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).
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.
14. What is an awesome RPG for open-ended campaign play?
This is sort of the opposite of the Day 9 question. Most RPGs work for this, unless they are specifically designed for short play. What really matters is how engaged everyone at the table is, and whether you’re tracking what has gone on from episode to episode so dangling plot threads and interesting NPCs can be reincorporated in play, making the GM’s life easier (the adventures write themselves) and the players’ actions more important (they impact the game world.)
That said, some games make it particularly easy for me, because the mechanics are light enough that statting more NPCs and creating new locations and plots does not create a burden on the GM. I particularly like games based on Fate Accelerated (like War of Ashes or Dresden Files Accelerated), PDQ (like Truth & Justice, Jaws of the Six Serpents, or The Zorcerer of Zo), or Heroquest (like Mythic Russia or of course Glorantha.) Some (not all) games Powered by the Apocalypse work well for this style of play, like Dungeon World or Monster of the Week.
4. What’s an RPG item you have played a lot since August 2016?
The roleplaying game I most played since the last instance of #RPGaDay2016 is probably Dungeon World because my husband has been writing and playtesting a hack called “Land of Ten Thousand Gods.” I have been included in three different groups of adventurers, first playing Rahi the Relic-Bearer (~fighter), and more recently Jewel the Wilderness Guide (~ranger) and Sabitri the Shapeshifter (~druid).
All three groups met or are meeting online via Skype or Google Hangouts. I really hope Edmund gets the hack to a point where it can be released for general consumption because it’s such a rich setting, full of marvels and interesting monsters, with player characters that feel important to the story.
The Kickstarter funding campaign is in full swing for Big Bad Con, the sweetest tabletop gaming convention on the West Coast. We quickly funded our basic goals on Day 1, and have been blowing past many stretch goals since. Several of these stretch goals allow us to bring great guests to the convention, to host games, speak on panels, etc. Today’s guest interview is with Tracy Barnett of Exploding Rogue Studios.
Could you introduce yourself? What would you like the Big Bad Con attendees to know about you?
Hey, I’m Tracy Barnett. I’ve been writing and designing RPGs for the last five years or so. I’ve done most of my work via Kickstarter and have published three of my own games (School Daze, One Shot, and Iron Edda: War of Metal and Bone), as well as a novel (Sveidsdottir), someone else’s game (Dead Scare, by Elsa S. Henry), and a setting book with my creative partner, Brian Patterson (Karthun: Lands of Conflict), which is published by Evil Hat Productions. I thought I was going to be a publisher for a long time, but I feel much better with the idea of moving to writing things for other people to publish. Publishing hard and my hat’s off to anyone who does it successfully. Continue reading “Coming to Big Bad Con: Tracy Barnett”
We just spent a nice weekend at KublaCon. Yes, I managed to go to a game convention without any medical emergencies! In fact, I felt very good.
Since KublaCon takes place at a nearby hotel we can drive to in about ten minutes, it is affordable for us — we don’t have to rent a hotel room, we get to sleep in our own bed, no worries about feeding the cats… In many ways, that is the best feature of the convention for us.
Pluses about the organization and amenities: the senior staff seems to take problems reported very seriously, including safety and harassment; all volunteers and staff I talked to were cheerful, helpful, and friendly; there is open wifi service everywhere in the hotel; and the atrium area is pleasant to hang out in for open gaming.
Minuses: the hotel and events are not very accessible, I saw several people with canes, wheelchairs or scooters labouring to get around the maze of tables, stairways, and corridors; parking is discounted but still $10 a day, and difficult to get on Saturday and Sunday; and game registration uses the hated shuffler system (a post topic for another day.)
The game listings are not very oriented toward my type of play, but there is enormous choice for people who like the D&D Adventurers’ League, Pathfinder Society, or board games. Still, we managed to have four days of fun and see lots of friends.
Friday afternoon: The Lost Age
On Friday afternoon, we had hoped to get into a game of Monster of the Week, but it was full. However, in the same room was a game of the soon-to-be-officially-released The Lost Age, and none of the players who had signed up showed up (Friday afternoons can be difficult to schedule for people who have to work or are traveling.) We heard GM and author Keith Leiker pitch his game to wandering players, so decided to jump in and make the game happen. I’m not going to describe it because I wrote a comprehensive review of it yesterday, but I liked it.
Friday night: Headspace
On Friday we managed to get into a game with GM Kasi Jammeh, who was running a game Powered by the Apocalypse, Headspace. You can think of Headspace as allowing you to play something like Sense8, a group of telepathically linked characters who can share skills.
