#RPGaDay2015 – Day 29: Favorite RPG Website/Blog

rpg-a-day-2015My feedreader is heavily laden with many different blogs on roleplaying, and many I have enjoyed reading, but many have also grown silent. They live for certain time – and my own seems often quiet as well (but I blog on my Danish blog about 7-12 times a month), but onwards to #RPGaDay2015.

Day 29 – Favorite RPG site/blog

Mostly my favorite RPG sites are RPG blogs rather than webpages, and among these many have grown silent and rarely if ever post again, so though I miss them, these silent giants sleeping I will not mention.

Among the active that I enjoy reading presently are The Alexandrian, DMDavid, 10 Foot Pole, and The Walking Mind.

The Alexandrian has a good mix of materials from reviews and discussions on how to play to reading some really old stuff and discussing how RPGs were played in other ages.

DMDavid has some interesting views on D&D and how the different versions favor different kinds of play, that I enjoy reading about.

10 foot pole reviews a lot of OSR stuff, both new products and then some very old material like the Dungeon Magazine of the 90’s that I haven’t read myself in 15 or more years. It is interesting to read his views on the scenarios, as it also gives some ideas as how a story could or should be written to the benefit of the DMs reading it.

The Walking Mind has as well good thoughts on RPGs from Fate to D&D, so it is a pleasure to read.
So presently I guess these are my favorites for the time being.


#RPGaDay2015 – Day 28: Favorite Game You No Longer Play

rpg-a-day-2015So it has come to this. Asking me about olden but golden favorites at #RPGaDay2015, and what game have I put behind me? Is there really anything, that I have liked, that I have put behind me to never return to it?

There are however things, I do not play any longer.

Day 28 – Favorite Game You No Longer Play

There is not really any game, I no longer play, as they all are games, that I yearn to return to.

It is tempting to say, that I don’t play D&D becmi or AD&D 1st edition any longer, and yet I have played them these lasts years. I haven’t played Toon or Paranoia in ages, but I still dream of playing them again, and Fading Suns, Blue Planet and TORG are moving steadily closer to being played again, but there also all the new games, that I want to try from FFG’s Star Wars to John Harper’s Blades in the Dark, which I backed.

So many games, so little time – and I keep returning to the old ones, both played and unplayed, and I keep trying new ones. But I don’t have favorite, that I have put behind me – but plenty of others, that have lost my interest. GURPS, Storyteller, Rolemaster, Shadowrun, Chill, D&D 3.5, D&D 4th, Amazing Engine and many others less known use systems and mechanics, that feel outdated, clunky or too cumbersome for me to play, and thus I leave ’em behind.


#RPGaDay2015 – Day 27: Favorite Idea for Merging Two Games into One

rpg-a-day-2015Today it is all about merging at #RPGaDay2015 when asked about our favorite idea for mering two games into one. Rules, settings, stories – what to merge and how to do it?

I do not speculate much in this area, so I do not think I have a set of favorites, but I do have one grand idea.

Day 27 – Favorite Idea for Merging Two Games into One

The closest I have been to merge to rulesystems was, when I created my Delta Green campaign and merged Call of Cthulhu with Unknown Armies and added a slew of houserules in order to tailor the rules to suit my needs. I merged Transhuman Space (powered by GURPS) with the A Shadow of Yesterday rules because we wanted to play in the setting but not with the official rules for it. I have often stolen specific rules from one game and added them to another, but once during a Nephilim campaign we played out a major conflict using the rules set from In A Wicked Age, since that system would be better at handling the scale. I have considered using MicroScope to create settings and then play in those settings with other rule systems, but I haven’t had the time for that yet.

My grand idea for merging merging games include more than two, and the idea is to create a grand story spanning millenia tying several games into one big storyline. The basic idea is that the world transitions through different ages (just as with Shadowrun and Earthdawn), and the laws that governs realities changes with these ages. So it all begins with the end of the age using the Nephilim roleplaying game to play out the end of the occult magical age and follow the transformation into the high-tech non-magical world of Transhuman Space roleplaying game and how the discovery of a wormhole to another world – The Blue Planet rpg – triggers the worldwide catastrophe of the Eclipse Phase roleplaying game, and from here grows slowly a new civilization. From the ashes of the Eclipse Phase setting grows The First Republic and it is during this age, that scientists discovers that the suns are dying, they are fading, thus ushering in new age, where the whole universe seems slowly dying as all suns are suddenly fading, and in this world magic and the supernatural returns, and it is the setting of the Fading Suns rpg.

How to ever play such a campaign I have no idea, but as a thought experiment I have had much fun, and the idea of the setting shaped the grand plot of my Nephilim campaign.


