Woot! The last book I needed for Big Bad Con has arrived: Alas for the Awful Sea, from Storybrewers Roleplaying, arrived today! It’s a marvel of understated elegance.
So yesterday I spoke about our game of The Watch. This was our kickoff, where we got to create characters, clans, and even our great enemy, the Shadow, in its broad strokes. Edmund, Dani and I had all played in Bryanna’s playtest games last year but Fish was new to the setting.
I felt much more relaxed about a friendly series set up for love of the game than I did about the playtest. I love playtesting and I try to give useful, constructive feedback, but I tend to tackle it as a more goal-oriented, must-meet-scope-and-deadline task than regular games. Yesterday I felt free to explore the setting and work on the detail of character relationships, unpressed by deadlines.
Gaming via VoIP has its technological and emotional drawbacks, but it does let you assemble the most wonderful gaming groups that could not possibly meet face-to-face, and it allows the use of nifty tools in real time.
For example, in our online games we usually prepare a Google Drive folder or other sharing point, and collectively take game notes during the game. Yesterday was no exception. You can also look for images of people, places, and objects right when they’re mentioned. Our GM Bryanna is very proficient with Roll20 and sets up great sites with backdrops, maps, character tokens, counters, card decks, etc.
We opened with a discussion of everyone’s comfort level with varying levels of darkness, violence, etc., and the use of the X-card, followed by a brief tour of the game’s themes and tone, and the Roll20 tools.
We then discussed the Shadow, our Sauron-equivalent, and basically what we’d like to punch in the face the most for this . From the options available, we picked:
What the Shadow Is :
What the Shadow Wants :
Pervert the land and all its creatures
Submission without resistance
What the Shadow Does :
Turn women into objects
Crush autonomy and grind down the willful
The Shadow’s Servants:
Men twisted into unnatural creatures of war
Cogs in a devastating machinery of war
The Shadow’s Moves
Terrify its opposition
Attack en masse
Make you doubt yourselves
Snuff out ambitions and dreams
Corrupt memories into twisted facsimiles
We made four characters:
- Otac the Bear, our Corporal; from Clan Toltho, known for their crafts folk and farmers (Fish); and three Wardens:
- Reule the Spider; from Clan Dothas, known for their mystics (Edmund);
- Papho the Lioness; from Clan Richti, known for their nomads (Dani); and
- Teyka the Wolf; from Clan Molthas, known for their rugged mountain folk (me).
We asked each other questions and established our characters’ relationships, generating a good deal of setting seeds in the process. Here is a relationship map I made today on Google Draw with what we generated yesterday; there is actually much more detail in our campaign notes, but I like visual tools. Relationships can be edited on the fly.
We then fleshed out our clans, and discovered more secrets, ties, and rifts! I think this is shaping up to be The Lord of the Rings + The Black Company + Fury Road.
Credits: Cover of The Watch by Claudia Cangini. Relationship map’s background image CC-BY-3.0 by David “Deevad” Revoy, obtained from Wikimedia Commons. Picture of Otak is actually of Photo of We’wha, a Zuni Lhamana,CC-BY-3.0 Wikimedia Commons. Picture of Reule is actually model Nicola Griffin, demo’ing the Winter 2015 collection for Caterina Wills Jewelry. Picture of Papho is actually of a Hawaiian woman with face tattoos, Getty Images. Picture of Teyka is actually of actress Zhang Jingchu in “Jade Warrior,” 2006. Picture of Miri is actually of a Tibetan girl, copyright Adele Stoulilova 2010. No copyright challenge intended.
We’re having a record-breaking heatwave here. It’s really alarming for all the people who don’t have air conditioning, by the way, especially the poor and elderly.
We don’t have air conditioning either but we have a mother-in-law unit that was built in the back of the garage and faces north, never getting direct sunshine though it has a good deal of natural light. This is the coolest part of the house, by quite a bit—and it serves as our gaming lair as well as occasional guest room.
We were left no choice but to retreat there and play games. We huddled around the Chromebook and played The Watch (Anna Kreider and Andrew Medeiros) on Roll20, with GM Bryanna and players Fish, Dani, and us. We’re at the very beginning of our campaign but we’ve already cooked up some really nice links and potential; conflicts between our characters and clans. Lots of proper drama in the wings.
