Tag Archives: roleplaying

Strange Tales for Roleplayers: The Player Who Didn’t Book the Monsters

crossshotsetup-copyOnce there was this roleplayer. He was a bit of a smart type, who didn’t quite respect the rules, men instead did what he could to keep his character alive. The way he did it would often benefit his fellow players, so usually they would not be too loud about it.

The way he did was typically that he would offer the game master his assistance in moving minis and setting up terrain for combats. When he then was moving the models around, a goblin would be placed just out of range, so its attack failed, or a troll would disappear from the horde of monsters. With a bit of trickery the mini was removed from the table.

“Didn’t I have another orc?” or “Wasn’t my goblin archer just within range?” the GM would wonder, but always the player being charming and convincing told the GM, that the monster was gone or somewhere else. When it wasn’t around miniatures the distraction was being created, it was with the GM’s numbers and calculations the player created confusion. Hit Points and Health Levels were being miscalculated, initiative values displaced and so forth.

His success with manipulating his game masters game went to his head, and he began seeing himself as the superior player of the two. That he would be far better as both a player and a game master than his regular GM was.

To prove this he decided, that he would run one of his GM’s adventures for himself. So one day he stole one of the GM’s adventures and sat down to play it by himself.

What he wasn’t aware of was, that all the monsters, he had cheated his game master for, were still around. Hidden in rooms and cellars, in the deep woods and in dark alleys. Monsters that had never been killed or driven off, but instead lay in wait for a vulnerable adventurer to pass by.

So when he sat down to play, one monster after the other came out of the shadows. The orc he had hidden from GM, the troll he had stolen off the battlefield, the goblins hidden behind an elven regimen was still present in GM’s notes, and now they came rushing out, as the player sat down to play. What should have been a harmless journey to the local dungeon became a nightmare, and he ended up watching his character defeated.

To the surprise of the other players and the game master the next time they played, they found his character’s head on a pike outside the local dungeon.

===

These stories are chosen and translated from a Danish Advent Calender (“julekalender”) for roleplayers. They are small, independent stories from the major Advent Calender story arc. In Denmark there is a long running tradition for Advent Calender stories (in the shape of radio plays, tv-series, written stories, candles – but also as blogs with 24 daily blog posts counting down to Christmas) in 24 episodes running from the 1st of December til Christmas on the 24th of December (yes, Danes celebrates Christmas on the 24th).


Strange Tales for Roleplayers: Haunted Games

R. Kahn

R. Kahn

“No one plays Whispering Vault any longer. It has become a ghost town. Last time I visited it, it was empty. Completely empty. It was actually rather scary. Everywhere we went, we could feel the silence.”

Those were the words, that had led her to study the roleplaying game Whispering Vault in order to find out, what it was, that had happened. Now she is sitting in front of him, and on the table between them lies a recorder.

“That was the last time, Charlotte played with us. She has never been able since”. He stops. Stays a bit with the words, and then continues:

“I have never tried anything like it before. We created our characters and immersed into them, and when we started playing, we could that the setting was just empty landscapes. You could hear the echo of emptiness reverberate between the buildings, where ever we went. The silence wasn’t the worst thing, though. Our game master could still bring the setting fairly well to live, even if there was cobwebs and dust in most of the scenes we played. What was worse, was the Hunter or the Shadow which we at first called him … or it. At first we thought it was one of GM’s NPCs, some deadly villain following us from scene to scene, until the final confrontation at the end, but it always just hiding in the shadows. No matter what scene, we were playing, if you just paused a little, you could sense it. What was worse was, when Charlotte decided, that she would confront it. She starred out towards it in all the scenes, we had, and I could sense her character growing ever colder and more distant. Even our GM sensed it, and it was then, that I realized, that it wasn’t one of GM’s NPCs!

The Shadow was also present, when we were playing interparty scenes, for instance at one time we were sitting and planning out next move in the game and studying our clues. Our game master said, he would go brew some more coffee, while we were talking. That was when I saw it for the first time. Saw it for real. Just on the outskirts of the scene, between the shadows, was there something moving about. It was a living darkness with two empty spaces, where the eyes ought to be, and when I starred in its direction, it felt as if my character was being pulled into the abyss, down through its eyes. They drew everything towards them.”

He stops. His voice has become heavy with emotion, and tears are forming around his eyes.

