Monday, October 29, 2012

[Q&A] Rob Wieland (Shadowrun, Star Wars Saga, 7th Sea, the Bridge)

[19:06] <+RobWieland> My name is Rob Wieland. I'm an author, freelance game designer and professional nerd.
[19:06] <+RobWieland> I've worked on several games and gamelines over the past 15 years.
[19:07] <+RobWieland> Some of the big names include Shadowrun, Star Wars Saga Edition and 7th Sea, aka Swashbuckling Adventures.
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[19:08] <+RobWieland> I've also worked for smaller games like Edge of Midnight, Cosmic Patrol and Our Last Best Hope.
[19:08] <+RobWieland> I run a few game blogs and wikis as well.
[19:09] <+RobWieland> I'm excited to be here and look forward to getting my brain picked. (done)
[19:09] <~Dan> Thanks, Rob!
[19:09] <~Dan> Anyone have any questions to get us started?
[19:10] <~Dan> (I have some of my own, but I'll hold for just a sec.)
[19:10] <+Gemini> What creative edge of the setting are you most interested in hearing people tell you stories about at cons? :p
[19:11] <+RobWieland> As in let me tell you about my character? (done)
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[19:12] <+Gemini> Sure!
[19:13] <+RobWieland> Can you give me an example of a creative edge? (done)
[19:15] <+Gemini> Mainly, like, setting aspect, I suppose. Like, "What did you guys do with xyz?"
[19:15] <+RobWieland> Ah, okay.
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[19:16] <+RobWieland> Shadowrun seems to be about war stories with players at cons.
[19:16] <~Dan> (Welcome to #rpgnet, Tobias!)
[19:16] <+RobWieland> A lot of people, especially with the announcements of SR Online and SR Returns, like to tell be back in the day stories.
[19:17] <+RobWieland> Which are fun to hear. Shadowrun is such a wide open setting, so it rangers from slick silent professionals to Trolls jumping out windows shooting a panther cannon under each arm.
[19:18] <~Dan> (I <3 Panther cannons!)
[19:18] <+RobWieland> That depth is why I love the game and why it's been around for so long. (done)
[19:18] <+Gemini> Cool :) I'm glad you like hearing about'em.
[19:18] <~Dan> Which edition(s) did you work on?
[19:18] <+RobWieland> Playing since 1st, worked on 4th.
[19:19] <+RobWieland> (done)
[19:19] <~Dan> And that's the one that introduced the stat+skill mechanic, correct?
[19:19] <+RobWieland> Yes (done)
[19:20] <~Dan> (You don't have to add a (done) for short replies unless you just want to, Rob. :) )
[19:20] <+RobWieland> Ok.
[19:20] <~Dan> What parts of Shadowrun 4e were yours?
[19:21] <+RobWieland> I came on last year and worked on Artifacts Unbound and been on most of the books since.
[19:22] <+RobWieland> My favorite assignments so far: Writing the whacked out conspiracy theories chapter in the book of the same name
[19:22] <~Dan> Wow. What counts as "whacked out" in a setting like Shadowrun? :)
[19:23] <+RobWieland> writing two chapters for the recent 2050 book that are tributes to my favorite books in the line (Neo-A guide and Shadowbeat)
[19:23] <+RobWieland> Space vampires control the corporate courts from Zurich Orbital.
[19:23] <~Dan> Nice. :)
[19:24] <+RobWieland> Dunkelzahn is alive and raising a dragon army.
[19:24] <+RobWieland> I laughed because people on dumpshock were not buying the book because they thought we were bringing him back based on the table of contents.
[19:25] <+RobWieland> (done)
[19:25] <~Dan> How well do you think Shadowrun has held up, insofar as it's a cyberpunk setting at a time when cyberpunk seems to have become a kind of "retro-future"?
[19:25] <+Gemini> All of that sounds awesome.
[19:26] <+RobWieland> There are a few more, plus I got to expand one out to a full-blown advenure coming soon.
[19:26] <+RobWieland> I think it's held up pretty well.
[19:27] <+RobWieland> Considering I'm getting paid to write in that setting.
[19:27] <~Dan> Heh. Fair point.
[19:27] <+RobWieland> One of the interesting tensions is people can handle dragons, elves and what not, but if you do tech "wrong" you hear about it.
