Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Hijacking the jumpstart attempt at running a new game

One thing GM-ing has taught me is the value of player buy in. The fact that your players have this starry-eyed look of expectation whe you tell them what you plan next means they are hooked.

I've been mulling a more Hawkmoon-esque Mutant Future game in the coming weeks and started the actual task of jotting down my ideas just to make them simmer and stew. In the process of doing this, I seem to have been hijacked again along my original path. This has happened before so I am not really bothered. My ultimate end in the proposed upcoming game is a gradual decline of technological civilization on Earth during the course of a drawn out struggle which savants of a later more civilized age will refer to as the Tragic Millenium.

The thing is, I seemed more drawn for now to run a game at a point in the TM when technology and civilization is still somewhat formidable but falling catastrophically fast.Having to explain how I envision this to some of my more new school players I described the feel of this attempt at a Mutant Future to be Fallout Tactics meets Planet of the Apes and a dash of the X Men. Well, this got their attention.

Next, I decided to try a different tack. I decided to set the game in the place I call home. This means hot, tropical beaches, a lot of native slang, crumbling ruins near fortress gothic churches all set in a place once referred to as the Pearl of the Orient Seas. Other things of interest include local warlords (we never seem to lack those even today), mutant water buffalo, overgrown rice paddies with mutated carnivorous flora, mangrove swamps aplenty, a resurgent ultra-fanatical religious order which would put the Knights of Genetic Purity to shame, fortified towns cobbled together from the floating hulks of ancient tramp vessels (clustered around a beached inert SSN Boomer as the town hall), and rain - lots and lots of it as climate change is slowly but surely sinking our land beneath the waves.

I'm presently tweaking the MF rules to allow more and deadlier slug throwers in keeping with the tradition of Fallout Tactics. Knowing my players they'll be demanding this. Maybe it's the legacy of playing too much Twilight 2000 in the past. So yes, guns, guns and more guns. At least until they come upon some serious energy weapons (I do believe that's what happened in Fallout Tactics too).

Another thing that provided me with unexpected fun is how I get to use the current slang and subculture here and turn it on it's head when crafting the background. I know my old language teacher will probably maul me what with my bastardizing a lot of Tagalog for this game, but heck, this can be fun!

I do recall that the original Gamma World had a lot to do with satirizing Western culture. So maybe I'll do a little of that as regards the culture over here with Mutant Future and see how it pans out.

By the emails I've been getting from my prospective players, I do believe I've latched on to something promising here.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Bataan Day

I take this opportunity to salute the heroes who gave so much in the defense of Bataan and Corregidor in 1942. Bataan heroes day was celebrated here on April 9 with a ceremony honoring the veterans at Mount Samat. Mt. Samat is a commanding terrain feature somewhere in the middle of the Bataan peninsula and was subject to a terrific bombardment when the Japanese Imperial Army finally broke through the lines in early April 1942. As my family comes from Bataan, I took trips to the war memorial during the summer months of my childhood.

This year, my re-enactor friends from the Asia Airsoft Alliance joined the veterans' ceremony in the Mt. Samat memorial. The ceremony was also attended by active service members of the Philippine Armed Forces and visiting servicemen of the US Pacific Command. I'm still regretting that I wasn't up to joining my comrades after recovering from a long bout of respiratory infections and my asthmatic cough.

It was unusually foggy and wet at the start of the day when our group took positions at the memorial. Nonetheless I found this scene so apt as to produce a poignant reminder of the sacrifices made by those who fought, bled and even died here so many years ago.

My humble thanks remain with the gallant generation who served with armed services of the Pacific Theater of Operations during the last World War, in particular, to the heroes of the United States Armed Forces of the Far East (USAFFE) and the guerilla fighters who kept fighting the good fight after the fall of Bataan and Corregidor. Your sacrifice allowed us to enjoy the freedoms we should never, ever take for granted today.

You will never be forgotten.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Real life ruins

I was lucky to have been able to join a company outing last week to an island south of Luzon. Mindoro hosts a pretty decent place called Puerto Galera which is known for its beaches. I managed to join up with a hiking group from our company and ended up trekking through a forested and hilly area to a place called Aninuan Falls. I believe the closest translation from Tagalog would be 'Falls of the Ancestors'.

Being rather out of shape after an extended bout of chronic respiratory infections, I found the pace climbing up the hills rather tiring. I did not help that my companions just recently completed a 17-hour mountain trek near Subic Bay. In any case, I luckily made my constitution check and survived the trek over rather challenging terrain.

Completing the trek was worth it as a wonderfully secluded and refreshing natural waterfall greeted us at the end.

