Showing posts from April, 2016

Mundane Urban Oddities in RPG Cities

One of the temptations when making a city for long-term use in an RPG is making it "perfect". I don't mean getting every detail (though that is another temptation) but rather to optimize every aspect of it - awesome public transport, carefully thought out highways, etc.

Real cities are awfully imperfect. Off the top of my head, here are some issues major cities have had to deal with (with a focus on the cities I'm most familiar with, Boston and New York City).In Boston, whenever winds exceeded 45 miles per hour, giant windows would fall off the Hancock tower.The London Underground tubes are too small to accommodate air-conditioned trains.In New York City, the Second and Third Avenue Elevated lines were torn down in the the 1940s and 1950s in preparation for the 2nd Avenue Subway. Decades later, the very first part of that subway is due to open this year (2016) - a very small part.Also in New York City, while subway service along the length of Manhattan island is comm…

A Week in the 18th Century: Visiting Colonial Williamsburg and Jamestown

Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.  That it is expedient forthwith to take the most effectual measures for forming foreign Alliances.  That a plan of confederation be prepared and transmitted to the respective Colonies for their consideration and approbation.
Text of the Lee Resolution, taken by the Virginia Convention in Williamsburg. Proposed to the Continental Congress by William Henry Lee of Virginia and seconded by John Adams of Massachusetts.

The family spent school vacation visiting Colonial Williamsburg and the surrounding historic areas. This was the fourth trip trip my wife and I took. Our elder daughter, now 13, went once with us and our younger, now 10, made her first trip. 
For those unfamiliar with it, Williamsburg was the capit…

Another Bucket List Setting - Colonial America

“That there is a Devil, is a thing doubted by none but such as are under the influences of the Devil.”

- Cotton Mather, On Witchcraft

I'm trying my luck with a superhero campaign right now, something I've really wanted to do for ages. We've seen the evolution of Port Henry as a place for adventure and over the next few months we'll see how good a place it really is for adventure.

While I'm not actively planning another game (I'm just starting this one folks), currently being in the Historic Triangle of Virginia (Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown) reminded me of another genre in my bucket list - that of Colonial America. I love the history of 17th and 18th century North America. Make no mistake, it's not some glorious noble epic. Jamestown was settled in search of cash. Plimoth was settled for religious liberty - but only for the pilgrims, not for anyone else. The many peoples living in North America were decimated by plague and war and Africans were br…

Make Certain You Arrive at Docking Bay 94 at Least Two Hours Early

"We'll leave as soon as you're ready. Docking bay 94."

- Han Solo

"To ensure you make it to your gate in time, please plan to arrive at least 2 hours before your flight."


It occurs to me that the Evil Galactic Empire isn't too horrible when it comes to port security. Though when one things about it, in the United States airline security was very minimal until the 1970s, which brought metal detectors into use. Again in the 1980s security increased with the Lockerbie bombings, requiring that the only baggage that could be checked in was baggage that accompanied a passenger.

Between playing Star Wars, Call of Cthulhu game set during Prohibition, and setting up Port Henry for our superhero game (with its international airport and harbor) there's been cause for consideration about spaceport/seaport/airport security. I noticed it is most prevalent with Star Wars, largely because our heroes are doing things the Evil Galactic Empire doesn't want …

I Really Doubt I Needed to Make a Map of Port Henry's Subway System...

The most amusing thing is it's actually still under development. The version I'm working on actually has rerouted some of the lines and given some thought to peak hours service. And I'll need to come up with street names. This probably isn't something that'll actually get any use in our campaign, it's more a function that I'm (1) having fun making a fictional city; (2) have a bit of break between game sessions; (3) love maps; and (4) had a career ambition of being a subway motorman once upon a time. One of my favorite things was going on trips to all sorts of interesting places with my grandfather on the New York City subway. I thought it was so amazing how we could walk a few blocks on Avenue W, take a right onto East 16th Street, a left onto Neck Road and we'd be at the subway station which could take us anywhere in the city. On our walks to the station my grandfather would tell me all sorts of interesting things - bits of what the city used to be li…

Fiction Review: 11/22/63

"I have never been what you'd call a crying man."