[19:27] * ~Dan nods
[19:28] <+RobWieland> The Matrix is one of the neatest parts of the setting but it's always been a contentious element. (done)
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[19:29] <~Dan> Do you think anything has been "lost in the translation" as the setting's been updated? Like the wireless Matrix?
[19:29] <~Dan> To rephrase, do you think the game's lost some of its original flavor?
[19:30] <+RobWieland> I think the game isn;t what it used to be. I wish we could be more explicit in talking about the different parts of the setting.
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[19:31] <+RobWieland> Some folks love the gritty Seattle setting where you're a bullet away fro death and Lone Star is on your neck.
[19:31] <+RobWieland> Some folks really like the slick pros who travel the world and shake the world.
[19:32] <+RobWieland> Some folks reallt like the over the top plundering dragon hoards stuff.
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[19:33] <+RobWieland> SR has grown into the latter two but books need to cater to all three, which is challenging.
[19:33] * ~Dan nods
[19:34] <+RobWieland> I like the first two, but each of the writers has their preference
[19:34] <+RobWieland> (done)
[19:34] <~Dan> What did you do regarding Star Wars Saga?
[19:35] <+RobWieland> I worked on Unknown Regions, Scavenger's Guide to Droids and Jedi Academy Training Manual.
[19:36] <+RobWieland> I designed the Droid Protocol rules, did a lot of the character writeups in Jedi and created a lot of the campaigns in regions
[19:36] <+RobWieland> (done)
[19:37] <~Dan> For those of us not in the know (including myself), how did Star Wars Saga differ from Star Wars d20?
[19:37] <+RobWieland> Saga was influenced by mid to late OGL.
[19:38] <+RobWieland> Instead of picking a specific class in a progression to a prestige class, players dipped into classes to have thei character fit.
[19:38] <+RobWieland> Most characters had 3-4 classes by the time they hit 20.
[19:39] <+RobWieland> It also was influenced by and influenced 4e design by shrinking the skill list, refreshing encounter powers and a few other areas. (done)
[19:39] <~Dan> And they weakened Jedis a bit, IIRC?
[19:39] <+RobWieland> force powers were the first encounter powers.
[19:40] <+RobWieland> (done)
[19:40] <~Dan> What was in Unknown Regions? (Aside from, well, regions that are not known.)
[19:40] <+RobWieland> Though a few folks claim jedi were broken because you could optimize a build for every good skill to go through the force skill.
[19:42] <+RobWieland> Unknown Regions was the book on the edge of the galaxy - it was the scout book as well as more obscure eu stuff. It also had sections on campaigns that were still star wars but not the usual Jedi vs Sith or Rebels vs. Imperials setup.
[19:42] <+RobWieland> (done)
[19:42] <+Gemini> Sounds cool
[19:42] <~Dan> What are your most recent projects?
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[19:43] <+RobWieland> Shadowrun 2050 came out at Gen Con.
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[19:43] <+RobWieland> Its the book for using SR4 rules to play in SR1 setting.
[19:44] <~Dan> Ah, yes -- I read about that.
[19:44] <+RobWieland> Into the Cosmos is the first book for Cosmic Patrol. I wrote up a ton of sci-fi B-movie style adventures for that.
[19:44] <+Silverlion> It was a nice thing to do for the fans who couldn't move into a new era.
[19:44] <+Silverlion> I've got that core book. What kind of adventures?
[19:44] <+RobWieland> I'm also attached to Robin Laws Hillfolk for a setting called Mafia Century.
[19:44] <+Gemini> What's the diff b/t SR1 and SR4?
[19:44] <+RobWieland> 20 years in and out of setting.
[19:45] <+Gemini> oh ok
[19:45] <+RobWieland> Into the Cosmos expands the setting. The advenures are riffs on some classic stuff, like an Andromedia Strain style shrik the rocketship adventure, a murder mystery in the middle of the nobel peace price award, and the classic mirror mirror universe.
[19:46] <~Dan> What is Cosmic Patrol?
[19:46] <+RobWieland> SR 2050 is set before Dunkelzahn's presidency, Bug City, and wireless matrix.
[19:46] <+Silverlion> A GMless Pulp Space Opera game
[19:46] <+RobWieland> (done)
[19:47] <+Silverlion> Any new stuff coming from you via Cosmic Patrol?
