Sunday, July 7, 2024

It's Nearly That Time Again...

Next month the RPGaDay Challenge returns for 2024 with yet another 31 prompts that once again seem pretty uninspired. Ugh. My main issue with them, as in previous years, is they don't start conversations but simply require answers.




Asking what the first game I purchased this year was doesn't really give cause for a discussion. I tell you what it was, maybe what I think of it, and sure maybe you have an opinion on that game but you could just as easily go, 'Huh. OK.', and move on. A better question might be, "What's the most recent game you've encountered that impressed you? Why were you impressed?"

Here are the prompts in standard text form and my first thoughts - totally going word association, first thing that pops into my mind here:

1 - First RPG bought this year

Really? See above.

2 - Most recently played

OK. Fine. Maybe this could start a discussion.

3 - Most often played RPG

Ever? OK. Feel like I've answered this many times.

4 - RPG with great art

Sure. 

5 - RPG with great writing

Sure.

6 - RPG that is easy to use

'kay. Getting bored already.

7 - RPG with 'good form'

WTH does this mean? Well laid out? Not sure how to answer.

8 - An accessory you appreciate

Sure. Favorite Supplement or whatever. 

9 - An accessory you'd like to see

This is good. Gives us new ideas.

10 - RPG you'd like to see on TV

'On TV'? As a commercial? Actual play? A show based on it? Hmm.

11 - RPG with well supported one-shots

Don't care. Create my own.

12 - RPG with well supported campaigns

Don't care. Create my own.

13 - Evocative environments

This could be interesting. I love exotic locales.

14 - Compelling characters

This could also be cool though nothing unique. We hear about peoples' characters all the time.

15 - Great character gear

Could be interesting.

16 - Quick to learn

A game that's quick to learn? This has to be a separate prompt from #6? Seems the answer to that one could easily cover this one too.

17 - An engaging RPG community

No idea. I don't really deal in RPG communities per se.

18 - Memorable moment of play

Sooo many. Sooo Sooo many.

19 - Sensational session

OK, this could be fun.

20 - Amazing adventure

Sure. Similar to last one.

21 - Classic campaign

Campaigns I have known/played. Check.

22 - Notable non-player character

I think #14 should read 'Compelling Player Character', otherwise you shouldn't have this one.

23 - Peerless player

I like this. 

24 - Acclaimed advice

Oh boy! A chance to give one of my 'hot takes'. I never get to do that. lol My only question here is 'acclaimed'? Are you asking for gaming advice from some official source that I find useful? I am now confused.

25 - Desirable dice

Really? Pass.

26 - Superb screen

Pass. Does not apply.

27 - Marvellous miniature

Pass. Does not apply.

28 - Great gamer gadget

Pass. Not even sure what this means. 

29 - Awesome app

Pass.

30 - Person you'd like to game with

I think I've seen this question before. Possibly multiple times. Could be interesting but it also feels mundane.

31 - Game or gamer you miss

This I can do but it makes me sad. Are you trying to make me sad RPGaDay 2024?

Alternative - Amazing anecdote

This is always fun. 'Sit down kids. Let ol' Barkley tell'ya about the time...'

Now get a load of this...





Easy to read, no? Yeah, no.

In addition to these prompt options, the main site gives an alternate list created by someone named Skala Wyzwania. Many of these are so specific and Fantasy/D&D focused that...well...it kind of turns me off. That said, some of these aren't half bad. I don't know. Am I crazy or is there some potential here?

Text version of the alternative campaign:

1 – Runes 16 - Dungeon
2 – Forest 17 - AI
3 – Demonology 18 - Curse
4 – Cosmos 19 – Hologram
5 – Fairies 20 - Battle 
6 – Portal                       21 - Disaster
7 - Forgotten City 22 - Interdimensional Space
8 – Experiment 23 - Ritual
9 – Heroes 24 - Antique
10 – Steampunk 25 - Mutant
11 – Invasion 26 - Tattoo
12 - Parallel Worlds. 27 - Shapeshifting
13 – Zombie 28 - Mimic
14 – Awakening 29 - Knight
15 – Genetics 30 - Trap 
31 - Dragons

In addition, it is suggested that each day you can roll 1D10 to go with the prompt result on the following chart.

1 - Describe a Monster

2 - Create an NPC

3 - Write a Bulletin Board Quest

4 - Invent an Item

5 - Write a legend or rumour 

6 - Create a random table

7 - Create a simple mechanic

8 - Present an idea for a Random Encounter

9 - Write an Eavesdroppable Dialogue

10 - Draw!

It seems like this random roll (roll or choose of course) would be instead of the 31 prompts listed. I suppose you could also do one in addition to a prompt if the response to said prompt is kind of short. 

So there you have it. The 2024 RPGaDay Challenge ladies, gentlemen, and non-binary friends.

Hurray?

I want to do it, I really do, but I can already see myself becoming frustrated. What to do, what to do?

Stay tuned...

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Barking Alien









Lazy Days of Summer

Sorry for the long delay in getting out posts. Summer has been kicking my butt between an ever changing work schedule and the rather intense heat. I exist in two states lately: Totally revved up and unconscious. No middle ground. 

I still have a lot of Japanese TRPG related subjects I want to talk about but it's taking me longer than intended to get my sources and thoughts together. Fear not, my next entry in my 31 Days/31 Characters project is coming soon(ish). I'm sure the anticipation has been keeping you all up at night.

