Space Station Omega Campaign Playtest 1

SSO Campaign Playtest Updates

Twitter Posts

Feb. 14, 2021: #SpaceStationOmegaRPG (@CortexRPG) campaign playtest session 10 (finale): Kesh, Deegan, and Hesper get the psychic-imprinted Hesper clones under control. Dr. Smith and company visit the Hidden Planet to discover an empire in the making and cripple it. Epilogues are shared.

Feb. 6, 2021: #SpaceStationOmegaRPG (@CortexRPG) campaign playtest session 9: Dr. Smith convinces Vox to take the Key with them to the Forbidden Planet (+Corrin+Bill), while Trine change into Hesper copies. Key group rescues Sgt. and use the Key at a ruined temple—getting Hidden Planet coords.

Jan. 30, 2021: #SpaceStationOmegaRPG (@CortexRPG) campaign playtest session 8: Peace was made with terrorists. The Trine failed to steal the Key of the Ancients. Then Dr. Kesh woke the Trine, Sgt. Dedra is KO’ed as her ship plummets towards the Forbidden Planet, and Vox sees the cosmic past.

Jan. 23, 2021: #SpaceStationOmegaRPG (@CortexRPG) campaign playtest session 7: With the combined efforts of the Omega Prepper Army, a courageous commando team, and decisive action, 2 of the 3 co-masterminds were defeated. Will the 3rd escape with the prized alien artifact?

Jan. 17, 2021: #SpaceStationOmegaRPG (@CortexRPG) campaign playtest session 6: PCs saved Sgt. Smith’s parents and 430+ others held ransom by bandits on a starliner just as the Kracken Gang was released—taking charge of C&C in 1 swift move. Can the PCs take back the station?

Jan. 9, 2021: #SpaceStationOmegaRPG (@CortexRPG) campaign playtest session 5: The PCs saved the friendly alien probe from being dissected, destroyed, or returned to its homeworld and side-stepped starting another galactic War in the process.

Jan. 2, 2021: #SpaceStationOmegaRPG (@CortexRPG) campaign playtest session 4: We added a PC to the group (Sec. Chief Deegan, @JMichaelMahr) and pushed the fight over the alien probe into space-court. No one’s happy—I can’t wait for the PCs to take matters into their hands!

Dec. 27, 2020: We are beginning with our first session of play for SSO. #SpaceStationOmegaRPG (@CortexRPG) campaign playtest session 3: We began with 2 shipping complications. An incorrect smuggled supply of a telepathy-coping drug and an ancient alien probe afraid of returning home, and 7th yr anniversary of the War in 3 days!

Dec. 21, 2020: We are continuing with character creation for the short season of play for SSO. #SpaceStationOmegaRPG (@CortexRPG) campaign playtest session 2: We finished character creation and followed the PCs around for a slice of life. I can’t wait to play with this great cast.

Dec. 13, 2020: We are creating setting and characters for the short season of play for SSO. #SpaceStationOmegaRPG (@CortexRPG) campaign playtest session 1: Setting creation done; character creation 70%+ done. 6 players online take a lot more time.

Endor Guard RPG cover

Ewok Guard

So in thinking about RPG hacks one popped in my head recently of doing a Star Wars game with Ewoks at the heart of it. I decided to follow through with it since most of the work had been done for me by other gamers with Mouse Guard and The Woodlands, as well as the content creators from the Star Wars Fandom site.

Content sourced from and inspired by Star Wars Return of the Jedi and https://starwars.fandom.com/wiki/Ewok/Legends, Mouse Guard by Luke Crane, and The Woodlands by Andrew Medeiros.

Here is the draft version 1.1 of the (formerly named Endor Guard RPG) Ewok Guard RPG. Enjoy!

NetWhere RPG cover

NetWhere

A science-fiction game about the search for truth and reality.

Story – What Is NetWhere the Roleplaying Game?

