Saturday, 3 March 2018

GURPS: Hellraisers MC - A Campaign I'll Probably Never Run

With the Actual Play reports on hold until the GM of my current game is done with her semester.  It looks like I'll be writing more about Campaign ideas like I used to when I first started this Blog.  My updates were few and far between in February.  For that I apologize, I've always prided myself on updating regularly.  In terms of posts February 2018 was probably the least productive months in the history of Stories and Other Such Distractions.  Hopefully it never happens again short of author burnout, sickness or death.  I take great pride in what I do here and feel obligated to put out content on a regular basis.  So with that in mind here's an idea for a Campaign that's been kicking around in my head for a bit.

I've had a sort of love, hate relationship with GURPS ever since I discovered it.  On the one hand I loved the idea of a System that conceivably run any Campaign or Character I could cook up.  I also very much loved its Third Edition Sourcebooks which I found to be a great resource for numerous campaigns I've thought about running.  On the other hand though I wasn't too crazy about the System itself. It struck me as complex, almost Byzantine.  Requiring to look through the rule book time and time again to find specific rules to cover certain things.  Which for quite a bit of my Role-playing career was rather daunting considering I was mostly just starting out.  That aspect sort of scared me off of actually using the ruleset, instead restricting myself to running other more familiar ones.  While using the Fluff in various Third Edition Sourcebooks as reference material.  (Example: Using the Old West Sourcebook for a Western Campaign).  It wasn't until I grew older that I realized "You don't have to use all the rules.", which is kind of obvious in hindsight.  But honestly hindsight is the only part of my vision that is 20/20.  I still shied away from it due to a lack of familiarity with the actual mechanics and rules.  Over the past few weeks though I've been leafing through various Sourcebooks and it's gotten me excited to try it at least once.  But what would the subject matter be?  It was a question that had me wracking my brains out for quite some time.

Getting My Answer

Where my answer eventually came from.
Recently an acquaintance I know from over on YouTube and Discord turned me onto a TV show.  A show that I had heard off but honestly had had no real interest in.  Until this friend pushed me to watch it.  "You're into the Mafia and Organized Crime right, you'll love this show."  Is pretty much the words she used to convince me to watch it.  Once I did I was hooked, I'm still watching it whenever I can find the time.  The show I'm talking about is Sons of Anarchy.  Hamlet dressed up as Hell's Angels.  The show's been off the air for about six years now, which is ancient by TV time.  Why had I not seen it?  Number of reasons.  I'm not really into Motorcycle culture, honestly before watching SOA I probably couldn't have told you the difference between a Harley and a Kawasaki.  I also was put off by the exotic grunginess of Outlaw Bikers, it was a world very different from the Italian American Mafia.  That I was so used to reading about.  After a while of watching it though I began to see how this could be used for a very interesting and different Campaign.  

Choosing a System

This very nearly ended up being the campaign.
Now I knew I wanted to run an Outlaw Biker game, centred around the illegal activities of a Club.  The problem was coming up with a System that would support that kind of a game.  GURPS was on the table from the start, but it almost didn't end up being picked.  Other systems I considered my personal favourite Cyberpunk 2020 (modified for a Modern-Day setting of course) and Classic World of Darkness.  Cyberpunk was tempting because I am intimately familiar with the system.  But I ultimately didn't choose it because I feel I rely too much on it.  I wanted to use a new system for this. Classic World of Darkness was another tempting
This guy could very much have been an NPC if I'd stuck with the
World of Darkness idea.
choice, because the thirteen year old inside of my head loved the idea of Vampire Bikers!  Or Werewolf Bikers or Monster-Hunting Bikers depending on which lens I decided to put the WOD system through.  It very nearly ended up being the course that the game took.  An interesting piece I found while I did my research was this thread here.  Discussing a Vampire the Masquerade game about a Club of Sabbat Neonate Bikers.  A number of factors kept me from using Classic World of Darkness though.  One was the fact that I didn't want to run a 70s Exploitation Film, I wanted to run Goodfellas on Harley's.  The Second factor was an unfamiliarity with World of Darkness' Storytelling System.  So that put the kibosh on the idea that my inner thirteen year old was salivating over.  Ultimately it was back to GURPS, now it was just a matter of figuring out how to put it all together.

Figuring out Character Creation

Statting up guys like this is a lot harder than it
sounds.
Now I know that GURPS is a little more free-form in terms of Character Creation when compared to D&D.  I personally like to have a little structure so my players have an idea what I expect for characters they create.  Which is why I love the Templates for GURPS, hell one of my favourite series of GURPS sourcebooks is the World War 2 line.  Which for Third Edition had the most Templates out of any of the one's I read.  Though I'm pretty sure that's changed with Fourth Edition.  So I set out in search of a Template to help inform character creation choices.  The closest I came to was the Nomad template from GURPS After the End: Wastelanders.  Which didn't quite work, since it focuses more on wasteland survival than being a criminal.  I was about to give up my search when I found this post by one Mook over at Game Geekery.  I can't thank him enough, while it's not quite what I'm looking for.  It was more of a baseline than I had when I started.  Be sure to go over there and show him some love.  With a base-line in place I could figure out how the hell I was going to go about creating something that resembled a guideline for character creation for this game.  I still needed a little something more though.  I needed to figure out what the players would get from being part of the club.  Thanks to one of the lesser known GURPS Sourcebooks Boardrooms and Curia I was able to do just that.  Basically it allowed me to work out a stat-block for the Outlaw Motorcycle Club I wanted the characters to be a part of.  Including their point cost as Patrons, Enemies, what Advantages their Members typically have.  All that good stuff.  It gave me a guideline that looked something like this.  

