Thursday, April 11, 2013

[Q&A] Christopher Morrell (The Morrow Project)

[19:33] <+mosser> Hi. My name is Christopher Morrell, and I am the lead author for The Morrow Project 4th edition.
[19:33] <+mosser> Chris Garland owns the game, and the publishing company.
[19:34] <+mosser> Robert O'Connor was my co-author during development.
[19:35] <+mosser> The Morrow Project is a sci-fi RPG set 150 year after a world-wide disaster, when a bunch of specially trained operatives are awoken from cryogenic sleep to help rebuild the world.
[19:35] <+mosser> (done)
[19:36] <~Dan> Thanks, Christopher!
[19:36] <~Dan> Would anyone like to start us of with a question?
[19:36] <~Dan> (I'll wait a sec in case someone's typing. :) )
[19:37] <~Dan> Okay, I'll start things off!
[19:37] <~Dan> Can you go into a bit more detail regarding the world-wide disaster you mentioned?
[19:38] <+mosser> Well the game was originally written in the 1980's. The disaster that was planned for was Nuclear Armageddon.
[19:40] <+mosser> For the 4th edition we were instructed to focus on this primarily, but to allow the PD (the GM) to use their own disaster. We also had to add in an asteroid collision for good measure, that occurs a few months after the Nuclear War.
[19:40] <+Silverlion> Do you keep the psionics/Morrow's visions?
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[19:41] <+mosser> Now, after 4 generations of the survivors, the human population is back to pre-industrial revolution numbers.
[19:42] <+mosser> Yes, Psionics are still in the game. In fact I took some time to try and get them to work right within the new core system. Likewise, Bruce's visions of the future have been kept in - in fact I loved this idea so much that I ran with it a little more.
[19:43] <+mosser> (done)
[19:44] <~Dan> What additional element does the asteroid add to the post-apocalyptic status quo?
[19:44] <+Silverlion> Still have Blue Zombies? :D
[19:45] <+mosser> Very little. The asteroid was more for the current paranoia.
[19:45] <+mosser> No. No, blue zombies. We were instructed to take them out. However, the mutation rules happily allow you to create your own.
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[19:46] <+Silverlion> Aaah.
[19:46] <+Silverlion> I like the zombies.
[19:46] <+Silverlion> and the vampire-people
[19:47] <+mosser> The Vampire people are still in.
[19:47] <~Dan> Speaking of which, it's my understanding that TMP is less "gonzo" than Gamma World, for example. Any thoughts on the subject?
[19:48] <+mosser> Well Gamma World is focused on the fact that there are a lot of mutants out there, I believe.
[19:50] <+Silverlion> Morrow Project had a but of gun porn, will that be in the gme?
[19:50] <+mosser> TMP focuses on more realism. So, yes, there are mutations, but these are evolutionary errors after a few generations of a given species.
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[19:51] <+Vanathor> Hey guys
[19:51] <+mosser> Yes, the guns. Not my forte. There are still a lot of guns. Newly updated. Thanks to Robert. Without him, TMP 4th edition would have had 'small gun', and 'big gun'.
[19:52] <+Silverlion> I'd have been ok with that actually :D
[19:52] <+mosser> I joke with Chris Garland that if I had my way, his choice of guns in the book would be very limited.
[19:52] <~Dan> (Howdy, Vanathor! We're talking with Christopher Morrell, co-author of The Morrow Project. :) )
[19:53] <+Vanathor> Never heard of it.
[19:53] <+Silverlion> Still three primary factions of TMP
[19:53] <+Vanathor> No offense meant
[19:53] <~Dan> Speaking of guns, how high-tech is the setting? Does the apocalypse occur at some point in the future, or in modern times?
[19:53] <+mosser> I'm personally more focused on having a more stable role-play system.
[19:53] <~Dan> Vanathor: It's a post-apocalypse game.