At present I am involved in a number of online TRPG campaigns and between playing, prepping, and running, a lot of spare time is taken up there as well. I am really enjoying all the games I'm in, so no regrets in that area. Let me give you a brief 'State of Gaming' update:

The longest running campaign I've ever gamemastered continues. Our Star Trek campaign entitled 'Star Trek: Prosperity' using the Star Trek Adventures system by Modiphius games, keep going boldly. Mentioned on this blog numerous times in the past, the campaign in now in its eighth year and shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. I've got a lot of stories yet to tell. Although a Second Edition of the game is on its way, we are still using First, largely because I've made a few adjustments and houserules and said changes are tied to First. Not sure if I need a Second Edition. We'll see. 

I am also running a weekly classic Traveller campaign I call 'Second Survey' in which the PCs are part of the Imperial Interstellar Scout Service's Grand Survey II in the Imperial Year 1024. Their mission is to visit the worlds in the Solomani Frontier Sector of Daibei (specifically starting out in the Outback Subsector) and make sure the information in the Imperial Library Data on these planets matches the reality of their present conditions. Due to the Solomani Rim War that occurred two decades past, much of this info is roughly twenty years out of date. Updates to things such as resource and trade potential, changes in population and/or government, and the like earn the PCs extra pay from their Patron, which is the IISS itself. 

As for playing, the other really long running game I'm involved in is the [roughly] biweekly Hogwarts/Wizarding World of Harry Potter campaign using a homebrew system. The campaign's 'official' title is 'Hogwarts: A Mystery' and is run by my friend Alex, who serves as First Officer and Chief Engineer Bhoth in our Star Trek: Prosperity game. I've mentioned this Hogwarts campaign a number of times in prior posts and it is now in its sixth or seventh year of real time. We, the PCs that is, are Fifth Year Students in House Ravenclaw. My character is Francis 'Frank' Pellgrove and he ranks among the most enjoyable PCs that I've ever played.

Lastly, I am both playing and running in a Star Trek Adventures campaign set in the time of Lower Decks (roughly), the early to mid-2380s. Entitled 'Star Trek: Copernicus'; the game features rotating Gamemasters, with each of the players serving a turn as referee. It has been interesting to say the least. Overall the adventures have been quite good, even great, though I feel my own have been kind of hit and miss (more miss). For some reason I'm finding it hard to motivate the other players to engage with the type of stories I want to explore. It may be that my more 'Original Series' approach isn't jiving with their 'TNG-DS9-Voyager'; mindsets. 

We are presenting going through the 'Season 1 Finale' adventure. After this we may take a break...literally. One of the players wants to GM BREAK!!. It might be a one-shot or it might be a short series. After that, who knows? Could be Star Trek: Copernicus Season 2, could be a short stint of something else...we shall see.

I am generally really happy with the gaming I'm participating in, though as always my thoughts leap to stranger and less traveled roads. I really want to run some sort of Horror game (though no idea what kind), wouldn't mind exploring a period such as 17th Century Pirates or the Wild West, and hope to get back to Ghostbusters at some point. All the while Anime/Manga influenced Japanese TRPGs call to me with their J-Pop siren songs. I also really want to run a Fantasy RPG - I know, I know - but more on that another time.

Sigh.

Man I don't like the Summer. Is it Autumn yet?

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Barking Alien







Monday, June 10, 2024

Savin' The Day

Happy Ghostbusters Day Everybody!

Saturday June 8th was the 40th anniversary of the release of the original Ghostbusters film, a movie near and dear to what passes for my heart. Forty years of bustin' ghosts and feeling good! 

Though my work and life schedules have been crazy again of late, I still managed to go down to the firehouse of Hook & Ladder Company 8 (which doubles as the Ghostbusters HQ in the films) and participate (to some extent) in the celebration held there to commemorate this auspicious occasion. 




It was a blast getting to see and talk to follow fans from all over the country and even a few international visitors. The outfits - complete with amazing Proton Packs, Neutrona Wands, Ghosts Traps, PKE Meters, and more - were incredible to behold! There were at least five different Ecto-Mobiles, from recreations of the original to GB customized alternative car models. Loved the different license plates! 



All in all it was a really fun time and I'm glad I went. There weren't any major announcements about new Ghostbusters projects but teases of a Netflix animated series and more being in the works have been making the rounds across social media. I know I'm excited to see more and intend to keep the faith through tabletop rpgs.




Here's to 40 more years and beyond! 

Who you gonna call?

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Barking Alien





Saturday, May 25, 2024

Great Shot Kid! That Was One In A Million!

 Happy Orthodox Star Wars Day Everybody!




While we love to celebrate Star Wars on 'May the Fourth' for the pun if nothing else, the true birthdate for Star Wars is May 25th. It was on this day in 1977 that the original film, now referred to as Episode IV: A New Hope, was released in movie theatres across the USA..

I saw the film opening day and loved it so much I watched it again! And again. And again. And yes, again. Five times on the day of its release thanks to a day off from school (the reason for which I do not recall) and my maternal grandfather being the manager of a theatre.

Raise a glass of Blue Milk with me won't you and join in wishing Star Wars a Very Happy Birthday!