#RPGaDAY2015 – Day 26: Favorite Inspiration for Your Game

rpg-a-day-2015

There are many sources of inspiration, and today at #RPGaDAY2015  I trying to narrow down my sources of inspiration, and that is not easy. Ideas to roleplaying scenarios, houserules and such like comes from many places, and sometime they are a good idea, that one steal, and sometime they are part of challenge, where one try to do better than the original concept and sometimes it is just a homage.

Day 26 – Favorite Inspiration for Your Game

Many things inspire my roleplaying games, but most often it is not roleplaying games themselves. Most setting guides and descriptions bore me – I do love the D&D setting Mystara and the science fiction/science fantasy setting of Fading Suns as well as Nephilim, Whispering Vault and Blue Planet – but mostly my inspiration comes from novels, graphic novels, movies, tv-series and history books.

Often I find inspiration in history books on the antiquity and the European middle ages. I have growing collection of books on the subjecs mostly focusing on the cultural history. In these are tidbits and ideas, strange notions and images from long forgotten worlds, that are just a few hundred or thousand years distant and still just next door, when you step out the door and visit the local barrow or ruined castle.

I do like me some science fiction, weird fiction and oldschool fantasy stories (I mostly read my fantasy from before Tolkien sort of shaped how everybody else writes their fiction, for instance Lord Dunsany, Ursula LeGuin, Clark Ashton-Smith and Robert E. Howard), and often science fiction stories inspire me (oh, to create a world like Herbert’s Dune).

strip_voorbijsteen2

From the comic Voorbij de steen (Beyond the Stone) about a dwarven community threatehed by a goblin army.

Not only novels but also graphic novels inspire me – and here comes the advantage of being a European, since the comic/graphic novel market in English is quite limited and small. It often feels like 90% of all English language comics are mere superhero comics, and though entertaining they are just a small area of the surface of comics (it is as if 90% of all Hollywood movies were Westerns, they may be great, but we would be missing a lot other stories), and many of the adventure, science fiction, fantasy and science fantasy stories, that I grew up with and took for granted, have only recently (i.e. within the last 10 years, but often they are 40 years old!) been published in the UK or in the States and many others have never been published in English at all or only in part. Instead they are available in French, German, Dutch, Danish and so on.

So among the many graphic novels/comic books, that inspire me are Valérian and Laureline, Prince des étoiles, Douwe Dabbert, Kronos, Yoko Tsuno, Franka, Orbital, NatachaBob Morane, Wake, Gipsy, Voobij de Steen, Spirou, Storm, Lanfeust of Troy, Legends of Percevan, Quest for the Time Bird, and Légendes des Contrées Oubliées to name a few.

Quest for the Time Bird

Quest for the Time Bird

That was a bit of a digression, but growing up with these comics and then discovering that they are more or less non-existing in the English language was a bit of a surprise.

Finally movies and tv-shows including animated movies and animes are an inspiration. Too many to mention here, but I will do one exception and that is Babylon 5, which not just inspired me for its setting and specific stories but also in the way that it created a longrunning continuous story, that kept calling back to its former episodes, rather than creating a series of oneshot episodes.

I don’t have a favorite inspiration. I just have a lot.


#RPGaDay2015 – Day 25: Favorite Revolutionary Game Mechanic

rpg-a-day-2015For the #RPGaDay2015 the question on day 25 relates to ones favorite revolutionary game mechanic and as openended questions goes, this one is tough. Picking out a specific game mechanic is one thing, but picking a revolutionary is whole different thing – but then again it may just be something that was an eye opener for one’s own way of playing.

 

Day 25 – Favorite Revolutionary Game Mechanic

In a sense Hit Points from Dungeons & Dragons may be a revolutionary game mechanic as well as Experience Points. Now a day they are everywhere, but that was not always so, and most applications of the HP and XP systems can be traced back to D&D. So some of the most common mechanics now a days may be more revolutionary, than you’d think, once we go back in time to have better look at them.

For me a revolutionary mechanic is one, that changes the way, that I play. One such mechanic or rather group of mechanic were those, that came we with indie wave back in the early zeroes. Besides being the focus for much controversy regarding how to play RPG’s there came a lot of interesting ideas and concepts from the now defunct Forge forum.

From the Forge forum came a set of tools, that made it easier to describe the act of roleplaying and talk about what happened at the game table (whether or not you buy into the GNS model or some other model), and secondly there were a bunch of games, that used this awareness to play around with the usual order of things. From distributing the right to set scenes to defining who get’s the right to describe the outcome. Those were not elements touched upon by any of the classic roleplaying games (D&D, World of Darkness, GURPS, Shadowrun, Basic Roleplaying, Savage Worlds), and that changed a lot for me. It was revolutionary to play My Life with Master, Polaris, In a Wicked Age, Shock: Social Science Fiction, It’s Complicated, Lacuna, Contenders, Annalise, Primetime Adventures, The Shab al-Hiri Roach, Mouse Guard and so on. Some the new concepts had been touched upon sparsely in older games, but now they were put front and center – and with those experiences I could go back and also expand on my more traditional games of Nephilim, D&D, Call of Cthulhu and so on.

