Trinity Continuum Aberrant Erupts

At the time of writing Trinity Continuum: Aberrant is in the final 24 hours on Kickstarter. I’ve been waiting years for this event, a reimagining of Aberrant. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/200664283/trinity-continuum-aberrant

Aberrant is a fabulous Supes/Super RPG that was part of the Trinityverse, now called Trinity Continuum. Back in the late 90s Aberrant presented a world obsessed with super powered celebrities (Novas), hyper focused reality TV (N!), individuals with the power of gods but also dark conspiracies, and power that tainted the Novas. The old game was very socially minded, why rob a bank when sponsorship and mercenary work is available, etc. The new Trinity Continuum: Aberrant builds upon this, but crucially there are some differences that I love! The game requires the Trinity Continuum core book, I wrote about this last year https://batjutsu.wordpress.com/2018/02/28/impressive-reboot-of-trinity/.

“What would you do with the power of a god?”

First a quick shout out to Ian A. A. Watson (@VonAether), who in particular has spent years trying to create a new Aberrant. There are many interviews covering the process, so here is a summary of the journey about how the old White Wolf merged with CCP Games. Richard Thomas formed Onyx Path Publishing and producing old and new RPGs. Later Paradox Interactive purchased the World of Darkness IP, whilst Onyx Path negotiated to buy Trinityverse outright, which is now solely owned by Onyx Path. Hence the IP of Trinity, Aberrant and Adventure! have had quite the journey.

Aberrant Trinity Batjutsu

I’ve run a few Aberrant games over the years. Some of the games were more like D.C. Comics or Marvel 4 colour style, more carefree fun, sometimes a bit silly. Whilst with my main I ran a dark investigation game for over ten years. This chronicle was about hope, about trying to prevent the inevitable Aberrant War. When we last played it seemed that maybe the PCs had helped solve so many problems, that the future looked positive; I’ll not froth about this campaign, whilst I loved it, typically with RPGs you needed to be there ;-). Like many RPGs the tone can be tweaked, along with keeping in mind PCs motivations and player preferences, to create the style wanted. The new Aberrant includes an examination of this, with an explanation of how to approach the different styles of Supes.

The system is not the old Storyteller one, instead using the Storypath. I’ve still yet to play the system but I do love what I read when I backed Trinity Continuum. In addition to the great momentum mechanic, is the idea of Scale. Scale is reminiscent of the old D.C. Comic RPG, but is designed to be easier to allow for quick decision making, allowing everyone to focus on narrative. From the Kickstarter page Danielle Lauzon explained:

“Okay, so Narrative Scale is for when you just want to know how badly you crush something because of your difference in Scale. It’s described liberally as a multiplier to your successes on a simple roll to get a thing done, but what that really means is that a Scale 1 difference doubles the number of successes you have to do the thing, Scale 2 difference triples, Scale 3 quadruples, etc. Narrative Scale is there for the following kind of scenarios “Superman flies through a building, and we want to know how much damage that does to the building.” We accept that he flies right through, so the roll isn’t to see if he can, but instead to find out his damage to help figure out if the damned thing falls down. Sometimes the SG might just look at a Scale difference and decide narratively that we don’t even need a roll, it just crumples.

I loved the old Aberrant the most out of the numerous Supers RPGs, even though I appreciated it had a few mechanic problems. I’ve read/run/played old Heroes/Champions, GURPS Supers, Mutants & Mastermind, D.C. Comics, Marvel and Palladium. For me, I think the old Aberrant presented both a great setting and rules that worked well enough. Trinity Continuum: Aberrant seems to stride the middle ground between these various systems, providing a vast range of powers, in a setting with different types of powered and baseline characters, with rules that better understand what they are focused on. I’d be very surprised if I don’t love the game when I run it!

Usually I’d write about different game ideas, even crazy ideas about merging various RPGs together. Instead I look forward to returning to my old long running chronicle, which included Adventure! and Trinity. The fact the group and I have had so much fun over the years speaks volumes about the game, and I am sure we will continue to love it for years to come.

The factions are still there, but there have been some important tweaks. Another titanic difference is that Taint is now Transcendence; Novas are no longer time-bombs towards physical and psychological disaster. Characters can still grow distant from humanity, for example Dr Manhattan (Watchman) is a great example of ludicrously powered individual who has very high Transcendence. Check out these two interviews for more details about changes:

https://thestorytold.libsyn.com/bonus-episode-aberrant-kickstarter-interview-with-steve-kenson-and-ian-watson

Onyx Path have a free Aberrant comic at http://theonyxpath.com/comic/you-are-not-alone-cover/

Join the Kickstarter at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/200664283/trinity-continuum-aberrant

#TCAberrant #TrinityContinuum

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#RPGaDay2018 Day21 Dice Mechanic

Which dice mechanic appeals to you?

