Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Mission Based Gaming Fantasies

I'm getting fidgety with my gaming. I keep having thoughts of running something more episodic in nature, versus the saga-esque nature of my Dresden Files game. Basically, run a campaign where there's a more defined beginning, middle, and end, versus the shifting boundaries of how my current game is settling where there's rarely an easily defined path to success.

And I'd like to change that for another game, not that I have the time to run one. A game where there was an assumption of competence and success. Plus, some of this is gamer ADHD where there are all these neat systems out there that I want to try out. For example:
  • Cortex+: either Leverage or Marvel Super Heroes. The latter is probably better suited for what's in my head which is more "beer and pretzels" of getting a few friends together and gaming without needing to remember every detail of what happened last session.
  • Night's Black Agents: The temptation here is because my games keep being about investigation, investigation, and more investigation, and Gumshoe is supposed to be about the investigation - it is designed around it, and this iteration has a more robust combat system to back it up. Probably wouldn't use the setting precisely as written, but there'd definitely be something of the Weird™ at play.
  • Home Brew Mercenaries: Inspired by listening to some actual play podcasts of a Mass Effect game involving a mercenary company, while I don't want to play the same system (modified nWOD), but the idea of playing a game with a group that has a mercenary company to control and build up, as well as playing the individual mercenary, appeals to me
Some of this is in reaction to something I was reading of FATE where it best supports when the players have a stronger vision, and the GM works within that framework, this would be within the notion of reversing that dynamic where the GM has a stronger vision of how the game goes (by controlling the missions with input from the players) so there will hopefully be less of the players "grasping around in the dark" trying to find a workable solution to the challenge.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Stepping Into Character and Tripping

So several weeks ago, I had to change characters due to an intense, intimate, albeit short-lived love affair with dynamite.

Unfortunately, I'm frustrated with Rex O'Malley - I can't find the right voice for him - there's no rhythm for where he fits into the group dynamics. Initially, I thought of him as a loud, boisterous man with a certain joie de vivre - live large, live fast, and probably die in hail of bullets, monster gore and a beautiful woman under one arm and a bottle of whiskey in his mouth.

I realized the problem last night as I talked to my wife, I, semi-inadvertently, created an adrenaline junkie - semi-inadvertently in that while I didn't say "Hmm, I wonder what a Weird West adrenaline junkie would look like?" But instead, I created a man who was seeking fame, fortune, and to keep himself distracted from certain unpleasant truths. Unfortunately, since he joined up with the group, it has been fairly quiet, first a funeral and some travel, then interacting with a Southern *cough* gentleman. Last night, we dealt with an angel and some bandits, the latter would have been the right moment, but apparently dealing with an intimidating bandaged priest (who played his part beautifully) and several more angry and irritated gunslingers was a bit much.

I knew I should have just started shooting.

So, erstwhile reader(s) - how do you find your voice, when there's nothing naturally flowing forth to inspire you? Give it time and be patient? Try to create situations in which it'll come out? Modify other aspects to try and "fit" in better.

I've got some plans for the potentially long train ride west, so we shall see what happens then. It can't be quiet all the time.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Borderlands vs. Deadlands

I should love the Gunzerker in Borderlands 2. Abilities based around surviving and wielding two large rapid fire guns and laughing maniacally? Yeah, I should be all over that shit.

However, in reality? Nope, I'm all about playing the low-risk percentage game of sniping at a distance and ensuring that there's plenty of room between me and the bad guys. PLENTY of room. In the first Borderlands game my primary weapons were a sniper rifle and a rocket launcher - my special ability? Punch things repeatedly. Just a touch of a intended vs. actual play style mismatch there.

However, sit me at the table and I'm FAR more likely to do something reckless. Why? Because it is fun, because it livens up the story, because there's a motivation other than shoot and loot. There's a purpose to the recklessness.

All gets back to Robin D. Laws' player types - Borderlands 2 brings out my tactical side, "What's the lowest risk method to accomplishing my goals" despite the penalty for failure, death, being so minuscule; whereas gaming at a table, I'll do something foolish for a good story despite the penalty for failure, death and/or loss, being so very final.

In short, death/defeat in Borderlands is boring and annoying so I avoid it. The kind of death and defeat I get in gaming, if meaningful, can be dramatic and engaging so I'm willing to risk it. Just something that came up last night as I started on my third character in Borderlands 2 as none of them have really "gripped" me as fun.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Rules, Again.

I'm a rules guy. I love having the process defined, boundaries explained, and expectations explicit.

So yesterday on Twitter there was a brief exchange regarding rules and game balance:
@rdonoghue: Starting to suspect that the foundation of game balance is the assumption that your're kind of a jerk.
@byharryconnolly: Watching my son play his homebrew rpg w/ his buddy, it becomes clear that you only need rules to control ppl you cann't trust. [sic. -Editor.]
@rdonoghue: that'a the nut. [sic. -Editor.]
And I suppose it is correct for an overly broad usage of the term "trust" - I trust that everyone at this table interprets the same way that I do, I trust that everyone is willing to agree to the same expectations, I trust that we're all willing to work together to mediate differences - that sort usage of the word trust versus my initial read, which admittedly was "I trust you are not out to get me."

But here's the problem with all of that - good, well-meaning people can still disagree. Now you can centralize the authority in the GM (rulings), leave it to a table vote, or any other number of ways to determine what the appropriate solution to the conflict is going to be.

However, to make things fair and to save time, it is probably recommended that these rulings get written down so that in six months you can go "So how did we fix this LAST time we bumped into this situation?" And at that point you have a rule and thus a process.

That's all rules are folks, they aren't scary, they aren't the enemy, they are a formalized process for how situations are expected to be resolved. And folks are free to deviate from the process, it isn't like there's an external RPG Audit team that's going to swing by your home and go "And on the night of the 11th, did you follow the correct procedure for resolving Andrew's persuasion check again the king?"

Maybe I'm just a low trust individual. I know I have issues when the rules, and thus my expectations, get changed half way through anything, because that's how I figure out what I'm going to do, "Wait last time you said that this happened, and now it works this other way? Can I have some consistency?" Yeah, guess I AM a low trust individual. I just don't trust anyone to be fair and consistent without a formal structure over the long haul, as long as "fair and consistent" is defined as something beyond a de facto "of course the rulings are fair and consistent as decided."

Friday, September 14, 2012

Horror, Types Of

Caveat: I'm a horrible player for a horror game.

But there was a thread on RPG.Net a couple months ago, [Horror] What scares you?, and while there are a lot of good, standard answers (body horror, loss, dis-empowerment), one of the posters actually broke horror, in an RPG context, into three large categories that I liked: Dark, Creepy, and (as I summarized it) Suspense. I'd add in Helpless trait as well, even if (because) it just irks me.

