Serial Numbers Filed Off 1: Dissolution

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Originally posted September 2007

So yesterday I had the concept of taking Scifi/fantasy films, swapping their settings, and repackaging them as RPG campaigns. Let’s see how the first one goes.

In the reign of King Aric IV, the evil artificer Skanath began his endgame. Long at war with one another, Aric IV and his rival, Elessar II, escalated their border wars until they had proved they were equally matched. Each turned, unbeknownst to the other, to Skanath for a golem army. Skanath obliged, placed his golems in crucial positions in each kingdom, and then turned on all sides, obliterating their militaries in a single master stroke. All in the kingdoms that were not killed were forced into slavery, serving at Skanath’s pleasure as he built more and more golems to pacify the neighboring countries.

We rebelled. Skanath’s armies were mighty, but the human spirit prevailed, all inspired by the great paladin Conner. We threw down the walls of Skanath’s tower and dragged him before our leader, but Skanath only had a smile of contempt and hollow laughter. Behind him, a great sigil had been inked, and our wizards sensed a mystic violation of the very boundaries of time. Skanath had sent back a mighty iron golem, cloaked in illusions, and with a single command: hunt down and kill the leaders of the resistance before they were even born.

There was enough power in the rite to send one more through, and Conner, though I understood not his wisdom, sent me back. I have come to you now, in the era of ailing King Aric III, to protect our future. We may strive to keep the states of Aric and Elessar from their costly war and from their alliance with Skanath but, above all, we must stay hidden from the golem that was sent back to destroy all of our hope. For if Conner and his lieutenants are killed, our future is slaves forever.

Ultimate Star Wars – Force Powers

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Originally posted September 2007

Further narrowing down my Star Wars game concept where only episodes 4-6 are canon (here and here), I’d like to figure out which Force powers actually show up in the original trilogy vs. what powers were added in the expanded universe. I’m also interested in keeping the Dark Side powers as different methods of using the standard powers (to keep those that fall to the Dark Side from having to work harder to get their mojo, since the Dark Side is supposed to be faster and easier). From memory, I have:

  • Force Senses (Innate Power for the Use the Force skill): Use to overcome sensory penalties, use a lightsaber without personal danger, initiate telepathy between closely attuned sensitives, and receive minor flashes of precognition.
  • Force Push (Low-finesse TK): Use to shove, lift, throw, and tractor in objects, as well as to make force leaps and otherwise enhance athletic ability.
  • Force Wave (Mass TK): Use as special attack to shove lots of people or objects at once.
  • Force Manipulation (Mid-finesse TK): Use to manipulate objects in simple fashions (push buttons, turn knobs, etc.) or to choke or crush objects.
  • Force Precision (High-finesse TK): Use to make fine manipulations of objects like assembling a lightsaber in mid-air. Also, when used out of anger, it tends to agitate electrons in the air and become Force Lightning.
  • Use Lightsaber: Allows you to bring your Force skill to bear on using a lightsaber, rather than the normal melee skill, and to parry objects that should be too fast to block (such as blaster bolts).
  • Mind Trick (Minor Mind Control): Use to bend the minds of the simple for short periods (functionally, use Force skill instead of Persuade skill).
  • Mind Illusion (Moderate Mind Control): Use to create visions in the minds of others that will seem to be completely real. Unlike Mind Trick, the user does not have to engage in conversation with the target or even be perceived.
  • Mind Shackle (Major Mind Control): Use to gradually enslave minions to your will (functionally, use Force skill as Leadership).
  • A Moment Ahead (Minor Precog): Use to see a few moments into the future. The character can use this to receive bonuses on appropriate skills, such as Pilot or Melee. The character also receives uncontrolled visions of the future, often while dreaming.
  • Destiny View (Major Precog): Use to see the future up to several weeks ahead (even further for especially significant events). These visions can be clouded or outright wrong when multiple precognitive Force users are working at cross purposes.
  • We are All Connected (Telepathy): Use to initiate telepathy with non-attuned individuals.

That gives Luke essentially four powers plus the innate, so he can be built easily in Spirit of the Century, while leaving enough other powers to account for alternate specialties or badass older Jedi.

Ultimate Star Wars – History

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Originally posted August 2007

Since I still have hopes of some day running an Ultimate Star Wars game (a rethinking of the prequels with only the information from episodes 4-6 as canon), and based on my Star Wars tech unifying theory, here’s a brief alternate history of the universe that I was inspired to write this afternoon. (Or it could be close to the official history, I dunno.)

The Force is not just a religion, it is central to our society; those who deride it as merely myth know not their past, and are doomed to repeat it.

Aeons ago, the populations of a hundred worlds struggled against the limits of their science. Close neighbors exchanged messages, told one another their stories, but the universal speed of light made an impenetrable wall against their meeting. Cultures that could exchange words in beamed radio waves within a day would require years of travel to cross the gulf of stars between them.

