23 February 2017

MTG and DnD speculations

Speculation time.

Shadows over Innistrad was released relatively close to the release of Curse of Strad. By the time Eldritch Moon comes out the second Plane Shift free supplement comes out with barely enough information to run DnD on Innistrad.

Kaladesh comes out around the time Maze Arcana starts. Maze Arcana is an ongoing WotC sponsored twitch/YouTube DnD series set on the world of Eberron using 5e rules. Both Kaladesh and Eberron have similar magic as technology themes.
I'm speculating that sometime during the release period there will some similar DnD thing that is Egyptian out.
Further speculation.

Based on the confirmed booster packaging from a leaked image of "possible" future sets, the set following Amonkhet, Atlazan which appears to be Mesoamerican AND merfolk themed, and on something I saw Chris Perkins talking about re: Maztica, leads me to believe that the following block will be Mesoamerican themed in part and that WotC will be doing SOMETHING involving Maztica by the end of this year.

20 February 2017

Facts about England and Britain in Cataphracts & Kaiju

Britain's native forests are a combination of the Toxic Forest from Nausicaä and WoW's Zangarmarsh. Countless acres of hundred meter tall mushrooms with increasingly dense toxic under and overgrowth.

The native flora and fauna have high concentrations of metallic and semimetallic compounds. This leads to megafauna having semi-mechanical appearances; fur look like iridescent wires sprouting from hide, scales and shells vary from solid metallic hues to the iridescence we know from insects. Within the muscles of the megafauna are filaments of organometallic polymers that in the largest of kaiju form cables as thick as a man's arm. Within the cultivars of mushrooms with suitable mecha muscle fibers, there are similar filaments of polymers only with less metallic compounds.

Castles are large spherical or ovoid structures usually encircled by walls and fences. The oldest castles are made of metal. Troubadours sing ballads in which the castles are the ships the first king of England, Felix Brutus, sailed from ancient Troy, by way of Rome, after its fall.

All large mechanicals are owned by the lord of the local area. As a rule, every mecha is a weapon of war and fit for only the use of knights and their retinues. In practical terms, some mecha aren't suitable for war or leisure by knights. Those wholly unsuitable, which means for whatever reason incapable of hard-mounting or carrying arms, are used by the peasantry for those tasks that require the a small giant to do.

Following such unknightly mecha are those that could be used for war but incapable of bearing heavy enough armor yet still possessing other knightly attributes; these are known as palfreys and are considered suitable conveyances of ladies while on the hunt and other sport.

Next is the much larger class of knightly riding mecha which contains two sub-classes, the rouncy, the lower end of mecha a knight would take into battle, and the courser, a sturdier and faster class. Neither of which would be the first choice of any but a poor knight to take into battle, these are used mainly for sport or by squires to support their lord.

The penultimate knightly mecha are the charger class. These are purpose built and the purportedly to be the closest to how they were when Felix Brutus came to England; although, troubadours sing of larger and more powerful mecha, and many a knight has gone off into the Wastelands and Forests in search of a legendary mecha to bring home. The sumpter class has already been written on.

North beyond Hadrian's Wall are the Picts, savages that have tamed and ride megafauna.

Saxons, ancestral enemies to the Cymric people of England, are said to be half-giant, and indeed they share the giants hues of blues, greens, and pinks in their skin.

There are Things that live in the Forests and Wastelands. Things like, yet unlike either man or beast or kaiju. They work sorceries for their amusements, and sometimes those amusements involve mortals. Sometimes the mortals fare well, and sometimes they never fare at all. There are stories told of castles made of narrow spires of crystal, and knights made of solid gold, or possibly mecha; Faerie-addled peasants are poor witnesses.

16 February 2017

Mid-Week Thoughts: Magic: the Gathering

Midweek thoughts are random things that are stuck in my head that I'll vomit forth into the void whenever my brain is backed-up.

