Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Roll20 and what to buy in the Bleed.

My Ashen Stars online game is still ticking along and by all accounts it is pretty well liked by the players.  I use Roll20 for this and it works really well.  I rely on the dice roller and have made a couple virtual decks of cards (one for me and one for the players) for revealing point spends for opposed challenges.  I also have gotten some good use out of the virtual tools to display both  pictures and maps and to run simple combats by drawing on a map.  All in all it serves well.  It would be nice to have an in-game character sheet but there is not one available yet.  There is a Trail of Cthulhu character sheet in roll20 but not one for Ashen Stars yet, although I have put in a request for one.  I did try to take the ToC template and replace all the skills with Ashen Stars skills but I don't have the knowledge or time to finish coding it or submitting it for someone else to take on.  In any case that's a nice to have for later but not essential for now.

The Roll20 play area
I also use google drive to store a character skill spreadsheet that we can track all the player point spends on.  We also use shared session notes to document cases and any needed reference materials and of course the character sheets that we spun up on The Black Book.  I also have a financial spreadsheet in google docs that lists all the character bank accounts, a company bank account and the ship mortgage info.

I know, Ashen Stars is supposed to dispense with the money in favor of story right?  I have to disagree.  You could play that way but it seems to me that the default game without the money pressure just doesn't cut the mustard.  Without external pressure, it's way too easy to get along and there is less pressure on the characters to tempt them into bad decisions, and money is one of the great narrative pressures that everyone can relate to.  Ashen Stars is great in that there is no nickle and dime transactions to bog things down but there are the big ticket transactions to spice things up.  The only problem is that unless you have borderline psycho players ruining the crew's reputation every game it's too easy to get money and there isn't enough stuff in the core rules to spend that loot on so it piles up.  Also the rules as written are pretty crew orientated and that can limit the fun when it comes to having players fighting over how to allocate the group income or what to do with their share of the loot.  I did post a table here some time age for players wanting to have some lifestyle options by spending Big Creds.  I also have found that making the PCs manage their business by having to pay off a 1000bC ship mortgage is pretty swell - but even these things are pretty easy to surmount with given the costs/payouts in the book as a guide.  What I am looking for is a way to tempt the players into spending money, which will in turn tempt them into bad behaviors in game which will tax their PR skills and offer some spice to the day to day of being a spacecop for hire.

The biggest and bets idea I have had is to come up with some random life event tables to hit players with financial encounters.  Not all these would be bad things that simple place a burden on the PC, although there should be some of these.  I think that for the most part you would want to offer opportunities that come with an associated cost, things like breeding rights or perhaps some sort of potlatch thing for an alien culture spring to mind.  I would want these to be things that the player can jump on that serve as both economic grease and as character goals.  Then watch the players fighting over a bigger share of the payout instead of sinking it all into buying a larger upkeep buffer to more mods for the ship.  What I don't want to hear is an agreement that it would be best to just sink all that money back into the ship - where's the fun in that?

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