Today has yielded a diverse collection of answers 🙂 Initially I pondered talking about how dice rolls and mechanics don’t matter so much; if viewed in an entirely positive point of view, we all just flow forward and ‘roll appropriately’. I forgot to mention in my video that I find the biggest impact on play is how often dice rolls are required and the reasoning behind the request. Going back decades ago I experienced far too many GM/DMs requiring constant rolls for the smallest of reasons; often because the system implied it was required, or worse they thought the genre demands it. Even when the Storyteller came along and explained in the short rules section about how and when to roll, some ran the games requiring constant rolls. A bit of a negative subject, but thankfully from my experience less of a problem as players and games have evolved 🙂

In today’s video I talk about an answer that surprised me: Street Fighter. Plus an honourable mention of Legend of the 5 Rings (pun intended), and the forthcoming Storypath system for Trinity Continuum.

Dave talks about various things in his blog, in particular the Vortex System for Doctor Who.

Check out Runeslinger’s answer. Reminded me why I originally thought Palladium was odd yet brought something different. Overall I found it worked and I grew to appreciate it 🙂

MooBat dice

#RPGaDay2018 Day15 Tricky RPG XP

Describe a tricky RPG experience you enjoyed

Almost a brain-fog video today, but I think I managed to been coherent enough. I talk about anxiousness and the moment, LARP, Street Fighter and my Mage game; see #PieChartofIndecision below. I didn’t go with any thoughts about handling tricky experiences based around things like clashes of playing styles, system opinions or expectations. I’ve had a few tricky RPG encounters at Conventions in the Living D&D and Star Wars systems, thankfully those were rare. Not that those don’t count, but I went with experiences that were all positive, I think to better keep with the #RPGaDay focus, otherwise I might have descended into a confused rant about something negative; today has been a bad day! Keeping it positive, below is a bit more info about the L5R game event that I list.

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This story is when we were new to playing Legend of the Five Rings. The party were mostly Dragon Samurai, two had Kitsuki training so were odd in the setting. The group were Magistrates and as part of their travels came across a village with a murdered Samurai. Unless the guilty party was found the whole village was at stake. The Kitsuki trained individuals along with their Crab friend proceeded to investigate the murder of a Samurai. Meanwhile the cold-PC decided they did not approve of the methodology and found out who the murderer was using traditional methods.

Short-version: eventually both investigations uncover the truth, the murder was self-defence by the Chonin’s daughter who had been assaulted. The cold-PC is slightly ahead of the rest of the party, calls the village to hear the confession of the Chonin and immediately decapitates the Chonin; an innocent person. The rest of the party are quietly furious. During a drink break the others admit that they are a bit freaked out OCC, but appreciate Rokugan is different and complicated, but thankfully were loving the IC drama of it all.

A long IC awkward silence ensues, eventually the Kitsuki trained PC questions the cold-PC on their actions. The cold-PC is offended, but eventually gives in and explains that the Chonin was honourable, saved his daughter who would have been killed regardless of whether you believe her self-defence was warranted. The Chonin saved face for all, the Samurai’s family will not have their name tarnished, and the Chonin’s soul will gain from his honourable actions. Plus any parent sacrificing themselves for their child is understandable, and is worthy of respect. This way everyone won, whilst the Kitsuki’s methods would have revealed a truth, but would have undermined the Kami’s Order and Tradition. It was a wonderfully awkward session, both IC and OOC, and helped us all learn the tricky political and religious viewpoints about truth in the setting.

 

#RPGaDay2018 Day14 Failure Became Amazing

Describe a failure that became amazing

I go into some depth about a crazy game Vampire that I run back in the 90s, which become a disaster from a certain point of view, but most of the players loved it. It also led to an amazing game. No LARP stories, nor have I included tales about a critical dice roll radically altering a game, not that I have anything against those moments, just that the list I think I made is enough 🙂

Just realised I badly explain my point about high fantasy RPG, pesky sleep deprivation. I guess my foggy thinking was that high fantasy is typically about big failures and big successes, so many of the stories I know from others are the overly-epic type. Such as intentionally pushing scenarios to create guaranteed failures, invulnerable NPCs monologuing, which then requires Deus Ex Machina or there is a party wipe.

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#RPGaDay 30

If you are not familiar with #RPGaDay, then please read this page first. For the 30th day of #RPGaDay the question is:

What is an RPG genre-mashup you would most like to see?