[19:54] <+mosser> Yes, there are still the 3 primary factions to TMP. Mars, Science & Recon. However, we detail a few others. We have even had some new patches made for the other teams.
[19:55] <+mosser> TMP 1st to 3rd edition came out during the 80's and early 90's. We've been waiting 20 years for the 4th edition to come out.
[19:55] <+mosser> (done)
[19:56] <+Silverlion> Cool
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[19:56] <~Dan> So the high end of technology is currently-available tech?
[19:56] <~Dan> (Howdy, Wondy!)
[19:57] <+xyphoid_> oh i have a question about this game, does it have anything to do with James Morrow (that has been bugging me for years)
[19:58] <+mosser> Yes, the Project personnel have access to a mix of tech from the 1970's through to current (it depends on when they were frozen - team have been trained and frozen since the 70's.) The survivors groups tech is somewhat backwards.
[19:58] <+mosser> No. Not James Morrow. There is a 'Bruce Morrow' after whom the Project is named.
[19:59] <+Silverlion> So no lasers or hovercraft?
[20:00] <+Silverlion> Or power armor..
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[20:01] <+mosser> Yes. There are Lasers, and hovercraft. This is a sci-fi game after all. The concept is that the Project have a pretty successful R&D department. If they can successfully cryogenically freeze multiple teams unsupervised for 150 years, they can also make other cutting edge tech.
[20:01] <+mosser> Yep. There is power armor too.
[20:01] <~Dan> Really? Interesting.
[20:01] <+mosser> However, not all 'future' tech is available to all teams.
[20:01] <+Silverlion> Alright. I was a fan of the original :D
[20:02] <+Silverlion> Will it have rules for blood transfusion types? :D
[20:02] <~Dan> I take it that all of such high-tech goodies are in the hands of the Morrow Project?
[20:02] <+mosser> Yes, there are rules for Blood transfusions.
[20:02] <+Silverlion> heh..
[20:02] <+xyphoid_> have you had to chain much with the rise of the internet / tech advances since the original game?
[20:02] <+xyphoid_> er, change
[20:03] <+mosser> Yes. TMP personnel may have access to this tech. Of course a devious Pd (GM) could have a survivor group stumble over a team's supply cache of lasers.
[20:04] <+mosser> Change in what way? We make reference to some more modern inventions. Given that all current tech, especially computer tech is wiped out during the war, the post-apocalyptic world isn't too different from previous editions.
[20:06] <~Dan> Ah, so all tech that wasn't stashed away somewhere was destroyed?
[20:06] <+mosser> (done)
[20:07] <+xyphoid_> so it's a game about rebuilding civilisation - that's quite interesting really, so many games focus on wrecking stuff - how do you run a campaign like that anyway? do you expect PCs to be making the big decisions or is it generally more mission-based?
[20:07] <+mosser> No. Some of that warehoused tech will have fallen into the hands of the gangs, and 4 generations later the tech may not be so good anymore, but the gang is now in charge of their own kingdom.
[20:07] <~Dan> I see. Cool.
[20:08] <+Silverlion> I've run it Xyphoid--earlier editions, you are part of a team designed to build things again. Sure you can find the bandits/raiders, but you can also build dams.
[20:08] <+mosser> Well, the initial start-up is a lone team waking up 150 years later than they were prepared for, so they don't know what to do. Their training should kick in, and they need to explore, find other teams, and then help rebuild.
[20:09] <~Dan> They were supposed to wake up right after the apocalypse?
[20:10] <+mosser> About 5 years after the war. The hidden agenda behind this is that Bruce Morrow knew that they would be more help 150 years after, rather than 5 years. At least that's the theory I ran with.
[20:11] <~Dan> Speaking of Morrow's vision, are psionics treated as something that's just been around all along?
[20:12] <+mosser> One of the big things in this edition was the clean up of the core rules (there weren't too many - other than for combat) from the previous editions. I was hired by Chris Garland, 4 years ago now, to rework the combat system. I soon realized that that was impossible without a complete rewrite.
