Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Years Resolutions / Gaming in 2012

It's that time of year when bloggers and social networkers churn out predictable lists of goals and aims for the coming 12 months.

Why should I buck tradition?

I'm not going to include the boring "become a better person", "lose weight" or "learn to paint" articles. They never happen, anyway. I'm 36 and still fat, unskilled and reprehensible.

Instead, here's what I intend to do with my gaming this year, and related topics, in no particular order. (that's clearly a lie. They appear in the order I thought of them)

Use the hundreds of interesting pictures I've downloaded over the past year. No, not porn. I already use those. I refer to the pictures of murder, monsters and weird shit I've stumbled across.

Run Pathfinder, Trail of Cthulhu, Changeling: the Lost and Mage: the Awakening this year, amongst others.

Blog with more regularity. I found a link to this blog listed under dead, irregular and (something else) blog's earlier today.
Probably true, but an uncomfortable truth.

Get a new, decent laptop. I broke our Samsung laptop earlier in the year, and my wife bought herself a netbook as a replacement, which is incredibly shit. Remarkably shit. And tiny.
So I'm putting money aside every month to get myself something worth having, which I will use for gaming prep, writing and blogging.

Invest in my gaming group. I would really like to build up my gaming group, attract new players and give a wide range of gaming options to our players.

Improve as a GM. I think I'm pretty good at running games, but not perfect. I've only just started saying "yes" more than I say "no", and I'm still pretty weak at preparation.

Licences fade, systems are forever / Star Wars Saga Edition Hacks

I was thinking this morning about how good a game SWSE is, and that it's a shame that it's dead now.
I was also thinking that if you remove the official licensed elements of Star Wars from the game, you've still got an excellent system for a Sci-fi game.

Are there any Star Wars SE hacks out there?
If not, here's my initial ideas...

Rename The Force to, say, Psionics or Psychic Ability, as well as the classes and races, and you're away.

Scoundrels can become Criminals.
Jedi become Psychics (and lose the combat feats and hit die to become more like a Cleric instead of a Paladin).
Nobles can become Politicians or Celebrities or Traders.
Soldiers and Scouts stay as is.l
You could even add some more classes as required - Scientist, Bureaucrat, Investigator etc.

For Races, I'd use the Pathfinder/4e approach to Humans, and give them a +2 to assign to any attribute, as well as the extra trained skill and Feat.
I'd formalise Droids into a race, and call them Androids or Artificial Beings (a 'pc' term) (I believe the term 'Droid' is a Lucas trademark). They'd receive a +2 and a -2 to assign to fit the concept. No CON score and a choice of pre-programmed skill bonuses. I'd also add a Feat to appear Human/other race (+4 to Disguise attempts to pass as a member of that one race, or something. Probably used by Spy, pleasure and care Androids). Without the Feat, they'd be obviously mechanical. Finally, Androids start with a budget for extra appendages and tools, and can spend credits on upgrades. Androids would not be able to take levels in the Psychic class.
I'd include Clones or Replicants as a race. They'd be bio-engineered and artificially grown Humans (to prevent the number of Races nearly doubling). Replicants would get a +4 to one Ability and -2 to two more. They'd not get the extra Human Feat, instead they'd get the extra trained skill and either a faster movement rate, low-light vision, a +2 bonus to one Defense or faster healing rate. Clones would not be able to take levels in the Psychic class.
Other Races would be a mix up of standard sci-fi races, with hopefully a couple of original ideas. I'd probably rule that Races with remarkably high physical bonuses could not take levels in the Psychic class, just to avoid the rampaging twinks that would result.

The Use the Force skill should be split into three, and key off a different Ability - INT, WIS and CHA. The INT skill would govern affecting the physical world with telekinesis etc, WIS would govern perception and ones own body whilst CHA would be used to mentally affect anyone else.

Psychic powers would pretty much crib off the existing Force powers.

Mechanically, the system can be utilised with little adaptation.
The setting is another matter...

What kind of Sci-fi setting would this work for? Maybe something in the vein of the revamped Star Trek, with a focus on exploration and competition for resources. Maybe pioneers, with less of the wild west/Firefly-isms.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

I shall rely on my feminine grace to avoid ... Oww / Women in Reasonable Armor

I was watching the final episode of the current series of Merlin with my wife last night, when it was remarked that one of the characters seemed to be practically naked in comparison to the others.
The main cast were joined by two new characters, Tristan and Isolde (yes, I know...), for the final two episodes, and these two participate in the final, epic battle.

In this battle, Arthur and his knights are wearing chainmail, the bad guys are wearing studded leather and Merlin does not engage in physical combat (he's a fucking wizard! They're doing it wrong if they have to enter melee).
Tristan and Isolde are not so well armoured. Tristan wears a long leather coat and leather top, so is at least making the effort. Isolde looks like she's just gotten back from a run, and didn't have time to change (see image below).

In fact, I'd say that the costume designer for the series really could not be bothered...