Dark is horror based around the lack of good choices - do we kill the children or release the disease into the larger population. The choices of nastily horrible and horribly nasty. This is my favorite to have subtly done, and best done by not hammering the horrible choices, but letting the PCs be PCs and then having an outsider note how this is really, really fuckin' weird. Such as the incident that caused us to coin "Gunteel" as a portmanteau of "gun" and "genteel".

Creepy is horror based around atmosphere. Your name etched in glass. Body distortion and twisted. Mold and and random holes in the walls where you realized you've been watched. The creepy little girl, the off insectoid voice that I used for the tutor demon in Exalted, all examples of creepy ambiance.

Suspense is horror based around unknown and the eventual surprise. It is the most time delineated RPG horror trope because so much of games are seeking answers, and when you find them shooting it repeatedly. For example in Deadlands up until we had the ritual to stop the end of the world there was a sort of futile desperation setting in as we just kept trying to move forward and floundered. But the moment we had a solution we turned back into our highly lethal selves again.

Helplessness is horror based around being ineffectual. Nothing you do matters because it will have no grander effect. For me, games around about "doing things" so I will always turn and fight or resist, sitting there moping isn't all that fun for me. However, used in a limited sense, it can inspire fear/trepidation and cause players to start scrambling for a solution to end that helplessness. But over used and it turns into "Really? Another thing we can't hit until you give us the solution? Let me know when we can do something again."

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Well THAT didn't go according to plan.

So Jacob "Jake" Jobson got himself a serious case of obliterated last night at game. Note to self: When charging maniacally at the bad guys while carrying six sticks of dynamite: 1) Ensure that they aren't 500+ yards away; and 2) make sure they can't throw fire at you.

The first problem lead directly to the second problem causing the primary problem - a rather large detonation.

Oops. And this kids is why you don't carry dynamite with you at all times.

So now I have to decide what to play next as the GM only managed to kill off three of the six characters (we lost the Bless'd, the Huckster, and the butcher). Jake's tale was one of seeking redemption with a touch of vengeance thrown in.

I'm pondering a few different options.

Rex Morgan, Monster Hunter At Large. Possibly a veteran of the civil war and definitely a veteran of the Weird West, he's a two-fisted gunslinger with a lot of knowledge of what goes "bump" in the night. Cool under fire, he hunts down and takes trophies of his kills.

Ishikawa MasayukiHumble Shinto Priest. A long way from home, he's seeking something in this foreign land. He speaks softly and carries a large stick as he passes through the crowds.

Alan Blackhart, Noble Church Knight. Dedicated to his church he's been sent from the mainland to this rough and tumble country at the Church's command. Fights the Church's enemies with holy steel and a stout heart.

Gregory Beck, Inventive Engineer. A veteran of the civil war, he served in both the artillery divisions and in at least one inadvertent instance crewing a Gatling gun. However, he's a long way from those days serving as a railroad/civil engineering blowing holes in mountains and other feats of intellectual daring do.

The first two characters have most of my love. Rex might be a lot of fun to play - but I have issues playing - how to I put it - vivacious, fun loving characters. Especially in horror games. Oddly enough, once you've seen a vampire create a doll out of random human parts and a broom handle, the idea that one could go laughing and cheering into the next battle just lacks verisimilitude in my head.

The other thing that hurts is that with the loss of the Father, we've lost our downtime healing, which means, with the change that you draw chips at the beginning of every arc and not every session, getting wounded is easy and heals real slow.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Game Design: Stunts and Spinning my Wheels

There are times I wish I had a partner with game design. I'm currently working on two different game designs now in my copious amounts of free time; however, I'm discovering that I'm hitting the same road block with both. Right now I'm spinning my wheels trying to come up with stunts/techniques/disciplines/etc. 

I think my failing is with the fact that I don't really have a clear vision for what I want the games to "do" - other than be fun and provide a reasonable amount of system robustness and dials to play the sort of games I enjoy playing.

But that's a far cry from "having a vision" that ties everything in together. I'm really thinking at this sort of proto-stage that I just need to brain storm and come up with several examples for each item I wish to focus on, stealing as necessary from other game designs that I've seen and then go "Want to do something that isn't here, let's talk," because, in the end, I'm just one brain and I'm good at adapting, not so much at the raw act of creation.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Perfect System: Genre Matters

Yesterday's post stemmed from a friend asking me after I got done discussing the short coming in my current Dresden Files game, "So what IS your favorite gaming system?" My knee jerk response was "For what setting?"

Genre matters a great deal for me and the system. Even something as simple as the base dice mechanic, for me, changes how I perceive and internalize a game.

For example, a game that allows for "exploding" dice (such as Classic Deadlands, L5R/7th Sea, or World of Darkness) mean that every roll has a potential for extreme results. Other games, like the Cortex+ system, the results will be within a certain spectrum of results - one gets better results by adding more dice to the equation. And in D&D there's a 5% chance of rolling a 20 (the meaningfulness of which varies from rules set to rules set and table to table depending on in/formal house rules).

Similarly, a system should incorporate what it considers important into the rules. Unknown Armies has an entirely different feel to how it approaches madness than does Call of Cthulhu. Or for investigations, Gumshoe's system of spending currency to make declarations versus Wick's Houses of the Blooded where successes on a roll allow you to declare another fact to be true, even if you lost the conflict.

What does it boil down to - rules matter for creating the reality that the players create a narrative within. If the genre calls for over the top action, roof top chases, and "devil may care" antics, but the system penalizes any sort of risky maneuver with penalties, then there is a disconnect; or on the other side, if you are seeking to play grim, dark horror that leaves the players/characters feeling alone and in the dark; however, the dice allow for amazing swings of luck, or some other mechanic that allow them to pervert the threads of doom (chips from Deadlands) then you remove some of the horror because you provide a way out.

So why am I pondering all this? For the usual reasons - my life is slowing down enough so I'm playing with developing a game system. But I'll be honest - I'm more of a heavy adapter than a creator of new stuff. Take some stuff from this game, take some stuff from that game, take some of my own "What do I want" from my own attempts and piece it all together.

Right now there are two genre occupying my mental design space. The first is a more classical fantasy game that is designed around how I tend to run games - heavy on the every day, social activities, a fair bit of investigation, with violence not too common. Mostly, I want this game to be about using what drives a person for and against them. I want determining their motivations to be an important part, and figuring out how to use it against them to be even more critical in the success of plans. However, I want it to laid over a fairly traditional looking system of attributes and abilities. This game I'd want to support my more traditional longer running arcs and stories and allow for more growth and change in the characters. My current version is using Cortex+ as its inspiration. The core questions I'd want to ask here is "What drives you to succeed?"

