Cawnpore and Perseus are available in the Createspace eStore and on Amazon.com where, if you order a physical copy of the books, you get the ebook for free. They are also available as ebooks on every ereader out there.

I noticed that one of the big search terms that was bringing folks here had to do with the Colonial Warrior pistol vs. the M6C personal defense weapon from the Halo franchise. I will admit to never having played Halo, but the design work is lovely. So here you are, people who were looking for the M6C:

Misriah Armory M6C PDW

This handgun is the standard sidearm for the UNSC Marine Corps. It is a semi-automatic, striker fired 12.7x40mm, recoil-operated handgun. The ammunition used is the M229 semi-armor piercing hollow-point.

M6C_Magnum_Pistol

Cortex stats:   Damage: d8W   Range: 20 yards   Ammo: 13   Cost: 2000

Editor Comments: This is a nice design, but there are a few issues that pop up immediately. 1) It’s not going to be recoil-operated — the .50 round described (more powerful than the .50 Action Express at 12.7x33mm) would be far too powerful for blowback or rotating operation. It would be gas-action, like the Desert Eagle with heavy rifle springs for the recoil. It would be much larger than it appears to be portrayed. The muzzle blast on this with the 4-5″ barrel would be enormous.

Well, crap. Zundar the Barbarian just got wasted by that revenant…guess it’s time to write up a new character…

But what if Zundar and his companions are victorious. What if they’ve bested the Great Evil, or freed the realm from the clutches of whomever, or killed the dragon and saved the day? What if, after three years and however many levels, Zundar and crew aren’t that interesting anymore? They’re a bit too powerful to be fully challenged, or their story arc has been described — what now? Do you play them some more, but the heart is gone. Like watching Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull there’s just no point to the next go ’round.

We all love our characters. They’re often not just our creations, or an avatar to run through a computer generated RPG, but a real character that you or your mates can believe in. We enjoy watching their antics. Some people love an archetype so much they play the same damned character in every game, regardless of genre. But sometimes, they’ve played their part. The story is over, or the magic is gone. You got bored. Maybe you just want to try something new.

Old soldiers never die, they just fade away… General Douglas MacArthur famously uttered this phrase, and it’s often true. Your character has survived multiple encounters and is getting older. Slower. All the wounds sustained start to ache all the time. If they’re lucky, they got wealthy or powerful. Time to put the sword down.

Retirement is a good way to happily ever after your character. They won. Better yet, they can occasionally be revisited as a bit player in the game — maybe they have a bit of information, or there’s a reunion, or you need a small favor (like a place to hide out)…you can have the ol’ boy show up for a cameo for a night. Or perhaps there’s only one person for the job…just this one last time. (Look at all of Stallone’s old characters…)

Success has its own problems… You finally got a kingdom of your own, defeats the evil empire, got all the money and success your stomach can handle…but keeping it, that’s another thing. All of a sudden, instead of slaying monsters or fighting bad guys, you are locked into the day-to-day minutiae of running a city or nation or planet. Remember when you had all that free time when you were walking six months to a volcano to get rid of an evil ring? Wouldn’t you love to give it all up…but you have a family, and responsibilities — you’re a grown up now! — you can just traipse off on an adventure. But here’s a list of a few of my old contacts…

They took my hand!!! Instead of getting everything you wanted, maybe the character was so tashed up that it made sense they would loose a limb, or some bodily functionality. Who needs a cripple when you’re fighting to save the world as we know it? The sad fellow that you still visit from time to time to remind you of the good ol’ days and to give the players a reminder of their characters’ mortality (or that there is a fate worse than death…)

Join me! Another good way is to have your character switch sides. Maybe the Dark Side has captured their imagination, maybe they were tempted by power, or maybe there was some ideological shift that put you at odds with the others. In this case, it’s usually better to pass the character off to the GM, but it can be made to work where the player continues to play the character in concert with the GM as opposition to the others.

 

This post was inspired by Stopping Short over at Gnome Stew by my former editor Walt Ciechanowski. In it, he asked what was an appropriate thing to do when an adventure ends early in the night and you’ve still got time before everyone goes home.

The obvious thing is to kick back, talk about the session or other things, and be sociable, but say you want to keep gaming… Do you start the next adventure? Do you spend time doing the character adjustments and things of that nature? A bit of both?

My answer is simple: role play. Don’t jump into the next adventure straight off, but give the players the time to handle the “down time” stuff or the “B plot” issues that you most likely glossed over during the mad rush to stop the villain, kill the monster, or whatever you were up to that evening.

