Monday, 8 October 2018

Time to move!

So G+ is a gonna. Which is a shame, I have become quite comfortable in G+ even with most of its idiosyncrasies.  The worst part now is to work out where to go next.  

Presently that would appear to be MeWe -

Not sure if that will be the place to go for gaming, but it has a few people moving there already so lets see if we can't generate momentum.

Playing lots of rpg's presently. Two weekly games: D&D5e and a Savage Worlds Weird Wars Rome. And three bi-weekly games: Pathfinder and 2x AME (Middle Earth D&D5e), one where I GM and another where I play.  

I really like the Middle Earth 5e games, the groups are trying to keep within the ME canon to a degree but the occassional DnD event will slip in now and then. Its a comfortable environment to play with and the AME classes are quite well balanced.

I am also very much enjoying the SW WW Rome game (GMing). The characters were transported from a Rippers game at 90 xp, spent 6 months acclimatizing to Rome and have now been sent off to discover what is going it. I have a massive story line planned out and they will need all that xp to survive.  Blending in SW characters with roman history has been a lot of fun.

Haven't done a lot of work with my projects however - Fallen Cities or Sarmarkand. Need to get back to them before I forget where I was up to.

Monday, 28 May 2018

OSR and COWS in roleplaying.

I must be getting old, or my brain injury is playing up.  I am getting a little tired of the OSR movement (Old School Revival) and of Cows in Runequest, and they are two different issues but with a vague connection (a not-me one).  Which is not to say either of them are wrong, except that I am always right!  Its just that roleplaying is so much more these days and we should embrace all of it.

Why do I have a problem with the OSR. Because they seem to have problems getting out of the past and at least trying something new. Yes dnd has a lot of nostalgic value, and yes I find it strikingly easy to slip back into playing dnd (especially 5th edition I might add, which is probably more old school than you would believe), and yes it is a nice comfort zone game that is easy to teach. I started playing dnd in 75 and I even have an original whitebox set, so I have been through all the incarnations of the game. But for god sake the world has progressed and new games with stunningly brilliant ideas have come out (like RQ), and can we move on a bit, at least acknowledge them and the 21st century.

And Cows (the animals, beef, horns etc), I am so sick of hearing about cow herders and clans and tribes and homesteads in RQ. Who are these people who play at this level? I'm sorry but most of the pre-Rune level stuff in RQ is simply practise for when I turn uber!  I want to go on HeroQuests - which strangely enough is the one thing the game has NEVER clearly defined and developed 'official' mechanics for (apart from the runes themselves to some degree, but that seems to have been solved by the coming latest edition).

I want to be a hero at the side of the dudes who defeat the Evil Empire (yes Lunars have gone to the Darkside), I want to be on the top deck of the Cradle, I want to look Gorn Orta in the eye and haggle!... there is no room for cows in my RQ! And yet whole volumes exists to support this level of play. (Disclaimer: there is nothing wrong with this, its just not me, and it is ALL about me!)

And everyone I played with since 1978-9 has had the same view as me, we all want to be Rune levels and stomp Lunar scum (apart from a few recalcitrants). Did I misread the implications of the original books, where the tribes of Prax not the oppressed ones, were the Orlanthi not oppressed, were Ducks not oppressed!!!  And who oppressed them all!  And who were the Heroes of both history and recent times, I don't recall Lunars being in that group, in fact the opposite.  I suspect there has been some historical re-writing going on, apologists for the Red Moon have infiltrated our libraries.

And Sartar itself? My friends and I seem to have made another mistake there... we NEVER (well hardly ever) played in that area of the world, we played in PRAX! Wasn't that the true homeland of the first two books? Didn't everybody head east to Prax and Pavis? If you were not a beast rider were you not a rebel orlanthi hiding out in Pavis and the Big Rubble. Where did you have to be to play The Cradle, surely one of the greatest adventures ever written.

There are no cows on the Cradle. Pigs, yes, but that pig was BIG, and tough, a Rune level pig!

The world is full of people who are not me.

And NEW games systems that excite me just as much as DND and RQ did when I first encountered them... such as Apocalypse World and its many hacks. 

Thats all, move along, ranting over...

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

A Little too close for comfort...

Brain Aneurysms.

This is where a blood vessel in your brain develops a leak and blood pours into the brain, which is not good for you. Brains only like blood in a very controlled feed, leaks from broken plumbing are very bad for you.  My father died from an aneurysm, and possibly they are hereditary on the male line of my family.

