Jun 29 2016

Play of the Game Badges!

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From the “Ideas I Wish I’d Had a Month Before AnthroCon Instead of Two Days” Department…

Play of the Game Badges Flyer

Yeah, so, Overwatch has been eating my brain. ^.^’ What can I say, it’s an awesome game! So I want an excuse to do art related to it. 😉 Badges! Who doesn’t love badges?

But yeah, the flyer pretty much says it all. $30 gets a glossy photo-quality printed badge in holder mailed anywhere in the U.S., or $25 gets a high-res file so you can print out your own. And if you’re one of my Patreon supporters you get $10 off!

To claim one, you can leave a comment here, or you can e-mail me via thegneech at gmail dot com. Gamsa!

-The Gneech

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Jun 18 2016

Time For Something New

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Okay, now the moving is pretty much dealt with (again and hopefully for the last time any time soon) and my AnthroCon prep is about as far as it can go until it comes time to actually put stuff into the car, it’s time to get back into the writing groove.

And, I think, time to come up with something new. I’ve got chunks of Brigid and Greg, I’ve got a giant blorp of Michael Macbeth, but honestly my brain wants a break from those. I want something new and different to think about.

What that is, I’m not sure yet. I periodically consider writing a fairly standard genre fantasy book, i.e. elves and wizards and things, but I would like to find a way to put a fresh spin on the idea so it’s not just “Howard McTolkienface and the Etcetera of Ditto.” I also want whatever it is to be a project I can have fun with. One of the things that I relished about Sky Pirates of Calypsitania was that Verity and Tanya were fun characters to write about, because of the chemistry between them. The fun was a bit hampered by the harrowing circumstances they lived through, of course… those poor gals are going to have some PTSD to deal with in the next book I suspect, assuming there is one.

A new thing would also come without baggage, or at least with different baggage. B&G and Michael Macbeth both suffer a bit from having a “what they should be like” thing I’m trying to stick to… a new project I could just open up and let it be its own thing. A lot of the stuff that’s been bothering me about my older ideas, can inform the direction I go with new ideas right from the start. I can also outline with a view towards writing 100,000 words, instead of coming up with yet another 60,000 word idea and then being stuck for another half a book to tack onto it. 😛

So I think for the next week or so, depending on how long the process takes, I’m going to simply play around with new ideas and brainstorm, figuring out what I want out of a book, what I would enjoy writing, and what I think would suit the market, and find something that covers that part of the venn diagram that intersects all three. As much as I like Sky Pirates, my discussions with professionals on the topic all suggest that it’s going to be a hard sell for a first novel. So I might have to tuck it into a drawer to pull out later once I’m already a name, so to speak.

-The Gneech

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Jun 07 2016

Ghostbusters 5E: The Boys In Gray (First Pass)

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So here we have some actually built PC Ghostbusters, representing Peter, Ray, Egon, and Winston as of the Sedgewick Hotel job (i.e., catching Slimer). The first thing I notice is that AC is very low across the board; I may give all the GB classes the “Add your Proficiency Bonus to AC” ability to compensate for this.

The Boys in Gray (First Pass)

Egon Spengler (Sedgewick Job) (CR ½; 100 XP)
Medium humanoid (human) Brains 3, neutral
AC 12 (padded jumpsuit); hp 13 (3d6)
Speed 30’
Str 11/+0; Dex 13/+1; Con 11/+0; Int 16/+3; Wis 15/+2; Cha 9/-1
Saving Throws Intelligence +5, Wisdom +4
Skills Electronics +5, Investigation +5, Medicine +5, Occult +5, Parapsychology +7, Science +7
Proficiencies chemistry tools, electronics tools
Senses passive Perception 12
Languages English, Latin
Discovery. Dr. Spengler invented the ghost containment technology that makes proton packs and ghost traps possible.
Expertise. Dr. Spengler adds double his proficiency bonus to Intelligence (Parapsychology) and Intelligence (Science) checks.
Inventor. Dr. Spengler has three prodigy-level gadget slots.
Know-It-All. Dr. Spengler adds ½ his proficiency bonus to any Intelligence check he makes that doesn’t already include his proficiency bonus (+1 at 3rd level).
Proton Pack. Ranged Weapon Attack: +3 to hit, range 100/300, one target. Hit: 14 (3d8+1) radiant damage, capture.
Plan. Dr. Spengler can take an action to formulate a plan. He chooses up to six creatures (including himself) who can hear and understand him to include in the plan. In the next minute, each creature who is part of the plan may choose to roll a Ghost Die with their choice of any one attack roll or ability check per turn. He must complete a short or long rest before he can use this ability again.