[19:47] <+RobWieland> Not officially but I'd love to work on the next book.
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[19:48] <+RobWieland> Part of the fun writing for Cosmic Patrol is putting yourself in the mindset of a B-movie studio writer.
[19:48] <~Dan> What are Edge of Midnight and Our Last Best Hope?
[19:48] <+RobWieland> "Okay, we've got some indian costumes, motorcycles and a saloon set. How do we use these in this weeks serial?"
[19:48] <+RobWieland> (done)
[19:49] <+RobWieland> Edge of Midnight is a film noir game that's very much Dark City in tone involving magic that's basically breaking the laws of physics.
[19:50] <+RobWieland> The setting itself has a mystery, but there's a lot of fun to be had checking out an alt-history USA setting too.
[19:50] <+RobWieland> Our Last Best Hope is a small indie game that simulated big-budget disaster pictures like Armageddon, The Core, Sunshine and so forth.
[19:51] <+RobWieland> I wrote the Giant Monster Setting for the companion book.
[19:51] <+RobWieland> (done)
[19:51] <~Dan> What are their respective systems like?
[19:51] <+Silverlion> What system will Edge of Midnight use?
[19:52] <+RobWieland> Edge of Midnight is already out. You roll 2d10 one for stat one for skill.
[19:52] <+RobWieland> Partial success usually means a more noir story beat.
[19:53] <~Dan> Huh. That's interesting.
[19:53] <+RobWieland> Our last best hope is also out. It's more like fiasco in style. roll d6s when you hit a threat.
[19:53] <+RobWieland> (done)
[19:53] <+RobWieland> I worked on the Warlock and Detectives book as well as some playtesting.
[19:54] <+RobWieland> (done)
[19:54] <~Dan> Is Edge open-magic or hidden magic?
[19:54] <+RobWieland> Technically illegal, but about as effective as prohibition.
[19:55] <+RobWieland> You can start out pretty powerful, but the more magic you use, the more addictive it gets.
[19:55] <+RobWieland> So you can chuck cars at people in the middle of the street, but expect to have to pay off the crystal ball squad later.
[19:55] <~Dan> Are there monsters and such?
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[19:56] <+JA_Touchpad> hola neighborhood.
[19:56] <+RobWieland> There are the gaunts, who are mutants caused by all this slinging about.
[19:56] <~Dan> Hmm. This is sounding familiar.
[19:56] <+RobWieland> It came out about 5 years ago.
[19:56] <+RobWieland> (done)
[19:57] <~Dan> Yeah, I think I read about it.
[19:57] <~Dan> Are the gaunts the only monsters?
[19:57] <+RobWieland> Yes.
[19:57] <+RobWieland> And they're playable!
[19:57] <+Silverlion> I don't recall it. Ah well
[19:58] <~Dan> What sorts of things can they do?
[19:58] <+RobWieland> They are big, strong tough. Some minor gross mutations. They also cause things to fall about if they hang out near them too long.
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[19:58] <+RobWieland> (done)
[19:59] * ~Dan nods
[19:59] <~Dan> Cool.
[19:59] <~Dan> Is there any game in particular for which you'd love to write?
[20:00] <+RobWieland> I'm very excitied to contribute to Hillfolk. I'm also excited by the classic World of Darkness resurgence because those were the games I grew up playing.
[20:00] <+RobWieland> (done)
[20:01] <~Dan> Seems like you've written for a pretty broad range of systems, from highly traditional to indie. Do you have any preferences in that regard?
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[20:09] <+RobWieland> I love all kinds of systems. I find myself reading a lot of indie games but still running a lot of traditional ones.
[20:09] <+RobWieland> I'm working on my first indie game now and it's fun. But I'm not giving it up for lent or anything.
[20:09] <+RobWieland> (done)
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[20:09] <~Dan> Do you have a "go-to" system?
[20:10] <+Silverlion> The brain eaters have him! Noo (joke :D)
[20:10] <+RobWieland> Not really. I really like learning new systems, especially ones that simulate a story or world well.
[20:11] <+RobWieland> Having said that, Savage Worlds is usually the system I use to mock up a setting if I don't want to noodle something out on my own.
[20:11] <+RobWieland> (done)
[20:12] <+RobWieland> I think indie games are great to cut through to "the good stuff". But there's also something ver satifying about wrapping up a long campaign and watching characters grow naturally.