The second one is far less developed, but it is all due to an actual play podcast of a Mass Effect game. The game itself uses the World of Darkness as a backbone, but I look at the idea of running short 2-3 session arcs that have clear mission format and want to play around with that concept. I'm still not sure what questions I want to ask here for the system, perhaps it is the home for my nascent idea of "What are you willing to risk to succeed?" I'd want something quick to generate pools of dice to roll to maintain the kinetic nature of the game, as well as something that allows for more differences in tools (i.e., weapons, armor, and other tools have more of an effect on the game play than I normally care about).

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

What is the "perfect" game system?

I've been trying to answer the question "what is my perfect game system" for years. And I keep failing to find one or develop one for myself. But I was asked again recently and figured I'd actually write it out. All thoughts, statements, what-have-you, discussed here can be assumed to be prefaced with a "for me" as there's no perfect for all people system.

This got long.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Gaming Podcasts?

I need more gaming podcasts.

Why? Because I've finally found a situation in which I'll listen to them - at work. For some reason, I don't get annoyed at them at work versus at home, or in the car.

Right now I'm listing to a U.K.'s gaming table play a home brew of Mass Effect campaign. And it has me itching to play in that world, enough that I'm being tempted to play the video games, which I've tried and failed at before.

So does anyone out there have any good gaming-focused podcasts? Less so rambling, and more focused on either playing at the table or focused discussions?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Rambling and Pondering on Stunts

Normally I'd apologize for two months of silence, but I've been busy with family (a couple of birthdays) and focusing on other areas of my life. Good stuff, but it has kept me busy.

But I have been gaming. The Deadlands game run by a good friend of mine is still going like gangbusters as we are coming closer to resolving a/the major storyline. My huckster is doing fine for all that he's grappling with what might be something beyond mere lust, and the fact that he may have a demon living inside of him.

The same friend is trying to start an Eclipse Phase (well the bare bones of the setting) game, set pre-Fall, and it is going to be a Leverage/Ocean's 11 style crime game; what should be folks used to living in the grey areas of the law doing good things for good people.

I'm looking forward to the game, now that character creation is over. It was painful. So many points to spend and variable rates of costs. Just so painful. I transferred to a spreadsheet generator and discovered I had another 100 points to spend. Whoops.

The other thing that struck me was how you differentiated characters - skills, advantages, flaws, and equipment. I just kept looking for "stunts" or something similar to change how I use "guns" versus how this other guy uses "guns".

And as I get settled into my job (gee only took almost 6 months), I find myself playing around with system creation more and the idea of modifying or creating something useful for my table. Something that works well with what I want to do, and encourages people to play in the way that I want them to play at my table. Something that rewards a character having motivations and connections to the world around them. I'm no Rob Donoghue, but luckily I'm more than willing to steal liberally.

Now I can see why Eclipse Phase creators decided to have the only variable on skill usage being "So what specialization do you get +10%" in. They have around 50 skills (and that's counting all the skills such as Piloting that specific focuses that must be taken as one skill), and coming up with all the variable usages would have been insane. And also, not what the game is about - it isn't about what you know, it is more about interacting with the world and the horror out there.

I'm going to try and be better about writing here, even if it is just small random gaming updates of what's going on inside my head. We'll see how long that lasts.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Yeah, I'm a Rules Guy

I'm a process guy. Even says that if you click my bio "process-oriented" - I speak words like repeatable, RACI, CMMI, ISO without batting an eye. So I find the discussion of "Rules vs. Rulings" interesting, because it is something that I fight with every day in my job, people going "Why do we have to define how we do it, we just do it!"

Much of this has kicked off with a post by Monte Cook, discussing how, in his mind it is better to give the GM the power to adjudicate within a broad context is the ideal. A friend of mine from college has frequently been on a kick of giving the GM more flexibility to adjudicate within the system, that the GM should have the ability to decide how things end.

Me? Not so much. I want a tighter, more robust rules set. Perhaps this makes me an immature gamer; so be it. I prefer to think about it as "What do I want to spend my time at the table doing - think what the most fair resolution is, while trying to maintain what I did last time and why OR doing what I actually enjoy.

And I can understand the preference for a rulings-based system. It moves a lot of the effort from the system designers to the GMs, where it can be tailored to the table that they are sitting at. Unfortunately, with what I have seen in my workplaces, depending on a strong project manager works wonderfully until that project manager goes away, and then there's nothing. Or what happens if the project manager has a bad day?

So why my preference for rules over rulings? Rules give everyone the same explicit understanding for how something is supposed to work. No, not everything can be codified into a rules set, but there should be some three major items that a system should try to codify:

  1. How does a conflict start?
  2. How does a conflict resolve?
  3. How do we know when a conflict ends?

All rules/rulings should be to answer those three questions. My preference is just to have more done on the front end and not the back end. Why?

Because I'm mortal. I have my good days and my bad days. Because I can be very good at thinking on my feet and tying someone up in verbal knots.

But I don't want it to be my social abilities to whine, persuade, and convince the GM whether my character succeeds, I want my character's skills to be put to the test. I've quoted it before and I'll quote it again, "You can let the dice decide or let the GM decided, this goes for any type of resolution from social mechanics to hitting with a sword to finding a trap." And I just prefer to let the dice decide how the resolution of conflict goes.

Admittedly, that doesn't actually STOP anything from being dependent on the rulings or rules; because you could still have dice based resolution. The only question is where do you want the determinations to be made, on the front end, and codified within the text the rules, or left to the back end for each table to decide?

Frankly, I like knowing what I'm supposed to be doing before I get to the point where I need to make a decision.

Friday, June 8, 2012

What Makes Tactical Combat, Well, Tactical?

What makes a system's combat system tactical (or really any part of the system)? In short, choices and options make a system tactical, where you have to make decisions on what you do.

Well that was simple. Shortest blog post every by me. I'm done.

... ... ... ...

No, that's not really the end of my thoughts.

In my experience, the five W's (Who, What, When, Where, and Why) can provide the factors that make combat interesting - the more of those questions you get to ask in a combat, the more interesting the combat will be for me.

To discuss in more depth, and totally out of order:

Where - Where is probably the most basic of the tactical choices. Where do you stand, do you get cover, do you move to melee, do you stand beside the fighter. This is something that the gridded (i.e., played on a map with a grip) and war games (such as Warhammer) do extremely well. You can even keep it vague, such as zones from Fate, the positioning system from Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 3rd Edition (which if I remember correctly, as a close, distant, really far rating system) and each has its pluses and minuses, balancing speed of combat and number of options given.

Personally, I think the best balance becomes one of "zones" where you can divide the space up into logical chunks.