And last night and tonight, we once more took to adventuring in Gloomhaven, making our way through the sinister sewers (completed Scenarios #18 and #23).
I was just talking about Tortuga 1667 and Salem 1692 a couple of days ago. And they arrived with today’s mail! Here are some unboxing photos.
31. What’s an awesome thing you anticipate for gaming in 2018?
I usually have no idea what’s going to be most amazing in gaming that year until I stumble on it. That’s OK, I enjoy the surprise. But even as I realize that the best part of my gaming experiences will continue to surprise me, there are a few things I look forward to.
First, a passel of projects I’m managing for Evil Hat Productions will likely hit the shelves in 2018 (fingers crossed.) I have high hopes for several of the new Fate Toolkits, and a few gems I can’t wait for you to see.
Second, I really look forward to Cam Banks’ Cortex Prime (Magic Vacuum Design Studio). I especially hope that it will have tools to lighten the game-master’s load and make it easier to improvise in response to players’ actions.
Finally, I have been keeping an eye on Nahual, Miguel Angel Espinoza and Edgar Clément’s upcoming game Powered by the Apocalypse. Nahual is a Mexican role-playing game set on the universe created by comic book artist Clément, started in the graphic novel Operación Bolivar. I really hope we can see its release in 2018.
30. What is an RPG genre-mashup you really enjoyed?
Today’s question was “What is an RPG genre-mashup you would most like to see?” but I rephrased it to my liking so I would have an excuse to mention a few of my favourites.
- Godlike (Hobgoblynn Press): World War II + gritty superheroes.
- Motobushido (Alliterated Games): Post-apocalyptic biker gangs + ronin code of honour.
- Roma Imperious (HinterWelt Enterprises): Victorious Roman Empire + magic.
- Threadbare RPG (Stephanie Bryant): Toys + punk aesthetics + brokenness.
- TORG: All the genres, colliding.
- X-Crawl (Pandahead Publishing/Goodman Games): Dungeon-crawling as a televised extreme sporting event.
An updated version of my game offerings for Big Bad Con, October 13-15. Let’s see if you can guess what my theme is…
Alas for the Awful Sea
A role-playing game created by Australians Hayley Gordon and Veronica Hendro at Storybrewers Roleplaying, thanks to a successful Kickstarter funding campaign.
The premise: It’s the 19th century and unnatural storms forced your vessel to seek refuge in a poor, troubled little coastal town. Expect intrigue, desperation, betrayal, and supernatural mysteries. The game system is a mean, unforgiving, stripped-down Powered by the Apocalypse.
You can see my game blurb in the schedule here.
Another successful Kickstarter baby, a card/board game created by Travis and Holly Hancock at Facade Games.
The premise: Two pirate ships, one Spanish galleon, and Tortuga Island between them. Treasure, mutineers, and divided loyalties. Up to nine players vie for the gold amid shifting alliances and tides in this social deduction game.
You can see my game blurb in the schedule here.
Another social deduction card game from Travis and Holly Hancock at Facade Games. Because the Tortuga 1667 Kickstarter campaign was so successful, Facade games was able to launch a new printing of this game that has already been a success in the last couple of years.
The premise: Up to 12 people play witch hunters and inhabitants of Salem, Massachusetts, who must find the witches before being accused themselves! Much fun, paranoia, and religious extremism will be had by all.
You can see my game blurb in the schedule here.
Games On Demand
To the Temple of Doom! To Defeat the Ancient Evil!
A no-prep, mini-roleplaying game by Hayley Gordon and Veronica Hendro at Storybrewers Roleplaying, which they offer free for download.
I submitted this as part of the line-up I want to offer at Games on Demand. Participating game-masters each offer a choice of two or more games for walk-in players, typically run in two-hour time blocks.