To pick one mechanic from this whole movement is not easy, but two that was important to me was the focus on Conflict Resolution rather than Task Resolution and secondly granting or winning the right to narrate the outcome of a scene.

 


#RPGaDay2015 – Day 24: Favorite House Rule

rpg-a-day-2015Today the challenge in #RPGaDay2015 is favorite houserule, and I will pitch in with a few thoughts on my own. Houserules are interesting but sometimes also controversial, but to my mind most controversies around house rules are related to how they are broadcast to the group, and the purpose of houserules. To some a houserule is used to mend a perceived flaw in the system, whether there is a flaw or not, and careless applied houserule might in such instances make the game less appealing for the other players thus hurting their game experience and creating a controversy.

Day 24 – Favorite Houserule

I like houserules, and we use them a lot. We usually play with two kinds of houserules: 1) Campaign house rules (tailored rules) and 2) Houserule of the day.

Tailored rules are houserules, that are added to the campaign to make the rulesystem help focus on certain aspects of the game. In a Mystaran D&D Glantri campaign, where all the characters were wizards attending The Great School of Magic, all XP were gained from passing courses in magic, not from killing and looting, which forced the players to divide their time between attending classes and going on adventures.

Houserule of the day is a favorite among my players. In this instance a rule is introduced, that only applies for one session (unless it becomes such a succes, that it becomes a permanent feature of the campaign). Houserule of the day is a specific rule introduced to support a certain event or feature during a session (just as when an episode of a tv-show is filmed entirely in black/white or as a muscial). One such houserule during the wizard campaign was A Night at the Opera, where the wizard students when to a yearly major opera and the action alternated between the story of the opera and the backstage intrigues among shady wizard nobles.

In this case the rule was: Everytime you want your character to do something at the opera (a clandestine meeting, conspirering, gaining intel etc.), you must play a scene from the opera, and the scene must last two minutes.

This meant that the action alternated between the play on the stage and the intriques behind the stage and among the nobles on the balconies at at opera house, and we had some great fun at seing the players act out the different roles of the opera struggling to keep a scene lasting two minutes (this required a lot of repeating the same lines “I love you … I love you … I looooooooooove you …” giving the events on the stage a feel of being an opera play).

So the opera house might have been a favorite, but mine would in this case be the following:

Play a scene, gain a bonus

This is the most basic version of the scene, but we use it in a variety of ways. In The Great School of Magic campaign, the rule was formulated as follows: Play a studyscene with another play to gain a bonus to pass an exam.

Passing exams was the source of XP and thus levels, and the players would do their best to gain as many bonuses to these rolls as possible – and one source was studyscenes. In a studyscene the player’s character would be studying together with a secondary character belonging to another player, and what happened during the scene was open, and was mostly being used to develop characters and explore aspects of their personalities. It allowed the players to shine, and was important for the development of the characters.

We use this kind of houserule in many different versions, and it works great to put a focus on the small things, but stille those that develop characters and settings.


#RPGaDay2015 – Day 23: Perfect Game for You

rpg-a-day-2015Joining in on #RPGaDay2015 in the last moments of the project, where people daily cover a specific subject regarding our hobby, I too will share my thoughts on these subjects.

(and use it as an excuse to write in English again, before my writing skills entirely wither away).

Day 23 – Perfect Game for you

Today we are asked about which game is the perfect one for us.

For me there is not a single perfect game, just as there is not the single perfect movie, book, board game or graphic novel. So choosing the easy way out, I am tempted to say, that the perfect game for me is the one, that is tailored specifically to what I am playing.

I don’t want to play with a system, where I have to house rule away flaws in the game engine, and I don’t want to play with a system, where you ignore its presence or play against what the rules are intended to do.

So when I run campaigns, I tailor the system to do, what I want it to do.

When we play dungeon exploration RPGs, we play with my D&D clone Hinterlandet (The Hinterlands), that rewards the players not for killing the monsters but for each room explored, and structures the encounters with monsters, so that the players can more easily choose between negotations, trickery, retreat and combat, and when I ran a Delta Green campaign, we wanted to emphasize how the missions of the agents slowly alienated them from their surroundings by having the system focus on both their family lives and their black op missions for Delta Green.