IT BEGAN WITH A CRASH…

The Truth is that the world is not what it seems. Only people like you, working together with your Revelations and Net Effects can hope to change it. The Truth is what you make of it. Beware the Agents of Truth, because when we find you, Hackers, we will stop you wherever you may go, in this world, or the next.

NetWhere is a tabletop science-fiction roleplaying game about virtual reality and self-discovery. It’s inspired by stories like those found in movies such as The Matrix, Tron/Tron Legacy, Inception, and Dark City.

NetWhere’s mechanics are inspired by and require you to have a copy of Meguey Baker’s amazing Psi*Run game (from Night Sky Games, http://www.nightskygames.com). Psi*Run is a game about amnesiacs with powers, Runners, who are pursued by mysterious Chasers. You play to find out who they are, who you are, and what happens next.

Notable Differences

  • Truth: The use of Truth instead of amnesia to answer questions about the setting related to the characters.
  • Net Effects/Powers vs. Psi Powers: The base abilities for player characters, referred to as Hackers here, are called Net Effects and they are temporary enhancements rather than so-called superpowers. However, the option for Powers may exist in your game of NetWhere.
  • Bytes: Bytes introduce tokens that add a layer of mechanics for the Players and the GM to influence the game.

NetWhere’s designed as a multi-session game about Hackers searching for the Truth while avoiding capture by the Agents of Truth. Hackers are exceptional people who straddle the edge of reality between virtual worlds and whatever remains of the real world. This includes adventures that take place.

It’s your job, as Hackers to find the Truth and decide what to do with it once you’ve got it before the Agents of Truth can stop you.

Along the way, the Hackers use a Sitemap with information as they travel from node to node, and the Agents of Truth pursue the Sitemap relentlessly.

Will the Hackers learn the Truth? Will the Agents convert or destroy them?

Questions of Truth

Unlike Psi*Run, NetWhere shifts the focus of the answers (Revelations) from amnesiacs learning about themselves to hackers learning about the world and their place in it, but there is still a sense of learning about oneself by unmasking the virtual reality. Characters can discover that their bodies are plugged into a gigantic post-apocalyptic machine, or that they have been living out a life in an experimental dream world, or that they have been manipulated by hidden powers to do or not do something, or that they are part of a planned conquest in another reality.

What Is Reality?

In NetWhere, the group gets to challenge assumptions about what’s real and what can be changed, in terms of perspective or in actual manipulation from world to world.

Use the Net World(s) and Core World to explore this relationship in the game and the Sitemap to show it with multiple paths of Nodes that track where and when Hackers have experienced risks for the Truth.

Playing NetWhere

NetWhere is a tabletop roleplaying game for 3-5 players that takes about 3-4 hours to play per session. The game uses light rules, narration, and a standard set of six d6. As you play and follow the fiction of the story, you look for when your character is risking something which could change their fortune during the game. When this happens the GM will ask the player to pick up and roll 3-6 dice and collaborate on the results. At times this may reveal something about the Hacker or bring them closer to a direct conflict with the Truth.

Hackers

Exceptional people like you—not just computer geeks, good with breaking corporate firewalls—searching for the Truth; you’re determined and capable to bypass barriers between the reality of the Core World and the Net World.

Net World

The Internet. A matrix construction. A guided network of fate. A dream within a dream. It’s the place where virtual worlds come alive and the Core World, if it even exists, recedes into the background.

Online chatter says the Net World is the space where Truth lives. The realm of possibilities. The domain of reality enforcement, created and maintained in perfect source code. A code that many Hackers have died trying to glimpse.

For some, the Net World is the only reality they know, unless they are shown the way by a Hacker. Then, how can you ever go back to believing in and living in a world that feels artificial?

Core World

There are signs that suggest that this may be the heart of the Net World, the source of Truth, or the origination of everything. It may be the site of the cold hard reality which the Net World mirrors, a home to determined resistance groups, a stark heart of darkness in which humanity sleeps, waiting for someone like you to open to the light of a new Truth. Many have sought it out.