Peter Venkman (Sedgewick Job) (CR ½; 100 XP)
Medium humanoid (human) Wits 3, chaotic good
AC 11 (padded jumpsuit); hp 20 (3d8+3)
Speed 30’
Str 10/+0; Dex 11/+0; Con 12/+1; Int 14/+2; Wis 8/-1; Cha 16/+3
Saving Throws Dexterity +2, Charisma +5
Skills Athletics +2, Deception +7, Occult +4, Parapsychology +4, Persuasion +7, Stealth +2
Tool Proficiencies electronic toolset, cars
Senses passive Perception 9
Languages English, New York pidgin
Fast Talk. Dr. Venkman can suggest a wildly improbable or even outrageous course of action (limited to a sentence or two) to someone within 30’ who can hear and understand him, they must succeed a DC 13 Wisdom saving throw or they will pursue it to the best of their ability for up to 8 hours (or until they complete the action). Creatures that can’t be charmed are immune to this effect. Asking a creature to actively harm themselves or do something completely contrary to their basic nature immediately ends the effect. Once Dr. Venkman has used this ability, he must complete a short or long rest before he can use it again.
Jack of All Trades. Dr. Venkman can add half of his proficiency bonus to any ability check that does not already include his proficiency bonus.
Nobody’s Fool (Feat). Dr. Venkman has advantage on ability checks or saving throws to see through deception or resist intimidation or persuasion that is not supernatural.
No Job Is Too Big, No Fee Is Too Big. When negotiating to mitigate damage or increase his team’s fee for a bust, he has advantage on his Charisma (Persuasion) check.
Slick Operator. When Dr. Venkman makes ability checks to use Deception and Persuasion, his proficiency bonus is doubled.
Streetwise. Dr. Venkman has advantage on all Intelligence (Investigation) checks to find illicit goods, criminal activity, or people hiding out in urban environments, as well as Charisma (Persuasion) checks made to convince criminals or other shady types that he is safe to interact with.
Proton Pack. Ranged Weapon Attack: +2 to hit, range 100/300. Hit: 13 (3d8) radiant damage, capture.
Bonus Actions
Make a Remark (3 uses). As a bonus action on his turn, Dr. Venkman may choose a creature within 60’ who can hear and understand him. If making a cheering remark, that creature may add a Ghost Die to one attack roll, saving throw, or ability check they make in the next minute, or roll a Ghost Die and regain that many hit points. If they Roll a Ghost when restoring hit points, they regain a number of hit points equal to their Constitution score (or 6, whichever is higher). If making a cutting remark, Dr. Venkman rolls a Ghost Die and that creature must subtract that from their next d20 roll, or he may roll a Ghost Die and subtract that number from the creature’s hit points. If he Rolls a Ghost, the creature must subtract 14. Once he has used this ability three times, Dr. Venkman must have a short or long rest to use it again.