What (and How) - What you do is the other key choice. If there is only one "right" action to take, no matter what the circumstances are, then that's tactically boring. A lot of systems, such as new World of Darkness system, use this because the play is not supposed to be about the tactical system, I read someone describing the system as a "murder system" because it isn't tactical play per se, but about murdering someone. This is something that 4th Edition D&D did extremely well - giving lots of options to all of the classes for what they could do with each action - be it an at will, an encounter, or a daily power. Personally, for me, it made the fighter systemically interesting to play, because I had options beyond "roll basic attack to act". Fate, my current game that I'm running, only gives a few basic options of Attack, Defend, Maneuver, and Move; but maneuver covers a wide range of activities so I'm not hugely concerned with it (which reminds me, I need to do more with maneuvers in my next Dresden Game).

The How is just a variable to the what you do - all out attack or cautious attack. Not much else to say on that factor.

When - When as a tactical choice was introduced to me, in depth, with Exalted 2nd Edition and the Battle Wheel. Many of the key choices in that game were not positioning on a map (because distances and locations were generally easy to change), but the position on the battle wheel/initiative chart. I've talked about initiative a little bit ago, so I won't go too far into the weeds with this one.

Who - Who is an interesting one. It can be "who attacks" such as with war gaming, and deciding who needs to do what, when (oh wait that ties into the others). It can also be Who is attacked - do you kill the mage first, or the fighter, wipe out the mooks, or just go after the boss? This requires there to be options on who you attack - which is why I enjoy minion rules, because I don't want every major fight to be a single major BBEG against the party, instead I want there to be multiple opponents and options on the table to provide choices for the players to decide on.

Why - Why is a hard one for me to look at within the tactical combat. Some systems, such as Smallville, try to force the issue by removing standard attributes, but replacing with motivating figures. Anyone out there have thoughts on a good "why" tactical system?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Stake Setting and Deadliness

Random idea - as inspired by Honor+Intrigue and a thread on RPG.Net regarding the deadliness of systems, also probably some Dogs in the Vineyard as well, from what I recall.

Basically, everything comes down to the fact that, for me as a GM, killing a player's character isn't particularly interesting. If I want to kill a PC, it is going to happen. Unless they do their best not to engage with the world and plot, and then there's still always the "random mail bomb" if the game is modern, or "rocks fall, everybody dies". So what's the point?

Now, if I can get the players to the point of choosing to risk death, of making an active, positive affirmation that "this is worth dying for", then THAT I find most interesting.

What if the stake setting was based on how much the players were willing to risk and make it a decision that could be made. Basically, the design would consider of three tracks for the level of risk you were willing to accept - loss of your goal (Defeat), loss of your health (Injury), loss of your life (Death) - I quickly sketched out a diagram (Note: I'm NOT a graphic designer, or all that visual a person when it comes to graphics, so my apologies).

Basically, the plan would be for the players to choose how much they are willing to risk if they end up starting to lose. At first, all they are risking is the loss of their goals (usually stop the bad guy at this point); however, if they want to push, they are risking injury, and finally, if it is important enough to them, they are risking death to succeed.

Possible problems I see with this - first, by leaving it in the players' hands, they may never get to kill/defeat the bad guy unless the players start losing. Of course, I could just have the same track for serious opponents who have the will to stick in the fight (which would make for a great demarcation for how tough the opposition is - lightweight minions are only willing to risk defeat, lieutenants are generally only willing to risk up to injury for their goals, and the true evil overlords are willing to risk their life to achieve something great.

A second problem is that this is a very narrative defeat - it requires the players and GM to come up with an answer as to how the defeat (of either side) emerges.

The third major problem that I see relates to the first - if the players are already losing, why should they bother to raise the stakes? Things are already going against them, so there needs to be some sort of mechanic that allows them some sort of bonus to success.

Benefits - I think the key is that it allows for results other than total defeat, loss, and destruction of a side in a conflict. Many games make it hard to retreat, so players learn to not bother, and GMs come up with more and more odd ways for leaders to escape death.  Everyone may still need to come up with some explanation - but at least if everyone accepts the rules, they know this is going to be the end result. (See Problem #2)

Monday, May 14, 2012

I Love Mechanics Mondays: Advantages and Disadvantages

Ryan Macklin got to writing about advantages and disadvantages a little while ago, and basically said everything that I would have said for what I wanted. To reiterate his key points, disadvantages:

  1. They should always fucking matter. No such thing as a free lunch.
  2. If you tie it to character currency[i.e., build points], whether getting some more or paying some, you’re encouraging uninteresting — no, I’ll go as far as to say bullshit — behavior.
  3. The player should not be powerless to incorporate them, especially if they are tied to a reward cycle.
  4. And frankly, let’s tie them to reward cycles, whether it’s growth currency (XP) or competence currency (things like Fate points).
The principle reason being is that disadvantages put the work on the GM, generally, to take advantage of them, so they should be few in number. Advantages? Well, the player will WANT to remember to implement those at every opportunity.

Advantages got less attention - I think my favorite implementation, at least conceptually has been Adventure!'s implementation, which effectively added a sixth dot. This supercharged the advantage - You didn't have Resources: 6, you had "Wealth Beyond Avarice"; you didn't have "Contacts: 6" you had "Kingpin" and so on and so forth. The idea of titles and names for these backgrounds traits just caught my imagine, and even years later I have a certain fondness for the concept of playing a Daredevil who's power is buried in the wealth of backgrounds.

I think my ideal would be a four tiered system - something that gave you a minor/moderate/major advantage in a conflict or challenge, with the fourth tier being "overwhelming", and basically if you weren't equally matched in advantages you were going to lose. For something like resources it would be something like $100/$1000/10,000/500,000 of extra spending money or something equally ridiculous. Overwhelming should break the step increases.

Monday, May 7, 2012

I Love Mechanics Mondays: Your Turn to Go!

A friend of mine was posting about the sweet spot of rules for him, a subject on which he and I can disagree all day long as we have some fundamental disagreements, but something he brought up was the tick based initiative from Scion (and 2nd Edition Exalted).

The idea is fairly simple. Instead of combat being broken into rounds, there is only combat. Every action in that round takes a certain amount of time, and you just keep actions. Someone might take three quick actions to your slow two actions, or something might take an amazingly quick action.

Which got me to pondering all the various types of ways to determine who goes when, and what I liked from them.

The simplest is just some version of "Initiative, everyone goes at the same time" chaotic and silly, and gets into trouble when people start trying to interrupt each other. Plus the tactical decisions that this choice brings just does not interest me.

Next simplest is going in order of an attribute or skill. Reign used this one using a "Sense" attribute, or Fate with Alertness. Not one I'm a fan of, but it is simple.