- Opening line of 11/22/63

Hulu recently aired a miniseries based on Stephen King's 11/22/63 and with me geeking out in a superhero game set in the late 1950s, I've recently relistened to the audiobook version of the novel.

The novel tells the story of Jake Epping, an English teacher in Maine of 2011. He's recently divorced with no children, mid-30s.

Jake is a patron of Al's Diner, home of the insanely low-priced FatBurger. On the last day of school Al calls Jake at his school. Jake is a bit puzzled, as while they were on good terms, they weren't friends. Al asks Jake to come to the diner. Arriving, Jake is shocked to discover Al has aged several years and is in the late stages of terminal lung cancer. When last Jake saw Al, just the day before, he was a healthy man in his late 50s.

Al quickly introduces Jake to a time travel that he discovered in his diner. Rather than deal with the disbelief the sto…

Beyond the Map - Capturing the Feel of a Superhero City

As I work on mapping out Port Henry for our Icons game, I'm finding myself reminded of a challenge I often have when setting the scene. How much detail is enough? What is too little? I myself tend to be a bit on the sparser side, something which has its advantage as it allows players to fill in blanks, but presents its own challenges, especially if different players have fundamentally different views of what something looks like.

At times like that I really wish I had some talent for drawing. I'm pretty handy at maps, especially when using digital tools like Campaign Cartographer. But my ability to produce a non-schematic/map-type drawing is limited to Risus-like stick figures. I'm not sure the diagram here is quite evocative enough to use as a visual aid tool during a game.

What I'm thinking about now is how to best give a feel for the environment of the city. As an example, I'm picturing the various incarnations of Gotham City, each of which has its own personali…

Port Henry Opens for Business

We had our first game set in Port Henry last night - not a ton of details about the city played a large part as a lot of the game was taking Icons for a spin for the first time. However, our heroes did stop a vile communist villain from destroying the Port Henry Nuclear Power Plant from going kaboom and that's a good thing. Unearthly Adventure Comics #251 is in the record books.

I have been getting a better idea of the city with an eye towards adventure opportunities. You can see the marked up map above, a bit different from the previous version. Some highlights:

I pushed the map further east to add some additional islands. One is going to be home to one or more amusement parks, another will be a prison. There's probably room for a monument on one of the islands.I'm contemplating Port Henry being consolidated from multiple cities, a pattern often observed in cities. New York consolidated its five boroughs at the end of the 19th century, Chicago incorporated Hyde Park and J…

Yesterday's Future

For some reason I've got myself wondering... If I'm kicking off a superhero game set in the late 1950s, what is the future of that world like?

The ability to predict the future is challenging. A high school student in the 1980s, all the science fiction I read and watched pretty much assumed the Soviet Union would be around in the year 2016. Either that or the USA and Soviet Union would be competing to dig themselves out of the rubble of a thermonuclear war.

I'm not certain how much people really believed in the idea that we'd have flying cars, though as a kid who grew up obsessed with the space program, I'm massively disappointed about our lack of space colonies.

One area where we pretty much decimated the predictions of the past is the prevalence of computer technology. I've been using smart phones for years and I'm still amazed at the computing power in our pockets. I remember in the 1980s coordinating with friends to meet at the mall to see a movie - yo…

Film Review: Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice

"He has the power to wipe out the entire human race and if we believe there is even a one percent chance that he is our enemy, we have to take it as an absolute certainty."

- Bruce Wayne

I'm going to do my best to avoid any big spoilers in this review though I'm sure a little will slip through.

I've a tough time deciding how I felt about Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (henceforth referred to as BvS). I think the thing that keeps coming to mind is I don't think Zack Snyder really gets the appeal of Superman. In the comic books Superman is clearly a force for good. Despite his vast powers you get the feeling that most people trust him. Christopher Reeve's portrayal Superman in the 1970s and 1980s deserves a large amount of credit for that. He is a man of the people.

Henry Cavill's Superman is not a man of the people. You sense he'd like to be but he is always a god above them. I keep coming back to the way that the Christopher Reeve Superman v…