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Barking Alien





Saturday, May 18, 2024

Thoughts to De-Cypher

My Sunday group recently finished an original 'Mecha vs. Kaiju' campaign using the Cypher System by Monte Cook Games. It's OK, you don't need to apologize. You didn't do anything. I'm not blaming you, nor anyone really. It was my own decision. I could have said no.




In defense of the GM*, he did a good job with the campaign itself, in spite of the fact that he didn't have a really good source for running this particular genre with the Cypher system. Had he had a solid sourcebook/rule supplement specifically geared towards helping a GM to run a Mecha vs. Kaiju themed game, he would likely have been able to add a spoon full of sugar to help the system go down better. 

I'm just joshing of course but yeah, I don't like those mechanics OK, I basically despise them but that isn't really what this post is about. The point of this entry is something I observed during the game that related to something else I've been thinking about lately. In order to wash away my feelings about Cypher, I want to take a look at why it didn't work for me and why a very different outlook on game design is appealing to me more and more. 

In Cypher, the player rolls a D20 and attempts to beat a number determined by the opponent's or situation's Level (or Tier? PCs have Tiers which are just Levels so...) times 3. So, to hit a Level 3 monster, the PC needs to beat a 9. Yep. You get a number (Level - Difficulty), multiply it by a number (3), in order to get another number (in this case 9). Way easier than saying, 'OK, you need to beat a 9', right? Anyway...

During the actual campaign, it seemed like the overall average difficulty for enemies and tasks was 12 and 15. A PC can spend points from one of three pools (which pool dependent upon the nature of the action) to lower that difficulty. Based on another aspect of your character, it can cost between 1-3 pool points to drop the Difficulty one Level. I would guess each of the three Players/PCs spent points one out of every three actions. Why so often? Because we missed a lot. A LOT! Even after spending the points, we still missing fairly often. So much missing!

In a game with a binary Success/Fail outcome, missing sucks. Sure, sometimes you miss or fail, that's gaming and life. That said, if I go and miss and then the next player, two villains, and then the last player go before the GM gets back to me and then I $^%&ing miss AGAIN...it's more than frustrating. It isn't fun.

Bare in mind, nothing else is happening. I just miss. There is no cool side effect, no interesting 'you miss but this opportunity opens up...' or anything like that. You just sit and wait your turn until you miss again. You could also hit. It's possible. Through out this, you are likely spending points from the same finite pool that powers your special abilities and in the case of 'Might' serves as your Hit Points as well. 

Anyway, I don't want to dwell on the specifics of Cypher but rather the mindset that went into the design. It doesn't reward failure, regardless of the context of that failure. A good idea followed by a poor roll equals a failure result. Having a good idea doesn't really matter. Sure, the GM can award you a reduced Difficulty if they want want but I am not sure if the rules-as-written include that idea. My point is, Cypher appears to be built on much the same mentality as Dungeons & Dragons (not surprising - Monte Cook don't you know); Hit/Miss resolution, little Narrative influences or results, and your PC begins the game incompetent. 

Meanwhile...

I've seen some talk about the upcoming Final Fantasy XIV Tabletop Roleplaying Game from none other than the 'House of Final Fantasy' itself, Square Enix. One of the interesting ideas the game is supposed to feature is the way your 'To Hit' roll works. Based on the way it works in the MMO itself, you always hit. Take a moment, step back, breathe deeply and release it slowly, now read that over again. You always hit. 

The Starter Set and Core Rulebook
All coming soon...


From the FFXIV Reddit Community:

  • Attack rolls are checked against physical or magic defense (AC). Attacks will always hit, but rolling (+ bonus) above defense is a Direct Hit and has additional effects (just more damage?).
  • Nat 20s are Critical Hits, which double your damage or healing. There are no critical misses (Nat 1).

What a fascinating approach to the normally punitive to the players combat systems of classic Fantasy TRPGs. I'm not sure I love no Critical Misses as those offer opportunities for cool complications and narrative additions but I get it as those wouldn't appear in the MMORPG. Hmm. Wonder how hard it would be to mod that? Sorry, where was I...

On this same line of thinking there's the Japanese game I recently covered (and merged with Ghostbusters), Tokyo Ghost Research. TGR also has every roll (combat or otherwise) succeed unless the player decrees that they fail. If the roll meets or beats the  Target Number it results in a positive outcome. If its less than the Target Number you get a generally positive outcome plus a negative or problematic outcome to go with it. You either succeed or succeed with 'Trouble'. What's Trouble? Something interesting.

I know I use the word 'interesting' a lot here but really, after 47 years of gaming, games that go: roll, hit, damage, roll, miss, roll, hit, damage are immediately followed by yawning. A lot of RPGs, the majority I think its fair to say, focus on Combat or more accurately have Combat as a key component of the game. If that Combat is flat, untextured, and dry it means you're going to be experiencing that blandness regularly. I just can't take that. I don't have the attention or patience for un-engaging combat scenes that happen often. Ugh. 

The same is true, to a less extent perhaps, to non-combat activities amounting to nothing. Skills rolls for things that should just happen because of the in-setting context that a character is a specialist in the thing they're doing and/or the meta-context that if its just a failure the game comes to a halt. Either just allow the PC to succeed at the endeavor or make the roll have the possibility of an added positive or negative outcome. 