[20:13] <+mosser> No. Psionics are an optional thing. If you use them, then yes, there is a special 'Psi' team out there.
[20:14] <+mosser> In play-testing, I can't think of a single session where we didn't have at least one character with psionics.
[20:14] <~Dan> What is the scope of psionics in the game (assuming they're used, of course)?
[20:15] <+mosser> Initially I tried to play them down. Keep them low powered. They generally are. It costs you a lot of 'Endurance' to do as much damage as a gunshot.
[20:16] * ~Dan nods
[20:16] <+mosser> However, there is a geometric rate method as well. With that, a character could have a much more powerful psychic, provided their 'Level' was high enough.
[20:16] <~Dan> Can you compare them to psionics in some other setting we might know, in terms of power level?
[20:17] <~Dan> I'm assuming we aren't talking about superheroic levels of TK, for example.
[20:18] <+mosser> Your average character who is lucky enough to gain psionics could be level 2. With the geometric rate, things don't stat heating up until you get level 4 or higher. The best possible character you could min-max, may be able to achieve level 7.
[20:18] <+mosser> A level 1 to a level 7 is a difference in power of about 1,000.
[20:18] <+mosser> In the standard method, a level 7 is only 7 times more powerful than a level 1.
[20:19] <+mosser> I used Traveller as an inspiration for the 'standard' level of psionics.
[20:19] <~Dan> So how much could a level 7 TK lift, for example?
[20:20] <+mosser> It depends in the Degrees of Success they achieve.
[20:21] <+mosser> Checking my rulebook.
[20:22] <~Dan> No need to dig up exact figures if it's too much trouble. I was just thinking in terms of whether you could have people mentally tossing around cars or the like.
[20:23] <+mosser> Ok. A level 1 TK could move about 1 kg. A level 7, using geometric, could move -- well it goes off the 'MASS' chart we have.
[20:23] <+mosser> Using standard, a level 7 could move a human.
[20:24] <+mosser> (done)
[20:24] <~Dan> Gotcha. Cool.
[20:25] <~Dan> Speaking of rules, can you give us an overview of the game mechanics?
[20:25] <+mosser> Ah. That's my specialty.
[20:27] <+mosser> The original rules were a D20 based game (not the Wizards' D20' system - but more Advanced D&D.) Then the 3rd edition included a rules insert giving a brief overview of the Chaosium rules system, and offered these as an option for handling a character's skills.
[20:27] <+mosser> For 4th edition, I wanted to mesh these 2 together, without using the 'chaosium' system, and make everything backward compatible.
[20:28] <+mosser> I had already been working on another game that used a percentile system, and incorporated Degrees of Success. I wanted to use this within the Morrow Project.
[20:29] <+mosser> So, I modeled the core system similar to the 2nd edition of D&D's NWP's.
[20:29] <+mosser> There you had basic stats give you an initial score to roll against.
[20:30] <+mosser> Then you added your skill to that, and it adjusted your target number.
[20:30] <+mosser> Change that to a percentile system, and you have TMP 4th edition in a nutshell.
[20:31] <~Dan> Hmm... So how do degrees of success work?
[20:32] <+mosser> Each of the 7 attributes is a score between 10 and 30 (40 exceptionally). This is doubled to be a base %. The skills range from +0% to +20%. After this, you have specialties that add further to your chance of success.
[20:32] <+mosser> Ah. Degrees of Success, and Failure.
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[20:33] <+mosser> You roll under you target score. You read the 10's die. That's your DoS. If you roll doubles, you gain an exceptional success. In which case you double your 10's die.
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[20:34] <+mosser> For Degrees of Failure - when necessary - subtract your failed roll's 10 die from 10. This is the DoF.
[20:34] <+mosser> If you roll doubles when failing, then it's exceptional failure - double the DoF.
[20:34] <~Dan> Ah, so it's a variation of a "blackjack" system -- the higher the better, without going over?
