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Showing posts from August, 2016

Of Darkness and Light

That post about the supernatural beings in space. It's lingering...

I'm thinking I'll need to exorcise it soon, even if only with a minimalist rule set...Perhaps a pair of pocketmods. But with a chunk of In Nomine inspiration thrown into the World of Darkness.

Characters portray grey characters between the darkness of the Vampiric immortals and the blinding light of the Technocrats. But they choose a rule set to work with, either light or dark. A crew might be (and most likely is) made up of both. The light gain powers of high tech gear and psychic powers bordering on reality manipulating magick, the dark gain disciplines that circumvent reality through an eternal dark curse. Characters may ascend in power, but doing so draws them out of the grey world where they can play both sides against each other, and instead deeper into the Machiavellian politics of one side or the other.

Naturally even though one side is light and the other side is darkness, they're both just as…

#RPGaDay 30 and 31

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Day 30 - Describe the ideal room if the budget were unlimited.

Digital projectors, huge space, miniatures, terrain, props... I've done all these over the years and seen that they each have their advantages and disadvantages. It's all a case of having the right things for the game...but these are all secondary to having the right people for the game. If I had to average out my optimum room for the most number of games, it would simply be somewhere with minimal distractions from the outside world, where I could complete a session without getting interrupted, and immerse in the moment of the game narrative for as long as it lasted.

Day 31 - Best advice you were ever given for your game of choice.

For almost any game, mindfulness.

Don't get hooked up on the rules, the outside world, the events beyond your control. Just play the game.


#RPGaDay 28 and 29

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Day 28 - The thing you be most surprised a friend had not seen or read?
Unless this friend were blind, I think I'd be most surprised if a friend had not seen their own shadow...

But let's keep it RPG related. So, that means gamer friends, and what they have in common.

The obvious answer is "a D&D book", but I've got plenty of gamer friends who don't read rule books at all (they just remember how things have played out for other players on the table), I've also got a fair number of gamer friends who've neber played D&D...then venn diagram of these groups has a big overlap.

Perhaps among most of my friends, and particularly among my gamer friends, I'd be most surprised if they'd never seen a Monty Python sketch.

Day 29 - You can game anywhere on Earth, where do you choose?

Hmmm... tricky.

If I'm going to game somewhere special, I want it to be linked to the game we are playing in some way. Maybe if we were doing something cyberpunk,…

Deep Space Supernaturals

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I always wanted to do a vampire game set on the outer planets...where the damage of the sun was reduced to occasional minimal amounts of regular damage. And where immortal beings sat in icy palaces on the dead plains of Pluto, or in drifting cloud castles above the storms of Neptune and Uranus, only occasionally crossing paths once the orbits of these planets brought one another near. Dark rusted hulks, ploughing through the shadowed skies, waging an eternal war in the twilight. Glistening titanium and crystal ships of the Technocracy wage war against these entities and their ghoul armies, but the mayfly lifespans of the space-faring technocrats are nothing compared to the ancient powers of the shadow. The eldritch kindred are sustained by the lifeblood of those who come in an endless horde, the "heroes" hoping to take down a god become nothing more than the god's next meal. Sometimes the ghoul captains of the rusted kindred vessels venture in as far as the asteroid bel…

#RPGaDay 26 and 27

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Day 26 - What hobbies go well with RPGs?
My succinct answer...What hobbies don't go well with RPGs?

Drawing goes great with RPGs, drawing characters, drawing maps, drawing equipment, drawing strange symbols. In that whole field we can probably include calligraphy for writing in-character letters, or painting if more elaborate portaiture is required.

Reading goes great with RPGs because it can be used to find ideas to add into a story, or information to verify events that may occur during the course of play.

Sports and fitness pursuits go great with RPGs, especially LARP even if only for the physical fitness side of things. But at a wider level, having an intimate understanding of what the body can actually handle is good for allowing us to understand where character limits might lie, or might help us understand how alien our characters really are.

Amateur theatre goes great with RPGs, not only LARP where play acting the character activities is a part of play, but also on the tabl…

#RPGaDay 24 and 25

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Day 24 - What is the game you are most likely to give to others?
My own game FUBAR... that reminds me, I need to get printed copies of that game organised. So far I just keep directing people to the free download at RPGNow.

It's been a fun game with a wide range of players over the years at conventions, it's handled short form campaigns too. I just haven't had a whole lot of feedback from other people playing it (despite it   Being downloaded 5000 times, or more).

Day 25 - What makes for a good character?
5 things. A name. Something evocative, something that alludes to a past or a connection to a culture.A goal. something that the character wants now, or has wanted for a long time. This is great for hooking medium and long term stories to, and for learning how the character wants to affect the wider world.A hindrance. Something that is preventing the character from achieving their goal. This is great for hooking short term events to, a way to get to know the characters and…

#RPGaDay 22 and 23

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Day 22 - Supposedly randomly game events that keep recurring?