Next up is roll a die, add a modifier. One of the most traditional, it is simple, fast, and effective. Can be incredibly "swingy" from one round to the next (if rolled every round) or one combat to the next (if rolled once per combat) if the die roll is significant larger than the modifier. Only question is whether you go for the simpler version of rolling once per combat or once per round.

One neat system is probably the one introduced to me by 7th Sea. Roll a number of d10 equal to an attribute. Each die tells you which segment (of 10 per round) you go on. Roll 1, 2, 3 you'll go on the 1st, 2nd, and third segments. Roll 1, 7, 12, well those are the segments you'll go on. I liked the back and forth and flurry of actions  - it seemed to suit the swashbuckling mood well.

Marvel Heroic Roleplaying has an interesting system: "Choose." Players decide which person goes first for whatever reason (tactical advantage, narrative truth, what have you) and then that person who chooses who goes next - this includes the opposition, so you don't want to leave them towards the end of the round else they'll all go, and then go immediately again the next round for a double whammy. Neat, but very system/setting specific.

Finally, the tick method, where each action has a cost till the next time you go. Some actions are fast, and other actions are slower. I've heard that Feng Shui uses this, by giving a number of beads/counters and each "tick" you remove a bead till you act, and then gain a new number of beads.

So what do I like?

In my heart of hearts, I like the tick based method, for how it emphasizes timing as the critical tactical decision versus location or other decisions. The problem is that it is very hard to balance "right", frequently it becomes a race to the fastest action as quickly as you can, and you need to find a way to put a hard floor in how fast an action can happen. If all actions, generally, run between 3 and 6 ticks, then you are fine; however, if can get people down to 1 or maybe 2 ticks the balance issues change significantly.

Plus, I haven't seen an implementation that a wide variety of people understand easily. And really, that's my goals for rules nowadays, easy, straightforward rules systems that folks get.

Which is why I keep coming back to 7th Sea's implementation. It allows for multiple actions. It is simple and kinetic (and I do like kinetics in my dice, where every die means something even if it is just a lot of potential you can feel in your hands) and it is easy to keep track of, if dice intensive. Savage Worlds/Deadlands usage of cards is similar, where the players are dealt a number of cards, and go in order from highest card to lowest card, but I find that a touch less elegant as it requires another item to track, and the actions are a bit random due to the die mechanics, at least in Deadlands, first you roll dice, then you figure out how many cards you get. Far more complicated than "Roll x dice, go on those moments", though, the latter doesn't allow for someone to suddenly get a burst of speed, at least not natively in the rule's set at least.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Modeling Conflict: The Role of Will

A little bit ago (as this was supposed to go up last week), Rob Donoghue posted bit on Why Anime Conflict is Hard. And while I responded there, it did get at something I've been looking for in games since I was introduced to the idea that something beyond mere skills and natural abilities might affect a conflict.

The earliest incident that I was introduced to was probably White Wolf's willpower. Where your drive to succeed, you will, could actually make you better at a skill. Heroquest for all that it is a horrible system for what I actually want out of a game, is wonderful in the conceptualization - where Death Ray at 16 is just as useful as Love for my Family at 16. Where what you might feel for a person, place, or thing might be as useful as what you know what to do, or what natural ability you were born with. Unknown Armies had the three passions - Fear, Anger, and Noble. So on and so forth.

But to bring this back to the post - how do you quantify Will? How do quantify someone wanting something more (and it still, maybe not being enough).

White Wolf probably has it best - Willpower gives you more dice to throw, which generally changes the odds. A trick might be to adjudicate how many willpower points you are willing to spend. Normally you can only spend 1 willpower; however, if something you care about (like your life) is threatened you can spend 2 willpower; and ultimately, if it is something that you are willing to die to protect, you can spend 4 willpower. 

Fate allows something similar, where you can always spend a fate point for a +1; but if you have an aspect related, you can get a +2 or a reroll.

The other alternative is "What are you willing to risk?" If a mechanic could somehow push the results up a notch, but let you keep trying to succeed. However, that gets back into conflict resolution on a scene level; where the conflict is resolved and you get to determine how you succeeded. And unfortunately, that's why a lot of books/anime/movies are best resolved at the scene resolution level rather than on a task by task basis, because it is so very hard to come up with a system that can do this sort of thing on a task level.

So what's my ideal? A system that factors in the why as much as the what. That normally, everyday things are just some roll of the dice. However, when things really, truly matter, then you can accomplish amazing feats. However, especially in the nature of fighting anime, I still want someone who is merely rolling base dice, if they are good enough, to be able counteract all that will; it should not be will alone.

White Wolf's Willpower allows for some of that; unfortunately, the pool refreshes too slowly/is to limited for much of what I want. Something to ponder as I continue working on things in my brain. Because yes, of course, I am trying to build the perfect system for me.

Monday, April 23, 2012

I Love Mechanics Monday: Making NPCs Matter

Over on System San Setting Mass Effect 3 is brought up as a way to make NPCs matter - have them grant some sort of in-game effect, i.e., rescuing Baron Gets-Lost-A-Lot grants you access to his cavalry for future endeavors, or Bailing Sir Never-To-Do-All-That-Well out of a tight spot makes his sister, who is married to the king, give you a bonus to all your attempts to convince the King of your plans.

What caused my head to snap was the line "there are few elements of player psychology more powerful than the act of putting something on a character sheet," and I went really? Cause my players are fully capable and have ignored such items. But I think that says more about my players' engagement with the system (there's a reason why that attempt lasted so little time) than anything else.

But assuming you have buy-in, this sort of NPC so-and-so requires a certain amount of gamification of the arcs. Where players know going in what the stakes are "Well if you do this, you'll get this sort of reward," and feeds best into something beyond the straight kill monsters for the glory and safety - where there's a larger meta-game at play of various power groups.

Combat and wargaming are the easy ones because social conflicts are so nebulous to describe and to provide tactical advantage for. It is easy to make the Baron's cavalry more impressive and useful, but how do you quantify boons? (Okay some games, such as Cortex+ where the boon would be an asset to improve the roll it is easy, but there's more than one reason why the Cortex+ line is seducing me with its siren call.)

Eclipse Phase does it with Rep gains, which are basically currency in the post-scarcity age. I could see Fate doing it with an Aspect with a free tag or two to hit to shift a crucial roll.

But I'm sort of stymied at this point. Cortex+'s solution, a persistent asset seems to be the most reasonable one of the bunch; however, it is tied into the system tightly - I come back to "And there needs to be some sort of secondary game where these resources come into play" which brings me back to the system of Reign, which while it did not work for my group, did provide a nifty state actor versus state actor venue to play in.