“That wasn’t even the worst. That came later. It was, when our party had split up. Our GM had decided to split us into two different rooms, so we couldn’t hear what was happening with the others. Lars and Charlotte was in the living room, and the rest of us was in the kitchen, and GM was gamemastering for us, when Lars comes by. He is just going for the loo, he explained, and then went there. Shortly after came the scream. Cold and empty.”

She can see, that he is shivering, while recalling the events. His body trembles involuntarily, as if the scream is still echoing in his mind. She notices that, he has to stop himself from instinctively covering his ears. “She sat in the room screaming, just screaming. We went in there all of us. There was nothing to see. We search the room, but it was first afterwards, that she managed to explain, that she had been immersed into her character even after Lars left the room – and then it had come up of the shadows. It had sucked her character into itself just leaving an empty shell. The rest of the night her character wasn’t present in any of the scenes. It was just an empty shell every time she tried to play her character.”

She is about to stop the recording, when he continues:

“That is why I never play alone. I can feel, that it has followed me. Every time we play, no matter the RPG, I can feel its empty eyes staring at me from the dark. My greatest fear is that, we at one time will split up the party, and when that happens, it will come for my character. I not certain, that even the GM can hold it back.”

===

These stories are chosen and translated from a Danish Advent Calender (“julekalender”) for roleplayers. They are small, independent stories from the major Advent Calender story arc. In Denmark there is a long running tradition for Advent Calender stories (in the shape of radio plays, tv-series, written stories, candles – but also as blogs with 24 daily blog posts counting down to Christmas) in 24 episodes running from the 1st of December til Christmas on the 24th of December (yes, Danes celebrates Christmas on the 24th).


Strange Tales for Roleplayers: Time Passes

 

Close view of sand flowing through an hourglass. 3D render with HDRI lighting and raytraced textures.Excerpt from the Forbidden RPGforum

Have you noticed, that it can be difficult to return to events, i.e. a combat, in a roleplaying game, if it has been a few weeks since last game session? The cause is simple: Time passes. Not the time, that has passed from the last time, you and I sat and played at the table, for there has obviously passed the aforementioned weeks, but time also passes in the game.

Only a few knows this, but time actually passes during the combat rounds. It passes extremely slow, so it easily gives a sense of time standing still during a combat round, while you choose a form of attack, rolls dice and establishes the result, men minuscule parts of seconds passes none the less.

Since time passes so extremely slow, no one notices. Not even if it is a combat it takes three or fours hours to play through. However when a few weeks passes, and the party has stood in the midst of a fight with a group of orcs and trolls, then time has passed, just a little bit, but now it has come to a part, where you can sense it. That is why, it is difficult to get back into the situation and immerse into it again. There has occurred a timelag, that requires some game time to catch up with. That is why it is better to end the game with the characters going to bed or in some other way leave them with a situation with a longer duration ahead of them. The synchronization becomes less noticeable.

===

These stories are chosen and translated from a Danish Advent Calender (“julekalender”) for roleplayers. They are small, independent stories from the major Advent Calender story arc. In Denmark there is a long running tradition for Advent Calender stories (in the shape of radio plays, tv-series, written stories, candles – but also as blogs with 24 daily blog posts counting down to Christmas) in 24 episodes running from the 1st of December til Christmas on the 24th of December (yes, Danes celebrates Christmas on the 24th).


Strange Tales for Roleplayers: The Story of Lars

roleplaying1Report from a Regional Game Master

The probably most embarrassing episode, that I can think of, is the one with Lars. He played any roleplaying game, that had occult over- or undertones, whether it was about ghosts, vampires or werewolves, about angels or demons, or conjurers and witches. There hardly wasn’t the system, Lars hadn’t tried, and I do believe that he for a period played any and all rpg campaigns about the occult. He even started dabbling with tarot cards, not because he believed in the cards, but because he wanted to immerse deeper into the roleplaying and to create a more authentic experience. Oh, there it is again, the ‘authentic’ experience. That’s the strange thing about roleplaying, it is always fiction, we are working with, yet one is always tempted by unattainable realism. Anyway, where was I? Right, Lars and his tarot cards. Anyway for better or worse, after a while Lars found a new group to play with. One by one he dropped his vampires, werewolves, and ghosts, and began to spend more and more time with the new group.