I don't know that I've played any game long enough for this to occur. Similarly, as indicated previously in this year's questions I know a group of gamers who tend to play the player, rather than the scenario. I don't see random things happening, instead I see the same players riffing off against one another in the same ways, in different settings and genres, and under different sets of game mechanisms.

I really don't think this question is valid to my gaming experience.

Day 23 - Share one of your best "worst luck" stories.

In the classic "World of Darkness", werewolves would spontaneously throw up if they ever ingested vampire blood...unless they failed some kind of roll (it might have been Stamina or Gnosis), if they botched the roll they'd die. I understand that this was a mechanism put in place to stop certain types of players gaining access to a range of powers from both the…

#RPGaDay 20 and 21

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Day 20 - Most challenging but rewarding system you have learned?

Most challenging system that I never quite learned would have to be Rolemaster, but that would only be an answer if you include "learning" the system to mean memorising all of the tables off by heart. It's a savage beast, with incredibly complexity. But actually, everything in it is pretty formulaic. These days I'd love to program the tables into a webpage or app that would take care of all the page turning and referencing behind the scenes, just giving the interesting and quirky outcomes. If someone's already done that, a link would be much appreciated.

A challenging system in another way entirely is Rifts, I did learn that basically inside out back in the day, but gained most of my rewards in play by ignoring the vast majority of the game system as written. Strangely, reports about official games run by Kevin S at Palladium HQ indicate that he did the same thing... He seems to have written the ga…

#RPGaDay 18 and 19

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Day 18 - What innovation could RPG groups most benefit from?

Finally, a question that doesn't assume gaming groups are insular entities, and instead poses the notion that players might be aware of their own gaming group(s) and other gaming groups. But this question suddenly assumes that all gaming groups have the same issues and that specific forms of innovation are uniformed adopted by the entire community. So, needless to say, I think this is a flawed question too.

There are heaps of innovations in the community, with some groups adopting them and others preferring their "traditional approach". In my time I've seen the innovation of narrative driven games, minimalist rule sets, dice rolling apps, diceless roleplaying, roleplaying over live internet feed (first by text, through to current video chat feeds).

In some cases, I think the innovation is just gimmicky, in some cases it actually seems to contribute something positive to the experience.
(Having written this …

#RPGaDay 16 and 17

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Day 16 - Historical person you'd like in your group? What game?
This is a lot like the "Dream Team" of past players. It's a case of chicken and egg. Do you pick the game first, then find a historical person to match that game? Do you pick a historical person first, and then find a game to match them?
I'd love to play a historical miniatures battlegame against Napoleon or Genghis Khan. I'd love to engage in an elaborate costume LARP with Lord Byron (or even someone taken from us more recently, like Alan Rickman), or maybe a boffer LARP with Errol Flynn. I'd love to see how HP Lovecraft would see the way his mythos is portrayed in modern day RPGs.
There are so many possible answers to this question.
The way most of my groups tend to play, I could easily see someone like the comedian Robin Williams easily fitting into the loosely reined chaos, and I would be interested to see how far the envelope would be pushed, and whether it would end up breaking. I'…

#RPGaDay 14 and 15

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Day 14 - Your dream team of people you used to game with

There are individual people who are absolutely awesome in their own ways...great sources of ad-lib story ideas, knowledgeable manipulators of rules, injectors of chaos, mediators...

The problem with awesome individuals is that sometimes they don't work well as a team. The US Olympic Basketball team might be filled with the best of the best, but they aren't trained to work together, and the sum is less than you'd expect from such premium parts. The same almost always works for the Prime Minister's 11 as a cricket team, awesome individuals used to getting the limelight and glory, sometimes rewsentful when they have to share it.

If I could pick a bunch of players, each specialists in their own type of gaming, contributing to a dream team, I'd have to tailor a few teams based on the type of game being played. I can think of a bunch of players who would be awesome at streamlining the crunch in a fiddly and comple…

#RPGaDay 12 and 13

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It's time to play a bit more catch up.

Day 12 - What game is your group most likely to play next?

This is another of those questions that simple seems to assume that gamers only have a single group with whom they game. I see that this is not the case for a lot of individuals I know across the gaming sphere, because a lot of people seem to do "online hangout games" as well as "physical" games. Similarly, plenty of people I know (both online and locally), have home games as well as games that they are a part of in a gaming store.

I know (and have been a part of) gaming groups who have played the same campaign for decades, for whom the idea of a new game system is the ultimate heresy...conversely I know (and have been a part of) gaming groups who regularly shift games every few weeks to try a wide diversity of gaming experience.

In my experience, this seems like a really odd question. I can understand how certain gamers might look at this question and assume ever…

#RPGaDay 10 and 11

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It's time to play a bit of catch up.