So, we talked about this for a little while, my wife and I, and I recalled something I'd seen awhile ago, a blog called Women in Reasonable Armour, which I would recommend to anybody looking to visualise a capable and competent female fighter. It covers several genres.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Conspyramid / Designing your insidious plot of evil

Pelgrane Press Ltd » Blog Archive » Night’s Black Agents Competition

The link above takes you to an article at Pelgrane Press's See Page XX, about the forthcoming Nights Black Agents and a tool for designing a Conspyramid - a hierarchical structure chart depicting a supernatural conspiracy from the ground level cells up to the vampiric menace organising it, that can have in game effects.

I absolutely love the idea behind it, and how it can be used in game. The concept itself isn't just limited to Gumshoe games, it can be applied to any conspiracy based story.
It's a beautiful idea.

I encourage you all to read it, and invest in NBA's when it comes out.
Actually, you can pre-order it now and get an advance pdf copy for free.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Other Mother / Gaiman inspires Changeling (again)

We bought Coraline on DVD for our children (4 and 1) to watch this holiday period.
It's an awesome film, but not what I'd consider a traditional children's movie; what with the dead children, mutilation and horror.

The plot, briefly, is Coraline feels ignored and unloved by her parents, and discovers a passage way to another world, like our own, but better.
There she meets her Other Mother, who is prettier, nicer and a better cook than her real mother, and her Other Father, who is more fun and attentive than her real father.

The only jarring point is that everyone she meets in this other world has buttons instead of eyes.

Soon Coraline's Other Mother is inviting her to stay in the Other World forever. All she needs to do is replace her eyes with buttons (black is traditional, but they could be any colour she wants).

From there we meet the ghosts of the previous children who sewed buttons into their eyes, a talking black cat and see The Other Mother's true form.
Coraline must then save her real parents and retrieve the lost souls of the dead children (who were eaten by The Other Mother).

After watching the movie, I started thinking "This would make a kick ass Changeling: the Lost game".
The Other Mother serves as a member of the Gentry, luring children into Arcadia with promises and illusion before forcing them to accept a contract (the buttons) and imprisoning them.
She even manufactures Fetches out of sack cloth and sawdust.

The tunnel that Coraline crawls through to get to the Other World can only be opened by a special key, and is a fixed gateway to Arcadia.

I doubt that a whole Changeling campaign could be made of the film, definitely a story arc with incumbent Fae villain.
The players Motley learn that children keep disappearing from an old house, and suspect that a True Fae is involved. One child has escaped, and has now become an Elemental Mannequin, with visible seams and buttons for eyes.
One of the missing children could be linked to a member of the Motley, or maybe the house. The escaped child could even be a member of the Motley.

Piper in the Darkness / Trail of Cthulhu One Shot adventure

I ran a One Shot Trail of Cthulhu adventure for my gaming group last month, and have finally gotten round to typing it up. 
Servitor of the Outer Gods
You can find it here.
Doomed Investigators if ever I saw them

I also produced a shit load of pre-generated Investigators for use with it, which you can find here. They're generated with the presumption that you'll have four or more players, but as it's a short adventure, you can get away with not modifying them if you end up with less. 
Miskatonic University Library

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Session Autopsy / Star Wars Saga Edition as she is played

Hey, I know, let's talk about a discontinued game that you can't buy anymore.
AYes, let's.

So, Star Wars Saga Edition. I ran my first session session two days ago. I've owned the book for pretty much four years, and have held the system in high regard compared to the two previous d20 incarnations and D&D 3.5.
Much of my disappointment with D&D 4e stems from it not being like SWSE.

Having said all that, it's been a couple of years since I read the rules in depth, and a system always contains surprises as you move from theory to practice.

My first surprise was the hardiness of the antagonists.
When I ran D&D 4e, the first encounter the party faced was a swarm of Rats (as is tradition). Each rat was CR1, and they took an entire session to defeat.
My Star Wars players faced off against 12 CL1 Battle Droids, and still had half the session to do two smaller encounters as well.

My second surprise was the amount of damage being thrown about by both sides.
It is unlikely that a Rat could kill a PC in one hit, yet one Battle Droid was able to deliver 18 points of damage in a single shot.
So, Star Wars antagonists are credible threats, and guns are very dangerous.
At one point I was seriously worried that the first encounter would result in a Total Party Kill.
No such luck...

My third surprise was the general ease of the system. It's streamlined, but intuitively streamlined.
The Use the Force skill, for example, makes Jedi Force Powers painless.
Maybe it makes them a little bit min-maxy powergamery, maybe. It seems ok at first level, though.

As mentioned in a previous post, I don't use miniatures. The current primary reason is twofold
1: Star Wars minis have been discontinued
2: Miniatures cost money, that thing which my wife does not like me spending frivolously, and trust me, miniatures are regarded as frivolous.

To overcome this potential hurdle, I took two props along to the session.
A beat up old chess board
An A4 double sided chalk board, one side having a predrawn grid.