Monday, April 16, 2012

I Love Mechanics Monday: Social Conflict

I'm a sucker for social conflict resolution mechanics. I mean really, a "here take my money, I heard this game had an interesting way to resolve social conflict" type sucker.

Diaspora, which I mentioned last week, probably had the most variety on social mechanics; however, while portable to other systems fairly easily, the idea of drawing maps and social boundaries is very much rooted in the base mechanic.

However, over at Division Nihil a while back the idea of describing social conflict as a chase rather than combat came up from another blog. And it is a neat idea - the two parties start somewhere between two boundaries, and depending on which side shifts the weight of the chase to their side "wins".

And really as I write this we get down to the heart of the problem - combat is relatively easy to simulate because we allow ourselves to reduce things down basic tasks (generally) "Do I hit?" "How much damage do I do?" And because of that simplicity, for whatever other stunts come along the way, it makes it easy to adjudicate. Unfortunately, this simplicity allows for some problem areas to come up, such as every fight being a fight to the bitter end because running away isn't generally a successful option.

However, chase mechanics combined with a compromise/concession mechanic allows for a slightly different visualization - instead of it being combat where you are trying to beat down the opposition first, you are instead on a teeter totter trying to move the weight of the argument.

Now, Marshall, has an interesting idea where the stake setting for the chase is dependent on the importance of the conflict to both characters. If one person ("the prey") sets their importance at 2, and another ("the predator") sets their importance to 5, we have a dedicated predator chasing after a prey who doesn't much care. I think Marshall's plan fails due to over complication - too many rules and modifiers.

I'd probably go with something along the lines of "The worst penalty you can take is dependent on what you risk." So the guy who goes all in at a maximum importance is risking his entire ego, while the other guy at a 2 is only risking a little. Sure the hell fire and brimstone chap will be probably win because they have more staying power; but if he does lose, he'll be devastated.

I'm still not "happy" and I'm not sure what will make me happy. I want a relatively impartial die mechanic to resolve my social conflict, the same as I want a relatively impartial die mechanic to resolve my physical conflict, and as one of my favorite quotes on the matter goes,"You can either let the dice decide or let the GM decide, this goes for any type of resolution from social mechanics to hitting with a sword to finding a trap" therefore I need a way that works for my players to resolve them using words and not fists/swords/eldritch hell blasts/explosives to solve their problems, and something that gives narrative weight to the conflict beyond a single roll - we know combat is important because combat frequently gets the screen time; well in my games social conflict frequently gets the screen time, ergo, I need something that'll give me what I want for that conflict.

I'll definitely need to be talking more about this later. Especially, the Weapons of the Gods implementation, which is probably my favorite system for describing "influencing" someone versus convincing them flat-out.

Monday, April 9, 2012

I Love Mechanics Monday: Resources and Wealth

I have a love hate relationship with resource mechanics - I either find them annoying to deal with (mind your coppers and silvers) or they are broad enough they reduce the ability to grant awards - "So how much is he willing to pay us?" "Uhhhh....resources 3."

Kaiju had a two part series on money starting with the an abstract wealth system and moving to more detailed systems used elsewhere. This got me to thinking about wealth systems and what it means to the stories and tales that we tell - and how they are dependent on the mechanics.

In an abstract system, the importance of money is diminished in the game, in my experience. Rarely is the story about whether there'll be enough money to buy bullets, food, or keep the ship in the air, but instead generally about favors and obligations instead. Because generally there's a limit to the amount of things Wealth can do, for example having five dots in Resources means there's no where else for a character to go for money. It makes tales about hard scrabbling difficult, one because there's little granularity in the system, and second because you bump into a case of not really having a good reason to do a job for cash - "well a $500 bucks isn't going to actually boost my resources score, so why am I doing this again?"

In a dollars and cents system, the stories tend to be more about acquisition because there IS no finite limit to the amount of wealth you can have. You can always hit another dragon's lair for more treasure, or raid an arcology for another piece of hot tech for Mr. Johnson, or some other mad money making scheme with your free trader. But it involves a lot of book keeping, especially if you use multiple currency, and also inflation is a problem.

Coming up with a solution that works in all situations is a bit of a holy grail - as Marshall noted at Division Nihil, where he says
A wealth system should be able to handle several important story functions. The characters should be able to be stripped of their resources and forced to scrabble to survive. Common, everyday expenses should be able to be easily ignored. (These two goals are very difficult to reconcile.) The players should feel strongly rewarded when they either find a large treasure or get paid a large fee. A character should be able to be designated as "rich" mechanically, with significant bonuses as a result. The economy of the setting should either make sense within the rules, or be abstracted to the point that the characters have relatively little impact on the wider economy.

Diaspora, which is based on Fate, got around some of the problems of the granular system by introducing a "Wealth" stress track, basically large purchases caused damage to the track and and eventually caused the characters to suffer consequences, consequences which then made it subsequently easier to take a character out of a conflict. Yes, being behind on your bills could make it easier to knock you out of a fight. The joys of a narrative system.

As Kaiju noted - Conan d20 got around the inflation point by causing the heroes to spend 50% of their wealth in "high living" -- drinking, wenching, feasting, repair and equipping. Shadowrun did something similar with different standards of living.

I prefer the abstract wealth systems - mostly because it stops me from having to care about figuring out how to separate characters from their wealth. Without some sort of mechanic inherent in a granular system to remove wealth from the players just continues to grow until it reaches preposterous amounts (aka fundamentally the "wealth has ceased to be a motivating factor" issue within abstract systems).

But an abstract system does force the game to be about different things - as a rule hard scrabble existence will not be a driving motivation for the characters. Equipment, outside of special gear, will not be a driving force because the conversation goes along the lines of: "I want to buy this." "Are your resources high enough?" "Ayup." "Done."

So what can you do with abstract systems to make them motivate - there's making buying the next level cheaper. "So what do we get paid for this?" "Enough for me to give you a 1 xp discount on buying the next level of wealth." Yeah, it is a conceit to the system, but it works well enough for me.

There's going to be no holy grail - therefore, I look for the system that lets me tell the story I run - ones where wealth is merely a tool for clearing out common obstacles and let the rest of the problems be ones that money can't solve. Admittedly, this eliminates as a rule the idea that characters shall be "stripped of their resources and forced to scrabble to survive" but I'm okay with that, it isn't a story I want to tell, often, and when I do, I can arrange it so that benefit is unavailable when I do, rarely, run a plotline that calls for wealth to be unavailable.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Mile High Ways: Wounded and Limping Along

So my Dresden Files game is teetering and tottering to ending. The vagaries of being adults with jobs, families, and life events happening just got to be too much; making it no one's fault. This stuff just happens. We're still discussing what to do, whether to try and add 1-2 new players and figure out how to integrate them (do we just slot them in, do we redo some city creation) or do we just call it a good show and end it here and maybe try something different in time? Still not sure.

