Posts Tagged ‘Roleplaying’

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Game Theory – Charming Morals (or the Morality of the Charm)

19 May, 2020

Is it charming?My, it has been a while since I did one of these.  I was reading a discussion on social media where it called out the original designers of D&D as essentially bad people for having included charm spells in D&D.  That seemed . . . well wrong to me. As I believe charms were included as part of the long tradition of such magics in myths, tales and legends not for any other reason.

Thus this discussion which is focused on the GM’s use of charm magic:

To start with, Charm spells and their variants (love potions, suggestion, dominate, and so many more) are troubling, deeply so in fact because they take away one of the primary aspects that make playing roleplaying games fun:

Agency/Autonomy, when your character is under the effects of such a spell, you (the player) are not getting to play the character you signed up for.  You are being forced to act against your will and it is just not enjoyable.  This is an extremely important point, such effects basically steal the character from the player for the duration and is very likely a “you do not have fun” moment for the player.  Do not do that, it is rude and will stress the social bonds of the group.

Now, some people will say, well just get rid of Charms all together.  This is an option but using magic to subvert peoples’ control / emotions / will has a long tradition in myths and legends and is a good indication that anyone doing so is evil.  Arguably, fear of such control is one of the reasons people have historically been so afraid of the idea of magic, if it can make you do things you do not want to do or want to do something so much that you violate laws and morality, it is something deeply terrifying.  Again, depending on your group, these may not be subjects they people wish to explore but they can be interesting and terrifying to encounter in a game setting.

Now, there are still ways to use Charm effects successfully in a game, but you need to warn the players and get them onboard first. For example:

The Big Bad has enacted a powerful ritual that gives them control over the Royal army, the characters are part of the army so . . . If the players agree, they get caught up in the spell.  Montage of autocratic control over the land and then the character end up somewhere that breaks them from the spell.  Now, they have to try an free their home from the Big Bad, possibly while being concerned with the safety of their former comrades, possibly (if people want to) grappling with the terrible things they did while controlled.

Or:

The Evil Noble wants to get the Royal to marry them and slips them a love potion . . . it works!  And the characters have to free the Royal from the induced false love before something terrible happens.  Or, the comedy approach, thing go wrong and one of player characters now has a Royal in love with them or has fallen in love with the Evil Noble (or both!).  The humor version requires a light touch on everyone’s behalf though.

Some players will still not be be willing to let their characters be charmed (or love potioned).  Do not force them, it is impolite and not being a good friend.  But others will enjoy the chance to try something different with their character.

As always, communication is king.  Talk to your players to learn what they want to see and try in your game and what they definitely do not want.

Notes: Another in my occasional discussion of game theory.

Image A strange portrait from “Spring-heel’d Jack: the Terror of London. A romance of the nineteenth century. From the The British LibraryPublic Domain Mark.

 

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Catfolk of Felix Talis, for Dungeons & Dragons 5E

2 October, 2019

Play some music, you cool catYou can learn more about the Catfolk here,  But as I have a player in my D&D game who wants to play one, figured I needed to update them for play in 5E.

Catfolk Traits

Your catfolk character has a variety of natural abilities, the result of being a magically uplifted cat.

Ability Score Increase. Your Dexterity and Charisma scores increases by 1 each.

Age. Catfolk mature slightly quicker than human, becoming fully adult around the age of fourteen, and their life span, on average is just slightly shorter usually living around three score and ten, if something does not happen to them first.

Alignment. Catfolk, like the cats they evolved from, are fiercely independent, seeking their own way even when going along would be the easier path. They are notable self-centered and self-satisfied. But they are firm friends and spiteful enemies.

Size. Catfolk fall in the human ranger, averaging around five foot, eight inches range (172.5cm) and then toward a lith and slender build. They are fur-covered, in any of the patterns typically found on cats, with a nimble tail and large cross-slitted eyes, their ancestry is quite obvious. Your size is Medium.

Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.

Animal Ancestry.  Due to your unusual heritage as an uplifted creature, all catfolk remain vulnerable to spells and magical effects that target animal. However, you do gain advantage to resist such spells and effects.

Darkvision. Like the cat you are, you have superior vision in dark and dim conditions. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can’t discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.