            This weekend was Aether Revolt Game Day, a Wizards of the Coast sponsored event at LGSs. I and my wife stopped playing Magic, her for various reasons, and me because I don't like the cost of keeping up with Standard, I snoozed on good cards that were released in Eldritch Moon and Shadows that shot up in price, and I couldn't play my other favorite archetype, ramp, due to good ramp cards rotating out.
            We played only to get the participation prize, full art promo Trophy Mage, for commander. Since I didn't actually care about making top8 and getting that promo as well, I took my really bad GR ramp deck that I used for last game day out for a spin. Ramp is terrible in this Standard. The decks that do the thing that ramp does, Aetherworks Marvel and Metalwork Colossus decks, do it better. However, when no one expects it, it's an ok deck that does powerful hard to deal with things. It's already a solid deck vs control decks as all I have to do it make my lands drops and naturally cast large eldrazi with on cast triggers that interfere with my opponent's ability to play, and control is only ok in this Standard. Against slow midrange decks, it's pretty much the same. My only bad matchups are aggro, like vehicles, and tempo-aggro, spirits, decks, which should be a difficulty, but also I play control and know how to pilot against aggro, and again didn't care too much about winning.
            Part of the reason I stopped playing is because I didn't like spending the money keeping up with the greater meta, as I said before, but it is also mentally taxing brewing and testing on top of that. I totally stopped playing RPGs or even thinking much about them since I had come back to Magic, which you can see from the total lack of anything on the blog. It is also mentally taxing to play, doubly so since I am an introvert and being around people is tiring. I was exhausted by the end of Sunday, having only played 4 rounds of magic each day. If I hadn't already had Monday's post typed up and queued, I probably wouldn't have been able to keep with my intended once a week updating on the second week.
            Even right now, I've been spending more time tuning my ramp deck and thinking about a possible brew for Standard instead of working on Monday's next Knights & Kaiju post, which consists of a few lines on setting and then some notes on how I'm stating-up mecha, which would make for a terrible post. Fact is, I am running out of steam. Of course, that might just be me just not sticking my notebook in front of me forcing me to at least constantly look at my words.  My decklists can be found here or here for Saturday or here for Sunday.

            But relating to mecha, I'm reading Aeon Entelechy Evangelion, an Neon Genesis Evangelion AU fanfic set during the Second Aeon War of CthulhuTech. I'm probably 40% through it, which is fitting since CTech is influence by NGE. Some parts of where I might take Knights & Kaiju are inspired by NGE, the possibility of mecha going berserk if a knight were to use kaiju muscle instead of fungal fibers, even if using them is more directly from what little of Aura Battler Dunbine instead of the use of a cybernetically enhanced genemoded monsters as a mecha like in NGE.

13 February 2017

Some facts about the England of Cataphracts & Kaiju

The mecha primarily use bundles of contractile fibers harvested from fungal trees. Rarely, knights will utilize the muscles of megafauna, but this is discouraged due to the risk such mecha have of running berserk from interference with the heart fueled reactors. Through generations of selective cultivation many different grades of these fibers are grown. 

Combined with differences in braiding, power output of reactors, and frame strength, a wide range of mecha strength and load-bearing exists. Naturally at the top are mecha piloted for war by kings, knights, and other good at men-at-arms. 

Every mecha of the knightly classes possesses at least one directed energy weapon as they only need to be mounted well and connected to a reactor to operate. Their rate of fire is slower than comparable ballistic weapons, caused by the larger amounts of waste head; as well as having shorter ranges. These are likely to be only weapons of a Rouncy- or Sumpter-class mecha.

Chemically propelled ballistic weapons tend to be big, heavy, and LOUD, in addition the manufacture of the ammunition is controlled, leaving them to be either mounted on fortifications or on the Charger- and Destrier-class mecha of knights.