Day 10 - Biggest in game surprise

As I've said previously, I mostly GM, so the concept of experiencing a surprise in game is a novelty and it really hasn't happened too often.
My biggest in-game surprise is probably symptomatic of my cynicism, and that's finding someone else who is a good GM and storyteller rather than a good ajudicator of combat rules and random dice tables. 
For my biggest story surprise, again I'd have to go back to my LARPing days of the 1990s. To the events surrounding the big reveal in my character's connection to +Klaus Teufel, that was a hell of a thing (literally).

Otherwise there are lots of convention stories I could tell, but they'd probably bore you...often because they're the type of story requiring a lot of context and you only get the full impact if you were there. That's one of the quirky things about gaming anecdotes.

Day 11 - The gamer who influenced me most...

There's bee…

3d6 in order, and then some.

I had an idea while I was driving today, and I decided that I needed to write it down as soon as I got home.

It's based generally on the Old School notion of rolling 3d6 in order for attributes, but pushes things even further.

We all know that it's typically better to roll an 18 for strength than a 3. A high strength means more damage dealt in combat, it means better modifiers when trying to do things where having innate physical force is advantageous. The same generally applies to most other stats too. A high roll means a greater capacity to influence the outcome of events when the appropriate attribute is brought to bear on the situation.

Over the course of six rolls for the attribute array, the law of averages said you're likely to get a couple of higher rolls and a couple of lower rolls. This isn't always the case, you might be unlucky and get all low rolls, on the other hand you might be lucky and get all high rolls. Typically, unless you're allowed to allocat…

RPGaDay Gap

Internet down at home, many assignments to complete for my Master of Teaching degree, wife in hospital, massive headache...

Hopefully I'll catch up the missing RPGaDay entries some time next week.

#RPGaDay 9: Beyond the game, what's involved in an ideal session?

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This really depends on the game.

The simplest answer is... the right people. 

I can handle games with high or low preparation. I've really enjoyed high prep games with pre-defined background scores, elaborate miniatures and terrain, player hand-outs, and carefully pre-considered relationship maps... and I've really enjoyed low-prep/no-prep games spontaneously started at a moment's notice. 

I can handle high crunch or low crunch games. I've similarly played many games over snack food, with others held over elaborate multi-course dinners, and many with no food at all. Some games have been good, some games have been bad, but there is no specific correspondence between game quality and most other factors. It's the people who make it or break it in my experience, which may be a part of my belief that roleplaying is all about the social experiences and ethical dilemmas explored through the liminal space of the game (combat systems and magic basically just support those situ…

#RPGaDay 8: Hardcover, Softcover, Digital? What's your preference?

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I love the idea of beautiful tomes at the table. Pieces of art that feel like a part of the game world...

...but most games like that cost a small (or not-so-small) fortune. 

So with that in mind, I'm practicing bookbinding, and that means pdfs (or digital copies) that I can print out, then bind manually into pieces of my own art. It helps that pdfs and digital copies of games are cheaper, and I can keep a copy on tablet or laptop while the physical copy is being used by someone else. 

I still prefer the physicality of a book, but the versatility of a digital format gives it the edge.

#RPGaDay 7: What aspect of RPGs has had the biggest effect on you?

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I never had much in the way of social skills as a kid. I understood the rules of social interaction, because I had watched them and decoded them, but I had never intenalised them or instinctively intuited them. Tabletop RPGs providd a liminal space for me to experiment with social interaction in a safe space where ramifications could be left in the zone of the game. 

LARP was another step in the direction of internalising the concepts of social interaction.

I think the ultimate sign that RPGs dramatically affected my life is manifest in the fact that my wife of 13 years was met through a LARP.

#RPGaDay 6: Most amazing thing a game group did for their community?

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Most of the groups I've been immefiately a part of have been selfish and/or haven't wanted to reveal their "behind-closed-doors" hobby to the outside world. Some of the group I've been loosly associated with have been more philanthropic.
I know of a few groups on the past who have taken board games to hospitals, often childrens wards, attending regularly on a fortnightly (or even weekly) basis, to give the patients something to do, a bit of escapism from their medical situations. At least one gamer I know has donated their boardgames to a hospital ward when they've found they simply don't play them much any more.

#RPGaDay 5: What story does your group of players tell about your character?

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This question seems to imply that a gamer has only one group of players to whom they belong. But this doesn't match my experience at all. Over the years I've had dozens of groups, some tabletop, some LARP, some miniatures, some groups that covered multiple gaming formats, most groups sharing overlap between one another with myself and one or two others linking different circles of gamers.