Have actions worth rolling for result in a useful, detrimental, or otherwise memorable outcome. Also, I personally prefer games where the PCs, the protagonists of your story, don't seem like they absolutely suck. They shouldn't always be successful; I want to be clear that's not what I'm saying. What I'm trying to convey is the idea that out of five actions, four of them being failures is lame - unless that failure comes with a 'and yet', 'but you notice', or some other narrative element that makes failure as fun, or at least nearly as fun, as success.

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Barking Alien

*The GM of our Cypher game, as well as the other players, enjoy the system very much. They have various reasons for this and they're all as valid and legitimate as my criticisms (for whatever that amounts to). The GM finds the system extremely easy to run, the rules requiring the least amount of prep of any game he's played. Understandable that this would be appealing, even more so given the differences in how he preps and executes a game compared to myself [who's generally loosey-goosey with rule mechanics in favor of rule of cool.]

Cypher isn't a bad-wrong, terrible system. It just really isn't for me. 




 

Saturday, May 11, 2024

Live Long and Prosperity

Yesterday evening, my Friday night gaming group completed the second half of the first 'episode' of 'Season 8' of our Star Trek Adventures campaign, Star Trek: Prosperity.


Passed through the Universal Translator, this means we played the second session of the eighth year of our game, finishing a two-part adventure. Eight years marks the longest running campaign I've ever Gamemastered. It has gone on for nearly twice the length of any of my previous Star Trek campaigns across three different systems (FASA, Last Unicorn Games, and Star Trek Adventures itself).
 

The four Player Characters (first row) and cast of Major NPCs - Seasons 3 to 7


The game's sessions have been an average of four hours long and run roughly biweekly. We've missed or skipped a get together here and there due to personal or work related issues and holidays but I estimate we've had around 140 sessions. For the first few months of the campaign, we used the Last Unicorn Games ICON System version of the Star Trek RPG but, after a brief hiatus, we converted everything over to Star Trek Adventures. 

In the earliest sessions, which occurred 'in-person' prior to the Covid Global Pandemic, there were a few additional players who came in and out but the same four key players who have been there since the beginning are still here. 

It hasn't always been easy, as this group is made up of some strong and occasionally conflicting personalities. Add to that the fact that some of them have core viewpoints on adventure and campaign design that differ from my own. Still and all, we've all pursued the same goal of ensuring the game works to the best of each of our abilities. The entire group is committed to making the game fun for each of us and all of us. 




Character Progression occurs every even numbered 'Season', with the Players gaining bonuses ranging from increases to their Attributes and/or Disciplines, a new Focus, or a new Talent. Usually it's some combo of these as it happened only once a year.  

Every odd numbered year they get an upgrade to their starship, the USS Prosperity. In addition to the advantages of Rugged Design and a Rear Mounted Photon Torpedo Tube (a rarity in The Original Series era in which we play), the ship started with two flaws:

The Nacelle Warp Coils were stressed and/or damaged by maintaining high warp for an extended period - especially the Port Side Nacelle. 

each time the Prototype Rear Photon Torpedo was fired the launch tube was knocked out of alignment. This required additional Task Checks between each shot. Also, whereas firing Photon Torpedoes adds a point of Threat (an in-game Gamemaster currency), the Rear Mounted Photon Torpedo generated two. 

Over time the flaws were repaired and Advanced Sensors, an Improved Warp Drive, and the ability to Rapid Fire their forward Torpedo Tube were added. Thanks to the Prosperity and her crew, the aging Ventura Class vessels still in operation were being upgraded (usually a couple of steps behind the Prosperity itself). Unfortunately, the class as a whole was originally scheduled to be mothballed, with no new such ship having been commissioned in years. A 'B plot' had the PC Chief Engineer, Commander Bhoth, work with the NPC Asst. Chief in order to prove to Starfleet Command that the Ventura Class was still viable. In the end they saved the design, with the first brand new Ventura due to be completed soon (in Season 8). 




In the two-part 'opener', the Prosperity's First Officer and Chief Science Officer Commander Solok returns to Vulcan along with the other PCs in order to marry his long term romantic interest, the ship's Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Margaret 'Maggie' Hanover. Following the wedding, Solok's player essentially retired the character. After eight years of playing the Vulcan Science Officer, my friend Leo wanted to try something else. 

The rest of the team left Solok and the NPC Doctor to the next stage of their lives while they traveled back to the USS Prosperity. En route, the established command crew meet a young Helmsman, Lt. Charles 'Charlie' Wilder, Leo's new character. When the transport bringing them 'home' was attacked by religious zealots and a creepy space kaiju, the level-headed and action oriented Captain Ann Fletcher took command. Tapping each PCs unique set of skills, Fletcher organized and facilitated the transport's escape from the massive monster. The episode ended with the wounded ship pulling up alongside the USS Prosperity and Deep Space 5. 


Alien Friends and Foes


The next episode and Season 8 as a whole will see a considerable paradigm shift in the game and it's one the group and I are definitely down for. Our perfectionist, poor-work-to-life-balance Chief Engineer is going to become the First Officer. New PC Charlie Wilder, a more action oriented character, gives me an excuse to switch up the type of adventures I run, with fewer science mysteries and more fights against alien gladiators (and such). We'll have a new NPC Doctor. I've got sooo many things planned. 

After 8 years, over 50 different adventure ideas, and 140 sessions I am still inspired to run this game. Amazing. 