Mechanically powered ballistic weapons are simply bows and crossbows. While these weapons do occasionally end up being used by knights, these are primarily peasant weapons intended for defending against megafauna.   
Despite mecha seeming to bristle with a limitless cornucopia of death from afar knightly combat frequently comes down to lances and swords, whether from a personal challenge or having ran their ammo bins dry. While there are axes and mauls meant for mecha hands, those are tools used by peasants, and not considered knightly weapons. Only the sword, shield, and lance are truly knightly. Yes, lances are used by knights, grasped with both hands and couched while running at other mecha or some megafauna.

Sumpter-class mecha aren't really mecha. They are tracked or ground-effect transports and mobile workshops for knightly mecha as well as accommodation for a knight and his retinue.

The reactors of mecha are powered by the crystalline hearts and other organs of megafauna. The most powerful come from the most dangerous megafauna: dragons, boars, bears, and deer to name a few; consequently, not only is hazardous for peasants to hunt these, it is forbidden by law and custom to do so, leaving harvesting of these crucial power sources from domesticated beasts and those lesser megafauna deemed beneath knightly consideration.

06 February 2017

Cataphracts & Kaiju: Looking the part

     Knights & Kaiju is at its core a Pendragon campaign. Knights carry swords, usually. Knights in a K&K campaign aren't much different. Nobility carrying melee weapons as both defense and fashion is a standard trope. 

     But what about wearing a proper knightly sword while crammed in a cramped and sweltering cockpit? Not likely to be practical, even if we want to disregard comfort for fashion. What would a proper knight of our post-apocalyptic 80s world wear for personal defense and honor? Due to the cramped nature of the mecha cockpits the personal arms of knights and other men-at-arms, such as squires, consist not of swords, laser or otherwise, but of weapons that not as awkward within the confines of a cockpit. These are by tradition daggers and knives, used mostly for those few times a knight fights another knight sans mecha, and lacking the technical base to manufacture personal scale energy weapons, light slug-thrower pistols, which are used to deal with unruly peasants like bandits.

     The traditional courtly attire of knights are also influenced by the cramped and hot cockpits. Clothes that would be associated with medieval knights, rightly or wrongly, like long pointy shoes, huge sleeves, poofy pants, and neck ruffs are right out because they would get in the way; likewise, tight and constraining clothes are just as bad because of their tendency to hold too much heat close to the body and cutting circulation off to extremities after long periods of operation. (In case it wasn't apparent by now, I am taking a lot of cues from Battletech regarding how Mechwarriors dressed while piloting, which is mirrored slightly in how the members of Tekkaden from Iron-Blooded Orphans dress while piloting Mobile-Suits/Workers while on a planet.) By their nature, those mecha used for knightly pursuits have enclosed cockpits and produce a lot of heat while in operation, forcing knights to wear as little as possible. In short, members of the aristocracy and their warrior retainers dress like post-apocalyptic warriors. Picture Conan or Thundarr, only without the fur, or Sean Connery in Zardoz, or the Spartans in 300. That's right, knights universally walk around in speedos and bootyshorts with a light harness for carrying minor items, and a cloak or cape when not piloting. This is a post-apocalyptic world from the late 80s and early 90s, and everybody dresses like it.

     In contrast with knights, peasants, not having to pilot stifling hot warmachines, dress pretty much how you would expect peasants to dress.

05 February 2017

Some Cataphracts & Kaiju musings, mechanical issues:

            I've been wracking my brain on how to implement all the things I want to include in what is essentially The Knights of the Round Table, the Giant Stompy Robots They Pilot, and the Nasty Monsters They Slay: the Tabletop RPG.

            The game doesn't need, but I most certainly want, the Traits and Passions subsystems from KAP. Sure I could use the Motivations subsystem from BRP Mecha, but I prefer the brievity of Traits and Passions as well as their commonality across characters. In my last K&K campaign, sadly years ago, the players and their PKs all acted in suitable anime manners using the basic shell of Pendragon.