My tweeted answer is: #RPGaDay 30, #RPG inspired by many systems, and my old job, a Mafia Time Extortion game.

Like many role-players, I have a collection of ideas that I’ve been adding to for years. It can be argued that so many genre-mashups have been done, that there is nothing left. I almost agree with that sentiment, particularly with so many systems and settings allowing for easy adaptation of anything.

  • Whether it’s GURPs in general, or the Banestorm setting in particular.
  • The wondrously detailed Heroes system.
  • Palladium’s Rifts, and the Megaverse in general.
  • Technically the World of Darkness has everything within its vast Tellurian.
  • Dungeons & Dragons has mentions of links to other realities, so there is nothing preventing mash-ups with that system.
  • Or other systems that work well as a launching platform such as Savage Worlds or Fate.

Keeping to the spirit of RPGaDay, and having fun with the question, I’ll get hung-up on whether my idea is silly, or already been done. I am sure people will mention all sorts of ideas that may actually in a few groups giving it a bash, so I am quite looking forward to scouring the Web for answers.

When I worked at KJC Games back in the 2000s, there a few ideas that Mica, my boss, and I discussed as potential for a commercial PBM RPG. Mica worked on some details for an interesting flashback vampire game. Since he knew I was a fan of supernatural myths and many game systems, in particular World of Darkness, he used me as an example of the target customer. Sadly that game never happened, too many other things to do. Years later I contemplated doing something with the idea, but decided against it since it was originally Mica’s, instead I got obsessed with coding software to support role-playing a time travel game.

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There are many games that touch on time travel, and of course GURPS explores the subject in quite some depth. In the 90s and early 00s I had run the Vampire Giovanni Chronicles with a few groups, and my main group had gotten up to book 4. The PCs start out as mortals in the 1920s working for the Mafia. The chronicle explores their lives being drawn in to the World of Darkness, eventually being Ghouls, and eventually embraced by Giovanni. My players, however, decided they were really happy playing a mortal Mafia game, since they were having such fun they even requested I delay any supernatural aspects indefinitely. Since I was still working on the time travel game ideas, I got the idea of doing a setting that was a mash-up of a Mafia Time Extortion game. Years later Looper was made, which is somewhat of a Mafia time travel story.

In 1999 I spent a year working on time travel ideas after meeting Martin and Damian of the original Suzerain team. After writing them a detailed essay about the game, I was invited to become more involved with the game, and so I became a freelance writer. I later helped with Suzerain’s GenCon UK launch, demonstrating games and helping to run the two LARP events that weekend. Suzerain was an interesting RPG, that reminded me of Quantum Leap. I’ll write about my Suzerain interest another time.

Although I’ve not playtested the designs I have for my Mafia Time Extortion game, I did adapt a few things for the Trinity Verse game I ran. What started out as a typical Aberrant campaign became about tracking down Max Mercer’s time travel. Typically for me the game got complicated, and required a database to track all the Novas, as well as Adventure and Trinity era NPCs. That game is on hold awaiting the release of the Trinity Continuum.

#RPGaDay 23

If you are not familiar with #RPGaDay, then please read this page first. For the 23rd day of #RPGaDay the question is:

Which RPG has the most jaw-dropping layout?

My tweeted answer is: #RPGaDay 23, #RPG, #GURPS

I was blown away when I was 11 and I first saw AD&D 1st Edition; it seemed even more impressive than the D&D boxsets. I had the same reaction a short time later when I looked through the Manual of the Planes 1st Ed. The pictures and text layout emphasised the goal of the book, an encyclopaedia of places and metaphysics to explore. For my formative years I have had similar reactions with the majority of RPGs I looked at: Cyberpunk, Warhammer, Vampire, Palladium, etc. I guess typically for my age, even a game with poor layout didn’t particularly bother me; I’d mine it for what I liked regardless.

This changed in the 90s when I finally took a lot at GURPS. I found the books to be jaw dropping, the sheer amount of information crammed in to them. Even the content pages are detailed and long. The layout style in GURPS is further enhanced by its usage of sidebars to layer even more information. I know from chatting with a few other people that the layout of GURPS added to their apprehension with the game, they felt the book was assaulting them with information. I appreciate their point, but for me it’s almost like having a book within a book.

GURPS layout

After I’d seen GURPS I did keep coming across works that impressed me, but I didn’t have the jaw dropping reaction. Even with games I adore: L5R, Changeling: The Dreaming or Aberrant.