'Second star to the right and straight on 'til morning'...

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Barking Alien






Sunday, May 5, 2024

Star Wars VISIONS - The Roleplaying Game

Bright Sun's and Happy Star Wars Weekend everyone!




In celebration of May the 4th and 5th, I wanted to share an idea I've been developing in my...um...I was going to say 'spare time' but we all know that isn't a real thing, now don't we?

I recently found out that the next Star Wars Celebration event in 2025 will be in Japan. How cool is that! It got me to thinking about my favorite pieces of Star Wars content from the last few years: Star Wars VISIONS

A key element making many of the installments of the Star Wars VISIONS anthology so amazing is the fact that they don't have to be connected to the greater Star Wars canon and in fact, aren't.

The 'Ninth Jedi' takes place in a distant (though undefined) future. 
'Journey to the Dark Head' seems to be set in the Old or High Republic. Again, seems.
'Aau's Song', 'Akakiri', and 'Screecher's Reach' take place in indeterminate times and places.

In my opinion, this is a major factor in why these entries are so awesome. 




Looking back on my many Star Wars campaigns, all the best ones were run in the real world era wherein we didn't have any 'canon' beyond the original film trilogy. Everything else - from the books, to the comics, and of course the West End Games RPG - were myths and legends describing someone's own take on a galaxy 'Long Ago and Far, Far Away'. 

For some time now I've been thinking, 'I wish I could go back to that time.' Essentially, I'd like to run a TRPG campaign in the Star Wars universe but not necessarily in the Star Wars canon. Would that work nowadays? Could it?

These thoughts led me to postulate how I could use a system other then my beloved Star Wars D6 to give such a campaign both a distinctly different feel and, simultaneously, imply a separate 'non-canon' version of the setting. 

Star Wars D6 is, for me at least, 'real Star Wars' as far as Star Wars tabletop RPGs go. It was the only widely shared and accepted source on information about the Star Wars universe for years. It informed Timothy Zahn's 'Heir to the Empire' trilogy, the Prequels, and even some content that was actually good (Ooh! Not he didn't!) like the Rebels episode 'Wings of the Master', based on the WEG adventure 'Strikeforce Shantipole'. (He did by the way. I read it again to make sure). 

So, the idea is that using another game for Star Wars automatically makes it a another kind of Star Wars for me. Does that make sense to anyone else? It makes sense to me but I know sometimes I think oddly. lol The question then becomes, 'What game and what sort of Star Wars am I considering?' Well...

I'd like to use the Japanese Doujinshi TRPG 'Space Ship Story' to run a Star Wars VISIONS: The Roleplaying Game. I'm thinking lots of Anime/Manga influence, kinetic combat, melodrama, and of course lots of cool art/visuals. 


Star Wars VISIONS 'Original Manga' 
Art by Tomohiro Shimoguchi


More on this as it develops but I really believe this idea will work. Fingers (and maybe Lightsabers) crossed.  

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Barking Alien





Saturday, April 13, 2024

GHOSTBUSTERS: TOKYO GHOST RESEARCH - Part II

Welcome to Part II of my Ghostbusters: Tokyo Ghost Research idea, combing the Japanese Doujin TRPG 'Tokyo Ghost Research' with everybody's favorite paranormal investigation and elimination franchise, Ghostbusters. Check out Part I here.




I've decided to create a character for myself to better illustrate Character Creation and gameplay going forward. His name is Taro Ranpo, a homage to famed Japanese mystery writer and literary critic Edogawa Ranpo ( the pen name of Taro Hirai, Born October 21, 1894-Died July 28, 1965). Above you can see his Employee ID/Character Sheet, custom made by yours truly based on Tokyo Ghost Research's sheet.

For Career Type I went with Investigations (which is why I chose a name with a mystery genre reference). I decided to go with the following skills for Ranpo's Skill Set

Distant Impressions/Psychometry (General: Psychic Skill)
The ability to discern information, thoughts, and/or feelings about someone from contact with items or locations they frequently have/have had contact with.

Office Chair Detective (Career Skill)
Reasoning and thinking ability that intuitively derives the truth from collected data. 

Previous Work Experience (General: Origin Skill)
You can make use of your experience, knowledge, and skills from your previous occupation. In this case, 'Manga Writer'. 

Super Search Technique (Career Skill)
Skill that allows you to find and collect the clues and information you need.

Supplied Tablet (General: Item Skill)
A lightweight and sturdy tablet that can withstand communication failures at haunted locations.

As for his Overwork Skill, I thought Butt Wipe would be a good fit. 

Butt Wipe
Timing: Anytime.
Effect: Recovers 1 point of Damage (Any type) for one Employee other than yourself.

With the way Overwork functions in my version of the game, this is a much more useful ability then it is in the RAW Tokyo Ghost Research rules. Being able to remove a single one of damage from one person one time in a 4+ hour session is kind of weak compared to some of the other Overwork Skills.

However, if you can gain and spend Overtime with an increasing cost per usage (1 point for the first use, 2 points for the second, 3 points for the third), this ability becomes a useful but not overly powerful heal. I can see Taro being a guy who acts aloof and like he's 'too-cool-for-school' but actually cares about his friends and watches out for them.