As it turns out, I didn't need the chess board, and used the chalk board exclusively.
If combat becomes more complex and/or tactical, then I can see me using chess pieces and sheets of pre-printed A4 grid paper.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Recruitment Drive / RPG group in Bolton, Manchester

My past few posts have alluded to the reestablishment of my gaming group, and our first couple of sessions.

We've got two GMs and six players at the moment, which is ok, but both games could do with another one or two players, to keep quorum up if somebody can't make it.

I've been doing Google searches myself to see if there are any other gaming groups in the area, or any loose players, and it occurred to me that this blog will show up on search results as well.

So, please excuse me for this small indulgence:

If you live in the Bolton, Bury, Chorley, Wigan Salford or North Manchester (England) area, and are interested in playing RPG games on a Tuesday night, then leave a comment below, I can probably hook you up.

We have a back room in a Real Ale pub that can easily hold up to five separate games, and are currently running two: Star Wars Saga Edition and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2nd Ed.

In the past we've played: Dungeons & Dragons 4e, World of Darkness, Hunter: the Vigil and Trail of Cthulhu.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Mythos Generations / Purist Trail of Cthulhu campaign setting

Some thoughts collided earlier today.

Thought One: I read a review of Pendragon, the Arthurian RPG game, some time ago. The review mentioned that the classic storyline covered decades in its scope, and that it was common for players to play the descendants of their original characters.
This struck me as a cool idea. I thought it was a way to encourage players to invest in the peripheral aspects of their characters - establish a family and have children, or lose access to the cool stuff you've learnt/acquired so far.
I wondered why more games didn't do this.

Thought Two: A friend (hi Andy) forwarded me a rumour about Nintendo renewing the Eternal Darkness name for the Wii U/Project Cafe project.
Eternal Darkness was a Cthulhuesque investigative horror that focuses on one family's exposure to and struggle against the plots of an Outer God over the course of several generations.
It is an amazing game, with some genuinely scary moments, well thought out puzzles and magic system, and an... Interesting... Method of displaying your current Sanity level.
The game is told from the perspective of the modern day, as you investigate the mysterious death of your Uncle, and learn about your family's occult history.
As each new chapter is revealed, you play out the actions of one of your ancestors.
Each chapter provides another piece of the puzzle, leading toward the final confrontation in the modern day.

Collision: This would (clearly) make an excellent Trail of Cthulhu campaign setting.
All of the characters would have the In The Blood Drive, with the possibility of the Revenge Drive as well.
The first story would be set in, say, 1890 and introduce the players to a major Mythos threat that awakens from its slumber every 23 years, when the star are right, and the cultists that try to usher it into our world.
This would mean the threat would trouble the world in 1890, 1913, 1936, 1959 and 1982.
These dates can be fudged. The important thing is that they allow sufficient time between installments for characters to have children, or for their existing children to mature and have children of their own.

Trail... Purist campaigns are renowned for disposing of its investigators in short order, through death, sanity loss or Mythos shock, so it makes sense to me to have a replacement character lined up, one with access to their unfortunate relatives notes, possessions and demented ravings.

As the story continues, and characters are killed and retired, younger family members step into the breach to fulfil their ancestral destiny and prevent the dread horrors from the furthest stars from walking our earth once more.

Star Wars Resurrection / Do you do miniatures?

On Tuesday I run my first Star Wars Saga Edition game. I've only owned it for four years.
I remember reading it in my newborn sons nursery as I rocked him to sleep.
He's four now.

My new gaming group selected it over Aberrant, which I intend to run at some point in the near future, and generated their characters last week.
They're all starting at Level 1, and it's set during the Clone Wars.
I've got a:
Human Jedi
Zabrac Scoundrel and a
Human Soldier
If fairly happy with this.

It's also my first time playing with two of the players, Adam and Ni (Scoundrel and Jedi), which is good. It'll keep me on my toes.

Adam offered to bring along some of his minis, to which I replied I don't use miniatures, I narrate the action like a World of Darkness game.

This makes perfect sense to me, but I'm aware that this is not how d20 games are written, and people may take feats specifically to gain a tactical advantage in miniature based combat.
This worries me, slightly.

I ran D&D 4e two years ago, without miniatures. When I handed the GM duties over to another player, the first thing he did was bring in a battle grid and minis.

How integral to a d20 game do miniatures have to be?
This is an important question, as WotC dropped Star Wars, and the minis are going out of stock.
And my wife will not be happy if I order in several boxes.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Epic Technology Fail / New Adventures in Investigative Gaming

It's been a godawful long time since my last post, and I am pretty much forcing myself to write this one.
My Gaming Enthusiasm batteries have been running pretty low of late, mostly due to Real Life crap, and this blog has suffered as a result.

Which is odd, as I've actually done considerably more in the way of gaming in the last couple of months than I have in the past 18 months.

