Get Ready for the Farewell

Art by by Paul Slinger, Design by Rob WakefieldSo, here’s the thing: work is taking me away from home for about three weeks, and – while the timing hasn’t been confirmed – it’s probably going to be from late January to mid-February. That makes timing the Kickstarter for Farewell, Something Lovely difficult. I was hoping to do a full four weeks, from mid-January to mid-February. That’s now no longer possible, unless I just leave the Kickstarter to run on auto-pilot, which is probably not a good idea. Delaying Farewell, Something Lovely delays Nefertiti Overdrive, and I’m not happy with that.

The solution is a shorter Kickstart with sub-optimal timings. That sucks, but I’m willing to hazard it. I’m going to run the Farewell, Something Lovely for two weeks, from 10 to 20 January. Let’s see if we can get to $3,250 in two weeks. Maybe not, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take.

Are you with me?

Direct Action: OP NIFLEHEIM – Challenges

"Tactical Air Control" by IMK
“Tactical Air Control” by IMK

The below challenges aren’t really linked to any given area, although the first and last (approach and tossing the camp) are events. The rest refer to NPCs one might meet within the camp.

Before the game, it is important that the GM know for what the various buildings and areas are used, and where Al-Masri might be located. When I ran it, Al-Masri was in a building in the centre of the camp, which was made obvious due to the collapsible satellite dish on its roof. Also, the PCs were very conscientious and surveilled the camp for quite some time, figuring out the movement of the guards, and also deciding, based on activity, what the various buildings were. It would be good to have a schedule and some events prepared.

I used the evacuation of the camp (once they found out their contacts in Conakry were killed) as a kind of countdown, a ticking bomb as it were, forcing the PCs to act within a set time period. The activities in the camp clued the PCs in to the upcoming move, and actually got them to act before they intended.

I also threw in the arrival of a couple of technicals and a transport of weapons that were manned by East Africans – the PCs deduced, using Tests, that these were Somalis. This gave another thread to include in the planned campaign, just in case the PCs were a little too efficient in dealing with the opposition. Always nice to have another door for the PCs to open.


Approach Unseen
Difficulty: d8, there’s not a lot of cover in the desert
Threat: d4, could get seen, but no threat to life or limb . . . yet
Environment: depends on time of approach, night works in PCs favour d4, pre-dawn or post-dusk, d6, twilight or dawn d8, day d10 – approach too close with aircraft or helo, increase die type by 1 step
Complexity: d8, approaching a guarded camp
Damage Track: d8

The Guards
D: d8, Good training and experience
T: d8, use of AKs and use will alert the camp
E: d12 exceptionally hostile
C: d8, the better, smarter tangos of the group
Damage Track: d10

Lone Tango
D: d4 Basic, not well-trained
T: d6, spraying and praying with a lone AK
E: d6, knows the camp
C: d4, a single dude
Damage Track: d4

Small knot of Tangos (3 – 6)
D: d8, strength in numbers
T: d10, bunch of AKs
E: d6, know the camp
Complexity: d6, a few dudes
Damage Track: d8

Pack of Tangos (6-10)
D: d12, overwhelming numbers
T: d12, whole lotta lead
E: d6, know the camp
C: d8, surrounded, or near enough
Damage Track: d12

D: d6, trained but cowardly
T: d6, not good with the AK
E: d8, wily commuter who knows the camp
Complexity: d6, he’s tough, but not that tough
Damage Track: d8

Abu Dujana, Al-Masri’s bodyguard
D: d10, highly trained, motivated and brave
T: d10, precise work with an AK
E: d10, knows the terrain and how to use it
C: d10, bad-ass mo-fo
Damage Track: d10

Tossing the Camp
D: d8 finding that needle
T: d4 (unless there are still tangos about, then it’s d8, could alert the Tangos)
E: d10 large area, unknown to team
C: d8, lots of ground to cover
Damage Track: d6 find computers, d8 cellphones, d12 cache of portable drives sealed in a container

You can find the camp image here.

You can find more Spec Ops posts here.

You can find OP NIFLEHEIM posts here.