If I could, I might switch out Ranpo's Supplied Tablet for a custom made Item I'd call 'Detective Kit'. I'm seeing it as a bag or box he can attach to his Proton Pack that contains a Magnifying Glass, a Fingerprint kit, etc. Maybe a mundane flashlight. 




OK, now that we have an Employee (PC), let's look at one of the game's most intriguing features - the Task Resolution System or as it is often translated from Japanese TRPGs, the Judgement System:

Essentially all you need to do is roll a single 10-sided die (1D10) and meet or beat a Target Number determined by the Manager. If you are using a Skill, your Target Number is usually between 2 and 8, with 2 being something fairly easy to accomplish and 8 being something very difficult. An extremely difficult or near impossible task might require a roll of 9 or 10.

If you do not have a Skill that covers what you're doing the Manager may decide that you don't need to roll at all. This is the case for most common actions. However, in the case of hard to achieve goals or dramatic instances you roll 1D10 with the Target Number being 10. 

Here's where it gets wild (hold on to your plush Goblins D&D fans - you're NOT ready for this!)...

If you meet or beat the Target Number you succeed but if you don't...you still succeed! Wha?!? Yes! You Succeed with 'Trouble'. A complication arises; something goes wrong and the situation gets worse. You also take 1 or more points of Damage in one of the three Damage Types [explained below].

Optionally, you, the player, can declare that the action truly fails. This causes you to take 1 point of Damage in any one of the three Damage categories but you gain 1 point of Overtime! As noted, collecting Overtime allows additional uses of your Overwork Skill.

I LOVE this! It is such an interesting design choice on so many levels. It allows more interesting things to result from a die roll beyond just hit or miss, pass or fail. It gives players greater control over the outcome of a roll, which in turn gives them additional future options. It is also a great way to handle PC activities in a comedic game. As the players and their characters go for more daring moves, wackier and wackier things will be happening more and more often. 




This is balanced/off-set by the fact that Damage is taken as a result of both 'Success plus Trouble' and 'True Failure'. With True Failure you only take a single point of Damage to a Damage Category appropriate to the action taken. With Success plus Trouble there is a chart in the game that looks like this:

1 Trouble arises but you escape it! MG identifies the trouble. You explain escape. No damage.
2 You manage to handle the task, but feel very tired. 1 point Physical Damage
3 You hurt yourself while completing the task. 1 point Physical Damage
4 You experience fear, confusion, or stress while completing task. 1 point Mental Damage
5 Situation brings up past traumatic memories. 1 point Mental Damage
6 You damage your personal credibility performing task. 1 point of Environmental Damage
7 You displeased the company or your boss. 1 point of Environment Damage
8 You are so exhausted that you can barely move. 1 Physical Damage + 1 Mental Damage
9 You were injured AND made the company look bad. 1 Physical + 1 Environment
0 The boss was angry, reprimanded you and you found myself in a bad position. 1 Mental Damage + 1 Environment Damage. 

As with most random charts, I'm not a fan of how some rolls simply won't fit some actions, situations, or circumstances. I might simply go with Manager's fiat with player input. That way, the effect of a given activity and resulting Trouble will more accurately reflect the cause. 

With regards to 'Combat' and Damage...




Tokyo Ghost Research doesn't have a traditional Combat system per se. There's no 'To Hit' mechanics, special moves, or anything of the kind. We only have Judgements and a Damage System. That said, when doing anything one rolls 1D10 and tries to beat a Difficulty Number as already noted. Based on this, my thinking is that blasting a supernatural entity with ones Particle Thrower is the same as any other general task. 

I might suggest that the 'Sales' Career should be able to hit opponents with a Difficulty Number between 2-10, while non-Sales personnel would only hit on a 10 [maybe a 9 or 10 in certain circumstances]. Sales is the department that 'deals directly with the ghosts' after all.

If an Employee manages to zap or otherwise effect a paranormal being or condition, I would say they cause it 1 point of Ectoplasm Damage. Unlike Employees, who withstand Physical, Mental, and Environmental Damage, the ghost-types only have Ectoplasm.  Employees can take 3 points of Damage in each category. Ghosts will therefore vary but generally they can take their Classification + 1/2 in Damage (maybe?).  

Based on this, a Class V Full-Roaming Vapor like Slimer would be able to withstand 8 Ectoplasm Damage. Sound good? If the Employees can get the entity up to the half way point - 4 points of Ectoplasm Damage in this case - then they can try to lasso the spook with a 'Catch' or 'Capture' Stream. I'd make it pretty difficult until the PCs did more Damage to the entity. Alternatively, since the Tokyo Ghost Research game setting leans into Psychic Abilities and Exorcisms, perhaps there are ways to weaken a spectral presence besides repeatedly hitting it with a blast of charged protons.

This is an element I've applied to my previous Ghostbusters games already as I've mentioned in prior posts on the subject. Sometimes there are special weaknesses or conditions that can render a ghost easier to catch based on its nature or background. 




A little more about Damage...

In Tokyo Ghost Research you don't have 'hit points' so much as you can take a certain amount of Damage. Most Employees can take 3 points of Damage in each of the three Damage Type categories before something negative happens.

Physical Damage indicates the Employee is exhausted or injured. If you take 3 points of Physical Damage you go unconscious. Again, this might be from blunt trauma, getting the wind knocked out of you, or simply being incredibly tired. 