Net Effects

You’ve changed since you made contact with the Truth. You’re not sure why or how, but now you can do things in the world that you could only imagine. These Net Effects make you stronger, faster, and tougher. You know them to be part of the bleed between realities that you’ve discovered.

Be careful though as using your Net Effects can be dangerous to others. And their use can attract the wrong kind of attention.

The Truth

They say that finding the Truth can set you free. Freedom is worth the struggle, the suffering, the loss, in the name of something better.

You’ve looked for it online and in the world around you. So you seek the Truth with a compulsion from deep within your very being. Symbols and transmissions. Code bases and servers. It’s up to you to figure out how to manage it before it’s too late when the Agents of Truth stop you.

The Agents of Truth

The eyes, mouths, and hands of Truth are vigilant. They work to find and deal with Hackers, one way or another. And they are said to be cunning, indestructible adversaries. The best advice for dealing with Agents is to run and hide. If they capture you, you’ll most likely disappear from this world and the next. Your only hope is that it ends quickly.

Conversion & Salvation

Sometimes when Hackers go too far or risk too much they become the victim of their own desires or are convinced by the Agents of Truth to cease the search for the ultimate Truth. When this happens it’s never certain that a Hacker can or will be saved, but if it happens it’s usually through the work of one or more seekers.

More dice for Dark Well

More Dice for Playtesting

Yes. More dice to use as tokens for playtesting Dark Well.

Due to having one block of small smokey d6 dice being stolen while at Metatopia I had to buy at least one replacement block. So I now have a block of opaque black dice. But in thinking about a comment that someone made about racial stereotyping with white as beneficial and black as dangerous I decided to buy three new blocks of small d6 as well which includes a green, orange, and purple set.

 

Dice Order 1

Recently I also ordered some new dice for Vigilance as I’ve noticed some people having trouble finding and replacing the dice when they are all black. So I’m switching the red d10s to black d10 (to be ordered when available) and the former five to their classical elemental color so to speak. The company did not have translucent d4s for Soul, but I was able to get green translucent d6s for Skin, yellow translucent d8s for Words, purple translucent d12s for Starlight, and blue translucent d20s for Blood.

 

 

Metatopia 2019 Dark Well session 2 with conspiracy wall

Post-Metatopia 2019

Metatopia 2019 was a great experience. As I have time I will post thoughts and feelings about the convention. I’m already working on some revisions for the two games I brought with me: Dark Well and Vigilance.

Schedule

The convention started Thursday evening with a social event. My partner and I were exhausted from the trip in so I checked in but didn’t have enough energy to really participate so we went across the street and had delicious Persian food for dinner. And there were a lot of great food places nearby!

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were a mixture of panels–many for first-timers to Metatopia, and playtesting. I’ll get into some of the panels later on. There were several that I attended which were a good fit for where I am in the game design industry.

I did get in a quick chat with Phil Vecchione about our love of conspiracies. His writings on Gnome Stew are an inspiration for what I’m doing with Dark Well.

Sunday afternoon was spent wrapping up my last playtest and then heading out asap to continue our trip to Philadelphia and then Washington, D.C.

Playtests

Dark Well: I’ve got a fair amount of redesign to consider for the character sheet to make it easier to understand and I’m hoping to simplify things considerably. The playtesters really enjoyed the conspiracy-generation and setting, with the Well part in second place, and character creation in last for ease of understanding. The suspense of drawing from the Well was consistent. The tags could be useful but were cumbersome. The differences between the derived traits under Life, Power, and Truth need to be easier to grasp and engage with since I modified them, though I have to figure out how to get the Change/Grow/Conditions part to work from scene to scene. In the short playtest sessions I don’t have enough time to use the pool of tokens to work with the game as the GM yet so I’m looking forward to doing that again at some point. Comparing the tokens to the chart works once people wrap their heads around it as it’s a novel approach. In the second group test of Dark Well, I was able to use some kindly donated yarn to make an impromptu conspiracy wall on the table (see the featured image above). We had a six-PC group for this one. I took the advice from the first group and used a completed character sheet to share visually with the second group and it helped immensely. While we didn’t get very far in the game I could see how the prop could be fun. It would likely be easier to maintain on a wall or dedicated surface–the group loved it so I’m glad I tried it and will see about testing it more location permitting. In particular, I’m redesigning the Conspiramap for Dark Well for the next playtest. These conspiracies freakin’ build themselves. More iterations to come, with half-baked Dwellers and conspiracies to get the players into the thick of things faster.