[20:35] <+mosser> Yes. So, with a 56% skill, you want to roll 55. If you skill is 65, you don't want to roll 66, but rather 55.
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[20:35] <~Dan> You know, that's pretty slick!
[20:36] <+mosser> All our play-testers have loved it.
[20:36] <~Dan> Percentile systems are very "clean", generally speaking, but muddy up really quickly when you start talking degree of success.
[20:37] <~Dan> You seem to have found a nice way to address that issue.
[20:37] <+mosser> It models the more experienced people. If you skill is higher, you have a better chance of obtaining much better results. So, your novice might succeed, but will never succeed at the same level.
[20:37] <+mosser> If you 10's die is '0', then that counts as a marginal success.
[20:37] <+mosser> Thank you.
[20:38] <~Dan> Yeah... That avoids what I've called the "Accidental Mona Lisa" rules quirk -- having a lousy artist creating a masterpeice with a lucky roll.
[20:38] <+mosser> In combat, your DoS can be used to purchase additional damage, or adjust your hit location.
[20:38] <~Dan> That was my next question.
[20:39] <+mosser> Given that weapons are fixed damage (E-factor etc), I wanted to ensure that there was some variation in the amount of damage caused.
[20:39] * ~Dan nods
[20:39] <+mosser> So, a 9 damage pistol, can do 13 damage if you achieve 4 DoS.
[20:40] <~Dan> I definitely like that.
[20:40] <+mosser> Or the expert marksman, can throw 2 additional damage, and shift the random hit location roll by 2 locations - often pushing it closer to the sweet spots.
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[20:42] <+mosser> So, its amazing how many times we get abdomen, knee & heat shots in game - but that's fine, professionally trained marksmen can do that.
[20:42] <~Dan> You mentioned 7 attributes earlier. What are they?
[20:42] <+mosser> (done)
[20:43] <+mosser> In the previous editions there were 5-6 (I forget). INT was introduced with the chaosium insert. This replaced ACC (Accuracy.)
[20:43] <+mosser> Now, we have 7. STR, CON, DEX - OK so far.
[20:44] <+mosser> AWA - Awareness.
[20:44] <+mosser> EXP - Expression
[20:44] <+mosser> REA - Reason
[20:44] <+mosser> Foc - Focus
[20:44] <+mosser> We also have a MASS score, that for the average human is 10.
[20:45] <+mosser> (done)
[20:46] <~Dan> Is the system able to handle scores that exceed 100%?
[20:46] <+mosser> Yep. Certain circumstances penalize you, so the 100%+ person is padding themselves against more complex tasks.
[20:47] <+mosser> Also, if your score is above 100, '00' still fails (a marginal failure), but you gain +1 DoS for evert +10% you have above 100%.
[20:47] <~Dan> That was my next question, re: DoS.
[20:48] <~Dan> Again, I have to say: very slick. :)
[20:49] <+mosser> So, someone who threw all their spare training points during character creation into just one skill, could happily have 140%. They wouldn't last long, but would gain +4 DoS. So, when rolling 53, they gain 9 DoS.
[20:49] <+mosser> Thank you. Chris Garland has been very pleased with the final design.
[20:50] <~Dan> This may be the best percentile system I've come across, to be honest.
[20:51] <~Dan> How would you say the game plays on the gritty-to-cinematic scale, where "1" is "totally brutal" and "10" is "totally over-the-top"?
[20:51] <+mosser> Well, I've been designing home grown systems since I was 13. I am also a student of Runequest and all the Chaosium games. I discussed my DoS system with Steve Perrin some years ago during the Mongoose Runequest play-test.
[20:52] <+mosser> Gritty. Definately. I keep having to tell the players to avoid combat whenever they can - as in the real world. Do they listen? No. So, we end up after a few rounds with PC's bleeding out.
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[20:54] <~Dan> Is there any sort of "Fate Point" mechanic to mitigate the grittiness? Or do the chips just fall where they may?
