12 RPGs for the 12th Month: Coming Soon…

Paul Mitchener came up with a new writing challenge on role-playing games called “12 RPGs for the 12th Month” (see the full list of questions here.)

Question 12: 23rd to 24th December

Name an RPG, setting, or adventure you haven’t run or played before, but really want to try out in 2018. What particularly appeals about it?

I’m particularly looking forward to getting my copy of Sell Out With Me, the supplement for Robert Bohl’s Misspent Youth. The reason is the creative team:

Designers and writers: Caitlynn Belle, Strix Beltrán & Ajit George, Misha Bushyager, Judd Karlman, Kimberley Lam, Daniel Levine, Kira Magrann, Matthew McFarland, Michael Miller, Quinn Murphy, Joshua AC Newman, Dev Purkayastha, Alex Roberts, Hannah Shaffer, Jared Sorensen, Daniel Swensen, Curt Thompson, Rachel E.S. Walton, Bill White, and Gregor Vuga.

Artists: Christianne Benedict, Nyra Drakae, Alex Mayo, Jennifer Rodgers, Evan Rowland, Ernanda Souza, Rick Troula, and Jabari Weathers.

What’s not to love, right? Also, I have run a Misspent Youth campaign a few years ago and I thought it was a very clever game that produces great dramatic action.

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12 RPGs for the 12th Month: Fun Times

Paul Mitchener came up with a new writing challenge on role-playing games called “12 RPGs for the 12th Month” (see the full list of questions here.)

Question 11: 21st to 22nd December

Talk about a particular stand-out positive experience of playing (rather than running) an RPG in 2017. What was it? What was so good about it?

I get the bulk of my joy in role-playing from three things:

  1. Hanging out with wonderful people.
  2. Seeing someone at the table do something amazingly clever, gutsy, funny, well-portrayed, and so forth.
  3. Occasionally being the one to do the thing.

Pretty much all my games satisfied #1 this year. There were games where I don’t remember any of the fiction or die rolls, but I remember just feeling super-chill and happy to be with my friends.

There were so many memorable moments for #2, though! I think I will pick Adi beautifully role-playing the witch in Gretchen Burneko’s Witch: The Road to Lindisfarne game at Big Bad Con, with Edmund giving the perfect counterpoint as Sir Thorne. It was a like a front-row seat for a high-quality theater drama.

(For #3, I will be a mean person and pick my barbarian collapsing the cursed temple onto the head of [Name Withheld]’s annoying character—and mine.)

12 RPGs for the 12th Month: #internet

Paul Mitchener came up with a new writing challenge on role-playing games called “12 RPGs for the 12th Month” (see the full list of questions here.)

Question 10: 19th to 20th December

Mobile phones and the internet in an RPG setting in the modern day world (perhaps with fantastic elements): discuss. What possibilities do they open up? What, if any, issues come with them when it comes to RPG scenarios?

I guess this is a question for us old fogeys. Players and game-masters who are in their 20s don’t need to discuss this (and probably scratch their heads at the question.)

Some elements jump to mind:

Instant communication between characters give a very different feel to splitting the party. They can be physically apart but still in contact; if you truly want them separated, they have to lose the signal somehow.

Communication can be private and silent, via text messages (watch out for that buzz or the lit screen that can give you away, though!)

Knowledge skills are strongly impacted: online, you can learn to make Turkish coffee, decode a cryptogram, or use a Raspberry PI and Lego blocks to create a recon bot. This means that intelligence should be treated much more as the capacity for reasoning and analysis, and less as the accumulation of data.

Instant proof and documentation—snap a photo or secretly record a conversation, upload. While opponents of the PCs will sometimes be able to claim it’s a doctored photo or recording (and some supernatural critters may not show in digital media, I guess), in general that alters a lot of stories depending on “No one will believe us” or “Get the information in the right hands” premises.

Always have the right tool: With apps for GPS, magnifier, starfinder, compass, first aid manual, birding field guide, drawing, banking, and so forth, there are many tasks that become possible or trivial wherever the characters are, as long as they have a signal.

Under Big Brother’s eye: The flip side is that it can be very difficult to evade tracking or surreptitious phone cloning, and having a phone confiscated or stolen can put a crimp in one’s plan.

Horror games should be designed to use loss of signal, surveillance, unexpected ringing, cryptic texts or calls, new suspicious apps, panicked calls from other characters, trusted but unreliable Wikipedia information, and so forth. You can really affect the pace with such tools.

 

12 RPGs for the 12th Month: Future Imperfect

Paul Mitchener came up with a new writing challenge on role-playing games called “12 RPGs for the 12th Month” (see the full list of questions here.)

Question 9: 17th to 18th December

You’re planning to run some science fiction, in a setting of your choice. Is there any particular technology you want to include because the possibilities intrigue you. Is there any standard piece of “future technology” you’d rather leave out?