Direct Action: OP NIFLEHEIM – Handout Prep

Last post regarding OP NIFLEHEIM gave the general situation and how the PCs would be introduced to the adventure.

As a side note, I’m using Canadian military operations titling system, in which the first letter of the name is the first letter of the country in which the op is occurring and the word should be bilingual (or, in many cases, not English or French, such as OP SATURN – in Darfur, which is in Sudan).

“Pararescue Airmen mission ready for search, rescue” a U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Cecilio M. Ricardo Jr. from U.S. Air Force Photos

I mentioned in that last post Echo bringing imagery. Generally, that’s not the role of CSEC (Communications Security Establishment Canada, our version of the NSA and usually referred to as See-Sek), but in a situation such as in the adventure, it might be the only way to transfer highly classified documentation. Of course, for the purposes of the adventure, Echo is bringing along a secure system. That might raise questions if you are trying to run a relatively realistic scenario, in that higher classifications can require a SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility). For classified imagery, a secure system outside a SCIF is probably fine.

What kind of information might this imagery relate? It’s probably got some indication of what the various buildings are used for, and there’s probably an estimate of the opposition and weaponry on site. For my map, I had nothing labelled – the imagery technicians didn’t have the kind of information or time they would need to make that kind of analysis. What I did indicate was:

Garambak Camp, Niger, 122123 May 13
Expected enemy complement 100 to 200
Expected equipment level AK-47s, AKMs, RPGs, technicals, APCs, IFVs

The imagery was taken on the 12th of May, 2014 at 2123 Zulu (Coordinated Universal Time, generally synonymous to Greenwich Mean Time), and the techs have estimated the camp complement as well as identified material.

For the wanted poster, I took an image from the FBI’s most wanted terrorists list and tagged it with the following information:

Abdul Al-Masri (as a title, over the image of the target)

(the rest of the information in presented under the image)
Aliases: Abu Mariam, Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah Ali, Abu Mohammed

Date(s) of Birth Used: Approximately 1973
Place of Birth: Egypt
Height: Approximately 5’8″
Weight: Unknown
Build: Medium
Hair: Dark
Eyes: Dark
Complexion: Olive
Sex: Male
Citizenship: Egypt
Language: Arabic
Scars and Marks: Al-Masri has a scar on the right side of his lower lip.
Remarks: Al-Masri cellphone geo-located to Garambak Camp, Niger on May 6, 2013.

So that’s the prep I did for handouts. Next, I’ll share the Challenges the PCs faced.

You can find more information on OP SATURN here and other Canadian operations here.

You can find more information on CSEC here and here.

You can find more about SCIFs here.

You can find the camp image here.

You can find the FBI most wanted terrorists here, and the dude I used here.

You can find more Spec Ops posts here.

You can find OP NIFLEHEIM posts here.

Direct Action: OP NIFLEHEIM – Sitrep

SniperA while back I was posting parts of the adventures I was running while playtesting a modern military special operations campaign which I called Direct Action. The last adventure was OP GRANGE. OP NIFLEHEIM follows on from OP GRANGE and has the team entering a terrorist camp in Niger.

Col. Terry Warner and MWO Chester “Watts” Watkins meet team at airport. They have arrived aboard the Challenger with a close personal protection detail from JTF2. A C-130 with a platoon from CSOR (Canadian Special Operations Regiment, usually referred to as See-Sore) is due in the next few hours. Col Warner will be departing with the ambassador but the warrant will remain with the team to brief.

The colonel congratulates the men on a job well done, and getting a goddamn police escort to the airport. That’s how he likes to see things done.

The ambassador is effusive in his praise.

When they have departed, Watts takes the team to a quiet office inside the airport. He drops Al-Masri sheet on the desk there.