Mental Damage represents stress, panic, mental exhaustion, and even going mad. When you have 3 Mental Damage points you go a little crazy and do something unstable (freeze in place, run in terror, charge at the giant monster, etc.). Some supernatural beings may try to possess you if you are at 3 or more Mental Damage. 

Environmental Damage is a funny one and not what I initially thought. It represents your standing with the company, your boss, and the status of the company itself. You take Environmental Damage if the boss is cross with you, if you make the company look bad on TV or social media, or if a rival company/service looks better than yours in the public eye. With 3 points of Environmental Damage you might get clean-up duty, docked pay, or get suspended for a couple of days. At the very least, the boss is likely to chew you out. 

At the end of a Scene you can reduce your Physical or Mental Damage by 1 (1 point in a single category) by returning to your vehicle, getting lunch, or other taking a few moments to relax and get yourself together. Environmental Damage cannot normally be repaired this way but if you speak to the boss on the phone and explained what happened, perhaps the Manager will grant you a 1 point heal for good role-playing. 

You can heal up completely by returning to the office (Mental and Environmental), your home (Mental), or the hospital or company infirmary (Physical). As this and the aforementioned short break constitute a change of Scene, all Skills Used are reset to Unused. 

There are a few other elements I could go over but for the most part that's about the gist of things. I like what I have here and honestly, I like Ranpo. I see his backstory as follows:

Taro Ranpo grew up loving mystery stories and enjoyed writing his own in Middle and High School. He was good, if not great. His work was missing something and he knew it, though not what it was. In College he met a young woman named Miku Mochizuki, a very talented artist who worked with Ranpo on a project. Together they put out a Doujin Manga, a supernatural mystery written by Taro and illustrated by Miku, that did quite well at a school faire. 

Not long after the two of them submitted the Manga to a publisher and it was picked up and professionally released. The two made a decent amount of money and planned on doing more but Ranpo was inspired to submit a full length novel he'd been working on for some time. He did and it was rejected. While Ranpo continued to do more Manga with Mochizuki, he also sent his novel manuscript to several other publishing companies to no avail. Before long, his meager success with their Manga but constant disappointments with the novel made Ranpo very depressed. 

One morning, on a whim, Taro applied for a job with Ghostbusters: Tokyo Ghost Research, and much to his surprise he got hired. He informed Mochizuki that he was giving up the Manga and writing, at least for a while. Later that same day, Miku surprised Taro by getting hired as well. She told him that this was a great idea, a great way to do research for their next series. Realizing his friendship with Mizu was more inspiring than his book rejections were demoralizing, Taro assured her that the two of them would be the best Ghostbusters team ever. 




Hmm. I think I've got a solid idea for a scenario. I might have a surprise for my readers this weekend. 

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Barking Alien








Sunday, March 31, 2024

GHOSTBUSTERS: TOKYO GHOST RESEARCH - Part I

My latest poorly considered idea is to use the Japanese TRPG 'Tokyo Ghost Research' to run a different kind of Ghostbusters campaign. 




My idea is that at the Tokyo, Japan franchise office of Ghostbusters Inc. International, things are handled a little differently. There is more of a corporate office mentality, with different departments having to compete for budgeting and resources, drinking and karaoke with the boss after work, and of course being exploited and overworked (an actual mechanic in Tokyo Ghost Research). The 'salaryman' motif is applied to Ghostbusters and damn if that doesn't sound potentially (darkly) hilarious. 

As I discuss the concept in more detail I'll breakdown Tokyo Ghost Research's game mechanics. I have added a houserule/rule modification and I'll point out what it is when I come to it.

While I usually begin with the base mechanic, today we'll start with Character Creation

In TGR, PCs are called Employees (Gamemasters (GMs) are referred to as Managers (MGs) - love that) and the Character Sheet resembles a Corporate Employee ID. This game really does its best to stay on brand. 

Here's my Tokyo Ghost Research Character Sheet with a 'Ghostbusters Makeover'.




Employees are defined by their Career Type, which connects you to a list of Career Skills that are really more like abilities in many cases. Funny enough, I probably shouldn't use the word 'defined'. Careers give you access to the Skills of that Career sure but there are also General Skills anyone can take that can give your PC some really interesting features. One category of General Skills - Items - can be changed anytime the PCs go back to the office. Don't worry, I talk more about this below. First the Careers:

General Affairs: These Employees are responsible for supporting the other Employee Career Types. Without the General Affairs department, the smooth operation of Ghostbusters: Tokyo Ghost Research wouldn't be possible. Procuring supplies, getting permits, coordinating with other organizations, and handling publicity are all jobs covered by General Affairs. But oh man, the paperwork!! 




General Affairs Skills include Public Relations Cover Story (Skill disseminating information and concealing the truth to make things go smoothly) and Master of Internal Coordination (Establishing all the necessary conditions for a project through internal coordination). 

Investigations: Investigation Employees are charged with fact-finding and research into paranormal phenomena. Good intel is often the key to capturing a rogue spectre or exorcising mischievous spirits from a abandoned sake brewery. Additionally, many cases require Investigators to inspect haunted sites before they send in a full Sales team.




Investigations Skills include Office Chair Detective (Intuition regarding the meaning of collected clues) and Super Search Technique (Allows Employee to find and collect the clues and information your need). 