            Giant stompy robots should have hit locations which should lead to limbs blowing off like all good giant stompy robot animes, and battle tech, have demonstrated as being good. (Un)Fortunately, almost all mecha rpgs feature this to an extent, and all the ones I've directed to examine do. Of the four games, BRP Mecha, Mekton Zeta, SilCore, and BattleTech, I've been looking at integrating in either direction, only SilCore is the least obvious but might be the most interesting regarding the lost of mecha limbs and similar concerns. 

            I want the mechanics to be as simple and consistent as possible across the two main mode of campaign play, the courtly human-scale and the stomping around in stompy robots-scale. I want the primary resolution mechanic to be the same. While there might be value in having the way a human-scale combat resolves vs a mecha-scale one by dint of them being conceptually as well as mechanically different, I would rather reduce the inevitable confusion that will arise from switching mechanics. I've a large amount of time just reminding new players which die to roll to deal damage in D&D.

            This leads to a problem with using SilCore because damage is determined by the amount an attack role exceeds the defense and is then multiplied by the Damage Multiplier. I really like the way in SilCore constructs and resolves mecha combat, but it requires using its whole resolution and possibly stats systems to keep from ridiculous one-hit destruction that could easily result from using KAP's roll-under w/ a d20. There is also the slightly cute way SilCore works, the die pool plus modifiers but you only keep the highest roll adding modifiers, which is conceptually complicated when compared to KAP's "roll this die and you want to get the highest number without going over your skill/trait/passion; if you get exactly the number it's a critical hit."

            Mekton Zeta would be less complicated, as mecha-scale damage is fixed, and I could just work out a different way to detail how the mecha affects the skills of the pilot. Similarly, BattleTech is fixed damage and would require some modicum of conversion. Naturally, the simplest thing to do is just do what I have already done before, use BRP Mecha and continue to ignore the swathes of rules I don't need.

            The problem with using BRP Mecha, and to a lesser extent SilCore, is that BRP Mecha isn't intended to allow players to design their own mecha. The onus is on the GM, and the intention is to be emulating extant mecha franchise mecha in your game. It has no "build a mecha from scratch" section; instead, it has a "convert a mecha from your favorite anime" section. SilCore, Mekton, and BattleTech, on top of having loads of ready to go mecha, also has "build a cool robot" built into the game. Of course, I could ignore my desire for the players to have custom mecha, it's not like PKs in KAP can customize their horses, and decide what I want a rouncy, charger, sumpter, and sundry other mecha to look like. This was what I was doing a couple of years ago, but got frustrated with the lack of difference between derived stats with even large differences of base stats. That was because I wanted to stick as closely to how the book was written and the intentions behind the rules as I understood them. This an exercise in futility. BRP mecha is not well organized, seems skewed towards certain mecha anime genres, super robot, and has a large amount of cruft in the rules.

            The only reason to not use BRP Mecha is that it has very few pre-built mecha in it, but that is a problem I solved a few years ago with a spreadsheet that automates the stats portion of the mecha building. I have a folder full of mecha cards that I did as practice, so it would be a relatively easy thing to get basic mecha to use for a Knights and Kaiju game.

            The reasons to use something that isn't BRP Mecha are that they are all much older games, that are ironically still in print, unlike BRP Mecha, and there are communities available to ask for advice. BRP Mecha's short life-span along with total lack of other supporting products mean I have to work without a net, which is so unnerving and part of why I stopped doing on any campaign work for it.

            I can, as is my right, take those things from other games I want and use them to help me craft my personal mecha system. To wit, I like fixed weapon damage on the mecha-scale, I like the slow degradation of armor by attacks that penetrate it like in Mekton Zeta, and I like the heat management aspect of BattleTech, all of which should bolt into BRP Mecha, which in turn should bolt easily into KAP.  I just have a problem with things like the cost of upkeep and the like, or rather the lack of them in BRP Mecha. I'll probably steal pricing from BattleTech.