Mine burst on the 28th Jan. I felt a little funny, like there was a bubble in my head initially, then it started to hurt. My partner is a very sound sleeper and she was on the lounge doing that when my attack started. I managed to get off 3 cries for help, each more desperate  before collapsing, and fortunately she heard the last. She acted perfectly, immediate ambulance call and inspection to make sure I could breath. The ambulance arrived in less than 5 minutes. Time with aneurysms, like with heart attacks, is of the essence.

So I awoke in an ICU bed at the locale hospital with and new collection of staples forming a lovely half circle in my skull, but I was alive, which is a very good result. Better, I was mostly lucid and all my body parts were mostly doing what I asked of them, so apparently I had not suffered any permanent brain damage.  I was amazingly lucky.

To cut a long story short, I was in hospital and then in a Brain Rehabilitation Unit for a total of 7 weeks while they tried to ensure my recovery, and if I had suffered any lingering damage. During that period they were using quite a few strong drugs, one of which, vancomycin, had an unexpected side effect that caused my brain to start overheating, getting over 40.3 degrees at one point. This is not a good thing.

Despite all that I have recovered, and today I was discharged, certified healthy, provisionally. I have a new sensitivity to sound, and I get tired a little quickly, but all in all these things will fade as I get some exercise and time under my belt.  It is not an experience I would recommend, long stays in hospital are extremely boring, and you tend to suffer sleep deprivation in public wards.

I cannot express my appreciation to the staff of the two hospitals who looked after me enough, they were wonderful. The nurses were exceptional. The same goes to my friends who rallied around to support me and my partner during a very trying time, they too were also amazing. And needless to say my love to my partner who saved my life and has been with me all the time.

I am home now. I have been lying in my own bed again, which is glorious. I have had a slice of vegemite toast, which is ridiculously fantastic (its the small things you miss), and I am absurdly happy.

So if some of you have been wondering where I have been for 7 weeks, that's the story.  I am eager to get back into my regular rpg sessions, anything to stimulate my brain. Things are generally pretty good.

Kevin Flynn

Monday, 13 November 2017

Life in a Roman World.

OMG I haven't written anything this year, where on earth has the time gone.

Its not like I am doing nothing, but it has been a poor year work wise for RPGs and games.

I sought of lost interest (for now) on Samarkand and Fallen Cities, which are my biggest projects. This was partly due to other projects being fresher, and a lack of money to pursue the other items (sort of upto artwork and maps stage to a degree).

What I have been working on mostly, at least lately, has been my current RPGs that I am running, and future RPGs that those games will lead into. BY this I mean my Rippers game, which I am really enjoying, and the Weird Wars Rome game that that will lead into (the players will be portal-ed from the Rippers end game to the WWR start game). I have been developing a quite extensive story board for the WWR, reading up on Roman history etc, finding dates and names. The result will be a very interesting game from 73AD to 98AD, using many historical events and people.

Which leads to the question of rail-roading! Theoretically having a developed storyboard game linked to specific events is effectively rail-roading. The players will be forced to follow events, they will need to be a certain places at certain times because History requires it. For eg the Emperor Vespasian dies in 79AD, Vesuvius erupts a few months later, Titus is made the new Emperor only to die two years later historically.  In my game these are pivotal events that start the game off, except Titus is assassinated at his coronation and his death is linked to the Vesuvian eruption. This is really the only major change to the historical time line. The story-board goes from there to 98AD when the players have to ensure that Trajan remains alive and is crowned Emperor. If they don't do this the time line breaks and things go badly.

So is this rail-roading due to the constraints of the story and time line, or is it just limited options for the players. And is the BIG PICTURE constraints really a rail-road, or simply the choice they made at the very beginning and they are following it through. In this game the players are told what is expected of them at the start (well some of it) and they chose to do it or not... of course if they don't the game simply ends because I haven't got a story line for anything else. And if they don't make the choice of being 'Heroes', and saving the world, then there is no point in the game.

So is it rail-roading if the GM takes on the role of authority telling them what to do? The players are not god, or Emperor, or in any position of power at the start of the game, other than being heroes. In a real Roman world they are either bums or soldiers, they have a position in the roman society and they follow the laws and obey the commands they are given. Does a Roman soldier have any ability to dis-obey his Tribune and get away with it. If your players are going to play legionnaires do they have any choice when the GM, acting as a superior officer, gives them an order...?

Role playing in a real world scenario requires a certain degree of acceptance of the constraints placed on them to conform to the norms of that world. In a fantasy world the players are anarchists and can go and do what they like, but in a real Rome they conform or they suffer. 

I hope this is not rail-roading, it is simply good role playing.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Character Pooling

TEAM PLAY (Optional)

Extract from Fallen Cities game (in development).

Team play is an option where a small group of players run and control a larger group of characters. There are several ways this can be handled.