Vigilance: The playtesters loved the spreadsheet character creation and world creation and setting, with the dice mechanics being too easy-for-success. 1s for generating Chaos/injustice complications rarely came up which was very unusual and led to deflated anticipation and missed expectations for all. I definitely need to revisit to get more risk in the dice and possibly reduce or remove the Arena Dice pool. We didn’t get to test things at length, but I did have one of the groups do scenes that were non-combat to see how things flowed rather than worry about collaborative world-building, which definitely affected player investment and cohesion like never before. I think it also suffered from a late Sunday slot and me messing up a basic mechanics roll. We had a cool blessing scene and engaged with the constellations! The first group where we did build things together was a tighter fit but we weren’t able to engage as much with the mechanics with the time. Need lots more dice-rolling and tweaking to be more complicating/dangerous. Great suggestions on branding from the first group and I appreciate them throwing themselves into the game with heart and soul. Overall, there are a lot of strong pieces that I can skip over moving ahead with half-baked characters and precinct to get to play quicker.

Rebels of the Outlaw Waste: This is NOT a game that I’m designing, but rather one that I playtested Saturday evening and it was a hoot. Gonzo post-apocalyptic to 11. What sold me in the description was that it included stickers as part of the advancement system. The designer, Michael Addison of Nerdy Pup Games, has a fun rules-light RPG with potential and I hope that he continues to develop the game and share it with others.

Thanks

Thanks to all the playtesters who participated in my games and who make Metatopia a conversation rather than lonely fun–you are valued. I want to thank Avie Wing and all of the amazing people who help to make Metatopia be as successful as it is. I wasn’t very talkative as I was taking everything in, but I did appreciate the hard work and fun experience learning and sharing our love of games.

NightMirror preview

Updates Since June, 2019

I’ve been very busy with RL commitments this summer so gaming has had to take a backseat until recently.

That being said, I did participate in Game Chef 2019 and will share more details about my experience with the game design competition in a future post.

Other than Game Chef, Corridor Games on Demand has started its relationship with the Cedar Rapids Public Library where we are running our Playing in Public events in one of the library’s meeting rooms once per month. If we have the resources we’ll try to scale our efforts. We’ll be part of an intro to gaming event this September. I’m looking forward to that.

I also had a strange obsession to work through an idea about mutant animals using a combination of DOGS and Powered by the Apocalypse. Don’t worry, it’s only 4-pages and scratched a sudden itch. If I do more with it, I’ll need to file off some serial numbers and flesh it out to make it playable.

Later in September, I’m planning to attend MinnLoCo to game with some amazing friends in MN. I’m considering running three separate yet connected RPGs during the event with the same group of players. The games are Questlandia (the world-building part), The King Is Dead, For the Queen, and then end with Queslandia (with characters). It’s an experiment of related narrative collaboration RPGs with a monarchy. We’ll see how this goes.

In November, I’m attending Metatopia for the first time. Metatopia is a game convention for playtesting and networking in the game industry. I’ll be bringing two games to have playtested.

Regarding my own game design projects:

  • I’m waiting for the next version of the Cortex Prime System Reference Guide before updating Space Station Omega.
  • I’ve returned to write and edit NightMirror in between other projects.

Playtesting

Welcome to the AquaVertigo Playtesting post.

The following games are in playtest:

If you are interested in participating in a playtest of one or more of the above games, please let me know in the contact form below.