Did Character A want to go back and talk to that waitress? Did Character B really want to steal that [insert object] that could lead to a short encounter that could fill up the rest of the night? Did Character C want to have that sad graveside moment with a fallen comrade or loved one, with his friend Character D by his side to do a nice vignette for the rest of you to enjoy?

Maybe the players have a moment to enjoy their hard won laurels and some plot thread they missed can be brought up in conversation…wait, what was that in the Collector’s cage? Oh, crap..! Maybe the experiences lead them to do something different — I’ve been a viper pilot since the Fall of the Colonies, but I think i want to run for the quorum so I can make a real difference in people’s day to day lives that not letting them get killed can’t. Maybe they ended the villain of the piece, but the man who killed your beloved (To quote Rocket Raccoon, “Everyone’s got dead people!”) or made them betray you is still out there. Can you convince the others to help you exact revenge?

Make it about the characters as people. Do a The Walking Dead and talk about their feelings.

Or pull up funny videos on YouTube and kill the rest of the night.

Your choice.

We’ve all been there: The game party encounters an obstacle, even simple one, and proceeds to spend the rest of the night trying to figure out what they are going to do. It’s never something simple. Everyone wants a piece of the action. Everyone’s got an idea how to overcome the thing…like opening a door.

The most egregious example I can think of from my gaming was a fantasy campaign in which the players ran across an enemy patrol camped out for the night. Stealth up and rush them? No, that would be to KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid). Nooooo…there was a series of convoluted plans to keep the guards from raising an alarm, using just about every off the wall trick but the most obvious — use cover of darkness, sneak up stealthy-like, and liberally apply blade to exposed throats. After an hour of nonsensical planning, one of the characters threw a rock to distract the baddies, alerting them to their presence, raising the alarm, and blowing all of their meticulous, but contradictory tactics to hell.

How do you manage this, as a GM (or even a player?) As a game master you’ve got several good options:

1) Put a time limit on it. You’ve got so much time to plan before the guard comes back, the roof closing on you crushes you, the bomb goes off, the bad guy can complete the last component of their diabolical plan. Time it so the players only have that much time.

2) When the action is happening and players start to get analysis paralysis, give them a countdown. “You’ve got ninjas closing on you and they’ll be on you in moments. You can fight, jump over the cliff into the water below, surrender, or [enter other idea they've thrown out] — three! two! one..!” This works great in the midst of combat or some kind of action set piece where people wouldn’t have the leisure of sipping their beverage while considering all their myriad options. Make it happen or get sliced up.

3) Give them parameters. In a game where the players are part of an agency or military, or whatever, there is the possibility (probability) they’ve got some kind of rules of engagement. Maybe they have to have zero contact with the opposition, maybe they are not to use lethal force, maybe they have to protect the [McGuffin] at all costs. Having parameters tightens the decision tree and allows the players — while still maintaining autonomy — to make faster and more appropriate choices.

This last one can be difficult for players coming from hack-and-slash campaigns, where everything is on the table, to a universe where there are laws and fairly serious consequences for breaking them (like a modern setting campaign, for instance.) I’ve found players not used to a different purpose than “kill the monster, get the treasure”, often have trouble with the notion that “you just can’t blast civilians while chasing a bad guy through the streets of Miami…” but setting up those expectations ahead of time can hone their decision-making.

4) Give hints. “That’s railroading!” No, it’s not. Now go read some indie games with clever rules for how the players can come together to write a story about combing your hair. Sometimes, there’s only going to be a few options. You’re trapped in a room with two exits. Bad guys are coming through one. Stand and fight? Climb out the other exit? Some variation on those themes..? “You’ve managed to piss off the contact you need to get information from; what do you do?” [Player hems and haws...] “You want to rough him up? Apologize and try being less a douche? Bribe him? Let the player that does this well take over?”

As a player, you can aid the group without being to pushy. Don’t start acting like a commanding general. “Hey, Seth, you’ve got a high charisma, right? Why don’t you talk to the contact instead of Bob. If that doesn’t work, Bob can do the rampaging dick thing and try to beat it out of him.” Or sometimes it’s a bit more direct. During a recent play session of Firefly, I played Zoe, but one of the others wanted Mal…and was really not equipped to do so. I would occasionally point out things on his sheet. After all — Zoe is the captain’s right arm. I tied some of my suggestions into the characters’ patter, building off of the show. (For other game settings, you might point out something from a past adventure that seems more appropriate to the character’s past actions. “You’re not going to do X again, are you, sir?”