Ray Stantz (Sedgewick Job) (CR ½; 100 XP)
Medium humanoid (human) Guts 3, lawful good
AC 13 (padded jumpsuit); hp 31 (3d12+6)
Speed 30’
Str 12/+1; Dex 10/+0; Con 15/+2; Int 14/+2; Wis 8/-1; Cha 10/+0
Saving Throws Constitution +4, Charisma +2
Skills Driving +2, Investigation +4, Occult +4, Parapsychology +4, Religion +4, Science +4
Proficiencies computers, electronics tools, mechanical tools
Senses passive Perception 9
Languages English, Latin
Durable. Dr. Stantz adds his Constitution bonus to his AC, as well as his Dexterity bonus.
Fools Rush In. When Dr. Stantz is surprised on the first round of combat, he may still choose to act on his initiative. If he does, all attacks made against him have advantage, and he has disadvantage on all saving throws until the beginning of his next turn.
Lucky. Whenever Dr. Stantz rolls a 1 on a d20 roll, he may immediately re-roll it and take the better result.
Research Savant. Dr. Stantz has advantage on Intelligence (Investigation) checks made to look up information. When he attempts to recall a piece of lore, if he doesn’t know the information, he at least has a pretty good idea where and from whom he can obtain it, if it’s available.
Proton Pack. Ranged Weapon Attack: +2 to hit, range 100/300. Hit: 13 (3d8) radiant damage, capture.
Bonus Actions
Adrenaline Rush. Dr. Stantz enters an adrenaline rush, gaining the following benefits: he has advantage on all Strength checks and Strength saving throws, he adds a Ghost Die of damage to all successful attacks in combat, and he has resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage. The rush lasts for one minute, but ends early if he is knocked unconscious or his turn ends and he hasn’t attacked a hostile creature, taken damage, or expended a hit die since his last turn. He may enter an adrenaline rush twice. After that he must finish a long rest before he can go into a rush again.
Got Your Back. By expending one or more of his own hit dice, Dr. Stantz may choose to aid a friendly creature he can touch, giving the creature a free saving throw plus a Ghost Die to end any one condition it is suffering, or the creature can immediately regain hit points equal to 1d12 + their Constitution modifier for every hit die expended, plus a Ghost Die.

Winston Zeddemore (When Hired) (CR 2; 450 XP)
Medium humanoid (human) Brawn 3, lawful good
AC 14 (padded jumpsuit); hp 24 (3d10+3)
Speed 30’
Str 15/+2; Dex 16/+3; Con 13/+1; Int 11/+0; Wis 11/+0; Cha 9/-1
Saving Throws Strength +4, Constitution +3
Skills Athletics +4, Driving +5, Insight +2, Perception +2
Proficiencies cars, demolitions, heavy machinery, mechanical tools, simple weapons
Senses passive Perception 12
Languages English
Action Surge. Winston can take one additional action on top of his regular action and a possible bonus action. He must finish a short or long rest before he can use this ability again.
Nice Shootin’, Tex! Winston adds +2 to all ranged attack and damage rolls (reflected in his statistics), including rolls made to capture ghosts (or adds +2 to the DC a ghost must beat to avoid capture, as applicable). Also, when he makes a ranged attack, he may add a Ghost Die to the attack roll or damage roll. He must take a short or long rest before he can do this again.
Sane. When Winston is subject to confusion effects, he rolls twice and takes the preferred result. In situations where having a “voice of reason” would be beneficial, Winston or an ally within 30’ that can hear him has advantage on Charisma (Persuasion) checks.
Strong Back. Winston’s carrying capacity is doubled and he may always add a Ghost Die to Strength checks made to push, pull, lift, or break objects.
Proton Pack.
Ranged Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, range 100/300. Hit: 18 (3d8+5) radiant damage, capture.
Bonus Actions
Second Wind.
Winston can use a bonus action to regain hit points equal to 1d10+3. He must finish a short or long rest before he can use this ability again.