Classically every player runs one character in a role playing game, but this is convention only. There is nothing that says you can’t run one, two or a bunch of characters at the same time. It isn’t really all that much harder to run two characters than it is to run one.

In several games I have played we had two or more characters available to us, but we only used one of them at a time, during a single adventure/session. This can be useful with games that have mortality rates, you just swap to your alternate character. This is better than fudging the arrival of a complete stranger.

Running multiple characters also works well when you have only 2 or 3 players, it gives them a much more viable group and prevents the GM having to scale down everything to suit the numbers they have playing.

In a game like Fallen Cities, where there are 8 different character archetypes, but you only have 4 players, you can allow them to run 2 characters each.  But if you have 5 players that doesn’t work as well, and you are still short of the 8 that would be ideal.

There are two options I am suggesting to handle this:

Spare Character Pool:

Where each player has one primary character they run, and any extra characters that may be needed, or wanted, are placed in a pool and are available to any player to act with at anytime. When a player wants to act, if they want to use one of the pool characters, they just do it.

Shared Character Pool:

This is a full extension of the pool idea. Players do NOT have a fixed character, they all share all the characters. When a player wants to act they simply select a character they wish to do it with and do it. AW mechanics actually lend themselves to this style of play.

You can include some controls, such as the same player cannot control two characters in a row (although they can suggest what another does).  This can be prone to dominant players taking control, but there are some systems you can put in place to handle this, and that you would probably do anyway.

In the first case the pool characters sheet is simply left in the centre of the table when not being used, which means the last person to use it puts it back, relinquishes the sheet to show they are finished with it. When a player wants to act, and if they wish to do so with a pool character, they simply take control of the sheet and do what they do, then return the sheet to the centre.

Another option would be to give everyone a copy of the pool characters, but then someone needs to be responsible for updating those sheets and keeping everyone uptodate.

If you find you have trouble controller who acts with pool characters, for eg one player tends to hog one of the sheets, you could bring in a rotation rule. Have a token that represents access to the pool and only the player with the token can take control of the pool character at any one time. Once they have used the token they pass it to the player on their left. Nothing stops any player from suggesting actions, but only the token controller can act in the voice of the pool character.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Using players to run NPCs

So I have been grumbling to myself for some time that running npcs is a chore, and often they lacked colour to the players who just looked at them as numbers to be overcome.  SO I sort an answer, which came to me due to a lot of reading I have been doing with games that have more narrative elements to them, freeing up the systems for all sides... I gave control to my players. GASP!

So when we have an encounter now I dole out NPC cards to the players with an outline of the creature/npc on one side and some boxes to fill out on the other, very quick fill boxes, and most of the time only one.

The players get to control the NPC almost completely, and I reward them to doing nasty things to players, being inventive and inflicting hurts. The best NPC player gets a coin they can use to cash in later for small benefits.

Turns out it worked really well, my players actually seem to like hurting the other players, and get excited and involved when given a chance to be inventive and surprising.  Who would have guessed.

So the game we are currently playing is Runequest 2.5 (the newly reprinted classic). Following is a page I give to all the players and allow them to select ONE option to apply to their NPC.  This remains a secret.

Some of them are restricted, like POW stones and magical items, they generally can only have one of these in a group.

So far it seems to be working really well.

Things you can do to the NPCs.

 Anything you  give them, you must use.
  • STR: +1AC, ^Dam dice, Strong/Powerful    
  • CON: +6hp, +2 cols. Sturdy/Robust
  • DEX: +10% Defence+Skills+Ranged -1SR, Quick
  • INT: +2 spells, Smart/Clever
  • CHA: +10Defence, +3HP, +1col, Handsome
  • SIZ: ^Dam bonus +3HPs +1 col -1SR Large

CHOICE of a battle spell, free use.
Extra 2 battle spells, random
Armour values +2
Chaos feature *2
+20% ATK in MELEE
+20% ATK in Ranged
+20% ATK in Thrown
+20% DEF
+20% PARRY
^dice Damage bonus
+4HPs, +1col
HEAL 6 spell ability
Bound spirit in Fetish +6POW
Comes with a trap somewhere
Blade venom 4
Uses POISONS, str3d6-1
SR is 2 less.
+20% to a useable skill, must use it.
Starts with advantageous position, or hidden.
Charger, Move +2 ATK+10% ^Dam dice
Battle potion.
Spell matrix *1
Fetish, one use magic
RANSOM, generally CHA/2x100L. Can double this but need to take an extra bonus.
Reinforcements: +1 average guys immediate OR +2 average guys in 3 rds. +3 average guys in 5rds.
Creative inspiration by YOU! AMAZE ME!
Auto hit, once, normal, target.
Team effort, if adjacent +20% for both, melee
Target, +20% attacking a selected target.