Firstly, I've run Fear Itself over the internet, which represents two milestone firsts for me:
1) Running a Gumshoe game
2) Running a remote game

I am happy to report that once you get a grip of it, Gumshoe works well. I admit that I was pretty anxious and apprehensive about running an investigative game, to the point that I was sending the Author, Robin Laws, Twitter messages asking for advice.
I'm used to running World of Darkness games, having very rough notes (if at all) and relying on player reactions to direct the story - I.e. winging it.
Gumshoe games require you to plot out a solid mystery, with the discovery of clues being central to the story progression.
I was terrified that I wouldn't have the discipline to follow a set path, or the vision to plot one out in the first place.

Turns out it's pretty easy...

For the main story, I decided to use an idea I'd had knocking around for a good few years, and adapt it to a horror mystery.
I tried to stick to the tropes of slow burn ghost stories and 'classic' horror, like Amityville, Dark Water, Blair Witch et al.

I sketched out a small Scottish village by a Loch, added a sleeping evil in the water, a murder, a growing number of missing people, some animate and aggressive water corpses and threw in a couple if Red Herrings.
I kept in mind what was actually happening and how to stop it, and tried to reveal one key clue or fact per scene.
This, it seems, is key...

I found that as long as I kept to this basic framework, I could still improvise and adapt. Just keep in mind where you're actually going, and how long you want to take getting there.

After about 3 sessions, the game was hovering over the Big Reveal... The players had pursued the Red Herring, refocused back on the initial murder, confronted the (suspected) murderer with the belief that he was behind all the weirdness going on, and just found out that he had killed his wife, but that was it. He knew nothing more.
They were starting to get the bigger pieces to the puzzle, I had an event lined up that would point them towards a solution and more questions....

Then I dropped my laptop, breaking the Motherboard.
As we were playing over Skype, this was a bit of a blow. Not only did I lose my ability to run the game, I also lost my notes.

My wife got a little pink netbook, which she allowed me to use for the game, however it appears incapable of disabling the internal speakers and mic when external ones are attached, which led to impenetrable echo and feedback, so I've had to abandon it for the time being.

On the upswing, some guys from my old face to face group got in contact, looking to get the band back together.
Our first session is tomorrow night, and I've volunteered to run a one shot Trail of Cthulhu game.

I've opted to focus on stuffy Miskatonic academics hunting Cultists and horrors through the University library stacks, and have knocked up some pregenerated investigators for immediate use.

Which leads me to the second technology fail.

My wife's netbook does not have DVD/CD drive, so we can't install the hard copy of Office we own, and have been using Google Docs instead.

Google Docs is generally fine, but has a habit of randomly changing a documents formatting if you attempt to mix text, pictures and tables.
Which is very frustrating.

Then, when I printed off the pdf character sheets and rules cheat sheet from Pelgrane Press' site, the printer missed off the last 6 lines of text.

Seeing as it took me some 25 minutes to print off 10 sides of A4, I've decided to just live with it.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Zombie seeding / Armageddon Beta Test

Thinking on it, I've decided that the most likely cause of a world wide zombie plague is as a precursor to an alien invasion.
Seed the atmosphere with zombie virus, await for dominant species to decimate itself (well, maybe more than an order of ten) and then ride in and enslave / kill / farm the survivors.
It's what I'd do...

Friday, September 16, 2011

A moment of clarity / Levels of reality, magic and the Awakened Mage

A number of things have bothered me about Mage: the Awakening since I first read it, and a couple more since I read Changeling: the Dreaming.
These things are mostly to do with my understanding of the Awakened state, the Supernal realms and how magic flows from these realms to our realm.
And Paradox. Mostly Paradox.
Paradox made sense in Mage: the Ascension because magic was all about belief and consensual reality.
Not so in Awakening. There is no consensual reality in this game. Instead, Mages tap into another plane of existence and apply some of the laws of that realm to our own to achieve certain effects.
So, Paradox in Ascension is the rest of the consensus slapping the Mage down.
Paradox in Awakening, on the other hand, is possibly the Mage fucking up and slapping himself. It can also be nearby sentient beings slapping them down because, dammit, people obey the laws of thermo dynamics in this house.
I get that the concept of Paradox is fairly integral to both iterations of Mage, I am just not convinced by how it has been ported across to Awakening and how it has been applied. Without it, Mages (magi?) Would be pretty much unstoppable, able to chuck fireballs, lightening and cars with reckless abandon, control, after and wipe the minds of the rest of the world, transform us all into swine, conquer death and live in luxury.
So, yeah, Paradox.