Ah, another fun question.

Let’s start by narrowing it to subgenre, since the scifi genre is so vast. While I enjoy cyberpunk, space opera, time travel, post-apocalypse, planetary romance, and fighting dystopian futures, I particularly love space exploration adventures with a realistic feel.

They don’t have to be excruciatingly accurate to the latest scientific journals, but I like when you feel the danger and the fragility of human life in the blackness of space, the sense that everyone aboard has to pull their weight for the ship to survive the voyage. I particularly like keeping things at the scale of colonization of the Solar System.

That means no FTL drives, and the only artificial gravity comes from rotation or acceleration. No light sabers, no replicators (except 3D printing), no teleportation.

12 RPGs for the 12th Month: Prepping to Run

FAE: at the game table

Paul Mitchener came up with a new writing challenge on role-playing games called “12 RPGs for the 12th Month” (see the full list of questions here.)

Question 8: 15th to 16th December

Talk about your typical approach to preparation for running an RPG. Is there a particular method you generally follow? What use do you make of published setting or adventure material, if any?

Now THIS is a question I can sink my teeth in.

When I prep for an adventure, I try to start from the player characters, their abilities, and their backstories—either reviewing the existing PCs in an ongoing campaign or creating pregenerated characters for a convention game. In the latter case, however, I usually leave space for some customization at the table, so I don’t know everything about the PCs yet. And for certain systems—such as Fate Accelerated, PbtA games, and most story games—I truly don’t know what characters will show up.

Then I create the cast of GM characters,  the main sets, and power factions, tying them to the PCs if I can. That should include at least one main antagonist and their minions, at least one GM character who needs the PCs’ help, and some bystanders to interact with. All characters and factions will have agendas even if they are very simple; main sets are selected for the potential for loots of interesting things to happen there, for the PCs to interact with the environment.

I build those up into action scenes (not necessarily combat) that will happen at the beginning of each act; I generally plan for two or three acts per adventure. The more we advance into the episode, the less I know about how things will unfold, so I rely on my NPCs’ and factions’ agendas when I react to the PCs’ actions.

With many of the systems I love (e.g., Fate Core/Accelerated, PDQ, HeroQuest, etc.) I can easily improvise stats for NPCs. If the system is on the crunchier side (e.g., Cortex Plus/Prime, Masterbook/Torg, Blue Rose/Fantasy AGE), I pillage from published characters as needed.

Because I start from the player characters and whatever campaign background we already established, I tend to make custom adventures. However, it’s nice to steal from a published adventure if it fits in your game. In that case, I review the adventure, identify the key NPCs, factions, and sets, and make changes as needed. I then examine the scene breakdown and the connections between scenes, think about different outcomes that could result from the players’ choices, and brainstorm for possible responses.

Because I’m deconstructing the published adventure into its building blocks and get ready to reassemble them however makes sense in response to the PCs, the adventure becomes open-ended, just like my home-made scenarios.

I have talked at length before on how I build adventures and use published ones; here are some of my past post that walk through examples step-by-step, including how they changed during play.

Credits: “At The Table,” art by Claudia Cangini for Fate Accelerated (Evil Hat Productions 2013.)

12 RPGs for the 12th Month: Gateway Game

Paul Mitchener came up with a new writing challenge on role-playing games called “12 RPGs for the 12th Month” (see the full list of questions here.)

Question 1: 1st to 2nd December

You’re running an RPG to introduce new players to the RPG hobby this month. Which game and genre do you choose, and why?

My answer might vary a bit depending on what the recuit players’ interests are. For example, I would try to tie in with a fiction world I know they already like, such as Harry Potter, the Marvel Universe, Star Wars, etc., which might affect the choice of system.

As general introductory systems, I have had particularly good success for this using InSpectres (Memento Mori Theatricks), The Zorcerer of Zo (Atomic Sock Monkey Press), Fate Accelerated (Evil Hat Productions), etc.

All else being equal, though, I would probably use Truth & Justice (Atomic Sock Monkey Press) again. I have had great success with completely new players taking on the persona of superheroes that might be complex to model in other systems, just jumping in and having great fun without the headaches. For example, I remember one forty-something who had never been in a role-playing game in his life, and decided he wanted to play Marvin Minsky with a body made of nanites. I just went along, and no, it didn’t break the game. He had a blast and said he would look into gaming in his hometown.

Big Bad Con signups: More to do

The first phase game of signups for Big Bad Con 2017 opened at noon today. That means that everyone can register for two scheduled games, plus any number of quota-exempt events, usually the larger events.

As is now customary when Big Bad Con opens the floodgate to game signups, the team was monitoring the server for response and signs of failure. Since its inception in 2011, Big Bad Con’s game offerings and attendance have increased steadily; in the early years, signup time became a sort of self-inflicted DDoS attack. Every year there is increased effort to do better and limit the chances of server failure as well as booking collisions, when extremely popular events become overbooked.

