Thursday, October 21, 2010

Star Wars As You've Never Seen It Before

This week I went to a new role-playing game being run at the game store. It is based on Star Wars, but with lots of funny twists and excitement to it.

The game began with us rolling up the stats for our characters. We started out by rolling for the basic stats like strength, dexterity, intelligence, and such, but in keeping with the science fiction aspect, one of the stats was "Robot Nature." According to the rulebook, you don't have to be a robot to have "robot nature" - the "robot nature" score is used for all sorts of "robotic tasks" like manual labor and standing guard, and "most supermarket customers have lots of robot nature themselves." Then we rolled for our race (human, robot, or one of many different types of aliens), character class, and also random starting equipment. As soon as we got to this point, we realized that the barriers between franchises had broken down - one character got a "tricorder", from Star Trek, and another got an "omni-tool", from the Mass Effect video game. A third character got a "Theopolis-class computo-face," described by the GM (gamemaster) as an "iPad with a built-in A.I.", or as we started calling it, an "AI-Pad." I got a "Grapple Rope Gauntlet" and a "Traveler's Guide to Koozebane" (a planet from the Muppet Show). Then we went onto our "Drama Rolls" and found out more facts that would lead to intra-party conflict: one of our members (a Jedi no less) had an Imperial bounty hunter's license, and two other party members (including me) had bounties previously placed on them by Jabba the Hutt.

Also, we looked at our special powers and under "psi-witch" (the "Jedi" character class) it said they had a special power of "1 pound mental force." I asked for clarification:

Me: "So 'one pound mental force', is that 'force' as in mass times acceleration?"
GM: "It means 'if there's an object that weighs one pound or less, you can use the Force to move it."
Another Player: "But in space, since there's no gravity, wouldn't everything have no weight at all, so you could throw a spaceship around with the force?"
GM: "We're using bad movie science, not real science."

But before we could start killing each other, we all learned we were part of a secret Rebel cell, and went to a busy cantina to get our first mission from our contact:

Contact: "We have to keep this on the down low, since this is a secret mission."
Me: "But if it's secret, why are we meeting in a busy cantina where everyone can hear us?
GM: "It's a role-playing game. You always meet in a bar."

Later we found our mission: we had to break into an Imperial research lab to rescue some civilians who were being held captive. We first needed a vehicle to get there, and we got one by stealing a hover-speeder, but we had to get a "station wagon style" one to hold all five of us. We made our way to the destination, but found the entrance was guarded:

GM: "You see four guys ... let's see ... they're an Imperial Death Squad, because I don't want to have to look up the armor rules. There's also a fifth guy that has a big weapon that looks like something a lowly intern at ILM* cooked up. - there's a big beer keg on his back and he is holding something that looks like a big tube with duct tape on it."

*Industrial Light & Magic, the special effects company that made the special effects for the Star Wars movies.

Anyway, we blasted the "beer keg" and it exploded and sprayed hot plasma everywhere - and since the Imperial Death Squad didn't have armor, they were defenseless against it, so they all got killed. With the initial guards taken out, we made our way into the interior of the facility. Our tricorder detected two rooms of interest - one with the civilians we were supposed to rescue, and one with "weird energy readings." We broke the cardinal rule of adventuring (YouTube link) and split up to investigate the two rooms. The "weird energy reading" room had a killer robot controlled by a mad scientist, but the Jedi used the Force to grab the remote control and turn the robot against its master. The other room was also weakly defended, so the guards in that room were dispatched and we returned victorious.

Monday, October 11, 2010


This weekend I went to a weekend-long Belegarth camping event called Octoberfest. It was quite an entertaining experience.

I first found another member of the park who agreed to give me a ride up there, and he wanted to go on Thursday. We agreed that he would pick me up on Thursday afternoon, after my meeting with my research group. Previously, my professor asked me to send him visualizations of the output of our program so that he could put it in a presentation. I sent them to him before the meeting, but when we viewed them at the meeting he told me that the visualizations didn't look right and I would need to redo them. There wasn't enough time to do them before I had to head up, so I called the park to ask if they had wireless Internet access there. They said that they do have Internet access, but "it doesn't always work because of the woods." I was surprised that a campground would even have wireless Internet, and the statement about "it doesn't always work because of the woods" made me a little suspicious that he thought that "wireless Internet" meant a 3G signal (which wouldn't help connect the computer to the Internet) but I put my plan into action anyway. I brought my laptop up, and when I got there I found out that they did, in fact, have actual wireless Internet. So I was able to finish my work and send it off.

The next day, I put the computer back in the trunk of the car, left the 21st century behind, and got suited up for a day of medieval warfare. There were big battles with dozens of people on a side, and there were many different scenarios, including castle battles (there's a wooden castle on the field with platforms that you can shoot from), realm battles, and unit battles. There were only about 5-6 other members of House Valdemar there, so we had to use tricky tactics, like waiting until two larger groups were engaged with each other and then stabbing one of them in the back. At the end of the day there was a feast, which was soup in a "bowl" made of bread. I didn't have any soup and just got the bread bowl, and there was also a stall selling quesadillas. After the feast, I wandered around the campsite looking for something to do and I saw that in one of the buildings a game of Texas Hold-Em was starting up. I played some Texas Hold-Em, and the first game I was eliminated about in the middle, and in the second game I came in 2nd place out of 6.

Then on Saturday there was another day of fighting. There were no more castle battles this day because there were too many people to fit in the castle, which was a shame because the castle battle was my favorite part of the fighting on Friday. But there was still lots more realm and unit battles. At the end of the day there were some tournaments. I participated in the archery tournament. I won the first round but got eliminated int he second round by the player who would go on to win the tournament. Then there was another feast, and after the feast there was supposed to be the "Bardic Games", which is a contest where you do a "bardic performance." When I heard about that contest I entered it, planning to do an improv comedy routine, but never got a chance since the contest was canceled since I was the only one who signed up. Also, I did run into Steve Cecchin, the head of Nero Chicago, the Nero group that also meets at Stonehouse Park. He said there was a special Halloween event that is happening that weekend and that he could try to find me a ride up there. I haven't decided yet whether I will want to go.