The premise: Play archaeologists portrayed in the vein of action movies like the Indiana Jones series, The Mummy, etc. An ancient evil stirs, waking deep within the bowels of an untouched temple. An evil that will end the world as we know it. Only you and your fellow archeologists can examine the clues, unravel the mysteries, and uncover the method to subdue this terrible threat. It’s reportedly very rare to finish a game without a few characters dead or at least cursed…
Loose Threads: A Fate World of Adventure
A lovely adventure for Fate Core by Tara Zuber, published by Evil Hat Productions. I was lucky enough to try it when Tara playtested it and I greatly enjoyed it. Now I’m offering it for Games on Demand.
The premise: You play a secondary character from a fairy tale, one that was forgotten by the heroes of the tale but has since managed to make a life for themselves helping others avoid being the collateral damage of a happy ending. You and the rest of your Company break curses, retrieve stolen keepsakes and lost children, and chase ogres away.
The Quiet Year
A meditative, map-based story game by Avery Alder (Buried Without Ceremony).
The premise: You define the struggles of a post-apocalyptic community, and attempt to build something good within their quiet year. Every decision and every action is set against a backdrop of dwindling time and rising concern.
The game is played using a deck of cards – each of the 52 cards corresponds to a week during the quiet year. Each card triggers certain events – bringing bad news, good omens, project delays and sudden changes in luck. At the end of the quiet year, the Frost Shepherds will come, ending the game.
At the Stroke of Midnight
In 2015, Meguey created a series of eight seasonal wishing and fortune-telling games to see her patrons through the year; this was the final game in the series. It seems like a good subject for October!
The premise: The sun sinks in the sky, bringing long shadows and a wisp of cool air. In a handful of hours it will be midnight. The veil between the world of the living and the world of the dead is growing thinner with each passing moment. At midnight it will open, and those who are able to stand unshaken before the Beloved Dead will be allowed a boon. You and your friends set out for the graveyard, each eager to meet the Beloved Dead and ask a favor from those who have gone before.
The game is played with dice and looking for patterns, Yahtzee-style, that will allow you to influence the story.
29. What’s an RPG Kickstarter you have backed that was very well run?
Uh, I don’t know how qualified I am to say when a Kickstarter campaign is well run or not. After a few bad experiences at the beginning, most of the campaigns I have backed have delivered the products they promised. KS saw fit to label me a “super backer”, which clearly means that I spend too much on new games, so I’m guessing that as long as backers pay a little attention to what they sign up for, they will rarely be disappointed.
That said, yes, Evil Hat Productions has been the tightest, promptest to deliver on my list. Atlas Games, Vigilance Press, Modiphius, Pelgrane Press, Green Ronin Publishing, and Magpie Games have also run solid campaigns and fully delivered on promises.
28. What’s a film or series used as a frequent source of quotes in your group?
We treasure bad puns over quotes, still, everything geeky is a source of quotes with us. The touchstones, of course: Monty Python’s Flying Circus, The Holy Grail, and Life of Brian; Firefly, Babylon 5, Star Wars, Star Trek, The Lord of the Rings, Doctor Who; The Simpsons and occasionally South Park; and of course old games.
- “I will hit him to kingdom high, kingdom there!”
- “Meet me on the bridge at midnight.” “IT’S A TRAP!!!”
- “You see an altar surrounded with burning brassieres…”
- “I sap him.” “You—what? Why?” “He looked like a traitor.”
- “Oompa loompa ompa dee dall, I think I’m going to smack into that…”
- “I am DIMENSION MAN Man Man man…” (reverb effect)
- “You dare mock our customs?” “No, just you personally.”
- “Ronin sense… tingling! Magistrates in trouble!”
- “I hate space.”
27. What are your essential tools for good gaming?
At the root, the only essential elements for me to have a good game are a few friends who want to play “pretend” together and for approximately the same types of stories, rules, or experiences.
Then again, we all love our toys, tricks, and hacks.
I have mentioned before some of the things I always bring with me to a game convention, particularly my beloved All Rolled Up filled with pens, index cards and dice, dry-erase media such as my Noteboard, and a variety of card decks as oracles and visual inspiration. I also carry a blank book to take game notes and sketch scenes, and lists of names to draw from for new characters.
And here is another one I keep mentioning, but there is always one new reader who may find it useful: Robin’s Laws of Good Game Mastering, by Robin D. Laws (Steve Jackson Games), an excellent, easily read, and inexpensive primer for new GMs.