The points Watts will pass along

  1. This fucker wanted to buy the ambassador from the assholes who kidnapped him. He was the one talking to the gunrunner in Guinea-Bissau.
  2. He called from a location in Niger using an Algerian cell number.
  3. CSEC (Communications Security Establishment Canada, usually referred to as See-Sek) has tracked him to a camp just outside Garambak in Niger. That’s in the west of the country, near the borders with Algeria and Mali, crawling with Tuareg and AQIM (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb)
  4. While the local Nigerien forces won’t do anything about it, France wants to nuke the camp from orbit, but are being restrained because of the possibility of hostages being held in the camp – possibly French hostages. There is a Canadian Defence Attaché team in Niamey trying to get cooperation from the brass.
  5. The Agency doesn’t believe this joker is a top tier bad-guy, so someone’s pulling his chain.

Watts will provide imagery of the camp location.

  1. This camp has no road access to it, though there are paths vehicles can use.
  2. Only get a flyover once a day, and have noted only minimal activity
  3. CSEC rep with secure comms (communications) will be arriving with CSOR, and will have an imagery analysis report

When the C-130 touches down, the CSOR platoon includes CSEC liaison, Clara Lithwick, known at the Hill as Echo Charlie or just Echo. She’s ex-military, tall, swimmer’s build, and the target of just about every hetero male on the Hill. She’s got secure comms gear and indicates:

  1. Al-Masri has been calling someone named Abbas in the northern part of Pakistan’s tribal region
  2. The French are concerned French hostages still at large may be in the camp. They want to babysit us, and that’s the only way we’ll get access. We’re going in with their Marine Parachute Regiment. They have agreed we can turn over (search) the camp as long as we share anything we grab. The Nigeriens are following the French on this, so Niamey won’t say boo.
  3. No one else wants in on this one. Everyone’s still smarting from the In Amenas debacle.

She has imagery of the camp itself.

For imagery of the area surrounding the camp, I just took a Google Maps shot from Niger near the tri-border area. For the camp, I used an image available at Global Security and cropped out some of the captions.

You can find the camp image here.

You can find more Spec Ops posts here.

You can find OP GRANGE posts here.

Good News, Bad News

I’ve got some good news and some bad news.

The good news? The physical copies of Centurion: Legionaries of Rome are with our fulfillment company and should be in the mail any time now, if not already.

The bad news? With the physical copies of Centurion on their way, I was ready to go live with our next Kickstarter – the sword noir short story collection Farewell, Something Lovely – however I’m likely to be travelling in January, and so I’m going have to delay the kicking the start until February 15.

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting frustrated with waiting to go live with Farewell, Something Lovely. This was originally planned for November! Delay seems to be endemic with Kickstarter, so I guess I just better accept it and move on.

Waiting impatiently for February 15.

You can find more information on Farewell, Something Lovely here.

Starting to Kick

Art by by Paul Slinger, Design by Rob WakefieldWhile things have been quiet here and on my blog for the last little while, we all know that has to change. Unless this is your first visit, you must be aware that in January, I’m going to be Kickstarting a short story collection and in March, I’ll be Kickstarting an RPG.

Centurion: Legionaries of Rome proved to me that Kickstarting is a viable option for a z-list designer like myself. I got enough money to put the book out in a format of which I’m proud. I was able to pay the people who worked on it something close to a professional rate, and I was able to pay them in advance.

I’ve written it before and I’ll write it again, I would love to be able to split my time between writing fiction and writing RPGs. These next Kickstarters are going to act as proof of concepts.

Farewell, Something Lovely will be a collection of sword noir short fiction, while Nefertiti Overdrive is going to present a pretty light system and two very different campaigns to showcase that system. It would be pretty awesome if both fund. I mean, I’d then have to worry about what I’ll do for my next project, but that’s a dilemma I would love to have.

You can find more information on Centurion: Legionaries of Rome here.

You can find more information on Farewell, Something Lovely here.

You can find more information on Nefertiti Overdrive here.

Encountering Nefertiti

I’m very much a seat-of-my-pants GM. I like to have some minimum prep completed, a safety net of information ready for me, and then just go. The narrative that evolves in play has generally proved superior to whatever I’ve planned, so now I don’t bother to meticulously plan with schedules, timelines, events and places. For Nefertiti Overdrive (and now Ocean Earth), I generally have a one-pager like I have used for Sword Noir in the past, and then a page or two of expected or likely encounters.