What really got my attention was a group of ruins off to one side of the small lake formed by the cascading stream of water. This appeared to be the concrete and rebar foundations of some long crumbled bridge. The bridge itself seems to have eroded away long ago but the supports are still evident.

The structure does not seem to be a contemporary or near-contemporary construction. I'm betting it was set up during the American Commonwealth period, sometime in the 1920s or 30s.

For some reason, the upper portion seems like it was blown up. I have to do some more research on this. Maybe this was blown up by guerillas who were fighting the japanese between 1942-1945. Or maybe it was the work of some communist rebels who were quite active in the area in the 1980s. Then again, maybe I'm just letting my imagination run away from me this time.

Even more intriguing is how the locals managed to use some of what remained of the crumbling concrete supports as a frame for a hut they managed to cobble up.

Seeing all this through a roleplaying umpire's eyes gave me an idea how the survivors of the Mutant Future could set themselves up in terms of shelter amidst the Ruins of the Ancients. Seeing concrete ruins all moss-covered and crumbling is one thing but beholding them up close is quite an inspiration for a gamer!

Also, I do believe I'll be paying more attention to those ability checks from now on when I'm adjudicating wilderness movement and exploration. Most of the terrain we traversed was boulder-strewn dried river beds. Apart from being out of shape, I had all I could do by just keeping my attention on the ground. Tripping and falling on the rocks is not a nice thing to happen to a trekker. And yes, difficult terrain tends to slow down travel. Having a trail to follow is such a Godsend when you're traversing jungle terrain in them thar hills.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Where in the World?

The last incarnation of my MF game was set outside Earth. The world had two moons and was a terraformed garden planet before the Interstellar Federation from which it's colonizers originated from collapsed and died. This time, I'm setting it on Earth, somewhere in the not too recent future.

Earlier, I mentioned my preference in setting the game amidst a Hawkmoon-esque feel. The action of this particular Mutant Future happens a lot longer after the last planet-busting weapons were detonated. Instead of one big mad minute where everyone who had something worth shooting let loose and trashed the world, we had a long, extended spate of unpleasantness which led to the End of the World as We Know It. In Moorcock's books, this extended time of unpleasantness was called the Tragic Millennium. While there were various times of reconstruction and recovery, the ultimate end after this era was the gradual erosion of technological civilization giving way to the quasi-medieval world of the wasteland.

Now that I've more or less determined the 'how' and 'when' of the setting, what remains to answer is the question where the action takes place.

The Hawkmoon novels picture a Europe composed of a patchwork of squabbling principalities ruled by petty monarchs. And one big bad Dark Empire. This sort of fits my gaming model but I decided on moving the game to North America. With a big landmass with so much space to play in, amidst interesting and varied terrain, I feel that this pretty much meets my demands. One of my inspirations is the old Gamma World module Legion of Gold. The feel of that game setting really doves into how I intend to run this coming incarnation of MF. A lot of sword-wielding feudals ranged against the new barbarians amidst the ruins of the Ancients. Mutants? Yes, quite a lot, but this time, I'll be dialing down the gonzo-weirdness factor a bit.

Other influences include Richard Adams vision of horse clans and steppe warriors duking it out with knights from extant kingdoms such as Pitzburk. I see the new world as a bit warmer, what with all the havoc caused by the Tragic Millennium and the resulting climate change that followed. Lands previously considered relatively cold north of the Canadian border are now pleasantly warmer. Hence, I'm imagining massive rain forests with corresponding mega mutant flora and fauna in places like Virginia. I believe Sterling Lanier's Heiro novels suggested something like this in their version of the mutant future.

Jumpstarting the game (or so it is hoped)

After the longest time, I hope I'm on my way to starting up a game with some semblance of regularity. I was supposed to run a Mutant Future session this afternoon but practically all of my players bugged out. I guess I'll be putting the time to good use by reading up on some inspirational material and more solid prep.

I don't know if Roger Zelazny's Damnation Alley qualifies as inspirational material. I'm enjoying it though. I can't believe I have not read this book a long time ago. I remember watching the movie as a kid but I guess the special effects tech of the 70s would have been pathetically Insufficient if they decided to run the movie straight by the book.

As to solid prep, I have reams and reams of hex paper here and pages of notes. Last week's extended stay in the beach left me a lot of time to just muse about the setting of my MF game this time around. I'm leaning towards a world feeling more like the post-disaster kingdoms from Moorcock's Hawkmoon novels, than Kirby's after-diasater Kamandi.

I'll let the ideas stew a bit more and see what happens.

As an aside, anyone know a source of downloadable hex paper with individually numbered hexes?