Point Total: 200 just between Heroes (or rather Villains) starting out and those that've established themselves.
Attributes: Maximum 14 in Any Stat, I'd encourage only spending a maximum of 130 points total for Stats.
Advantages: Claim to Hospitality (Any other Chapter) [10], Organized Crime Rank* [2 per level], Patron (The Club, appears almost all the time) [30], Signature Gear (Club Cutaway and Bike)** [2].  Combat Reflexes and High Pain Threshold would be wise investments as would any non-supernatural Advantage.  If the player wanted it I'd be willing to at least consider it.
Disadvantages: Duty (To the Club, on 12 or less) [-10], Enemy (Law Enforcement; FBI, ATF, Police you name it, 9 or less), Social Stigma -1 (Biker treat as Criminal) [-5].  Members are also expected to have Code of Honour (Biker same as Pirate's) [-5] though it's kind of hard to enforce what a person actually thinks.  Other than those the players are allowed to choose up to a total of 55 more points (if they took the Code of Honour it becomes 50)  of disadvantages.
Skills: Guns (Pistol, SMG, Shotgun and Rifle), Melee, an unarmed fighting Skill of some kind, Streetwise, Savoir-Faire (Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs), Drive (Motorcycle), Heraldry (Cuts) are all musts.  From there it's free-reign.  Though suggestions include Mechanic (Gasoline Engine), Area Knowledge (State), Merchant and some manner of Social Skill.  (Intimidate and Fast Talk being solid choices).  

 *Just for reference the Ranking for Motorcycle Clubs works out something like this.
0 = Prospect or Probate Member
1 = Fully Patched Member
2 = Chapter Officer (VP, Sergeant at Arms, Secretary/Treasurer or Road Captain)
3 = Chapter President or National Enforcer
4 = National/Regional Vice President
5 = National President

**Also a little explaining the Rulebook defines Signature Gear as being items that are part of your Legend.  For Han Solo it was the Millennium Falcon, for King Arthur it was Excalibur.  For Outlaw Bikers it's their Cutaway (the Leather or Denim vest that displays their Club's colours) and their Hogs or Bikes.  

Speaking of Cuts I have an idea of what I want the one for the Club in this Campaign to look like.  The name of the Club would be The Hellraisers (no relation to the patch pictured, which I found in a lucky Image search I came up with the name after the Ozzy Osbourne Song) using the Colour scheme from the patch with the matching name.  Though replacing the logo with some more resembling the Black Riders logo.  A skeleton dressed as a Biker, wreathed in hell-fire with a Whiskey Bottle in one hand, while he brandishes a sawed-off shotgun in the other.  (According to the dictionary a hell-raiser is "a person who causes trouble by drinking, being violent, or otherwise behaving outrageously" nothing says violent, drunken or outrageous to me more than a skeleton drinking whiskey, brandishing a shotgun, dressed as biker. The font would be changed a little to one called Fire-Starter which you can see an example of on the right.  Also the bottom Rocker wouldn't say San Andreas, it'd probably say something else.  Maybe California.

The Elevator Pitch

"You guys are members of the California Chapter of the Hellraisers Outlaw Motorcycle Club.  A group of violent, hard-drinking, drug-dealing and gun-running bikers.  Over the course of the game you'll deal with Law Enforcement crackdowns and other criminal groups encroaching on your turf."  That's roughly what the campaign pitch would be in general.  More would have to be worked out after the group sat down for a Session Zero where'd we'd create characters.  Figure out such specifics as whether they're just rank and file members, officers within their own chapter or the Mother Chapter of the whole Club.  I do have some ideas of what kind of illegal activities I'd want the Club to be involved in.  Where the characters would fit into those activities would be figured out during the Session 0.  Oh yeah I should probably have mentioned that there is a content-warning for this game.  
Warning this Campaign contains instances of:
- Violence
- Drug & Alcohol Abuse (that includes Tobacco) 
- Suggestive Sexual Situations
- Political Incorrectness & Foul Language (These are Bikers after all) 
If you are offended any of the content listed above, consider yourself warned.

I think that about wraps it up for me.  Considering that I'm kind of jonesing for a game, I might actually try to see if I could put it together over at Roll20.  If you're interested don't hesitate to show your interest in the comments, down below.  Be sure to +1, reshare and follow this Blog.  As always have a nice day and may the dice be ever in your favour.