Saturday, April 27, 2013

Age of Wormy writing and Return of the Edition Warrior

So I'm flicking through Dungeon mag's and reminesing. Then I notice I'm reading one of the issues and its really, really badly written and badly edited (I'm guessing). Its an age of worms adventure and people have nothing but great things to say about this adventure path -they say "yes its a bit rail-roady, but for all that still good". So I fond myself reading this drivel on the page and I turn back the pages to find out who wrote this pile of poo and I should have guessed.

The Three Faces of Evil  Issue #125 Written by Mike Mearls.

Ahh he comes back to haunt us again as if Iron Heroes and Gimmicks guide to gadgets where not bad enough ... here is yet another fine example of his work in print. Essentially this guy keeps publishing crap. Polished, tidy, high production value, stuff but it's still poop.

And Hasbro has him in a key position for D&D. Sigh they really should be paying attention. 

Funny thing is someone in Hasbro is possibly thinking we should buy "Pathfinder". The thing is damn it they (Hasbro) have D&D. If it wasn't for Mike Mearls there would never have been a need for Pathfinder in the first place.

Anyway go play Labyrinth Lord and don't worry. Or hackmaster 5 aka hackmaster advanced.

Just so you know this is what Mr Mike wrote; the mine dungeon has a "garrison" in the dungeon. It's larger than the one in the town  - which maned by goodly aligned folks - The dungeon garrison is considerably larger than the one above the mine, by quite a bit and they are all evil. Yep ...There are three evil cult factions. All are vastly overpowered for the assumed 3rd level PC party expected to go in and to the job. There are missing or simply wrong stats and NPC numbers (as in how many cultists are in the encounter) etc. It's really bad ...there is a doorway seperating two of the evil factions which hate each other. One maybe, inch and a half? Wood door. Evil on both sides. Yet no conflict at, for, or over the door. I was surprised and yet not surprised in retrospect. 

It was good they managed building 5e the way they did. It would have been a massive shame to see the original fantasy game lose its crown and never get it back. I'm glad it turned out fine. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

How to pick your next rpg campaign or system

Castle Falkenstein what a great game. Should it be next?

If your anything like me you love rpg's. You have a mass of them, you read and like and want to play lots of different ones. So when it comes to your next game it can be problematic and present a difficulty picking what to play. This can be further exacerbated by our gaming friends, their likes and dislikes and essentially their level of trust in you and your game management. Something  John Harper observed.

So how do you pick a game? How do you make a decision? And how will you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it is the right one?

Or do I go with an Age of Sail game? Flashing blades anyone?
Your lucky in life when things are black or white. So its easy to make decisions. A train is speeding towards you. You want to live. Jump out of the way and you know unequivocally you have made the right decision.

Or maybe retro scifi? Sabers and Lazers any one?
But when it comes to gaming choices its less clear. should you play a D&D or 7th Sea? Should you play this with the original rule set or Savage Worlds?

Many of these types of decisions are ambiguous. Sometimes both decisions would have been right or wrong… to some extent. If we wait for absolute certainty before acting then we may never act. So that mean your likely to miss out on some good gaming opportunities. Fun times with friends.

Its time to realize sometimes there are no 'right' decisions, only different or alternate decisions. Trying to make the 'right' decision assumes that life is always simple or even simplistic. After all this is just your hobby time why anguish over it.  However some people - I include myself - respond to decision making time like a rabbit snared in the hunters spotlight.

Don't create unnecessary anxiety by worrying about what to do. There are five common traps to watch for:
  1. Wanting too much certainty before acting. Perfectionist types with simplistic ideas of right and wrong go for this one. They don't feel it is reasonable to act on a decision while still having doubts about it. They want a certificate to come through the letterbox telling them the right decision has been reached and officially approved. As this doesn't happen, their minds go round and round in circles and they actually think too much. 
  2. Believing a decision can only be valid if ratified by other people. This approach often comes out of fear of making an entirely independent decision. It may be a sign of reluctance to "rock the boat" or be responsible for a sub-optimal/bad outcome. 
  3. Constantly making the same mistakes because of failure to learn from the past. If you know that Rolemaster doesnt work for the group due to its complexity, or that FATE is something your players cant understand, or Runequest is too off-beat for the players, then recognise these patterns and incorporate them into your decision making. 
  4. Making emotional decisions based on a whim. Try not to make an entirely emotionally based decision type to understand the context of the decision and where it will lead. Interestingly current research make this type of decision making less of a "trap" then was previously thought and honestly in the context of role playing games this could be a fine way to go. Your passion may just carry the day and the game.  
  5. Not making a decision is a decision. The trouble is the which game which system 'problem' your trying to solve isn't maths. Your treating the problem of what to do for role playing as if it were algebra. You have to not sweat the small stuff. Moreover its preventing you from getting what you want from your roleplaying sessions. Its your hobby time and you should strive to making as enjoyable as possible. 
Ohh yeah THAT's what I'm talking about!!!
So what to do? First off don't sweat it. Don't get worked up. You may even have to give yourself time away form the decision. If your lucky enough to have a secondary GM in the group let them have the stage for however long they want need it. Or play board games for a while. If you dont want to do this then make sure you have something prepped for the next session of what ever it is you are playing. focus on combat you can rarely go wrong. Do a Chandler and have a revolver shoot through the door. The essence is don't worry about what it is - just have something. That will do for now and lets you enjoy your friends and your hobby time.