I started receiving complaints. Not from Lars, but from the groups, he usually played with. Those of them, that he still was playing with, mind you. They said he was unfocused and lethargic. That he didn’t write summaries or immersed properly in the game. As regional game master I was called in to have conversation with Lars and assess, what was happening. So … I had a meeting with him. He took the standard tests, he scored mediocre on rules knowledge, miserably on campaign lore and so forth. There was no doubt, that he was loosing it, and I therefore needed to have a talk with him.

So one afternoon he comes into my office. He is smiling all over his face, and when I asked why, he tells me, he is out gaming tonight. It is his new group, the one he is so happy about – and the one from which I had received no complaints at all nor heard about, well actually I wasn’t even sure, whether or not it was a sanctioned group at all – but happy he was. I therefore asked him as the most natural about the group, and what they were playing, and what he thought about it. He told me, it was a pretty new group, they played freeform, fairly much semi-live, and they usually played every fortnight. He was their game master. It was a rather unusual group, he told me. He had met them at the bookstore, when he was looking for inspiration for his character, and they had begun talking. One thing led to another, and soon he had an invitation for a game night at their place. He had been invited directly into their campaign having had a fantastic game night, not much later they invited him to participate again, but they wanted him in the role as their GM. He had asked for rules and systems, but had been told, that they didn’t use that, and that he should just continue in the style, that he had brought, when he participated the first time. He accepted that, and soon he was their regular game master.

“But what were they playing?” I asked him. At first Lars hesitated. It was freeform, he said, but none the less they had a terminology for most things, and with many of these games, that uses their own terms – as you know every system its own title for game master: Dungeon Master, Storyteller, Animator, Game Master, Referee, Keeper of Lore etc. Here he had the title of Medium, and they called their game nights for seances. The campaign, I was told, was centered around their characters trying to contact various NPC’s, who resided on the Astral plane – it sounded a lot like Dungeons & Dragons Planescape but without factions etc. – and Lars’ assignment was to play the various NPC’s, that the other players wanted to talk to. He loved it, for he could use his tarot cards to create NPC’s more or less spontaneously, and he didn’t have to worry much about plot, but just focus on immersing into the characters and deliver the answers, the players’ characters wanted.

I had not the heart to tell him, what was meant by seances and medium, but on the other hand, Lars have never gotten to this much roleplaying before nor immersing this much into so many different NPCs, since he became GM for the spiritists. I have at least never received any complaints from them about his abilities as a GM.

These stories are chosen and translated from a Danish Advent Calender (“julekalender”) for roleplayers. They are small, independent stories from the major Advent Calender story arc. In Denmark there is a long running tradition for Advent Calender stories (in the shape of radio plays, tv-serieroleplaying1s, written stories – but also as blogs with 24 daily blog posts counting down to Christmas) in 24 episodes running from the 1st of December til Christmas on the 24th of December (yes, Danes celebrates Christmas on the 24th).


#RPGaDay2015 – Day 30: Favorite RPG Playing Celebrity

rpg-a-day-2015The question today for #RPGaDay2015 is not of much interest to me. I don’t care much about celebrities, though I can see the advantage for my hobby, when famous people come out in favor or roleplaying games, and I do remember seeing a listicle or two about famous people or celebrities playing D&D or some other roleplaying game.

So who to pick? Who do I remember being a roleplayer and a celebrity?

Day 30 – Favorite RPG Playing Celebrity

One of the few people, that I do remember being a roleplayer i Vin Diesel – who I think is the first actor, that I heard of being a roleplayer – and since he has starred a few movies, that I like (Pitchblack for instance), and in a sense made the sequel to Conan the Barbarian and Conan The Destroyer namely The Chronicles of Riddick which is to me the best attempt at a third Conan-movie (I am serious, try watching it as if it was Conan The Conquerer).

However there two other other celebrities, that I want to emphasize. One is Dan Hammond for his D&D-episodes in the tv-series Community, and the other and more important one is Wil Wheaton for his Tabletop Show and Ashes of Valkarna, where he has brought RPGs like Fiasco, Dread and Dragon AGE and Fantasy AGE to live. From his position in Tabletop, where he has popularised board games at a whole new level (and I know this, he really has), he has also brought attention to roleplaying games at a greater level than earlier producing a good visual representation of what roleplying is, though I may not favor his style of playing storyline heavy games in Ashes of Valkarna, it still is a good visual representation.


#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.