[20:12] * ~Dan nods
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[20:12] <~Dan> Howdy, Wondy!
[20:13] <+RobWieland> (done)
[20:13] <~Dan> What did you work on in 7th Sea?
[20:16] <+RobWieland> I worked on all but one of the dual statted Swashbuckling Adventure books.
[20:16] <+RobWieland> (done)
[20:16] <~Dan> What were they dual statted as?
[20:17] <+RobWieland> the original roll and keep system and d20
[20:17] <~Dan> And these were literally adventures (as opposed to sourcebooks)?
[20:17] <+RobWieland> no they were setting books.
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[20:18] <~Dan> Ah, I see. Covering what subjects?
[20:18] <+RobWieland> they came out juuust as pirates of the Caribbean  was getting big. Everything from the not China of the setting to the Sidhe to the pirate island
[20:18] <+RobWieland> s
[20:19] <+RobWieland> (done)
[20:19] <~Dan> What are the Sidhe like in the setting?
[20:20] <+RobWieland> scary old school sidhe. The ones who will make you fall sleep for a thousand years
[20:21] <~Dan> Cool.
[20:21] <+RobWieland> Tey are also one of the reasons Avalon is resurgent in the setting.
[20:21] <~Dan> Avalon being the England analog?
[20:21] <+RobWieland> yes
[20:22] <~Dan> How well do you think 7th Sea handles pirates without a New World in play?
[20:23] <+RobWieland> I think it's fine. There some advances toward it and had the line continued we would have gotten there.
[20:24] <~Dan> Toward a New World?
[20:24] <+RobWieland> It's a weird catch 22 because the world was set up so people wouldn;t get wrapped up in historical issues, and yet it does.
[20:25] <+RobWieland> yes, we were discussing it for a while. Cabora was a step towards.
[20:25] <+RobWieland> IT's like how people get upset when Rokugan and Japan don;t like up perfectly.
[20:26] <+RobWieland> (done)
[20:27] <~Dan> Have you had a chance to work on a game from scratch?
[20:29] <+RobWieland> My current project is an adaptation of Apocalypse World for space adventures.
[20:29] <+RobWieland> I'm working on it with Mark Diaz Truman, who is the creator of Our Last Best Hope.
[20:30] <~Dan> What's it called?
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[20:31] <+RobWieland> We're on three titles right now: Star World, The Bridge and Infinite Worlds.
[20:31] <+RobWieland> lol
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[20:31] <~Dan> Is it setting-specific, or more of a toolkit?
[20:32] <~Dan> (Howdy, brehaut!)
[20:33] <+RobWieland> It's a toolkit. We want people to be able to do space adventures ranging from Star Trek to BSG to Mass Effect
[20:33] <+RobWieland> Depending on how they build their characters and set up their setting.
[20:33] <~Dan> Can you give us a quick rundown of the Apocalypse World system and how you adapt it in your game?
[20:35] <+RobWieland> The system is: roll 2d6 plus a stat. on a 10+ you do what you want, on a 7-9, you get what you want but usually have something you need to accept as a consequence. 6 or less the GM gets what they want and it's usually not good.
[20:36] <~Dan> Are stats akin to attributes? Skills?
[20:36] <+RobWieland> The Captain chooses what type of ship they group has, but each player gets to pick a part of the ship.
[20:36] <+RobWieland> So the engineer, for example, picks if the ship is a warp drive, lightspeed jump or jump gate type of ship.
[20:37] <+Silverlion> Hrms.
[20:37] <+RobWieland> mostly like attributes. players pick moves which are more like skills or specific ability
[20:37] <+Silverlion> Interesting will it be stand alone?
[20:38] <+RobWieland> The idea is that apocalypse world is about exploring the setting and star world is about exploring space. much like in star trek, they players ship is the main ship that cool stuff happens to.
[20:39] <+RobWieland> the alpha is something we're planning on releasing as a hack for apocalypse world, but if the reception is good, we're considering releasing our own book.
[20:39] <+RobWieland> so, for example, the doctor can pick a move where they get a bonus to convincing people to do things equal to how much damage they have.
[20:40] <+RobWieland> Or the captain can choose to have a bonus with the opposite sex because Kirk, Picard and Shepard are studs.