Bust of Nefertiti from Wikipedia
Bust of Nefertiti from Wikipedia

I create encounters/events/places/NPCs as challenges. That’s how they are presented in Centurion and how I use them in Nefertiti Overdrive. A challenges exists in Nefertiti Overdrive as Difficulty, Threat, Environment, Drive and Complexity. Difficulty, Threat, Environment, and Drive all contribute dice to task resolution while Complexity represents the number of required successes.

Simple enough, and I thought my set-up was nice and clean.

Then I saw what Corey Reid was doing with his new version of Dino-Pirates of Ninja Island, adapted from Old School Hack. I really like how he is presenting encounters. He talks about it in a recent post.

My new encounter notes are kind of a melding of pieces from the one-pager into the challenge format. It includes suggestions for stages in Complexity – how to explain the PCs approaching success.

Here’s an example from a recent Ocean Earth game, as the PCs and crew of the airship Stirling’s Hope dock at the Spire over Sunken London and need to gain entry. Sunken London is shutting down as it expects an attack from the Wraith fleet that makes the British waters so treacherous.

You’ll see plenty more of these (or an evolved version of these) if Nefertiti Overdrive gets backed, as the plan is now to provide two adventures – one for each section (the NEFERTITI and the OVERDRIVE, as it were).

You can find more information on Sword Noir: the Role-Playing Game of Hardboiled Sword & Sorcery here.

You can find more information on Centurion: Legionaries of Rome here.

You can find more information on Dino-Pirates of Ninja Island here

You can find more information on Old School Hack here.

You can find more information on Nefertiti Overdrive here.

BTW, by far the greatest amount of effort for this post came in finding a non-cheesecake image of a female Egyptian warrior. In the end, I just gave up. Nothing wrong with cheesecake if that’s your thing, but Nefertiti Overdrive is supposed to be about powerful heroes, not necessarily sexy ones.

Event: Entering Sunken London

Description: At first, it seems as though the crew on the Spire is attempting to wave off Stirling’s Hope. There are still many pylons available, so Angus takes it in. On docking, an official says that London has sighted a Wraith fleet, the largest yet seen at over 50 ships. Only citizens are allowed to remain while the city is locked up. Anything docked to the Spire is in danger.

Challenges: If you want in, you’ll need a visitor’s pass from the official. Angus is happy to drop off cargo and head out.
Difficulty: d6, average bureaucrat
Threat: d4, deny entry
Environment: d8, deals with this all the time
Drive: d8, honest but not TOO honest
Complexity: 2 – get him compliant – close the deal

Rewards/Discoveries: Visitor’s pass. A spot in the Lincoln’s Inn shelter at the base of the Spire should attacks come. Angus is willing to wait two days or until the attack comes. He will meet the PCs at the Cheshire Cat at the corner of Drury and Russell (very close to shelter and Spire).

Overdriving the Nefertiti

Things have been quiet. My confession is over on my blog. As the new year approaches, and two new Kickstarters are on the planning platform for me, I need to get back work with SEP.

Queen Zenobia's Last Look Upon Palmyra by Herbert Schmalz from Wikipedia
Queen Zenobia’s Last Look Upon Palmyra by Herbert Schmalz from Wikipedia

I haven’t been entirely unproductive. Playtesting for Nefertiti Overdrive continues. An interesting part of this has been the scenario creation system. Basically, I’ve thrown together some rules so that the players can create the parameters of the game they want to play, and it has a bidding mechanic, so it’s also kind of a game. The creation system includes character stats, meaning you get to decide how the characters will be represented in game.

This led to the creation of a scenario which I’m calling Ocean Earth (working title). This is flooded Victorian post-apocalyptic steampunk in the midst of a plague-induced undead invasion, and the most important form of entertainment in what is left of North America and Europe is the Prize Ring – Victorian MMA.

When the players created the parameters, I was incredulous. How the fuck can I put all these things together? There’s no way . . unless . . . and then . . . if so . . . OHMYGODTHISISSOAWESOMEICAN’TWAITTORUNTHIS.