I was very interested in this game. However, half the group of players were in the mood for wacky hijinks, while Edmund and I, at least, were looking for dark adventure and intense emotional turmoil. Don’t get me wrong, it was a congenial evening, but I didn’t really get the experience I was looking for.
Saturday: Hanging out
Yep, I’m old. Gaming until midnight got me really tired. I woke up at 11am, and only because Edmund brought me coffee. We moseyed on over to the convention and met with friends, hanging out in the atrium. Our friend A. brought her six-year-old daughter H. and I ran a freeform game of runaway fairies and bridge trolls. It was H.’s first RPG and she apparently really liked it.
We went home around dinner time, since we didn’t have any games lined up for the evening.
Sunday: Gateway to Hell!
On Sunday there was more hanging out with friends, then we played a Fudge/Fate hack in a setting inspired by Call of Cthulhu. GM Dennison Milenkaya did an excellent job of leading us through character creation, setting development, then through the investigation of a haunted house in New England.
We had a grand old time and the game only ended because most of us needed to go to bed. (We did get to a satisfying stopping point first.)
Monday: Live the Revolution!
Finally, today — my birthday — we played in GM Brian Williams’ DramaSystem game, where the group created an entire setting and cast from the sole premise that we were associated with a revolution that had just succeeded.
From this we spun a group of mismatched aliens working along a space elevator, and the push and pull of alliances as they struggled to secure their factions’ future.
After the game we left the convention for the last time and went to have some delicious Mediterranean food with friends for a late lunch.
As a coda, Edmund and I got each other birthday presents. We got some fantastic-looking games from local designers.
I got Edmund Relicblade, a miniatures game from Metal King Studio, along with The Seeker’s Handbook, a scenario book for the game.
He got me the board game Leaving Earth from Lumenaris, along with expansions.
When we finally got home we napped, then we called for pizza and watched a little television. I call it a weekend well spent.
TL;DR: Play materials for a Fate hack of Dark Heresy. Enjoy.
A year ago, I was planning on running demo games at conventions featuring the Open Content from War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus. The Advanced Conflict rules, which are now also available from Randy Oest’s awesome Fate SRD website, are intended to support miniatures as an integral part of of Fate. Since we have approximately 30,000 points’ worth of miniatures in the house — you think I’m kidding, but I’m not — it seemed like the grim, gothic future of the 41st millennium, as seen in the Warhammer 40,000 miniatures combat game and the Dark Heresy role-playing game, was a perfect match.
Of course, health issues soon forced me to cancel my convention plans, but now that I am recovering and convention season is upon us, I decided to go back to packaging the game for quick-start.
First, the pitch:
Fate of the Inquisitor
Inquisitor Lucanus has led you, his retinue, to the Hive World of Corundum IV amidst an ongoing Genestealer invasion to retrieve a priceless relic from the foul xenos. Now the Inquisitor has disappeared during a brutal firefight and the ensuing cave-in, and you are chased by a Genestealer cult. Will you find your master again? Complete his mission? Call for help? Or die bravely but pointlessly?
I made templates for nine types of player characters, using a playbook format like the one used in games Powered by the Apocalypse (PbtA). The rules are pure Fate SRD, but I hope the playbooks make character creation quick and easy for time-constrained one-off games.Each comes with a choice of names, looks, customizable aspects, and stunts. The playbooks include:
- Imperial guard
- Ogryn Bodyguard
- Ratling Scout
- Sanctioned Psyker
- Sister of Battle
I also modified the appearance of the blank character sheet from War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus. Then I made a cheat sheet of the Advanced Conflict rules I am using, and a table sign. All of these are available on Google Drive.
- Character Playbooks (Google Doc)
- Blank Character Sheet (PDF)
- Special Rules (Google Doc)
- Table Sign (PDF)
I have not yet put any effort into creating well-formatted single-page folding sheets because I expect mistakes may be pointed out and it’s easiest to update text prior to layout. Also, not a big priority right now.
Your comments are welcomed!
We’ve been playing Dungeon World for over a year now, in Edmund’s own setting inspired by Southern Asia, “The Land of Ten Thousand Gods.” We’re nearing the epic conclusion of a big story arc so as a holiday present to the whole group, I commissioned a portrait of our four characters from the amazing Claudia Cangini. Tonight I unveiled it for the group and people sounded very happy — I know I am!
For those who, like me, enjoy seeing how a piece of art comes together, I will post the various steps of Claudia’s work. All images are in the slideshow at the bottom.