Slimer (CR 2; 450 XP)
Medium undead (trappable), chaotic neutral
AC 12; hp 22 (5d8)
Speed 0’, fly 50’ (hover)
Str 1/-5; Dex 14/+2; Con 11/+0; Int 10/+0; Wis 10/+0; Cha 11/+0
Damage Resistances acid, cold, fire, lightning, thunder; bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical weapons
Damage Immunities necrotic, poison
Condition Immunities charmed, exhaustion, grappled, paralyzed, petrified, poisoned, prone, restrained, unconscious
Senses darkvision 60’, passive Perception 10
Languages understands English but can’t speak
Ethereal Sight. Slimer can see 60’ into the ethereal plane when he is on the material plane, and vice versa.
Incorporeal Movement. Slimer can move through other creatures and objects as if they were difficult terrain. He takes 5 (1d10) force damage if he ends his turn inside an object.
Sunlight Sensitivity. While in sunlight, Slimer has disadvantage on attack rolls, as well as on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight.
Charge (Recharge 5-6). Slimer flies up to 30’ and attacks with either his Forceful Slam or his Slime, ending his movement adjacent to the target. If the attack hits, it does an extra 5 (1d10) points of damage.
Etherealness. Slimer enters the Ethereal Plane from the Material plane, or vice versa.
Forceful Slam. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5’, one creature. Hit: 10 (3d6) force damage.
Slime. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5’, one creature. Hit: 5 (1d10) damage and the target is slimed. The target must immediately attempt a DC 10 Dexterity saving throw or fall prone.
Telekinetic Fling. Slimer either telekinetically grabs a nearby unattended object up to 150 lbs, or manifests an ectoplasmic pseudo-object appropriate to his nature (generally spoiled food in Slimer’s case) and flings them at a creature within 30’. This acts as a ranged weapon (+4 to hit) dealing 5 (2d4) bludgeoning damage. Two or more phantasms working in tandem can move objects up to 450 lbs, doing 16 (3d10) bludgeoning damage.
Telekinetic Thrust. Slimer targets a Medium or smaller creature within 30’ of him and makes a Charisma check contested by the target’s Strength check. If Slimer wins the contest, he flings the target up to 30’ in any direction, including upward. If the target then comes into contact with a hard surface or heavy object, the target takes 1d6 bludgeoning damage per 10’ moved.

Whattya think? The first draft of the document is done and I’m beginning revisions now, so now’s the time for feedback!

-The Gneech

Other Ghostbusters posts.

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Jun 06 2016

Ghostbusters 5E: Feats (First Pass)

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Artwork by Luis Delgado
(Artwork by Luis Delgado)

The feats for GB are fairly straightforward. I just added a few to plug holes in abilities Ghostbusters aren’t likely to get (like the massive strength of Gauntlets of Ogre Power).

Feats (First Draft)

The following feats from the Players Handbook are available to Ghostbusters: Alert, Athlete, Actor, Charger, Dungeon Delver, Durable, Grappler, Healer, Inspiring Leader, Keen Mind, Lightly Armored, Linguist, Lucky, Magic Initiate, Martial Adept, Mobile, Observant, Resilient, Ritual Caster, Savage Attacker, Sentinel, Sharpshooter, Skilled, Skulker, Tavern Brawler, Tough, Weapon Master.

In addition, Ghostbusters may choose from the following new feats:

Best of the Best
Choose one ability score at its natural maximum. That ability goes up by 1 point, and its natural maximum goes up by 1 point as well. This is the only way for normal humans to have ability scores beyond 20. No ability score may be raised beyond 25 this way.

When you drop a target in combat, you may immediately make an additional attack of the same type against another eligible target as a reaction. If that target also drops, you may immediately make another attack against a different target as part of the same reaction, and so on, up to the number of eligible targets who keep dropping, or your proficiency bonus, whichever is lower.

Fancy Footwork
You are very adept at avoiding incoming attacks. Add your proficiency bonus to your AC.

You can invent gadgets, as if you had the Inventor class feature of the Brains class. However, you are just a dabbler, and are therefore limited to a number of Prodigy-level gadgets equal to your Intelligence bonus (minimum 1).

Ghost Wrangler
When you successfully hit a trappable creature with a proton pack or other weapon with the capture quality, you may initiate a capture attempt as a bonus action even if that creature is at full strength and free of conditions. You have advantage on all ability checks or attack rolls made to capture a trappable creature, or creatures attempting to escape your capture effect have disadvantage (whichever is applicable). In any contested capture attempts, you have advantage (but the creature does not have disadvantage).

Prerequisite: Specialty class feature, 4th level.
If you are a member of a class that has specialties (such as Anatomist, Inventor, and Professor for the Brains class), you immediately gain the 3rd level ability of a specialty other than the one you have chosen. Thereafter, when you gain a new specialty ability, you may choose the next ability available from either specialty. This feat may be taken multiple times: each time it adds the 3rd level ability of a new specialty, but it only applies to specialties of a single class.