This year I got a lodge seat to see the process handled by Big Bad Wolf Sean Nittner and Back-end/App Developer Jeremy Tidwell (Webmaster/Front-end Developer Colin Fahrion was on a plane at the time). They had secured extra computing power for the expected onslaught, and we had more registered guests than ever at this point.

We did have about 15 to 20 overbookings for a handful of events that filled up quickly, particularly the big four-table event of Night Witches. I had managed to snag a spot, but as staff I cancelled out to let someone else enjoy it when I saw how coveted the tickets were. (To be honest, if I had had the logistics available, I would have had this event run by four women and have given priority to women and non-binary players. But I don’t know how I would have managed it.)

We contacted the victims of overbooking to apologize and let them know they could book something else, all within the first few minutes of signups.

What Now?

Next Saturday, September 23 at noon (Pacific time), everyone gets access to two more games in their quota. And in two weeks, on Saturday September 30 at noon, quotas will be lifted; in addition, games in the Teens room will now be accessible to all. The signups are rolled out gradually like this to give a chance to everyone to get into games that appeal to them, not just to the people who were available for a short and specific period.

In the mean time, if you booked your two quota events: remember that there are several events that will not count against your booking quota. These are mostly larger events (usually for 10 attendees or more) such as:

Micro-games and party games such as:

Of course there will also be drop-in events at the convention, such as:

The Watch: Game Setup

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 :
Reality Warping
Terror Inducing

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
 Eliminate support
 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.

RPG a Day: Wish I was playing…

Note: Yesterday (July 31), S. John Ross came up with a great hack for #RPGaDay2017, which I will be using. That’s really pretty much how I treated the prompts in previous years, but I like that it’s made explicit. 

1. What published RPG item do you wish you were playing right now?

Ugh, ask me again in five minutes! We’re starting directly with the kind of question that is difficult for me: narrowing things down to one title.

This very minute, I would be really pleased if a good gamemaster offered to run Blades in the Dark for my husband and I and a few more brave rogues. I have the glorious Special Edition, I’m itching to play. I love stories of clever heroes, ensemble casts, moral dilemmas, and daring plans.

Scrivener Lesson: Setting Up

This weekend I spent some time jotting down some ideas for the easiest writing prompts, drafting a few answers (Screenshot #1). I also made sure to set up properly, for example, choosing a cloud backup location, Dropbox, for safety (Screenshot #2).

And yeah, yesterday I saw this great idea from S. John Ross for reframing the writing prompts and I decided to add it to my project Research section. There were a couple of ways to do this. First, I could just add it to the list of links (Screenshots #3 and 4).

But I decided I wanted to be able to access it from within my Scrivener project, so I created a new file in my Research folder, and pasted John’s text with a source reference (Screenshots #5 and 6). That way, I can have it open in the bottom window area as I write (Screenshot #7).

Then I decided I need to write a Scrivener lesson for all this, but I want to be able to locate it separately from my prompt. So I converted the first entry from file format to folder, and added a new file in it to contain the Scrivener lesson (Screenshot #8). You can easily switch between Scrivener file and folder formats and back again (Screenshot #9), the difference is pretty much just conceptual for our purposes.

It’s a useful thing to do if I want to be able to create collections of related text. In this case, I want to be able to group only the Scrivener tutorials at some point, so I will create separate sections for each. I will also change the icon (Screenshots #10 and 11) for easy reference. In a subsequent lesson I’ll show you how that serves my purpose.

 

 

 

 

Mashup: Scrivener + #RPGaDay2017

Hey, it’s that time once again! Thanks to an initiative launched by David Chapman, for the fourth year in a row August is #RPGaDay in the Google+ circles I follow and on Facebook. How it works: every day throughout August you get a writing prompt related to roleplaying games.

It’s a good way to share what we love about our hobby rather than kvetching about geek world annoyances, and an encouragement to write more often for bloggers and authors who can use the practice.

For me, the secret to completing this challenge is to write several entries in advance. On previous years I drafted them directly on Google+ (2014) or in WordPress (2015 and 2016). But this year I had an idea: since I was just talking about how useful Scrivener is, resulting in a number of questions on the software’s features and how to use it, I thought I would write my drafts in Scrivener. This will allow me to plan and compare entries more easily.

More importantly, though, this will allow me to share this mini project. I set up a Scrivener project with 31 sections showing each day’s prompt, and I added the graphic version of the prompts and a list of useful links in the Research folder.

A zipped version is located on Google Drive, feel free to use it. You can see I jotted down quick ideas onto the index cards; I could have removed them from the version I’m sharing, but I thought they would serve as examples of how I use Scrivener in planning my writing. I hope this will encourage people to participate in #RPGaDay2017 and/or try Scrivener.

I expect this little project will result in 6,000 to 12,000 words for me throughout August.