    Games I'm Interested In (required)

     

    Dark Well playtest at Forge Midwest 2019

    Forge Midwest 2019 Recap

    Forge Midwest 2019 was fantastic thanks to the organizers and participants. I even brought a couple new people from Eastern Iowa to the convention.

    > About Forge Midwest

    Friday

    1. Masks: A New Generation RPG – Masks: A New Generation is a superhero roleplaying game in which a team of young heroes fights villains, saves lives, and tries to figure out who they are. And kick some butt along the way. After all, what’s the point of being a hero if you can’t fight for the things you believe in?
      • I finally got to play this game and I was not disappointed. Thank you Jim for GMing and to all of the wonderful other players. I’ve run Masks once before at a Corridor Games on Demand: Playing in Public event and enjoyed it, but didn’t have a full grasp of it at the time. I can’t wait to play more and then run the game for a mini-campaign.
    2. Vigilance RPG playtest – Vigilance is a late bronze age post-apocalyptic fantasy roleplaying game about justice in an unjust world.
      • I ran a playtest of Vigilance with three players, one of whom had played in a prior iteration a few years ago at Gamicon. She brought her friend with her into this game. For much of Friday, I wasn’t feeling well and was low energy so I know that I didn’t run the game at its full potential. Also, I made the mistake of changing a mechanics rule a third of the way through the game and it wasn’t working for me. I should have stopped the game and changed it back but didn’t have the mental capacity at the time. The story and much of the flow of the game mostly worked. Enough to get us to a cathartic ending considering all of the things in flux. I was surprised that we were able to finish up within three hours, including the debrief and I was glad as I needed sleep. In the debrief we talked about the rule change with chaos dice and an alternate to it that may prove to be a good design compromise. I will need to test it out soon.

    Saturday

    1. 5-Minute Dungeon card game – In this game, you’ll join forces with your friends to fight your way through five dungeons filled with deadly obstacles and dangerous monsters! You’ll choose to play as one of ten heroes, each with their own special cards and abilities. In 5-Minute Dungeon, there are no turns. Everybody will be racing against the clock to slap down symbols that match the current card from the Dungeon. You’re all in it together—either your party defeats the dungeon and moves onto the next one, or you all perish!
      • Willow and Tim introduced this to Robyn, Bryan, and myself and it was fun. We made it all the way to the final boss: The Game Master and lost! It was amusing to play. I would not buy, but would play again if need be.
    2. Clash of Steel card game – A competitive, low-luck, 15-minute card game for two players, focusing on the tactical nuance of a medieval duel.
      • Eli convinced me to give this game a try and it was okay for a strategy duel game, but not my thing. I would not buy, but I would play again if need be.
    3. FFG Star Wars: Edge of the Empire RPG – Participate in grim and gritty adventures in places where morality is gray and nothing is certain. Ply your trade as a smuggler in the Outer Rim, collect bounties on the scum that live in the shadows of Coruscant, or try to establish a new colony on a planet beneath the Empire’s notice… The Star Wars®: Edge of the Empire™ Core Rulebook provides everything you and your friends need to experience life in the shadiest and most remote locations in the Star Wars universe.
      • Jason ran a fun game with all of the players as bounty hunters. Fights were had. Stuff was blown up. Quips were made. Innocents were stunned. And we got our targets for a big payout.
    4. Dark Well RPG playtest – Dark Well is a science-fantasy thriller roleplaying game about exploring the unknown.
      • I pitched this game, including the word “conspiracy” somewhere in there and that got a lot of players interested, so much so that I had to turn some away. The playtest was great, in part due to the fact that I had more energy and all five players were engaged from start to finish. I used the conspiracy pool of headlines for the first time and that helped us drive things home through the scenes. The tokens from the Well worked surprisingly well–people outside of the game stopped by to see what we were doing and took pictures. This was perhaps the strangest playtest of Dark Well in that it really fed itself again and again in a creepy way. Less horror than usual. Closer to Unknown Armies perhaps?!? We played late. It took us four hours to get to the final dramatic scene, paused for the 11PM game pitches and then finished the game with epilogues and a feedback session, for which I am very grateful. It was a wonderful experience and I am looking forward to reviewing the notes ahead of the next playtest.