 Then there's the Supernal realms and the Watchtowers.
Having read Mage: the Awakening, I understood that the Watchtowers were situated within the corresponding Supernal realm, and that's where an Awakening Mage's soul is called to to inscribed their name. Fine. Then I read Changeling: the Dreaming and flicked through its supplement, Equinox Road. Having done so, I had no idea if the Changeling Arcadia was the same place as the Mage Arcadia. Were Awakened souls bypassing the Hedge, and its very serious negative affect on Willworkers? Where in Arcadia is the Watchtower of the Lunargent Thorn?
The Tome of the Watchtowers states that it "...occupies the centermost point of Arcadia..." yet the common descriptions of Arcadia presented by Mages differ significantly to of the escaped Changelings, enough to raise serious doubt that they are talking about the same place.
 Then there's the thematic similarity between the Shadow realm, mostly frequented by Werewolves and Spirits, and the Primal Wild Supernal realm. Also the Underworld from Geist: the Sineaters and the Supernal realm of Stygia. Stepping outside the game world for a second, these duplications of function and theme confuse me.

From a setting design perspective, its not quite right. How do they interact and relate to each other? To my understanding, nWoD is supposed to play nice with itself, and all the different parts are supposed to fit into the bigger picture. These things are not quite fitting, for me.
From a strictly Mage perspective, disregarding any information from other game lines, it all makes sense. That's how the oWoD rolled, though, with it getting sticky the more info from other lines you introduced to your game. NWoD is supposed to be better than that.

 Which brings me to my moment of clarity.
 The Astral Plane. Mages have the ability to explore their own consciousness, sub-conscious and those of the collective human race, as they ascend (descend) through distinct layers of consciousness and dream and collective sub-conscious etc seeking enlightenment, knowledge and things mortal man should not wot of. Importantly (to my theory, at least), during their Awakening, a Mage travels to (or perceives) their Watchtower by way of the Astral plane. They don't physically enter the Supernal realm in question, their Astral form journeys to the Watchtower, leaving their sleeping or semi-conscious body behind.
Which got me thinking - what if the Watchtowers are not actually in the Supernal realms? What if they're in the far reaches of the Astral plane? Maybe the Watchtowers are located at the points of crossing between the Astral plane and each Supernal realm? This would make them more properly Gateways... I'm thinking that the Astral plane can be seen as a bridging point between the Earth and the Supernal realms, that the Exarchs have cut off entry to these realms, so the Watchtowers were built on the realm edges, and are close enough to channel mana from those realms to Earth.
There's probably some fundamental point this theory misses, probably something about how the Shadow forms part of the Fallen World... However, this theory does allow me to reconcile certain things.
Changeling Arcadia is the true Arcadia. The Watchtower of the Lunargent Thorn occupies an area of the Astral plane that reflects Arcadia and is heavily influenced by its proximity to Arcadia. The same also applies to the other Watchtowers.
The Primal Wild is an area of the Astral Plane adjacent to the Shadow.
Stygia is the gateway to the Underworld.
Pandemonium is an entrance to Hell.
The Aether is next to the realm of angels and power.
 All these Supernal realms retain their sovereignty, as do the Watchtowers, and any differences and conflicts that arise from the individual game lines can be rationalized using this model.

I bet if I read the Astral Plane source book, it'll contradict everything I've just said...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

When speaking, leave the 'geek' out / Missing the point

As I understand it, Speak Out with your Geek Out is an opportunity to put aside the negativity and the raging and the edition wars and all of the common failings of our shared hobby, push it all aside and instead celebrate, revel in, the good stuff that comes with it instead.

With this in mind, I have been thinking about what I should write about.
What personal, unique and valuable point of view can I share with the world about my hobbies? What have I got  to say that is worth hearing?
What really good, positive things do I have to say about Geek?


OK, so we're using the word 'Geek'.
What does it actually mean?
Without being all naval-gazey pedantic about the etymology of the word, it is still a negative term, isn't it?

Yes, we're trying to reclaim the word, make it positive, but it's not 'gay'. It wasn't originally a positive word that got subverted, it has always been an insult, a negative descriptor, an undesirable label.
Suddenly it's become cool to describe yourself as a Geek, to carry that label and wear it with pride. As long as it's somebody within the sub-culture who has given it to you. It's not so cool if some jock calls you it and laughs.
Is it, in fact, our 'N' word?

Awhile ago, I started referring to my hobby as 'geeking', as a kind of short hand amongst friends. We all knew what it meant, and, importantly, it excluded those who didn't know what it meant. We could talk about the weekly Vampire: the Masquerade game I ran in mixed company in our own little secret language, and not feel self conscious. Those around us, though, who weren't 'in', they were the ones who felt socially awkward.

About three years ago I started a local gaming club using Meet-Up initially to identify and approach local Roleplayers. I stopped using the word 'geek' then because I was actively reaching outside of my normal social circle and needed to engage with strangers.
We pulled in a few first time gamers and a few veterans who'd not played in twenty years. A good mix, in my opinion.
I'm not sure we'd have drummed up the level of interest we did - 12 players initially - if we'd used exclusive terms or loaded language.

All of this does not mean that I object to people wearing their Geek badge with pride. At a recent job interview I described myself as "A Massive Geek", so I don't have a problem using it myself.
The interview didn't go too well, but I don't think it's because I said I like Sci-Fi and Fantasy films...