However, I wanted to put some lessons learned so far from  running the game:

Monday, April 2, 2012

I Love Mechanics Monday: Grappling Subsystems

Grappling. Is there anything that slows down combat more? (Okay, outside of a Zenith Exalted not knowing their charm set or a wizard not knowing their spells?)

It is infrequently used, it is either drastically over- or under-powered in the system and is almost always too complex because it is trying to model too closely the drama. Over on System Sans Setting, this issue was brought up, and the principle of working from the goal oriented modeling basis was raised - instead of trying to model the process, start with the goals and work backwards from that point.

So what is the goal of grappling someone? In my view there are 4 points, some of which are covered in the above post:

  1. Keep the defender from escaping.
  2. Limiting or directing a defender's movements.
  3. Use the defender as a shield against other opponents.
  4. Remove options from their combat arsenal, either by limiting movement, or by removing weapons, whether they are effective attacks or removing actual weapons.

The question though is how to model this?

And every time I try to write something down I find myself getting tied in overly complicated game mechanic knots. So I'm going to try and write something for a Fate based system without looking up the rules.

A grapple is basically a Block combat action. It is a long lasting block that applies against all maneuvers applied against it. As blocks are reduced when bypassed this simulates the guy getting free. Sure there's the oddball case that you could have a highly effective grapple that's easily broken, but that's life within the system.

So what about moving someone (such as throwing/shoving them), using them as a shield, or other items? Well some of those are just attacks or maneuvers, and other parts are stunts (especially the using a grapple victim as a shield).

So let's just see how my 30 second "in my mind" rules set matches up against how the Dresden Files RPG deals with grapples:

  1. Grapples are blocks that need an aspect to justify. (Major difference - in my mind, grappling is just another maneuver, here it is a special maneuver that requires justification to be executed.)
  2. Roll Might skill. (No real problem there, I never specified the skill needed.)
  3. Establishes a Block against all actions that a target takes in a round. (Okay so far so good)
  4. On subsequent rounds, you may make a follow-up Block attack and take a -1 penalty for a supplemental action to either attack, move, or maneuver. (No real problem here, a free 1 stress hit isn't too bad; I'd probably use a stunt to enhance this, but that seems a decent compromise to allow a MMA/ground fighter something to demonstrate their skill.)
Heh, not too off, so that means I've either read the book too many times or internalized the system

And here's the issue discussing systems, each system has a purpose built by its creators. Fate is designed, I'd like to think, to simulate the narrative of the action, so this sort of action works. Something like GURPS, on the other hand, tries much harder to simulate 'reality'. Now how about something troublesome like D&D?

In 3/3.5 edition, I'm not sure what I'd do. It has been a long, long time since I've even looked at the rules. The principle would be ensuring that the opponent's actions are limited, so an attack that instead of inflicting damage inflicts a penalty instead would probably be appropriate, but not sure where to go after that.

4th Edition it is a little simpler. They made a grab condition that limits actions and the ability to get away from the attacker, and it looks like, after some research, some Fighter powers and feats to make a brawler possible. So there you go. 

Edited: So it is a bit late, still on a Monday.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Choose Your Poison: Gaming Group Size

Late last week, I was nodding along as I read this post on why a having a small group was great for gaming when you are older, and why three was a good base "ground floor" number.

It makes sense - fewer schedules to coordinate; and as noted in the article, three allows you to cover the three basic areas of competence in many games - hitting, magicing, and sneaking. With fewer players it is easier to give each more screen time and do more in-depth, character-focused arcs.

However, as my Dresden game demonstrates, going this small means that there's a minimum amount of room for schedule snafus. Sunday AM, one player had to cancel due to a small family emergency, and boom, there's a third of the regular folks at my table. Not his fault, but the arc is sort of starring him as well, so if he wasn't there, a lot of the hanging plot is focused around what his character brings to the table, so even MORE troublesome than normal. Then I lost my second player due to other unforeseen circumstance, and I was down to just a 1/3 of my table. So I called game.

If it had been a more stereotypical six player game and I'd lost two players, I probably could have continued with the arc. Plus with a larger group, the likelihood that the story arc would have been focused around a particular player versus a particular issue would have been less.

So what's better? As always, it is "It depends." What are your goals as a group, what stories are you interested in telling? There's no better or worse, just what works for your group.

I'd argue that if you want to tell heavily character driven arcs, where each player has a critical role then you either need to be okay with not playing every time you have something scheduled, or have an inordinately reliable group.

If you are willing to play with a larger table, and know that 1-2 people are going to be missing, then a plot that is more group focused versus character driven is probably wiser. That way if Sir McGuffin's player has to go into work, the game can still go on because the plot is not dependent on his particular relationships. Plus you'll have enough duplication of roles that a single missed person shouldn't provide a critical weakness.

Monday, March 26, 2012

I love Mechanics Monday: Player Relationship Structures

In an attempt to post more regularly, I'm going to do my best to have a Monday post about some mechanic I either saw someone linked to, had come up in game in an interesting way, or otherwise caused me to go "Oh, I should write about that."

I don't think anyone who games with me would be shocked by the revelation that I love characters who are connected to world via relationships with people, whether they are enemies or allies, frenemies or dependents, mentors or allies, I like them all.

First of all, they place the PCs in the world, giving them a sense of space, they answer the question "Why don't we just cut our losses and run?" And if the PCs DO choose that options, it says something about them.

The idea of the adventuring band traipsing across the wilderness and defeating evil hasn't appealed to me in many years. I want a community to closely tie my characters to conflicts and give them a reason beyond mere fortune and gold to risk their lives. Risk for your country, your friends, your enemies, risk for a reason beyond avarice, or if avarice is motivation enough, why is it enough to fight and die for? The lone ronin without ties to hearth or family, with no friends holds little interest for me to explore their motivations.

And I understand why players have learned to create such creations, it is too easy to fridge a wife, kidnap a child, and otherwise make them a vulnerability to a character. And many folks play to escape and be strong, not constantly be saving Timmy and the wife from the dastardly deeds, it isn't interesting.

Something to make it interesting is something I saw a while back that Will Hindmarch posted regarding pre-defining character relationships - he was doing a Dragon Age campaign where the players would be playing 3rd, 5th, and 7th level versions of the same character in the same campaign in various adventures.

It is an interesting concept and something some friends and I flirted with doing in Eberron once upon a time, the idea of telling a story at the 7th level, but having to go tell that tale at 3rd level is neat.