    Sunday

    1. Feng Shui 2 RPG – In Feng Shui, the action movie roleplaying game, you play heroes of the Chi War, protecting humankind’s destiny in a titanic struggle across space and time. Victory depends on your gravity-defying kung fu powers, your ancient magics, your post-apocalyptic survival instincts, or your plain old-fashioned trigger finger. You might be a maverick cop, a cranky kung fu fighting master, an everyday hero, a masked avenger, or an enigmatic drifter from a post-apocalyptic future. In battle you are forced to face off against a legion of fearsome foes. This conflict rages between four key time periods, confronting sinister eunuch magicians of the past, imperialist oppressors of the colonial era, secretive conspirators of the present, and cyborg rebels–turned-tyrants whose excesses collapsed the future. This is Feng Shui 2!
      • I can cross off Feng Shui from my bucket list of game thanks to the one-shot game. Jim was a great GM and the other players were fun, but the fighting took forever and the story was too unimportant for my style. While I enjoyed our play of it, I don’t think that I need to play this game again and have no interest in owning or running the game. Robyn embraced the horrible dice rolls that she had for her character and the mantle of comedy relief, taking out the cyber-gorilla with an epic head-butt. Lots of laughs.

    Pool time with Vigilance

    Tonight I had the good fortune to run through some core dice pool tests with a fellow designer for my alternate fall of the Bronze Age game, Vigilance, and it was amazing.

    > Vigilance RPG

    I feel as though the game mechanics are taking a while to mature due to the lack of consistent critical testing and after tonight’s run through I am more confident about trying a face-to-face and an online playtest group.

    Tonight we ran through the 7th of 12 chapters and the 7th is the Debate between Laws. As it was a playtest focused mostly on the mechanics, I quickly filled in details about the province (formerly called precinct in earlier versions) and the story circumstances of the conflict filled themselves in as the combat developed. This was the first use of chapter 7 and we cut right to the battle between the PC Law and the NPC Law. This game only has the players roll the dice, but there are a few escalation features as well–most notably Chaos. The more Chaos the more d10s and things get worse.

    Since we had two versions of the dice pool to test we opted to run through the same fight with the A/B pool use. Things started out more or less the same and then it happened when the second option seemed to really make the player be more engaged and as a result I was more invested with each choice the player made. The Chaos definitely escalated more in the second case and the complication stacked resulting in bitter victory for the PC Law, winning the Debate and losing the respect of his province in the process for doing what he was made to do.
     

    Photo: Detail of the Laws of Conflict sheet for the Vigilance RPG.
    Dark Well One on One Playtest

    One on one with Dark Well

    Last night, a friend of mine agreed to do a one on one playtest of Dark Well and it went surprisingly well. We set the game in South America in the 1970s with my friend playing a mercenary archeologist who locates and sells rare artifacts to the highest bidder.

    > Dark Well RPG

    Dark Well has gone through a number of changes in recent time. The most recent evolution was tested at Gamehole Con, 2018, and proved to be a big hit with the group. Since then I’ve been working to refine the game. I playtested the game with two friends during a Corridor Games on Demand Playing in Public event not too long ago and they both really enjoyed both the system and the story setting.

    The core of the token system works well. It’s the character + conspiramid changes that I’m still working to test and I feel that it will require more than one-shots to do this properly.

    In the playtest that we ran last night, the archeologist’s greed seemed to get the better of him and neither the player nor me as the GM were certain which was “real” to the PC and which was a hallucination. This line between the two was exactly what was needed and we both played to it, even into the epilogue.

    Now I just need to test the game’s setting and tone with more people I don’t know as well and then write up the prompts and structure that reinforces how this is done.