To me some rule systems makes this easier than others. Shadows of Yesterday was great for running our Transhuman Space campaign, rather than using GURPS, and we mostly just reskinned it. Delta Green Hoarfrost Dragon campaign used a heavily modified Call of Cthulhu and Unknown Armies engine, as the Basic Rulesystem is very easy to work with, and I sometimes default to some very basic d20 engines, that I then start modifying. Polaris, My Life with Master and In a Wicked Age along with Lady Blackbird are also favorites, since they are very focused on telling specific stories.


I have played things

“If Movie Quotes were Roleplaying” – the first of a series of blog posts from my Danish language blog on roleplaying having fun rewriting quotes to be about rolesplaying.

Stemmen fra ådalen - en blog om rollespil og historie

BLADE RUNNERI’ve … played things you players wouldn’t play … [contemptuous laugh] Attack rolls on fire off the dungeons of Gygax. I watched minis glimt in the dark near Castle Greyhawk.
All those … moments … will be lost in time, like [small cough] adventurers … in … dungeons. Time … to roll …

(Tak til Rutger HauerKlip)

Hvis filmcitater var rollespil.

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One Does Not Simply Play Dead Gods

Lately I have been playing Monte Cook’s Dead Gods super module to Planescape, that he wrote back in 1997. It is a module filled with intestering ideas and concepts using the Planescape setting to its fullest – and also in a sense revealing how Monte got the ideas for Numenera.

one-does-not-simply-walk-into-mordor_1394963912One Does Not Simply Play Dead Gods. Its black pages are guarded by more than just orcs. There are narratives there that does not sleep. The great story line is ever watchful. It is a barren campaign, riddled with vague ideas, nonsensical plotlines and superfluous ideas. The very pages you read is a poisonous fume. Not with ten thousand sessions could you do this. It is folly.

Boromir on playing Dead Gods.

But why not play Dead Gods? Well, this quote from the module will reveal why:

Whether the PCs follow Renik or Kair-aama, they eventually see their mark meet with something in the dark shadows of an alley near High Point. If the cutters keep watch for several evenings, they observe a number of secret meetings and finally see the true “face” of their enemies.

[read aloud text with description of “true face of the enemy”]

If the PCs dare to follow one of the visages after it leaves the alley […] (p.40)

1. The text assumes the players will choose to observe a number of secret meetings – without giving the slightest hint as to why.

2. The text does not bother with describing who’s participating at these meetings, the above text is the full description about the meerings.

3. The text does not explain what is happening at these meetings. Again the quote contains more or less everything mentioned about the meetings.

4. The text does not allow for any other action. What happens if the PCs follow any of the participants? Not an option. What happens if the PCs interferes with the meetings? Not an option. What happens if the PCs investigates the participants at the meetings? Not possible.

If the players want to do anything beyond “keep watch for several evenings”, then the scenario leaves no clue as to what happens or how to play it out.

5. The whole next sequence hinges on the fact, that the players choose to observe for several evenings, until they see the monster, and then their choice is to neither keep observing or interfering with the meeting, but to solely track the monster – which they have never seen before, and they don’t know what the monsters are up to beyond appearently killing people and taking their place.

6. Once the players have decided to follow the monster, which is the only option (well, technically they can choose otherwise, and the module has at the end of section a brief note on what to then, which is mainly just to skip ahead and then continue the events, as nothing had happened – oh, wait, nothing did happen), then the NPCs and the secret meetings are simply forgotten by the module, as it no longer cares about it. This is not for the players to care about any longer. This happens multiple times in the module – once the characters have seen or witnessed something, the characters are ushered on not letting the players investigate them (and neither leaving any info to the GM, should the players decide to look closer).

There are descriptions of places and NPCs and plots and ideas, that one can steal, but you cannot play Dead Gods without forcing the actions of the players, and if playing the module as written you leaving the players in the dark most of the time having them play several chapters without knowing who, what or why they’re are exploring and fighting them – and it is not fun, just frustrating. No wonder why 90’s modules have such a bad rep.

 


One Does Not Simply Walk Under Illefarn

one-does-not-simply-walk-into-mordor_1394963912After several evenings of storming the dungeons of The Temple of Elemental Evil we decided to put the module to a rest since not too much happened, as the dungeons were deadly and it kept being supplied by new monsters, forcing the players to deal with areas they had already explored. Instead we decided to play N5 Under Illefarn (1987), which consists of three small introductory adventures and then a huge dwarven mine divided by three factions.

One does not simply walk into the mines of Illefarn. Its dark corridors are patrolled by more than just orcs. There is evil there that does not sleep. The dreadful necromancer and the dwarven prince are ever watchful. It is a barren dungeon, riddled with old traps, new traps, and empty rooms. The water rushing from the mines is a poisonous sludge. Not with ten thousand sessions could you map this. It is folly.

Boromir on exploring the dwarven mines of lost Illefarn.