the same as #5 except it’s either a rap battle or a break dance battle (referee’s discretion).
7. Someone who is too drunk to remember why is bleeding everywhere. Like a big-ass stream of blood spurts out with every heartbeat. If this person dies at or after leaving the party, no public support points will be awarded for the night.
8. A group of partygoers leaves for a while and returns with a goat and a chainsaw, with which they sacrifice the goat. Everyone yells HAIL SATAN and the public support boost for throwing this party is doubled.
9. The booze and/or drugs are starting to run low. The PCs have 2d6*10 minutes to replenish the supply somehow or the partiers will start to leave.
10. Someone decided to light a bunch of shots of dangerously strong basement hooch and the resulting kitchen fire surprised everyone enough that someone else dropped the bottle in the middle of it and now the safe house is on fire.