Nobody’s Fool
You have advantage on ability checks or saving throws to see through deception or resist intimidation or persuasion. This does not confer any benefit against supernatural influences.

Prolific Gadgeteer
Prerequisite: Inventor class feature or Gadgeteer feat, 3rd level.
You gain a number of gadget slots equal to your proficiency bonus.

Whattya think? Next time, the original Boys In Grey.

-The Gneech

Other Ghostbusters posts.

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Jun 01 2016

Someone to Overwatch Over Me

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DVaGneech and TracerBlitz by the-gneech on DeviantArt

Taking a little break from Ghostbusters [1] to get into Overwatch. This is a fun action-oriented online game from Blizzard (makers of World of Warcraft [2]) which is being described as a “hero shooter.”

What’s a “hero shooter”? I have to admit I barely understand the term myself. The shooter part is easy– the controls and interface are standard FPS. The “hero” part apparently refers to the fact that instead of controlling a single player avatar or character, you choose from a variety of characters depending on the needs of the team and the situation. So if your team needs a damage dealer to lead an assault, you might choose the jetpack-boosting soldier, but if they need to defend a point you might choose the sniping archer.

Overwatch has 21 characters currently, broadly grouped into “offense,” “defense,” and “support,” with subcategories of “tank,” “builder,” and “sniper.” Gameplay is fast and woolly: you are grouped up with five other players (either friends you’ve pre-grouped with or randomly-selected players of a similar level/rank) and tossed into an arena against a team of six other randomly-selected players (or AI foes of choosable difficulty). There are basically two missions currently: conquer waypoints, or escort/deny a moving payload.

I’m told it’s somewhat like Team Fortress 2, but as I’ve never played that, I can’t address it.

Now normally this isn’t the sort of thing I would expect to get into, being pretty much all action and no plot. The “payload” being delivered or blocked isn’t even identified beyond being a thing on a truck (it looks vaguely like a giant electromagnet). And I couldn’t tell you what made me interested in checking it out, other than a vague hole in my nerdery where LotRO and Borderlands used to be. But once I decided I wanted to play it, I found myself going on a long and painful journey into the underworld, by which I mean Windows gaming.

The Exciting Adventure of Gneech vs. His Computer

My gaming PC was quite beefy once upon a time. Specifically, around 2008 or so when I bought it to be an awesome platform for playing Lord of the Rings Online. It served me well in that capacity for a long time, and it never had the slightest problem with Borderlands 2, so I fully expected it to be capable of running Overwatch.

Ha, ha, silly me. How was I to know that Microsoft and/or NVidia had imposed mandatory retirement on my video card? (In fairness, the card design is 10+ years old, which is a very long time in the world of computers. But the thing still works! Assuming the fan motor stayed good it’d probably keep on working for 10 more years if the software would support it.) After much wailing and gnashing of teeth about not being able to afford a contemporary gaming rig, I finally took a gamble and bought a new card, basically a 2014-ish version of the same card. Any better/more powerful? Not really, as far as I can see, but it has DirectX 12 drivers, which the old one doesn’t, and that’s what was required for Overwatch to work.

However, the new card and the old system don’t really get along very well. Windows keeps polling the card like the guy in Smooth Criminal: “Video are you okay, are you okay, are you okay video? Video are you okay, are you okay, are you okay video?” But the video card, trying valiantly to render things the game is throwing at it, doesn’t answer quickly enough, so Windows decides, “Oh, the video card must have crashed, let’s reset it.” Which kills the driver, and by extension, kills the game. Usually about 10-30 seconds before the end of the match I’m currently in. -.-

Now this PC (currently on Win 7) is eligible for an upgrade to Windows 10, so I thought that might fix it. I tried to upgrade to 10 before, only to have it keep crashing on the old card, which was not supported by Windows 10 because reasons. I figured, “New card! Specifically states compatible with Windows 10 on the box! Maybe this will fix everything!”