[20:40] <+RobWieland> (done)
[20:41] <+Snake_Eyes> Hi RobWieland, what is your favorite Dungeons and Dragons adventure to run or play, and why?
[20:42] <+RobWieland> Keep on the borderlands. It's just so versatile. You can use it with every edition.
[20:43] <+RobWieland> (done)
[20:43] <+Snake_Eyes> Cool, thanks :)
[20:43] <+RobWieland> We have five playbooks so far: The Captain, the XO, the Engineer, The Doctor and the Cadet.
[20:44] <~Dan> Playbooks?
[20:44] <+RobWieland> We have plans for more, but again, that depends on how well recieved it is when we put it on the net.
[20:44] <+RobWieland> Character Templates.
[20:44] <~Dan> Ah, I see.
[20:44] <+Gyr|Laptop> So in a group of five PCs, *someone* has to be Wesley Crusher?
[20:46] <+RobWieland> The Cadet also is for people who want to be Dualla, Joker or Redshirt #6.
[20:47] <+Gyr|Laptop> Gotta say, I don't look at any of those three characters and think 'Cadet'.
[20:47] <~Dan> How does combat work?
[20:47] <+RobWieland> That's why they are templates. Captain could mean Adama, Shepard, Kirk, Picard, Sisko...
[20:48] <+RobWieland> XO could mean Spock, Tigh, Jayne...
[20:48] <+RobWieland> it all depends on your stats and moves.
[20:48] <+Silverlion> I see Navigator/Pilot (Joker).
[20:48] <+Silverlion> Whose Dualla?
[20:48] <+RobWieland> Dee from BSG
[20:49] <+RobWieland> Perhaps Kelly Chambers from ME2 is a better fit.
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[20:49] <+RobWieland> Combat you can choose to fight with honor or fight to win.
[20:49] <+Silverlion> Hrms.
[20:50] <+RobWieland> fight with honor means you accept surrender, you minimize casualties but risk more damage to yourself. fight to win means you want to end the fight as soon as possible. but you do whatever it takes to win.
[20:51] <&Le_Squide> Paragon vs renegade, to keep with the ME2 references?
[20:51] <+RobWieland> that was definitely a model.
[20:52] <+RobWieland> that was also an adaptation of seize by force and hit them hard from AW,
[20:52] <~Dan> We have about 5 minutes left in regular Q&A time, although you're welcome to field questions as long as you like, Rob. Are there any topics we haven't covered that you'd like to bring up?
[20:52] <+RobWieland> i'll be happy to stick around and talk about star world afterwards.
[20:53] <~Dan> Absolutely.
[20:53] <+RobWieland> if folks want to follow me: check out @robowieland or my blog at
[20:53] <+RobWieland> I'd love to talk about my Hillfolk setting MAfia Century.
[20:53] <+RobWieland> The idea is that you play the rise and fall of a mafia family throughout the 20th century.
[20:53] <~Dan> I need to go afk for a sec. While I'm doing that, why don't you tell us a bit about Mafia Century?
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[20:54] <+RobWieland> Imagine a mafia movie that begins in Boardwalk Empire, runs through Godfather and ends with Goodfellas.
[20:54] <+RobWieland> Except you don;t have to worry about budgets, period sets or old age makeup/CGI
[20:56] <+RobWieland> You can run something in a specific period too if you prefer, but Hillfolk isa great choice for doing somethign more dyanstic.
[20:56] <&Le_Squide> So it's explicitly generational?
[20:58] <+RobWieland> I'll be writing it as such.
[20:59] <&Le_Squide> Neat!
[21:00] <+RobWieland> Hillfolk also has a crazy amount of other settings too. I'm also planning on releasing one that didn;t make it on my own for free.
[21:00] * &Le_Squide nods
[21:00] <&Le_Squide> very cool
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[21:05] <+brehaut> RobWieland: did you have a chance to play hill folk / drama system before you jumped onto the kickstarter?
[21:05] <+RobWieland> Anyone have any more questions about Star World?
[21:06] <+RobWieland> I haven;t played it yet but I have read it.
[21:07] <+RobWieland> It seems like a combination of Primetime Adventures and Smallville
[21:07] <+brehaut> is it more approachable for a traditional group than PTA?
[21:12] <+RobWieland> A little bit. There are basically two sides to the system - the drama side and the procedural side.