Don't feel locked in to the current game or system your running for your group. If you have to change let them know there is change coming. There is an unrealistic expectation on the part of many players in rpg's - I find particularly prevalent in people who don't or rarely run games. The Long Term Campaign. Its sort of unrealistic to expect this to just happen. Even with an entire Adventure Path, framework in which we have fun. The goal is fun. The secondary goal is fun adventuring and exploring in game drama.
She needs saving get to it!!!
Mega Dungeon or Packaged Campaign it just may not click for you or for that matter a number of the players. When one works its the nirvana of role-playing and is a truly great experience. It is NOT however the ONLY valid from of role-playing. The emphasis of any session should be on  getting together with friends to have fun over a game. Lets examine that and thing on our roleplaying experiences in the past...the game provides a

Don't dither; trust your gut instincts! When decision making gets tough – trust your gut instincts. Research published in 'Current Biology' shows, in some instances snap decisions are better than endless pedantic pondering and logical weighing up. People were shown a puzzle and asked to pick the one odd symbol out of more than 650 identical symbols. Interestingly they performed better when they were given no time to linger and were forced to rely on their subconscious to select the correct answer.

Big Gun. Check. Sword. Check. Sexy Woman.

Dr Li Zhaoping of University College London said: "You'd expect people to make better decisions when given time to look properly, but this was not so." He explained: "The conscious or top level function of the brain, when active, vetoes our initial subconscious decision – even when it is correct – leaving us unaware or distrustful of our instincts."

So thinking too much about a decision can leave us worse off. So the famous Milton Erickson's injunction to 'trust your unconscious' is now backed up by research. Your conscious logical brain doesn't always make the best decisions. Clearly logical thought has its place in decision making, but logic is a tool and not the only one in the box! Which leads to the question: are some people just too sensible when it comes to decision making?

So how to make that decision? To make good decisions you need to:
  1. Learn to trust your instincts. Don't always insist on 'logical' reasons for everything, such as why to chose Savage worlds rather then Traveller. Learn to say: 'Because it feels right.'
  2. When you do base decision making on weighing up the pros and cons, use your imagination. Really sit down and envisage living with the decision. How does that feel? Will the game work at the table. Can you commit to your own decision? You should be able to do so. If not propose a "one shot" or "short-run".
  3. Don't be overly tempted by strong emotional attraction to a game or system. Intuitive decision making works best when the distorting effects of emotion are kept in context. Revisit the rule above.  
  4. Remember, some decisions won't make sense to other people – and that may be OK. Most advances (Flight, open heart surgery, the telephone) were instigated by people who decided to follow what seemed like crazy ideas to others at the time. Be prepared to adjust to the needs of the group as things progress. If people balk at your game choice a) inform them your committed to a X length of play, b) passionate on the subject and more likely to create great in game fun and c) prepared to take feedback after three sessions about the game choice and its continuance.
  5. Don't beat yourself up if you do make a 'wrong' decision. You can learn from it and hey – you are human! And well you all got to try a new game. Whoot!!!
The important thing is that you play at the table with friends - everything else is secondary to that goal. The Play is the thing, not sitting agonising over the perfect game setting or system. Get your friends over and roll dice for adventure and fun!  
Yep there is my next game, right there!!!

Monday, April 15, 2013

The RPG Corner: The Cthulhu Effect

The RPG Corner: The Cthulhu Effect: Anyone who has run Call of Cthulhu for any great length of time will no doubt be familiar with the "D&D Effect" - the phenomena....