I guess what I'm saying is, if we want to hold our heads up high and make it OK to like the things we like and to get other people to take an interest, then maybe we need to check our terms, and be more Inclusive and less Exclusive.

I'll leave you with two definitions of Geek, one objective, one subjective.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Gore to Plot Ratio / Fear Itself

Question: In a stock teen horror / slasher movie scenario (Scream, Darkness Falls, Harper's Island, Nightmare on Elm Street et al), what should the split be between horrific encounters/gruesome murder and investigation into the monster that leads to the final confrontation?

I'm thinking 30/70, with most of the screen time being tense, gory action.

I guess there's an argument for 10% of the movie being bare breasts and lustful activity and/or comedy, and about 5% being character development (oh, she's the Good Girl, he's the Brain, she's the Mean Girl, he's the Dumb Jock etc. Or, Alive, Dead, Dead, Dead, Dead, Dead).

I'm plotting out my first Fear Itself game, which uses the Gumshoe system, and I want to get the balance right.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Hypocracy / Ooh, I am excited about Pathfinder

I swore myself off Dungeons & Dragons about six years ago. I'd finished running a year long 3.5 campaign with seven players that had taken them from Level 1 to approx Level 15, killed off all the original characters except one and sapped my will to live.
I think it was the extreme silliness of spells, spell-like abilities and general epic prowess D&D characters start acquiring around Level 10 and above that did me in.
The sheer number of modifiers, potential for insane actions and improbable escapes that got me in the end.
I just couldn't comprehend just how epicly competent these characters were.
It did my nut.
When 4th Ed came out, I ditched all my 3.5 books in the bin and embraced the new edition whole heartedly. After all, it was streamlined, improved, easier to grasp.
It was differently insane.
And seemed to focus entirely on tactical dungeon combat. It was like playing Diablo.
Or Dungeon Siege.
I ran it for my local gaming club, and after about 3 sessions jacked it in and played a halfling in somebody else's Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay game.
Every now and then I'd look in on the D&D guys. They were always in some dungeon working out if they should plow on and get the Action Points, or take a short rest and heal, or weighing up if they should use their per day power now or save it.
I never actually saw them have a conversation with an NPC or do something non combat related.
So, I swore myself off D&D entirely. I'll stick with my WoD and Gumshoe games, I thought.
Earlier this year, though, I realised I had an itch for D&D style fantasy.
I thought about hacking WoD into a fantasy game, and bought World of Darkness: Mirrors. Good ideas, just not quite the same...
I picked up my copy of Ars Magica 5th Ed and flicked through. Yeah, but not quite. It's not epic fantasy. It's not disposable. It's not fast paced.
So I've bought Pathfinder.
I'm halfway through it, and I'm getting a little giddy about it.
Yes, I know its essentially 3.5 with tweaks, and I can see characters becoming insanely powerful by 10th level again, but it sings to me.
The Classes and Races look like fun to play, I'm already familiar with the rules, so just need to spot the differences, it encourages multi-classing and non-standard skill point distribution.
It's a game I hated 6 years ago, and right now I think its great.
I first went out with my wife in 95. We split up some five months later.
Ten years later, we get married.
Not that I'm comparing my wife to D&D/Pathfinder...

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Search Terms / Drug Raids

I've been away from this blog for a little while, mostly due to real life crap and mucking about on G+

I return to discover that six people have stumbled upon my blog this past month whilst searching for a Kilo of Coke.
Like they can order it from eBay or Amazon.
They can't, can they?

Technology Fail / The joys of remote gaming

I'm pretty pumped. I've just finished my first internet gaming experience, and it went well... sort of.

I'm running a game of Fear Itself for a group of six players, three of which i've never gamed with before, one of whom has never gamed before. Tonight was a dry run for the technology and a character creation session.

The technology was a massive pain in the ass.

I'd committed to Google Talk, because I believed it allowed conference calls. Noooo. One conversation at a time. Fail.
So we tried a Google+ Hangout, which would've worked just fine, except one of the players couldn't get in. Apparently G+ was full. Or so it told him.

So then we switched to, which is a free web conferencing service, with video cams, 'unlimited' users, text chat, file sharing and an interactive white board.
After five minutes of setting up, we were in, and then my Shockwave crashed. Luckily it didn't close the conference, so I just rejoined. One other player had an issue, so this is what we're using going forward. It worked really well.

Once we were all on, we went through character creation and the basics of the rules. Then we had a fight.

The fight was fucking great.
I've not GM'd or role played for over a year, and by god I've missed it.
I set the players up in a standard tavern brawl, with a last man standing brief, and let them go mad.
It was gratifying that the 'combat specialist' died in only two rounds.
They are so fucked.
We didn't get round to doing Stability loss, however they're most likely to go insane before they die.

I am itching to get into the game, now.
I can't wait a week...