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[21:13] <+jeffszusz> smurfs.
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[21:13] <~Dan> Back, sorry
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[21:13] <+RobWieland> The drama side is a bit like fiasco - when you go to a PC looking something, you either get a drama point if you don;t get it or you get it.
[21:14] <+RobWieland> those points can be spent to influence other player's scenes. the prodecural rules are where to run the heist or whatever.
[21:14] <~Dan> Is there a default tech level?
[21:14] <+RobWieland> (done)
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[21:15] <+RobWieland> for the bridge: no. But when you pick a template, you also get to define the tech for things related to that character.
[21:15] <+RobWieland> so the XO determines if you have phasers, blasters, assault weapons and so on.
[21:16] <+RobWieland> you can communally design the tech  or the player it affects the most gets the final say
[21:16] <+RobWieland> (done)
[21:16] <~Dan> Are there psionics or other powers?
[21:17] <+RobWieland> not yet. The Psychic and Alien are template we're looking to expand into.
[21:18] <+Silverlion> Hrms.
[21:19] <~Dan> Does that mean there's no allowance for NPC aliens, either?
[21:20] <+RobWieland> oh no, you can design NPC aliens. one of the themes of the game is your ship is the ones that determined how humanity is viewed by the galaxy.
[21:20] <+RobWieland> usually in those shows, there's a token alien, like a worf or a spock.
[21:20] <+RobWieland> Even in ships with crews full of aliens, there's always one that's weirder than the other.
[21:21] <~Dan> But right now, the token alien has to be an NPC?
[21:22] <~Dan> Oh, wait... I think I misinterpreted your "not yet". Did you mean that the Psychic and the Alien will be in the core but that you just haven't written them up yet?
[21:22] <+RobWieland> Yeah. We have plans for playbooks beyond the first five for the full release.
[21:23] <~Dan> Gotcha.
[21:23] <~Dan> Do you have a bestiary of sample aliens and/or alien critters?
[21:24] <+RobWieland> We'll have guidelines in the book on how to design them. Part of making characters is listening to the players and asking questions about their choices.
[21:25] <+RobWieland> If someone says "My parents were killed in the Orion Cole massacre"
[21:25] <+RobWieland> you ask questions about the aliens that did it.
[21:25] <+RobWieland> and, those aliens should probably show up as a threat.
[21:26] <~Dan> How easy is it to improvise and stat up things on the fly?
[21:27] <+RobWieland> Very. All the Apocalypse World games are built to run like that.
[21:27] <~Dan> Can you give us a sample stat block?
[21:27] <~Dan> Maybe for a lizardman alien?
[21:28] <+RobWieland> Sure Lizardman soldier: harm: 1 armor: 1 health: 2
[21:28] <+RobWieland> +tail +blaster +poison -coldblooded -aggressive
[21:29] <~Dan> And how would that work in play?
[21:29] <+Silverlion> Hrms.
[21:29] <~Dan> Like, the lizardman soldier attacking with his blaster?
[21:29] <+Silverlion> Not a gorn then
[21:30] <+RobWieland> the bad guys do a point of harm when they hit. using their blaster or tail would give them a bonus to their harm.
[21:30] <+RobWieland> if the player knew about their coldbloodedness or aggressiveness, they'd get a bonus if they used a move that took advantage.
[21:30] <~Dan> So there's no way to distinguish between weapons?
[21:31] <+RobWieland> (And the cadet has a move that lets him or her get hurt and give bonuses to the rest of the crew)
[21:31] <+RobWieland> oh sure their is. a blaster could be +fast, +loud and +burst fire.
[21:32] <+RobWieland> most tech items have three bonuses and two minuses.
[21:32] <+RobWieland> okay i gotta head out. last questions?
[21:32] <~Dan> None from me. I'd just like to thank you for coming by, Rob!
[21:33] <~Dan> I'll have the log posted shortly.
[21:33] <+RobWieland> Thanks. I'd love to come back when we release The Bridge/Star World!
[21:33] <+Melum> Thanks for braving Frankenstorm.
[21:33] <~Dan> Please do!
[21:33] <~Dan> The log will be here: (Link:
[21:33] <+RobWieland> thanks dan!
[21:33] <~Dan> Sure thing, Rob! Take care!

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