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April 2014

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Ladies League of Invells

inverseworldOn Saturday, I began a new campaign. It was supposed to be a one-shot, but it sounds like my players all want to continue. I invited a handful of women, then a larger handful, until I had 5 RSVP’s for “yes,” and one of them dropped a few days beforehand. Three of the four had never played an RPG before, though they are all very imaginative and creative women:

  • Genevieve, playing Captain Sparrow of the Firebird. I met Genevieve at a local Pirate party, so her desire to play an eyepatch-wearing airship captain was little surprise. Sparrow is an earth-blessed Invells native from the Worldcrust. With silver skin and a flying cat for a pet.
  • Annie, playing Enn the Walker. I originally met Annie a couple of years ago at a steampunk group board game and high tea event I organized, but I’ve also gone to music events and the aforementioned pirate party with her, and seen her at Ren Faire and similar. Enn is a sky-blessed walker, with hawk wings. She is fascinated by gems and gemstones.
  • Wanda, playing Professor Beatrice Astrus, an earth-blessed Collector. I have known Wanda for several years through knitting and then through gaming, as she is both a knitter and an 8-bit video gamer. Prof. A collects secrets from the dead, and it appears as though her collection is mostly bones, but in fact, she truly collects the souls contained in those bones, and the secrets that they whisper. Prof A has a magical cockatoo named Rex who alerts her to treasures.
  • Patti, playing Aeos the Lantern. This was my first time meeting Patti, who is the sister-in-law of a game designer I chat with about TimeWatch rather regularly. Aeos is a sky-blessed who has a Little Light named Mara. Mara is willful, and blessed with excessive energy. Aeos seems to be something of a crusader for the light.

I intended this as a one-shot, to introduce some women to gaming, and also get to know Patti who has played RPGs extensively before. However, it went so well, the ladies wanted more adventures, so we scheduled a second session for 2 weeks from now.

The PCs began at Glass of Sands, an hourglass-shaped island in the Island Ring which shifts back and forth throughout the day. It’s a technological haven, but also a place of high taxes and hard work.

I’m not going to write up their full adventures here– that’s something I think players should really do. But in summary, we learned some interesting things about the world (some true, some not… some not true until the players suggested them!):

  • There are many people hidden from Sola’s light
  • The tax collectors are… kinda jerky
  • There is a terrorist organization on the island
  • About 20-25% of all the redfruit harvested disappears.
  • The monkeys do not eat redfruit, and aren’t big fans of bananas, either.
  • A small island recently crashed into the worldcrust
  • The local Lantern is blind and dying of cancer
  • Her Little Light is also dying, and has nearly gone out
  • There is a large gem made of lithium/dilithium that is absorbing Sola’s light (this one was invented by Annie, 100%)

In the next session, I plan to introduce more hooks tailored to their characters, and bring out some more significant threats. We’ll also discuss what their characters’ goals are in the world, and what we’d like to see as major opposing forces.

The SS Pla Cehol Der Launches!

Our lead-in: After blowing up a sun and failing to deliver sunscreen to Mr. Valentine the vampire, we’re in danger of losing our commission with Space Race.

coverbitLet’s review the crew:

  • Captain Ryan Steele (the third e is silent…but deadly): Zapf Branigan, if Zapf were an international pop star before having a major, public meltdown over his bandmate and now nemesis, Ricky Serrano, who has now turned into an uber-cool pop icon/space pirate.
  • Alain Pryde: navigator cat-person with phasing and zero sense of direction. Alain always pays his debts.
  • Kiray: the “muscle” of the team, an ex-con who is also a werewolf… governed rather arbitrarily by the many moons of Saturn. Not that it matters, but I have determined that Kiray looks like some horrible fanservice version of an anime girl, so she has pink hair and her crew “uniform” is mostly see-through. Except the corset. The corset is not see-through. Capt. Steele picked out the female crewmember uniforms, of course. And there’s only one female crewmember on the SS Placeholder.

Our boss contacts us with our next mission. It’s a straight A-B shot, go to Paragon Station, pick up a package, and deliver it to Innabelle 5. It’s a delivery from Catburg Jr. to Sir Catburg: both of whom live on Innabelle 5. Oh, yeah. And Captain Steele? We’re going to be restructuring soon, and the bottom-performing 30% will be cut (a quick math test shows that this means one ship in the fleet… ours.)

We get underway. Alain puts the Placeholder on auto-pilot and he and Kiray kick back and watch lesbian porn, while the marvels of the universe float past them through the galaxy. We decide that this is how Alain and Kiray spend most of their voyages, and that we’re meticulous film critics of this particular genre.

We arrive at Paragon Station and decide as players that it’s an ongoing “thing” that officials at space ports always want to know what our ship’s real name is, since “Placeholder” is such an unlikely name. In this case, I explain patiently that it’s Venutian: “Pla Cehol Der.”

Frax, the company man for Space Race on Paragon Station, gives us a crate with a laser-mounted mechanical land shark inside it. Capt finds a passenger, Nova Jane, a red-headed space pirate babe. She has a need, that only the Captain can fulfill.

Our rival Captain Svennie is investigating our hull when Alain checks up on it. He was trying to plant a bomb on the hull. Alain shoots it out of his hand (Flashy) and then aims at his head. He flees, guards come running, and Alain goes over the Incident Checklist with the station Drakons.

We contact Catburg Jr., who it turns out also wants a gun for his laser land-shark hunt birthday present, and the Captain offers to provide one…. for a price. Hey, we gotta turn a profit on this run, right!