Friday, August 19, 2011

Video killed the face to face gaming group / Remote gaming problems

Ok, gamerati, if you were playing a game over the internet, using headphones and web cams, what medium / system would you use?

I've tested last night, and it crashed on me.
I tried Hanging Out on G+, but the plug in wouldn't install on my laptop (window 7, mid range specs, running Chrome browser).

I'd like a medium that includes text chat and easy picture upload.

What should I be using?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Creativity / Productivity

I've been working on a system and setting of my own for too long now. Actual years. Six?
Too long.
I like to think of myself as a good ideas guy, and I'm definitely good at starting things. I just rarely deliver.
I have a qualification in Creative Writing, not a degree, because I didn't complete my dissertation, so it's a Diploma instead.
I start a lot more games than I finish. Never intentionally, its just that as soon as I've started one thing, I want to move onto the next.
It effects every level of my life. I seem to lack organization, focus and confidence in my work.
This post is not an exercise in self pity though, or it's not intended to be, rather it is supposed to be a statement of intent.
Since I started paying attention to the various RPG blogs that are out there, I have become aware of the many indie, DIY game publishers, and seen some of their work.
Publications range from short supportive supplements for existing games, to new, original systems and settings.
I have seen, from the periphery, some of these games move from concept, through design and to realisation and delivery.
An example would be Greg Christopher and his Dark Horse Game Design blog.
I am kind of in awe of his productivity. He has a helluva lot of home commitments (as far as I can tell), holds down a day job and still blogs constantly as well as designing his own games.
His production values are very high, and churns out maps, content and layout for his games in short order.
How does he do it?
Does he sleep?
I've focussed on Greg somewhat here (and sound like a gushing fandom whilst doing so) because from what I know of his personal life, it's similar to mine.
I have two young children, I work full time, I have responsibilities, and don't get to put the time I'd like to into my hobbies.
Then I see people like Greg living the dream.
I clearly need to buck my ideas up. Get a bit of direction. Organise myself.
I would like to produce a playable draft of my system & setting, Modern Mythic, and get it out there, get some feedback. Playtest it. Redraft etc.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Forbidden Corner / Changeling: the Lost LARP waiting to happen

It was my little boy's 4th birthday this weekend gone, so we took him to The Forbidden Corner in North Yorkshire (UK). I'd been there before, whilst he was still gestating in my wife's womb (4.5 years ago, date fans), and loved it then. I still love it now.

The place is a four acre folly in the Yorkshire Dales. It's am eccentric maze that doubles as a treasure hunt. It is brimming with character.

The entrance to
the maze
When I visited four years ago, I had not read Changeling: the Lost. This is an important point.
Whilst walking through the hedge mazes, wooded paths, tunnels and corridors, my overriding thought was:
This would be a fantastic location for Changeling: the Lost LARP

Now, I'm not into LARP anymore, but I would play a C:tL live game if it were run here. I just need somebody within the UK to organise it. 

The game would be very Hedge-centric, with occasional forays into the edges of Arcadia and Dream spaces. There is a great potential for Hollows, Freeholds, Gateways, Goblin Markets and fucking scary encounters with the True Fae and Hobgoblins.
Part I of a water
tunnel that leads to
the Greek Underworld

Logistically, the site would need booking for an entire weekend, with each attendee paying for at least a full day, maybe two. 
There are cottages on site, which is good, and a possibility for camping for everybody else. 
There's also a cafe on site. 

These steps ultimately lead to the Greek Underworld

The Gates to Hell
or something

A submerged dragon mural

Gates leading to an offshoot of the grounds - a long path of trees and wild boars

A representative wooded path

The view from the edge of the grounds

A gateway to the Hedge
or something worse

There are a fair few gateways and arches

The entrance to another off shoot from the main grounds
This one leads to a graveyard and a herb garden

Another wooded path

A warning to anybody who would meddle in the affairs of the Fey

This, and many of the following photos, reminded me of the insignia from Changeling: the Dreaming

An exit
Also a point of No Return
(in real life, it leads to the toilets)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

G(+) Funk / Online gaming in the Google age

I tried an experiment earlier today. Actually yesterday.
Ok, a few hours ago.

I fancied seeing how I could use Google+ for casual remote gaming. Sort of like Play by Email, but not.
I thought I could create a Circle, put the players in it, and post a scene setter with picture and have them react to it in the comments.
The idea would be that each post was a stage in the story, and each new post would occur as the action in the comments reached a natural/critical point.

I didn't think it through to well, though.

Firstly, the players I selected confused it with the 'full' online RPG of Fear Itself i'm setting up.
Secondly, I hadn't thought about the posts getting lost in the feed. Players could keep adding comments to one post, and be alerted to updates by Notifications etc, totally unaware that a new post had come out. This also makes it hard to maintain a sense of narrative structure.

So, thinking on it, what i'm looking for in this instance is actually Google Wave.
Didn't they turn that off?