As I gained professional experience with layouts, I was required to learn more about the power of layout. When I made the Quest: GM Edition rulebook, it was all about providing information without swamping the reader; I still have mixed opinions on that work, but at least I worked hard on it. Whilst, when my old boss converted the Beyond the Stellar Empire game to Phoenix, he settled on a layout similar to GURPS approach for the rules, which suited the nature of that in-depth game. We discussed different layouts for hours, as well as examining other peoples’ work, fun times.

These days I genuinely appreciate the craft of layout, and the time sink it can involve. I think I’ve finally figured out the layout for my massive role-playing guide, which for years I kept altering. I felt that most of the previous designs, gave the work the presentation like that of a waffling textbook. I feel I still need to learn a lot more, especially given how impressive RPGs can be these days.

There have been many great examples posted for today’s question. In particular Runeslinger’s answer introduced me to a very impressively designed book.

This video gives a good overview on the power of layout:

#RPGaDay 16

If you are not familiar with #RPGaDay, then please read this page first. For the 16th day of #RPGaDay the question is:

Which RPG do you enjoy using as is?

My tweeted answer is: #RPGaDay 16 #RPG #L5R #DnD #Palladium, overall #L5R

I know plenty of gamers that love any chance to talk about system design in general and/or their favourite systems. I find system purity to be a fascinating area, especially when playing ‘obviously flawed games’ as is. Despite the fact I love tweaking things, I’ve still run several systems as is, and still had fun! I am a fan of multiple systems, and how each one can subtly influence the mind-set of everyone involved. I am also a big believer in utilising an RPG mental tool-kit, which is why it is rare for me not to adapt things. I don’t believe there is a perfect RPG system, since there are too many people with too many different preferences, and this is partly why we have some many different and interesting systems to draw from.

I have run a lot of D&D as is, in part because of playing with numerous players, whether at convention, local clubs, or small groups. The same applies to a few games of Stars Wars D20 that I ran. Given the diverse player base, I was advised at my school’s RPG club, to carefully consider any rules tweaks, so as to not confuse other players, never mind avoid debates. Given that we generally had short sessions, this advice made sense; I think is also part of the reason why at conventions I’ve run games as is.

I respect that this is a passionate subject for so many gamers. We have all sorts of psychological reasons why this can be a sensitive subject, whether it is because:

  • We generally like to know where we stand.
  • Past experiences of debates about rules, possibly involving teasing, maybe even bullying.
  • Since we have spent time learning something, to then find a GM has changed things.
  • As well as subtle impressions, like the issue of buying something and feeling our financially investment is being devalued by someone changing things.
  • The nagging concern that there may be other changes, which links back to liking to know where we stand.
  • Added to this are the numerous debates that I am sure most gamers have come across, and in particular some of the online RPG flame wars.
  • Etc.

Decades ago, my take away from reading many angry posts was to strive to become both better at explaining my main point, it’s all to ease to get side-tracked. More importantly was for me to become less opinionated, especially with strangers. This is partly due to running a community whilst working at KJC Games, GMing Quest, as well as assistant GM for Phoenix (then Beyond the Stellar Empire). As an assistant GM I never felt like I had any real say other things, I was told that I did, just to think carefully, but still I never shock that feeling off, so running that game was good practice at keeping to the main GM’s style and goals. Given the fact I had no training about company PR, and there were a lot of problems converting a PBM non-RPG in to a moderated RPG, I think I mostly handled things well, but I definitely still made many mistakes.

Like any aspect of psychology, I strive to always remind myself that each of us is an individual, and to communicate not assume. This is why I discuss my approach to RP, and any house rules, with any group I play with; although unlike when I was younger, these days I try not to be a floodgate of enthusiasm about it 😉

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Since Legend of the 5 Rings was released, I have run my main campaign as is. I am not trying to imply the rules are perfect, but the rules have worked well for my various groups. In part because I think rules fit the game’s setting; the game reminds me of D&D crossed with a Storyteller game, with the inevitable aspect of Warhammer‘s Chaos and Cthulhu Mythos.

I almost choose Aberrant, but I minutely adapted that game due to the ping-damage issue, that meant for me L5R was a better answer. Given that the design of Aberrant was about outrageous power and corruption, the rules kind of thematically worked 😉 For previous RPGaDay answer I have written about how I am really looking forward to Trinity Continuum. I originally wrote a lot about my hopes for the setting, but I decided that my Mega-Enthusiasm 3 was a bit too much of a tangent.

Other games I’ve run as is includes Palladium, in particular Mystic China. I’d recommend checking out Runeslinger’s blog and video about this infamous system.