POW crystal 1d6+2pts, gains +2 spells or +4 levels. OR With a spirit, gain 3 spells or +6 levels, 2d6+4 POW.
A Magic Item *1

Creatures given to those without tokens first, else random
Fun&Creative use will result in a token reward from the GM. These can be cashed in for ‘stuff’? Minor magical items, rerolls, extra cards etc.
*1: if you take a magic item you must USE IT! If you gain it at the end it deducts from your rewards.

*2: A Chaos feature requires a chaos creature.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Defeating your players.

Defeating your players is hard, especially if you want to keep them alive.

I played a Shadowrun game once where I wanted to capture the players, which would bring them into the opponents base, where they could escape and work from within... only they refused to surrender, and pretty much were going to die to the last man before I just gave up and announced they were captured. And it wasn't like I didn't make it obvious they had no hope, I kept bringing in reinforcements and kept telling them it was hopeless... so why did this happen.

Well number one is a players sense of immortality. Players, and fictional heroes, are indoctrinated into the belief that they will overcome, survive, and triumph in the end, if only they can hold out long enough.  This is an extremely hard expectation to bypass. You can help matters by telling your players that the game will be 'dark' or 'deadly' or 'gritty' or any other euphemism for character death, but that ultimately doesn't counter the 'heroic' nature of a player character in most role playing games. Nearly all rpg's are based on heroic fiction, the very appeal of this is the heroic nature of the characters. There are games around that don't replicate this idea,but for me I have no interest in them. Most of the time they are too close to real life in style for me to want to participate, real life is bad enough already. I play games for escapism, pure and simple.

So assuming your players have this predefined expectation, how do you get them to give up?

The simplest way, one which I have been using, is GM fiat...You are all captured, you wake up in prison. etc. Even then your players won't be happy, mine will rip off a list of precautions and standards tactics that make it impossible for them to be captured, alive, and spend a good 10 mins simply rejecting the idea.  But at least no one dies.

There are different versions of this. You can get player buy-in to a capture, explain the premise of the story and how it starts that way, and get your players to agree. You can actually design the story around the concept that the only way they can proceed is to be captured, planting the seed and then allowing them to work it out, although this becomes very linear and obvious usually.

So what other ways are there? And while we are thinking about player surrender, what about npc surrender, how do you convince players to take prisoners?  My players have no problem 'eliminating' prisoners who they can't reasonably dispose of, especially if the adventure requires them to move ever forward.

In a recent Runequest game I had to explain the concept of 'ransom' to some of my players. IN RQ ransom is an honour bound tradition (for everyone except the truly chaotic evil folks), written into the description of the world story, supported by the Cults and Gods of the world. As incentive to use it, players are offered financial or material rewards, and a character who offers ransom is honour bound to obey the lores and traditions applicable.. and players don't have to worry about npc's suddenly stabbing them in the back.  In that RQ game, once I had pointed out the option, things very suddenly changed, players started accepting offers of surrender rather than fighting to a death. In the immediately following scene they negotiated a deal rather than storm the barricades. It was a surprisingly refreshing change of play style.

Thinking back on it, as GM, half of the problem is my own. I too expect players to be heroes, but on occassion I find myself expecting my NPCs to be heroes also. I unconsciously start 'playing' the game and turning it into an 'us vs them' scenario, which finds me being reluctant to surrender also. When both sides are thinking that way then the situation quickly becomes a 100% casualty result, which is ridiculous.

People do NOT want to die, players and npcs want to live, but in a game we don't really have to worry about that. Morale and fear of death rarely enter into the game play, especially once 'monsters' enter the combat. Most monsters are essentially psychopathic suicidal nutters.

The experience I had with the RQ game above triggered me to think more about this, hence this post. It occurs to me that there must be ways to use 'defeat' and surrender as part of the gameplay, without it meaning failure... or even more to the point, what is wrong with player's failing? Is failure not a realistic outcome on occassion?

Apart from the 'ransom' tradition of RQ, there are shortcuts you can use as  GM. This is already implied in the use of 'mooks' by some game systems. Not only do 'mooks' die quickly, they vanish quickly also... ie they fail their morale test and run away. This 'run away' thing however can be near impossible in some game systems... and players can be particularly persistent in tracking every single npc down.  So one avenue is to use mooks more, and give them really low values, and have them vanish into thin air... you just have to get your players to buy into the system.

Thats a good start for NPCs. I need to think more about players... but I am pretty sure it will come down to offering them an incentive to surrender. Surrender has to be made attractive.