However, I'm digressing from the interesting mechanic. What got me was that these weren't predefined NPCs, they were just random faces; however, after going through the six questions that developed friendships, enemies, romance and other details, they had a body to fit into the existing campaign. For even more complication, I could see easily doing this with each player so one person's friend may be another's enemy. Though that might get a bit TOO insane to track, so instead you need to set-up so some questions for the group, and some for the individual - which allows you the interpersonal drama of having a friend whose purpose is against the group as a whole.

The pre-definition at specific levels only works with this sort of pre-set campaign idea, but I could see using it to give me permission. Instead of "Two of these characters are enemies or rivals by 7th level. No matter how you feel about them, they are opposed to you now. Pick them now," you can instead choose to say"Two of these characters will become enemies or rivals." Don't give a time frame, and thus instead of having a defined story that might be interesting to play out, you instead have a flag of permission - you have "I have chosen to have this happen to my character."

Now my wife may still screech at me for this, but during an Exalted game I ran she had taken the Merit "Heiress" which was when her father died she inherited the family business and fortunes. So yes, during the course of the game her father was killed, albeit brutally, and she was all "You KILLED my father!" To which I had to reply, "But you wanted me to, you only got the benefits of the merit once he died, you gave me permission and told me to kill him!" We still joke about the interchange to this day; as I do my best NOT to destroy people's families unless it is evident that they are on the line.

So if you are trying to tie your characters into a setting (versus the wandering heroes who roll in, clean up/level town and roll on out into the sunset - a perfectly valid playstyle, just not one I'm willing to run) and a bit at a loss of what to do, this sort of idea, taking NPCs that are either formless or established and allowing the players to establish not only current but the intended arc of future relationships. That allows the players some guidance to playing to the intended arc of the story.

Enough for now. At some point in the future I'll probably talk about Smallville's relationships versus Dresden Files versus Weapons of the Gods. But I have a backlog of posts to work through first.

Friday, March 23, 2012

One Arc Ends, Another Begins

Last Sunday, we had our make-up game due to Madicon disrupting our schedule. It was the end of the Apocrypha arc and it ended less than enthusiastically; the bad guy got away (with the mysterious tome in ancient Greek), the book of prophecy is still loose; however, the Warden has woken from his lazy slumber and set a ward on the city of Denver to alert him if the Breaker of the First Law works his magic.

This arc suffered a number of problems - some external due to scheduling and personalities starting to mesh at the table with almost all new players, and then learning the system and working within it is making things difficult. I'm having trouble finding good compels for the players to take that make sense within the context of the game - and it takes the fate point back and forthing to really make the system sing, instead I have a bunch of 1 or 2 refresh characters that don't have enough points to do anything truly extraordinaire when the dice come up against them - they are dependent entirely on their abilities, and those are being drastically affected by the dice rolls.

Oh and the characters themselves, I tried to sketch out a fairly straightforward job, but it did involve a lot of rapport and investigation rolls with no real strengths within the party. I have to scan the characters sheets but the party is strong in Discipline, Weapons, and Conviction - not a whole lot to hang an arc off of.

Also, thaumaturgy, I have a high Lore Wizard and the Swiss army knife of thaumaturgy is making certain challenges not so challenging, or even particularly interesting to do for the low level rituals, and admittedly I can make it more interesting by putting a time crunch on things; however, there's only so many times I can go back to that well.

So with a minor advancement between them and some down time. We started the next arc which I'm aiming to be a major storyline called Battlefields.

One less character as the player behind Rufus had to tap out due to life concerns getting in the way of regular play. Focusing in on the Five Points, a rougher part of Denver, gunfire and skirmishes between the three Red Court controlled gangs are flaring hot and knocking over the status quo. Kimiko, the Bearer of the Sword of the Cross, is stuck in the middle as one of her orphans that she shelters takes a bullet to the thigh. Things go bad to worse quickly as grenades (that are duds) and automatic weapons quickly enter the picture as some of the gangs start hitting each others' headquarters. So we have a three way free for all going off with each gang saying the other gang started it, and worse, the Red Court leadership is being called into town.

The blood is going to run in the streets.

If that wasn't enough, a half-demon has caught a plague and is hiding out in the Lakeshore Amusement park where Mrs. Jenkins runs effectively a boarding house for monsters. However, Georgie, the half demon, doesn't really recall what happened to him as he was walking his prey to a hunting ground and he got hit by men streaming out of a white cargo van and doesn't recall much after that. What's scary to the Werebear Paramedic is that while Georgie has all of the external symptoms of the plague, he has not of the internal causes. Calling in the friendly mage, Debra, the two are stumped for answers at the moment.

So if the first arc was talking/investigation focused, this one will be a lot more intrigue, combat, and research oriented. The next session is this Sunday so we'll see what happens.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Just Good Fun

This past weekend I was at Madicon hosted at James Madison University's by the Science-Fiction/Fantasy Guild and I got to play several new games (Thunderstone), play in one that I've run a one-shot in (Warhammer Fantasy Role Play, 2nd Edition),  and run Marvel Heroic Roleplaying.

The last I ran Sunday morning with half my table hung over or recovering from a hard night partying. To make things easy I ran the first act of the scenario in the back of the book - for players I had Cyclops and Colossus; Daredevil and Spiderman; and Iron Man.

To summarize the review: It is a good solid game. It will not satisfy the Champions/M&M folks out there that want to tweak and finesse their characters, but that game is already written.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

DFRPG: Closing of the First [Small] Arc: Apocrypha

Has it really been a month? Work stress has eaten me alive. Thankfully, I start my new job on the 5th of March so hopefully it'll get better.

Gaming is happening though. Managed to get a second session of Dresden Files in, which was decent, not great but decent. Dealing with a new system and a new group so I'm not terribly shocked that things are moving slowly. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Rolling the Bones

Steve D is reviewing Gumshoe over at his place, and his latest post raised a couple of interesting turns of phrase that I 1) wanted to share; and 2) I wanted to talk about.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Story Arc Design

This is continuation of my theft of John Adamus' piece on The Beat of Game Design. The first part dealt with Adamus' five questions of designing a game, i.e., what are the rules designed to accomplish. The second part deals with how is the game structure - what makes up the beginning, middle, and end of an arc, and how does it feed into the next cycle?

Stealing a page: Game Design

I'm going to steal a page from my friend Stu and start using this blog to save links to neat gaming articles I find on the web. I would have used Reader once upon a time for that; however, the share function is dead, so it is too much a pain to add a single article and then add to Facebook.

Fred Hicks (of Evil Hat) linked to article which I found useful for two different concepts. The first is game design. I am a system monkey and every so often, generally when work is slow, tinker with a concept or three. No real reason behind it, just for the joy of tinkering. I generally call this my Artemis project because it'll definitely me shooting the moon if it ever goes anywhere.

But I digress. As I do. Let's get into the actual piece.