Even in a year of pandemic, there was gaming. I probably played as often as I did in normal times, but fewer titles and with fewer people. I did not attend any conventions; I tried, signed up for online cons, but it didn’t pan out for me.
I played a total of 20 different titles, the lowest number in six years; this included only 3 board games, 14 role-playing games, and 3 story games. Only 6 of these (30%) were new to me, i.e., I had never played them before, including one playtest. The board games were sadly curtailed because my husband has been wrestling with vision problems that made it frustrating for him to deal with small writing and game components.
But I still played at least once weekly thanks to a variety of recurring RPG campaigns conducted online. Frankly, I had not had this much satisfying long-term role-playing in years: with few options for leisure and social activities, many more people could be counted on to meet regularly.
With six years of data, here is what the game type breakdown looks like:
For the last five years I’ve also been keeping track of who I play with. It looks like this:
Player diversity was disappointing in 2020, particularly when I was a player in other people’s games. The majority of players who were not cis men were players in games I or my husband ran, and somehow I did not play with any people of colour (that I am aware of), a sad performance. Despite this, I think it’s not too bad that I played with 41 different people.
Here is what my list of games looked like in 2020:
Continuing from my previous post: let’s look at creating some GM characters. This is a spot where Fate really shines for me, making my life easy as the game moderator. You see, while it’s true of any role-playing game, Fate is one of the few that openly acknowledges that adversaries don’t need to be statted the same way as player characters. At all. They don’t even need to use the same skill list. For example, here is a way to make very minor antagonists, a.k.a. mooks:
Make a list of what this mook is skilled at. They get a +2 to all rolls dealing with these things.
Make a list of what this mook is bad at. They get a −2 to all rolls dealing with these things.
Everything else gets a +0 when rolled.
Give the mook an aspect or two to reinforce what they’re good and bad at, or if they have a particular strength or vulnerability. It’s okay if a mook’s aspects are really simple.
Mooks have zero, one, or two boxes in their stress track, depending on how tough you imagine them to be.
Mooks can’t take consequences. If they run out of stress boxes (or don’t have any), the next hit takes them down.
This method is found in the Fate Accelerated Edition but used widely throughout the Fate range of implementations. It works very well for the lowest category of speedbump adversaries, dangerous mostly when in numbers or as impediments to slow the PCs down and let the real target escape. For example, I give you the hooligan: Continue reading “The Expanse in Fate: NPCs”→
We had another episode of our ongoing Paladin game. Alas, one player was unable to join but we still had three of our four sibling knights facing supernatural adventures!
At the end of last episode, our grandmother—now widowed, retired from her own days of knighthood, and abbess of a nunnery—had revealed that she was cursed by witches to turn into a werewolf AND had abandoned a baby at birth, triplet to our father and evil uncle Guillaume, because she could only care for two infants.
We had then discovered that a group of local Redcaps had found the baby in the forest and kept him. They handed it back to us, unaged! But the mere sight of the baby cause grandmother to turn into a wolf creature and attack.
So we started this episode in the middle of the Ardennes forest at night, facing a werewolf of supernatural strength which we did not want to harm but who kept trying to attack the baby. Hildegund’s page Bernard, son of Ogier the Dane, was tossed like a puppet and dashed against an oak (earning him a good concussion but nothing worse than a scratch otherwise.) We tried to restrain the wolf but in vain [largely because the system is that of Pendragon, where you should not expect your characters to be competent…] so Theodelina [my character] vaulted on her horse, snatched the baby and fled with him to keep baby-uncle from being eaten by wolf-grandma. Hildegund drew her rosary and called up the love of God [with a critical success], sending the werewolf fleeing directly away.
We regrouped and tracked grandmother wolf, finding her in human form once the sun rose. We secured her and resumed our search for the witch who had cast the curse—or at least for a village where we could get the baby fed.
We eventually found the witch’s hut in the depths of the forest. She recognized us, let us in and even gave us milk for the baby but wanted our entire lineage to suffer under the curse: long ago, our grandmother the Lady Knight Giselda had slain the witch Liutgarde’s sisters, as ordered by then-King Pepin.
We tried to convince the witch to relent, but she would not give up her vengeance. When we said that the (now-dead) king was the one she should take exception with, she demanded to be heard by “our king” but we soon realized she meant Carloman; she refused to recognize Charlemagne, even though we were in the lands given to him by Pepin when the old king split his kingdom between his two sons.
Meanwhile, our grandmother kept urging us to kill her and the witch both, and wanted nothing to do with the baby.