Sales: The department that deals with clients and ghosts directly is referred to as Sales. Sales people usually begin by calming and/or reassuring those being bothered by the supernatural disturbance in question. Next it's time to strap on their Proton Packs, charge up their Neutrona Wands, and heading out to bust some ghosts. Sometimes Sales people deal with police, firefighters, or other emergency personnel in the field after General Affairs has spoken to them on the phone. 




Sales Skills include Route Sales (Skill to smoothly carry out 'Sales Activities' according to established procedures) and Spirit Negotiation Techniques (The courage and wherewithal to negotiate with non-human beings and the skill to understand their logic). 

Technology: Obviously the Technology department handles the development, construction, maintenance, and conveying the operating procedures of the various devices used by the Ghostbusters. In addition to the traditional backpack mounted particle accelerators, ghost traps, and such, Ghostbusters: TGR sometimes uses additional spiritual and physic paraphernalia. Prayer beads, ofuda (talismans on paper, wood, or other materials), and ouija boards are all things covered by the Tech department. 




Tech Skills include Psychic Light (Knowing how to use a special ray that allows anyone to visually perceive spiritual beings and/or traces of their presence) and Spirit Line
(Use of an app for communicating with otherworldly entities).

General Skills vary widely, with several sub-categories. The various types of 'skills' are Connections, Items, Origins, Psychic Abilities, and Talents. As you can see, not all General Skills are in fact skills in the traditional sense. As noted, Items can be traded out when the Employee gets back to the Office/HQ. For example, one Item is 'Company Car' - if you choose it you're the one driving the Ecto-1. Let's say the team heads out and gets their butts handed to them by a really tough ghost and you think, 'Darn, if I wasn't driving I know just what I would've done'. Well, when you get back to the Office you can decide to leave the driving to someone else and pick up a 'Provided Amulet', a 3D printed talisman in the form of a keychain, magnet, or sticker that can create a barrier or seal. 




The player chooses 5 skills for their Employee with no duplicates allowed (you can't pick the same skill twice). If I were making an Employee I would probably take one or two Career Skills and three General Skills, one of which would definitely be Item.

This is where Tokyo Ghost Research's Character Creation really shines in my opinion. Even with only four Career Types, only a few Career Skills for each Career, and granted, a generous number of General Skills, the characters come out quite different from each other. Even two Sales Employees can have very distinct Skill Sets (which is what the Employees five chosen skills are called in the TGR game).

Honestly I really love this. In some ways it is similar to the way skills are presented in Space Ship Story. If you have to have Classes in your game, THIS is how Classes should work. A simple, concise system with access to both dedicated Class abilities and more general ones, the freedom to choose a certain amount of each, and bam! you've got a Player Character. 

During play, each Employee can use each of their skills once per Scene. A Scene is not a defined amount of time or a set number of turns or other gamespeak gobbledygook. It is a scene in the cinematic or theatre sense, determined by Manager's judgement and player input. Again it isn't an exacting thing. Once used the skill is essentially spent (declared 'Used' in the game) until the next Scene. 

Finally, there's Overwork: In the game, Overwork is a Special Skill that can only be used once per Session. Like the other skills, once used Overwork is gone until your group gets together to play the game again. Unless...certain Overwork Skills can restore already used skills, with one ability bringing back standard skills and a different Overwork bringing back someone else's Overwork. Here's where I was inspired to add an additional mechanic: Overtime

Because skills are spent like a resource and with how neat Overwork abilities are, I decided that certain die rolls earn the Employees Overtime Points (see my follow-up posts for more details). In my houseruled version, the player spends 1 point of Overtime to use the Employee's Overwork Skill. To use it a second time in the same Session costs 2 Overtime Points, 3 for a third time, etc.

Sample Overwork Skills include simple things like Bulldoze (Allows you a do-over. You can re-roll a die roll), healing abilities like Steel Heart/Nerves of Steel (Reduces Mental Damage to Zero / 0), and the aforementioned Clear Mind/Routine Work (Makes all skills in your PCs Skill Set 'Unused'). 

This will make more sense when I talk about how the intriguing Judgement Rolls (basically the Task Resolution system). In addition, I'm considering making a sample Ghostbuster Employee to better illustrate how everything works together. 

That's it for now. Catch up with you soon.

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Barking Alien

One more thing before I go...in Japan there is a promotional collaboration going on between Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire (re-titled Frozen Summer for the Japanese market) and the upcoming Anime series Dan Da Dan




The idea seems to be that the characters from the popular Manga promote the new Ghostbusters film to a young audience less familiar with the franchise, while simultaneously letting everyone know an Anime based on the Manga is coming out later in 2024.

Dan Da Dan (sometimes written Dandadan) is definitely in the vein of Ghostbusters genre-wise. The story follows Momo Ayase, a high school girl who believes in ghosts but not aliens and her classmate Okarun who believes in aliens but not ghosts. To determine who's correct, the two make a bet and challenge each other to visit locations associated with UFOs and the occult respectively. When the two reach their respective places it turns out that they were half-right, both aliens and ghosts do exist and neither is too thrilled at being found out. 

There are 13 volumes of the Manga so far, with the Anime airing in October of this year. 

PS: All the art (except for the Dandadan/Ghostbusters poster above) is the result of my usual mix of Midjourney AI, my original art, and Photostudio.