Another issue I have with this question is the fact that over 25+ years of gaming, I've accumulated a lot of stories...and like most gamer anecdotes, they need a decent chunk of context before they make sense, and often setting the groundwork for that context can be monotonous and boring before the interesting bit if the story arises.
(Also note that I've spent most of my gaming time as a GM)

So, one of the best ways to answer this question might be to discuss the tales of my characters that have spread from one group to another, through sources other than me. These would be the stories …

#RPGaDay 4: Most impressive thing another's character has done?

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Day 4...

As I said in earlier installments, I tend to GM, so many of my stories from the tabletop will involve the characters of other players by default.
The most audatious move I can remember dates back to high school. The mid to early 90s, RIFTS was the go to game for a group of GMs including myself, because we could go over the top, and that was all expected as a part of the setting. The "Atlantis" sourcebook had just come out, and it had introduced a Marketplace where "anything could be found", and the concept of intelligent Rune Weapons. Of course there were players who instantly wanted one, and since we played in a group where different players might take on GMing duties for a day, and where various players might have had two or three characters, each of whom had been played for a half-dozen sessions (or more), there was a risk to introducing one of these weapons into the game and totally unbalancing things. None of the characters had the money to pay for on…

5e, OSR, other???

I'm starting to womder if I should just write a setting, or a hack that can be used with 5e, or with one of the many flavours of OSR, or one of the other syste,s that has some kind of open license.

Personally, I've always thought that this was a cop out... like sticking a new coat of paint over something that everyone else has already got. I wouldn't buy a product that was in this vein, but it looks like there are a lot of folks out there who would.

My artistic integrity says "no", my contemplation of monetary issues says "yes".

Artistic integrity is winning out at the moment.

#RPGaDay 3: Character Moment You Are Proudest Of?

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Hmm...

I've spent three quarters of my roleplaying experience as a GM, so the moments I recall most readily are those where I've established scenes for my players to interact with (often built on the events previously assembled collaboratively through the actions of player characters and the preloaded triggers built for the sandbox environment), then I throw in a twist by pulling a concept that had generally been forgotten from a previous session...

...then watch the chaos.

I haven't found many tabletop GMs over the years who run stories in similar ways. Mostly just the types of GM who get a pre-written module (either published, or pre-written by themselves) then lead the players through and don't have a lot of scope for changes to their plans. So there haven't been many opportunities for player characters to shine. My style of play follows my style of GMing, I plant the seeds, I spend a few sessions nurturing the plants, and by the time the fruit is ripening, the…

#RPGaDay 2: Best Game Session since August 2015?

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I don't think I've played a tabletop session since August 2015, so this one will have to be a LARP experience. I think that's interesting in itself. I still consider myself a gamer of all types, LARP, tabletop, miniatures, boardgames... but the last time I played a board game was as a part of a playtest session for University, the last time I played a boardgame that I didn't design myself was Christmas last year... the last time I played a tabletop RPG was mid last year, where the game collapsed because the GM was just a prick and everyone suddenly realised that... the last time I played a miniatures game was probably 2 years ago, or more.

Actually, now that I think about it, I think +Ettin Con was around August last year, no maybe July and it just misses the cut off. That was a great session, using my game FUBAR, and it reignited my desire to get things happening on that front again...but let's focus on something that's definitely within the specified range.

#RPGaDay 1: Real Dice, Dice App, Diceless, How do you prefer to roll?

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I'd have to start here by saying it really depends what I'm doing. That basically takes me back to the tactic I used for the RPGaDay questions last year, every question was analysed for it's ulterior motives, because they just didn't make a whole lot of sense as straight questions in my experience.

I've been doing more LARP than tabletop or online gaming lately. By the nature of live roleplaying, dice are a break of immersion and therefore considered anathema. At a table, I prefer to use dice, but only sparingly. If I can resolve a situation narratively, without needing to break out the dice, things seem to go quicker which lets us have more story in the allocated timeframe.

I only ever really use dice apps when I don't have the physical dice available, such as the special dice used by FFG in Star Wars: Edge of Empire.

Generally, I'm saying that there are different tools more suitable for different jobs. I prefer to use the right tool for the job rather th…

Accumulating References

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Back in the day, Battletech was running with a storyline where there was great technology, but years of warfare lead to factories and research centres being bombed, new developments arising, and the cycle continuing again. Warhammer 40k has a similar premise in it's background.

All the weapons used at the time of play are shadows of awesome technologies, either cut down to make them more efficient and easier to repair on the battlefield, or simply degraded because no-one remembered how to create the awesomeness anymore. It's a common idea in post apocalyptic games and fiction (in Rifts, no one human can build a suit of armour that matches the glory of the Glitter Boy), it also appears across the sword and sorcery genre (where great weapons of the Atlanteansor other lost empires are powerful relics in a darkened age).

I'm thinking about the same thing for the game tentatively entitled The Carcosa Golem Shuffle.

When the war began, psychic technologies and mystically enchant…