Ha, ha, silly me. So I upgraded to Windows 10… which absolutely refused to acknowledge that there was any graphics card at all other than “Generic Display Adapter.” And you know what Generic Display Adapters don’t do very well? Render 3D objects. So, while I did eventually get Overwatch up and running under Windows 10, it was completely unplayable.

So… finally… I rolled back to Windows 7, and I’m living with a 40% chance that any given match will cause my computer to crash. 😛 The (relatively) good news is that if it’s going to crash, it usually does it early on. If I can get past five minutes in the game, it’ll probably be stable until the end of the session.

I have had a fan very generously offer to build me a new machine and bring it to BronyCon in July, for which I’m super-grateful! Let’s face it, if the worst thing about the whole situation is that I have to wait a little over a month to reliably play the most current video game, I have it pretty damn good.

The Exciting Adventure of Tracer’s Butt

Although the gameplay is fun and engaging in a pure-action kind of way, it’s really the art and character design that appeals to me about Overwatch, as evidenced by the pic at the top of my buddy Inkblitzer and me rendered as D.Va and Tracer, respectively.

And honestly, even then it’s only a few of the characters who stand out. Certainly none of the male ones: with the exception of Winston (who is still basically Beast from the X-Men) they’re all the same tired old tropes of “Weary Soldier,” “Sheriff Shooty McCowboy,” “Wangsty Grim Samurai,” “Cackling NOT-the-Joker With a Bomb” and so on. But Tracer, the game’s mascot, is a Peter Pan-style gadfly who teleports around poking her enemies with sticks (well, bullets, but still). D.Va, my particular fave, is a Korean gamer girl with a bunny on her chest and a giant pink mech who flings herself into crowds of enemies like an enormous bowling ball, knocking them all for a loop. Finally there’s Zarya, who is basically a Rule 63 version of The Heavy from Team Fortress, who deadlifts her giant plasma gun in character introduction screens and regularly invites everyone to the gun show.

The prominence of female characters in the game (and quite probably the fact that they’re way more interesting than the male characters) has of course led to all sorts of internetty nonsense about it all, most famously about a victory pose for Tracer that people decried as being too much about showing off her butt when the character generally isn’t sexualized otherwise. Given that Widowmaker (super-cliche femme fatale sniper in a skintight bodysuit) is all about her catwalk strut, and that Mercy (the healer who literally has wings and a halo) is all “tender goddess,” the complaint was basically “Can we have one female character who is not primarily rendered in terms of the male gaze for a change?”

Blizzard, to their credit, said, “it’s a fair cop” and changed the victory pose, but by then the dweeby fanboys had latched onto the whole business of butts, which can make looking for Overwatch fan art an exercise in eye-rolling as you encounter one “Durr hurr hurr!” Tracer’s Butt piece after another. :-` It’s a minor nuisance, but still causes side-eyes around a character who is otherwise fun and engaging.

Still! It’s a minor issue at best and doesn’t really impact gameplay. So far everyone I’ve encountered actually in the game has been either typically uncommunicative (it’s hard to type in the team channel and shoot at the same time) or has been very nice, with few or no dickweeds encountered so far. While the basics of the game are simple, actually going up against live players is incredibly challenging– I finally had my first victory last night, and it was very satisfying to finally feel like I was getting somewhere after my first attempts were so sad. The game rewards study and perseverance, and that’s a nice feeling I’ve been lacking for some time.

Will I still be playing in six months? I have no idea. Will anyone? It depends on where the game goes, if indeed it goes anywhere. People have been playing Team Fortress 2 for something like a decade now with no signs of stopping. With no single-player story to “beat,” the only way to play the game is in matches with other players, which can be a blessing and a curse. There is no real finish to the game, which means you don’t get people going through the single-player, being “done,” and wandering off. On the other hand, if it gets to the point where players become scarce and every match is made up of one or two humans and a bunch of AI foes, it could become a ghost town real quick.

It’ll be interesting to see how it pans out! And it’s nice to be in on something new for a change. 😉

-The Gneech

[1] Sort of. The first draft is actually finished and I’ll keep posting about it in a day or two.

[2] Can you believe there’s a movie coming out for that? XD It actually looks pretty entertaining in its own schlocky way.

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