I finally got the notion to ask the witch if she would agree to the judgment of the king of Nutons instead since I was his knight and champion. She agreed, so we all trooped out to seek the Nutons. (It was the first such visit for my twin brother Adalfried, who finally believed the stories.)
The King of Nutons agreed to hear both sides, then rendered his judgement: his curse would fall on the king instead but would have to be witnessed by us young knights. Our grandmother would be freed from lycanthropy, at least for for now. Presumably, if we failed in the task the deal would be off. And the King of Nutons refused to name which king we should take the curse to…
We took our leave, returned grandmother to the abbey, and took the baby to Adalfried’s impoverished manor in spite of the rumours this would spark. We asked our steward Radegunde to find him a wet nurse, then prepared to visit Carloman—because to make things even more tense, our liege Duke Thierry asked us to attend Carloman’s winter court!
The Pendragon system is, to be frank (haha), an antiquated disaster. We all use it cheerfully, no one is lobbying for a conversion to another system because we love the setting (writer Ruben in ’t Groen did a great job with the Paladin material) and we love playing as a group, but we’re constantly mocking its ridiculous whiff factor, its unnecessary random tables, and its laborious logic. Yet we have such great stories together!
Our friend Bryanna ran a game of Monster of the Week last night for two other friends, Edmund, and me. It’s a custom mystery but she used some of the tools we (Evil Hat Productions) included in the recently released Monster of the Week collection modules on Roll20. It was gratifying that she found a lot of use from the material even running a brand new mystery.
Our hunters were members of a travelling carnival that tries to bring wonder wherever they go and help the towns we visit. We played Chief, a Spooktacular carnival master (Edmund); Lydia,, a Constructed tattooed woman (me); Valentine, a Hex stage magician (Steve); and Violet, a Pararomantic fortune-teller (Dani). All of these are from the newer playbooks released by Generic Games.
Since mid-April, Evil Hat has been working hard on creating a lot of high-quality modules for the virtual tabletop Roll20 for gamers besieged by the pandemic and social distancing. I have put a ton of time and effort into these. A few more were published today so I wanted to give a view of the Wall of Awesome:
Today’s episode of Paladin: Warriors of Charlemagne was like Call the Midwife meets Brother Cadfael by way of Brotherhood of the Wolf. The group is wonderful and the story was great.
Our four knights (Hildegund, Gottfried, Adelfried, and Theodelina) went to see our widowed grandmother, recently elevated to abbess of Our Lady of Pain and found the abbey under lockdown: three nuns had been torn to piece during a night of vigil in the chapel. We ended on a cliffhanger when we finally came face-to-face with a werewolf in an entirely unexpected way.
Oh, and the weird name for the abbey was due to my bad translation for “Notre Dame des Douleurs” (Beata Maria Virgo Perdolens, or Mater Dolorosa): this facet in the Virgin Mary’s veneration, I found out after the game, is actually known in English as “Our Lady of Sorrows.” But I did find A.C. Swinburne’s 1866 poem that does shed an odd light on the topic!
Who has known all the evil before us, Or the tyrannous secrets of time? Though we match not the dead men that bore us At a song, at a kiss, at a crime — Though the heathen outface and outlive us, And our lives and our longings are twain — Ah, forgive us our virtues, forgive us, Our Lady of Pain.
In the last two months I’ve done a lot of work for Evil Hat Productions, setting up adventure modules for play on the virtual tabletop app Roll20. After setting up three Fate Worlds (The Secrets of Cats, Deep Dark Blue, and Red Planet), I worked on the five Fate of Cthulhu modules and these were just approved by Roll20 today.
Our team is now working on more Fate goodness and on Monster of the Week adventure modules. It’s so exciting to see these go live!
After 16 full episodes, running our City of Mist campaign continues to be a high point of the week for me. Here is the “crime board” page; the first image shows the investigation in the first story arc and the PCs’ circles of influence:
The second shares with my players Detective Suarez’s investigation of the crew in connection with the museum theft of the second story arc.
It takes a geek village: tonight we tried the Dragon Age RPG for the Underage campaign that Edmund has been running for two 10-year-olds and two parents plus me, ported to Roll20 for the first time. We had last played in person the weekend before the Bay Area counties decided to shelter in place.
To help the kids focus their plan, I yanked the Scheme Worksheet from Mistborn RPG, and it really helped.
Here is our start page on Roll20, with all the pets, er, animal companions the party has collected…