But one day, the grid of communications began to fire with urgency. The stars were alight with attackers that moved from world to world, star to star, as if by magic. The Sith had come, bringing their unstoppable war machine from beyond the stars. With but a thought, the least of them could overwhelm the greatest technologies of the greatest thinkers of all the worlds.

Defeat was inevitable. For a thousand years the repressive regime of the Sith Empire crushed the populations of known space beneath its heel. Science faltered, light died, and all bowed before their Sith lords. The Sith repressed anything that might rise to threaten the power of their birthright.

But a millennium is a long time. In the dark age of the Sith, nonetheless a renaissance was occurring. Serfs and slaves were moved from world to world, and those long separated by space could finally meet and share ideas, friendships, and rebellion. Though the Sith carefully guarded the powers of the Force, enough was observed over the centuries that some could dedicate themselves to fathoming its secrets.

The war was long and brutal, and much of it was fought in freeing the minds of the people from the yoke of slavery and fear. Overwhelmed by their subjects, the Sith turned to their powers and found them countered by the emergent Jedi order. Each time a mob of rebels attacked, there were Jedi to protect them.

Within a century, the power of the Sith was broken, and civilization was emerging anew. Yet the loss of the Sith, too, meant the loss of faster than light space travel; the massive Force-workings needed to traverse the stars were beyond the self-taught Jedi. Full of the need to meet our brothers once more, we made what was perhaps a great mistake. The Force is faith, it is true, but any miracle that is repeatable can be analyzed and incorporated by science. Within another century, those with no sensitivity to the Force had, yet, made the Force central to their technology.

Ships bent space around themselves, moving as quickly as light. Fields of force could be tuned and shaped, making plasma weapons feasible and useful. Now the many races could touch one another. Now the many races could kill one another.

We have existed in some stage of war ever since, with the Jedi order doing its best to contain the worst atrocities of those that rely so heavily on the Force and yet discount its majesty. We had the powers of the Sith, but we refused to use them as our oppressors had done, and we have seen this decision bring us to the brink of ruin.

The Jedi order is dying, allowed to atrophy by those that refuse to admit that our religion is the soul of their science. When we are gone, who will keep the universe from sliding, once more, into a dark age of tyranny?

Modular Game Idea: Inverse Ninja Principle

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Originally posted July 2007

Applicable to: Any MMO that uses levels, and wants to provide a continuous leveling pace, but wants to minimize the tendency towards higher level characters being exponentially more powerful than lower level ones.

Players gain levels in a typical fashion, gaining new combat abilities, hit points, and special abilities as appropriate to the game. At all levels, the system needs a way to generate average or default values for character interaction with targets in combat (e.g., how much damage does the character deal to an average target and how much damage does the character take) .

The system requires a method for determining which characters are targeting one another, with a reduced chance of exploiting (i.e., a player should not be able to game the system by temporarily de-targeting his actual opponent).

When two characters of unequal level fight, their combat abilities are set to within one level of one another. For example, if a level 20 PC is attacking a level 30 monster, the PC will defend and take damage as if fighting a level 21 monster and the monster will defend and take damage as if fighting a level 29 PC (the experience and treasure awards will also be adjusted to these values). Much higher level characters maintain an advantage in variety of special abilities and such gained from levels, but do not have an overwhelming advantage due to massive damage output and hit points relative to the lower level character.

As described so far, this is very similar to the sidekicking and giant monster systems from City of Heroes. However, the Inverse Ninja Principle goes a step further: swarming a foe makes each individual less effective.

Each additional lower level individual attacking a target increases the level spread by 1. For example, a level 30 monster fights a single level 20 PC as if fighting a level 29. However, a pair of level 20 PCs are fought as level 28s, and nine or more PCs are fought as their original level 20. Once characters are reduced to their actual level, no further adjustment takes place.

Additional modifications to the system might mean that elite/boss creatures are always adjusted high (a level 20 PC vs. a level 30 boss is adjusted to effectively level 28 while a level 20 boss vs. a level 30 PC is adjusted to level 30).

Disadvantages of this MGI:

  • Players will discover interesting exploits, no matter how much logic is put in to prevent them.
  • Content cannot easily be gated by level; PCs will have at least some chance of tackling high-end content immediately.
  • If mob AI isn’t tuned to make use of higher level abilities, fighting higher level foes will not feel any different than fighting lower level ones.

Advantages of this MGI:

  • Content is never truly outleveled; higher level PCs can be sent into lower level areas and still maintain some challenge
  • Content cannot easily be gated by level; PCs will have at least some chance of tackling high-end content immediately.
  • While individual players will have a chance in all situations, assembling a large group zerg will not enable players to easily overwhelm all foes.