Meanwhile, an owl infestation interrupts the Captain’s seduction plans for Nova Jane. Bubbles (the samurai janitor) is summoned to clean up the “penthouse.” (We have determined that “PENTHOUSE” is written in crayon over the normal “Captain’s Cabin” signage.) It’s going to be a running gag, of course, that the captain is always trying to seduce space babes, but always failing, even with the most willing of partners.

We’ve also determined that Captain Steele is terrified of Kiray, after seeing her hulk out just once, so the on-board sexual harassment is just a function of a hostile workplace environment and not actual unwanted attention, per se.

We arrive at an asteroid moon station called Hephestus for Captain Steele to buy a gun. I go find Shakes McGillis to get me into the underground boxing ring, who is a human who used to arrange books (gambling) for prisoners, back in the day. After some wheedling, I convince him to get me into the ring. I also discover that Kiray’s prison nickname is Kay.

I throw the first match. A space pirate comes over to chat me up and make a side bet. We make a deal using the Captain’s personal bank account and the ship as collateral in the fight. An assessor is sent to evaluate the ship’s value. She’s hot. Also a redhead. Still on board when the fight starts, because she’s a huge fan of music… except when he starts playing it in hopes of seducing her, she goes ga-ga over Serrano and raves on and on about Steele’s rival. This does not go over well, and he gets annoyed.

We also arrange it so that, if I lose, there will be employment opportunities for us with the space pirates. The way I see it, this is win-win. 

Alain makes a side bet against me, using Nova Jane as collateral. Out of character, I mention that I’m not sure Kiray would be okay with human trafficking, but since she herself is not a free person (parolee)…. anyway, we’re not slavers, so I oughtn’t have worried. Slavers have to be marginally competent, remember?

An enormous Drakon nick-named “Godzirrah” shows up to fight me. We decide to run this as a contest, which means the first person to get a high roll out of three will win the match. On the first round, I move in and leverage his “Godzilla” aspect (invoked for a +2 to beat him) to tear his tail off. “What? It’ll grow back.” The audience goes wild, but Godzilla pounds me into the floor, cracking it (tied). Finally, I werewolf out and use my brutal strength to lift him and piledrive him through the cracking floor, into the mechanical steamworks below. The crowd goes utterly apeshit and I win. In the audience, a pink-haired young pirate captain girl gets pissy over this and starts bitching at Alain about it– apparently, she’s the captain we would have been working for if we’d lost. Bullet dodged, eh?

Alain goes to the bank to collect his winnings, and we mull over the problem of Nova Jane being enslaved. Kiray suggests we book it as fast as possible, before they can find her. Alain is pressured by a collector for the slave Nova as payment, and he leads the man off somewhere where there’s a wall where he can phase through. Unfortunately for our debtors, Alain’s guy is really gullible and kinda dumb. Alain offers him a drink, they ring up a big tab and then Alain drops him through the floor before taking off. We get the assessor off the ship before making a very speedy departure from the asteroid.

The Hephestus collectors try to capture us, but Alain sends bombs over to their ship, thereby paying his debts as the bombs are collectively technically of equal value to the slave. It’s the best kind of correct.

Alain gives Captain Steele the good news about his bank account, under-reporting the amount wagered and won during the fight. We decline to inform Nova about her unintentional slave status.

The pirate girl comes online and monologues at us for a few minutes, but we have her on mute. The captain flashes her with his sparkly iridescent speedo and slight paunch. We speed off into the galaxy, on our way to Innabelle 5!

FAE: SS Placeholder

Our Moving Forward campaign is on hiatus (and returned to Tuesday nights) while Alex takes a break for school, so we’re embarking on a Fate Accelerate Edition (FAE) campaign of whimsical space sci fi. If this reminds you of the Wild Side campaign, please note that it’s a bit different, largely because everyone involved is different, except me.

We are the crew of the S.S. Placeholder, a ship in the Space Race delivery company’s route:

  • Captain Ryan Steele (the third e is silent…but deadly): Zapf Branigan, if Zapf were an international pop star before his meltdown.
  • Alain Pryde: navigator cat-person with phasing and zero sense of direction.
  • Kiray: the “muscle” of the team, an ex-con who is also a werewolf… governed rather arbitrarily by the many moons of Saturn.

Our campaign issues:

  • Current Issue: “Ricky Serrano Makes Space Pirates Cool”
  • Impending Issue: “Space Race Delivery Co. is Going Bankrupt”

Game Design Meetups

The Las Vegas Board Game Designers Meetup meets every 2 weeks to talk about game design and run some playtests.

We had a good discussion this time about what the group should work on, with various ideas being floated around.

There was some talk about Kickstarter as a platform for selling games (“do you want to be a game designer, or an entrepreneur?”) and Game Salute’s problematic press (I kind of wish the local who went through Game Salute to distribute his game had spoken up more loudly on this… as it was, I was the only voice saying I’d never been disappointed by them).

We talked about running some game design exercises, including collaborative development, contests, and presentations. Once more, the experiences of Dave from the Salt Lake City were valued. My ideas for running game design contests was not accepted by the group.

The group decided to set 5-6 PM for social hour, 6-7 for game design presentation topics, and 7-9 PM for playtesting. Our location, Panera, closes at 9.

I playetested a card game involving zone control which, I expressed to the designer, I never felt like I was ever on top of strategy, never felt like I was ever able to win. I commented that I wasn’t sure if that was my problem not grasping the strategy, or if it was a game problem. Having spoken later to another previous playtester… I think it might be the game. If so, at least the designer has heard that critique more than once.

That’s it. Our next session is on Monday, April 7th, with a discussion of how to run and participate in a playtest. I’m looking forward to it.

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