[20:54] <+mosser> I would say it's  3-4. We modeled a more accurate blood-loss system in the rules. Then we had to offer a simplified (quick) blood loss rule as an option.
[20:56] <+mosser> Yes. Later on, due to many casualties, I added in a Karma point system. It's optional. The PD, can give out Karma points for doing good things, or escaping danger. Then, the player can use these points to nudge the GM in the correct direction, or to gain a re-roll. The player could even push for more points, gaining a negative score of Karma. At this point the GM can force the player to make other choices or re-roll their own succ
[20:57] <~Dan> (Cut off at "re-roll their own succ")
[20:57] <+mosser> successful roll.
[20:58] <+mosser> (done)
[20:58] <+mosser> I'll need to wrap up in a couple of minutes.
[20:59] <~Dan> No problem, Christopher.
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[20:59] <~Dan> Can you give us an idea of how "weird" the world of TMP is? One of our regular chatters described mutatiosn as pretty low-key, for example.
[21:00] <~Dan> Are there any creatures that could be described as "monsters"?
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[21:02] <+mosser> The world of TMP isn't really weird. It's trying to model what sort of communities would be out there 150 years after 'TEOTW'. There are some mutant creatures, but for the most part it's just like 'RAGE' - the game, or 'Fallout'.
[21:03] <~Dan> So most of the antagonists are human?
[21:04] <+mosser> Yep. It's a really a game based on human interaction, resolving problems, stopping the bad guys, finding more project teams.
[21:04] <~Dan> Gotcha.
[21:04] <~Dan> I know you have to run soon, but is there anything we haven't covered so far that you'd like to mention before you go? And do you have any links people might find useful?
[21:04] <+mosser> Which is why, for me, the skill system, and core attributes, had to properly reflect this emphasis on role-play.
[21:06] <+mosser> We also have the option to give your PC 5 Personality Traits, modeled on the Tupes and Christal Model. We found that using them really heightens the RP experience.
[21:08] <+mosser> So, Chris ran the Kickstarter a few months ago. Those participants have been receiving their pre-release copies of the book. The retail version I guess will be out in a few months.
[21:08] <~Dan> Excellent.
[21:09] <+mosser> Anything else? Hmm. I'm working with another writer currently to ensure that the first adventure 'Daedelus' will follow shortly after the book is available.
[21:09] <~Dan> Does the core book include an adventure as well?
[21:10] <+mosser> It has a small set-up adventure.
[21:10] * ~Dan nods
[21:10] <~Dan> Any thoughts on using this system for other future games?
[21:11] <+mosser> Funny you should ask that. Timeline (Chris Garland's company) owns the rights to another game - Time & Time Again (a time travel game.)
[21:11] <+mosser> When I gave Chris my first version of the TMP manuscript back in 2008, my next project was to re-write this - completely.
[21:12] <+mosser> I have it mostly done. It uses the 'Timeline' system.
[21:12] <+mosser> Or, will.
[21:12] <~Dan> Cool!
[21:13] <~Dan> How are you for time?
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[21:13] <+mosser> It's a dystopic future, like a Big Brother, sending people back in time for the 'party' to investigate the lost past.
[21:14] <~Dan> (Howdy, JA!)
[21:15] <+mosser> The secret behind the setting was that it took TMP canon, and set it a further 200 years in the future, where the Project's reconstruction ended up with a dictator state.
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[21:16] <~Dan> That's a nifty idea.
[21:16] <+mosser> Anyway, I need to call it a day.
[21:16] <+mosser> Thank you for the interview opportunity.
[21:16] <~Dan> Okay, Christopher! Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us. I'll have the log posted shortly and will send you the link via FB.
[21:16] <~Dan> My pleasure!
[21:17] <+mosser> Good Night.
[21:17] <+Vanathor> Huh. Perfect timing
[21:17] <~Dan> Good night!
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1 comment:

  1. Very interesting information, sorry I missed the chat.