Ocean Earth turned out so cool, I’m going to include it in Nefertiti Overdrive (Kickstarter happening in March 2014). So now Nefertiti Overdrive is going to include two games with the same basic mechanics, but with different genres and different character stats/attributes/sheets/whatever. I think I’m still going to call the ensemble Nefertiti Overdrive, as that name has really grown on me, though now I’m thinking the Nefertiti in the title can refer to the Egyptian wuxia component, while the Overdrive can refer to the steampunk MMA component.

But then each component needs its own name. Or I could just head the Egyptian section NEFERTITI and the steampunk section OVERDRIVE.

Or I could have backers suggest and vote on names when I Kickstart it.

Time will tell. The important thing is that Nefertiti Overdrive is moving forward, and looks like it shall be more awesome than ever.

More information on my confession here.

More information on Nefertiti Overdrive here.

Building the Overdrive

You can expect another RPG Kickstarter from me come March 2014. Nefertiti Overdrive is going to include the system – which was designed for historical, mythic wuxia, specifically in a Hollywood-ized Third Intermediate Period of Ancient Egypt. There will be an intro adventure as well, which includes six pre-generated characters. I’m also going to include a scenario generation system in which players actually drive the creation of the campaign or adventure in which they will play. They even get to design the character framework the adventure will use.

The first test-drive of the scenario design mechanics turned out so well, I’m going to include details of the setting with Nefertiti Overdrive.

The scenario design mechanics allow players to bid on different parts of the scenario. These are called features, and include Inspiration, Setting, Plot, Goals, and Themes. The game will explain these better, but Inspiration are very high level mechanics – like genres – while Setting is the physical space of the campaign, Plot indicates the overarching narrative in which the PCs are acting, Goals are what the PCs do in the game, and Themes are very specific characters, scenes, or actions that the PCs will encounter in the campaign.

In the first playtest, we got steampunk and Ultimate Fighting Championship for Inspiration; Europe and an archipelago for Setting; massive plague and supernatural factions at war for the Plot; finding the cure and stopping the war as the Goals; and opponent actively feeding the factional war and violent natural disaster scenes (eg volcanoes, floods, etc) for Themes.

That’s a heck of salad.

The players also decide on the framework or stats for the PCs. They chose Memories (kind of a version of background, in which a PC’s history informs that character’s abilities), Mechanics (this is open-ended, a players would choose Qualities to represent their mechanical skill/aptitude), Training, and Concept – which was subdivided into Martial Arts, Class, and Drive. These are all Qualities from which the PCs gain dice to use in Tests.

While the players were rolling up their characters, I had to design the campaign.

Stay tuned for what I turned out.

You can learn more about Nefertiti Overdrive here.

Best Laid Plans

I’ve made the decision to definitely Kickstart Nefertiti Overdrive. I’m still going to Kickstart Farewell, Something Lovely first, and based on some delays with Centurion: Legionaries of Rome, I’m not going to start that campaign until January. I don’t want to succeed at a Kickstarter in November, because the income then won’t be offset by costs until the next year, which means more tax on that income.

So in January, you can expect a Kickstarter for Farewell, Something Lovely. That’s going to run for 30 days. Since that is pretty much ready to go, I will be starting the Kickstarter for Nefertiti Overdrive in March – the same as I did for Centurion. Let’s hope some of Centurion‘s success rubs off on Nefertiti Overdrive.

Nefertiti Overdrive is going to include the system – which was designed for historical, mythic wuxia, specifically in a Hollywood-ized  version of Third Intermediate Period Egypt. There will be an intro adventure as well, which includes six pre-generated characters. I’m also going to include a scenario generation system in which players actually drive the creation of the campaign or adventure in which they will play. They even get to design the character framework the adventure will use.

The test-drive of the scenario design mechanics turned out pretty well, but that’s another story!

Stay tuned.

You can learn more about Nefertiti Overdrive here.

You can learn more about Farewell, Something Lovely here

You can learn more about Centurion: Legionaries of Rome here.