As a side note, I thought i'd give the basic framework of my Modern Mythic pet system a whirl, so this is what I sent out:
You have 10 points to spend between Strength, Sanity and Luck.
You excel at one thing.
You can use a point of Strength or Sanity to increase your chance of success in a physical or mental task.
You can use a point of Luck to turn a failure into a success, or a success into a failure.
Your character needs a name.

This is what I got back, which is encouraging:
 Str 2, San 3, Luck 5.
Jimmy Muldoon.
Excels at darts

 Brock Landers
Str 2, San 4, Luck 4
Excels at Poker

Alexander Braithwaite
Str 6, San 2, Luck 2
Excels at Golf.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Player reactions / Is it ever acceptable to throw a Tarrasque at a 1st level party?

I've an idea for a D&D/Pathfinder game, which riffs off Cloverfield a fair amount.
I want to destroy the city the players are in, and make their challenges about saving themselves and others, and generally getting out alive.
It would not be about fighting the big ass monster.
Repeat, not.
That would happen in the background, with the level 20 NPCs throwing heavy ordinance at it, running up its flanks like Legolas or commanding legions of enchanted Mechawarriors (as cool as that would be) to crash against it like waves against the rocks.
My chief concern is the "moron son from War of the Worlds" effect - one of the players exits the main plot because they don't want to survive, they want to fight futilely against the unconquerable foe.
Players can be morons too.
So, advice, should a DM ever throw a Tarraque level threat at a starting party?

G+ / Pimping invites

If anybody wants a G+ invitation, I can hook you up

Posted via my geek phone

Green Light gogogogogogo / Video Conference gaming update

I have received agreement in principle from my wife to steal the laptop once a week and shout alarming curses into a microphone whilst sat in the kitchen drinking coffee.
In fact, she feels it's quite an elegant solution to our childcare / lifestyle constraints vs my addictive need to geek.

So, win!

I have just sent out confirmation of my commitment to the eight potential players, and we'll see what comes back.
Eight is a large gaming group, but I am expecting some attrition on that number. Not everybody will be available on the same night. Some people will be only passingly interested. It's a system that none of us have played before (Fear Itself / Gumshoe) and is an experiment in gaming media.

Whilst I would like to retain all eight (because they're all good friends who I have confidence in), I wouldn't be surprised or disappointed if we dwindled to four.
If it dropped to less than that number, I'd probably have to rethink some elements.

For the play medium, I want to try Big Marker, who provide a free conferencing service that includes video, voice and IM chat, as well as the ability to upload and deliver presentations on a virtual white marker.
I'm hoping this will allow me to upload text, images etc that can be used in the session.

I've also got myself on Google+, which is showing some potential for virtual gaming. It may be a fallback position should Big Marker go down or prove to be utter wank.

I've set the players some homework. Now to see what comes back.

  • Confirm that you want to and are able to play
  • Let me know what days are good / bad for you
  • Read the rules
  • Think about your character concept. I'll be using the basic character stereotypes presented in the rules, although this is not a high school game. There will be only one character with specific combat and investigation experience (who will be fated to die heroically near the end), and if anybody wants to play one, only one Psychic. If anybody wants to play one of these, then shout out asap. If multiple people want to play one of these roles, then we'll resolve that as it arises.
  • Try out and make sure it works on your PC, and that you're happy to use it. 
  • Read up on Fear Itself at Pelgrane Press's website or my blog.
  • Ask questions.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Everything you've built and care about sucks / A sense of community within RPG Bloggers

I was extremely disappointed this morning to learn that Christian has jacked in his Destination Unknown blog following a rather personal attack levelled at him by a troll site.

It's a shame. I'm a fairly new Blogger, and it's blogs like DU and community members like Christian who encourage newbies like me.

I always found his posts interesting, well thought out and entertaining.

He gave back to the community with free zines and character stats, and, dammit, a hell of a lot of my site traffic originated from his blog.

I guess I should be angry at the mouth breather who attacked him. Instead I'm just disappointed.

Posted via my geek phone

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Let Dream Combat Commence! / Changeling vs Mage vs Psychic

Supplemental to my earlier post about Changeling: the Lost and Inception style combat, I've been flicking through my other nWoD books, trying to determine what other supernaturals can indulge in Oneiromachy.

Reading Mage: the Awakening tells me that a Mage with Mind 4 can enter a sleepers dream and mess around with the content of the dream.

It also tells me that any Mage can enter the Universal Dreamspace, the Teneros, by meditating. They can also use their magic in much the same way as they can in the waking world, with the added bonus of being Paradox free.

There is a suggestion that Mages may encounter the True Fae whilst on an Astral Journey.

Reading Second Sight tells me that both Psychics and Sorcerers can enter dreams and interact with the sleeping world.

They are comparatively defenseless, though.

After all of this, it's also clear that in the dreamworld, Changelings kick ass.

I can see great potential for cross over, both conflict and cooperation, in this.

Posted via my geek phone