I loved this and found it great reading. I've experienced this acutely in Pendragon ... in fact I think more so in Pendragon. When players come to Pendragon from a D&D or FRPG background they immediately think they are in the same thing only with a different skin.

Well your very much mistaken when you take this route. You see in Pendragon your, yes playing a knight. So through FRPG eyes that means "heavy armoured warrior". So off they go. There is also normally someone who want to play the "Magic User" and while there is, in some editions magic rules, they are not so great for a player character (you can end up needing to sleep for a long time - in some cases ...years), its not really a game for players casting spells.

So you start out with some frustrated, some grumpy and some dissatisfied players ["What? We are all Knights!"]. Well yes and no... Sure there is a skill list and different characters can cover different skills and specialisations which differentiates the PC's. But thats not really it.

So to recap you have this group of FRPĂ©rs and they are by now not really jivin'to the game experience as its really not what they expected at all. But they give it ago.

And then they find out that Glory and Passions and playing a god-damn LORD of the Realm is actually really cool. And finding a wife to wed is really cool. Meeting Lancelot really cool. Merlin, magical. Saving Briton cool. Fighting battles with your own ARMY, levied from your own lands. COOL. Then there is the intrigue, Mordred, Le Fay, the Saxons, Rome, finding the relics and at its height the blossoming of MAGIC and the fae..

Yeah you play Knights but not THOSE knight you know, not paladins, fighters and rangers but Chevaliers of the Realm of Briton and actually they are pretty cool in their own right.
Don't believe me go watch Excalibur, or Knights of the Round Table. 

Or play Pendragon...

Friday, April 12, 2013

On Dwarves, Hope and the One Ring

I have to thanks my guys for humouring me and giving The One Ring a go. I enjoyed it a lot... Having said that it's really very much it's own thing - its very defiantly not D&D or any type of clone. Its one of the more original rpg properties out there. I love that it does Initative differently. I'm sick of the same initative system in effectivly every rpg out there. YMMV.

I mean good lord even the art is wonderful!

The One Ring has got it's own way of doing things. It really captures the feeling of the setting and I had fun with that.... In deed I'd go so far as to say that is why I role play. I want to feel that setting immersion. Even thought the system is unique it gets out of the way and lets you play. Attributes are not that important. Other then Hope which is an uber stat.
More goodness on the way
Game for me is about story and a lot less about mechanics, which is really just the "enabler" to tell the tale. I don't really like getting bogged down in philosophical debates on the system ... I'd rather just go with it ... I'll sort out any system problems via adjudication as opposed to "rules mods"  Also I think a knee jerk reaction to rules when they are new is more then likely just "growing pains" so to speak... 

Hope attribute... yes it's certainly the most important ability in the game but again I'm ok with that. A little bit of research showed Dwaves get a front loaded and highest endurance of any culture and get a cultural benefit that allows them to be less fatigued/encumbered so thought has gone into "balancing" the game system... However having said that it is still very much it's own beast ... It has an amount of randomness in it so you can't count on certain ancillary outcomes. See interesting comments on the same stuff here 
Its a game I could stick with and comit to as I really like it but I got the distinct impresion the players didnt ... so we go back to the drawing board. 
You got me in the heart!
Regarding the ongoing game; I'm likely to switch back to the OSR Scifi game and cary on with the plan of the PC's finding out in game they are playing in Australia after a hard takeoff singularity, and a pole switch event b) discover an FTL drive at a nearby hidden base, c) fight the guys who rule Melbourne to keep your hard won FTL Tech d) get off planet f) discover the earth is quarantined due to the nanophage, g) interact with the transhuman space born society h) share the FTL drive tech and open up space to exploration i) discover the interstellar intelligence a distributed AI of unknowable purpose which fills the interstellar medium and is doing ....something....not quite right. 
We may switch back to Shadowrun where I run you through the latest "Missions" series of packaged adventures
Traveller where I run you through the secret of the ancients packaged campaign
Rogue trader warhammer 40k packaged adventures 
Gumshoe system ( this is the sysem that powered ashen stars) based procedural based investigation role playing.

I'll leave you with a few pics that sum up where I think the regular game will go....

 Just in case its not clear
The funny thing is that if you look at the original rules and heroes and superheroes using the combat systems 5-6 on a d6 being a hit (as it is in SR4) is pretty much the way the Chanimail OSR worked ... go figure.