The main thing to look for as player or GM is when the game bogs down because of disagreement. Take a few minutes break, clear out the cobwebs or put aside personal style issues, and get back to it.

I thought I’d take a shot at writing up a few characters from various Hollow Earth Expedition campaigns in the new Atomic Robo RPG by Evil Hat:

GORILLA ACE!

This character started as a joke and powered a cool half dozen or so adventures. I have his stats for HEX somewhere around here, but couldn’t find them quickly, so you’ll have to take my word the character design came out pretty close to that of the original. The character was a WWI flying ace who gets turned into a gorilla by accident while fighting Nazi scientists in Africa.

Concept Aspect: Human Trapped in a Gorilla Body

Good Mode +3 (Gorilla) — Aspect: Created by Nazi Science; Provoke +5, Athletics +4, Physique +4, Notice +4, Tooth and Claw +3

Fair Mode +2 (Action) — Aspect: WWI Flying Ace; Vehicles +4, Combat +3

Average Mode +1 (Banter) — Aspect: If they like you, you’re not a freak… ; Will +3

Omega Aspect: Might as well enjoy it…

Stunts: Barnstorming: +2 to create an advantage w/ vehicles when flying; No Time to Bleed: use will to defend against physical damage when a consequence is involved; Look Out Below!: +2 to overcome w/ athletics when swinging or jumping; Terrible Growl: Use Provoke for defending vs. fear attacks; Vincetti Sportster #1: +2 to vehicles when flying his VS#1

Physical Stress: 5   Mental Stress: 5

 

One of the more popular characters of our last Hollow Earth campaign was Jack MacMahon — a son of wealthy New York Democrat Party operatives, Columbia trained lawyer who couldn’t pass the bar, and showy womanizer. He evolved into the super gun bunny rich boy who wasn’t stupid, but had the sense of…well, a really stupid person. Again, a very close match to the HEX character.

Jack MacMahon

Concept Aspect: Handsome, but Thick Man of Action

Good Mode +3 (Action) — Aspect: Not in the Face!; Athletics +4, Notice +4, Provoke +4, Combat +3, Physique +3, Vehicles +3

Fair Mode +2 (Banter) — Aspect: Winning Style & Boatloads of Style!; Contacts +3, Deceive +3, Empathy, Rapport, and Will +2

Average Mode +1 (Intrigue) — Aspect: Sucker for a Dame ; Burglary +1, Stealth +1

Omega Aspect: Trust Fund Baby

Stunts: Friends in High Places — +2 to rapport in high society functions; Betty and Carla, his S&W Registered .357 Magnum (#RM11) and his Winchester 1897 .357 magnum (#002): Weapon 2; Stupid Is What I Do — +2 to overcome with athletics when difficulty is Good or higher. Two left to set.

Physical Stress: 4   Mental Stress: 4

 

And the “lead” for our current HEX campaign:

Thomas Drake

Concept Aspect: Disreputable Archeologist

Good Mode +3 (Science) — Aspect: Little More Than a Tomb Raider, but… ; Archeology +5, History +5, Notice +5, Geology +4, Will +3

Fair Mode +2 (Intrigue) — Aspect: It’s a Cut-throat Business…; Athletics +3

Average Mode +1 (Action) — Aspect: Good Man in a Pinch; All at +1

Omega Aspect: Fortune & Glory!

Stunts: Not If I See You First — Use notice for stealth when target has not seen you; Best in a Dirty Business; Hoopcycle — +2 vehicle tests when using the hoopcycle; 2 left to set

Physical Stress: 3   Mental Stress: 4

The exchange between Runesligner and myself on the spectrum of play was interesting and informative, and has been getting consistently good page views. Thinking on it, there have been a lot of good comments from other readers that most likely don’t get viewed by the casual reader, so here is my casual, but official, call for folks to submit response pieces to The Black Campbell. If you’re on WordPress, it’s as simple as asking me to reblog a post on your site, but for folks on other blog platforms, or who want to toss out a 500-1500 word opinion piece on the subject of gaming — from reviews, to gamemaster and player tips, to general theory on the hobby — contact me in comments here and I’ll will gladly host a guest post.

No, I won’t pay you, and my only request is I have the right to “publish” the piece for the life of the blog. (That’s because I’m too lazy to go through and delete them…)

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