Keen Senses. You have cat-like sense and thus you have proficiency in the Perception skill.

Natural Stealth. They do not call sneaky people cat-footed without reason, you have proficiency with the Stealth skill.

Languages. The catfolk have an efficient, if eclectic and informal education system and you can speak, read, and write the Felix Talis dialect of the Imperial Tongue.

Subrace, or you a semi-wild alley cat or a more stylish urbane cat?

Alley Cat
You are used to surviving on your own, relying on your wits and quickness to get you our of whatever trouble you end up in.

Ability Score Increase: Your Dexterity Score increases by 1.

Cat-like reflexes: You gain advantage on Initiative checks if you are not surprised.

Urbane Cat
You rely on charm and your innate sense of society functions to get by.

Ability Score Increase: Your Charisma Score increases by 1.

Polyglot: You have a natural talent with languages, choose two more languages that you can speak, read and write. The first time you are speaking to someone in their native tongue, if you roll a 1 on the d20 for a Charisma check, you can reroll the die and must use the new roll.

Notes: Image closer detail from the lower margin of the folio of a cat playing a fiddle from the British Museum and used under a Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.

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Questions for Characters venturing into the Sea of Stars

18 May, 2019

People of all sortsInspired by Judd the Librarian’s questions, I decided to write up a few questions to help people think about their characters and where they are from in the Sea of Stars:

For All:

What do you think of dragonrule?  Of the dragons themselves?  Fear?  Admiration?  Jealousy?

Do you have a faith?  Do you eschew organized religion?  Do you have any private rituals?

Do you have a favored weapon?  Does it have a name?

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Player Expectations, Game Reality and Killing Characters

22 July, 2018

So, about every four weeks I GM a Learn to Play D&D (Fifth Ed) session as part of Tyche’s Games‘, our local game store, Friday Night Initiative program to teach RPGs to people.  This last Friday was one such session, it had four players, three of whom had played in my games before and one new player to D&D as well as my games.

What happened?Everyone generated starting characters and it was decided that everyone knew each other, so they were starting as a group,  The initial adventure had them following up on a mystery in the town they were in, two teenagers had disappeared in recent nights.  They set a trap and they managed to lure out the creature and then chase down to its lair in the basement of a house.  That all went well and the monster was dispatched in a brutal and noisy battle that, in usually D&D fashion only took about thirty second in the game world and the kidnapped teenagers were found and recovered.  However, the house owner had no idea what was happening and shouted down “what is going on down there?” after the fight ended.

One player at first made a jokey reply (“We’re naked don’t come down.”) and then when the house owner showed up at the top of the stairs, tried to use a Persuasion skill roll to get him to come down.  Note that this was just after sounds of combat and the player character was holding a battle axe, so even though the player rolled well for the Persuasion skill, the house owner would not come down but was willing to keep talking.  When the house owner said that they would go to the authorities, the player tried Intimidation and the house holder ran, again even though the player rolled well (17ish) because that what you do when someone with a weapon threatens to preform violence against you.  The player seems annoyed that his “good” rolls did not allow him to control the situation (i.e. the actions of the NPC).  Now, it did not matter as the the important part was the rescue and everything else was glossed over in the glow of saving the teenagers and the monster being defeated, as it should be.  Escalating the situation with the house owner was an unnecessary digression, I just tossed him in for color, and no reason to have it distract from the game as a whole.

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Looking Back at GenCon 50 (2017)

30 August, 2017

Well, I am mostly recovered from my experience at GenCon 50 and the trip back, so thought it was time to write things up before it all falls from my head.

Days -2 and -1 were travel towards Indianapolis, early morning arrival and working setup on the AEG booth in the exhibit hall.  Busy but not very exciting but we did get most of the setup done on Tuesday which was a great achievement.

Learning to play

Cat Lady in progress

Day 0, Wednesday, is the real beginning of the convention in many ways these days.  Had a few moments to wonder the halls, found  some of the Goodman Games crew bagging old Appendix N paperbacks for sale and we had a good discussion about Poul Anderson.  Also ran across and talked with author Marion G. Harmon, author of Wearing the Cape, a novel about superheroes (which I am currently reading and enjoying), and the FATE-Based RPG of the same title, which was fun.  We finished up setup and I had a chance to learn many, many AEG games such as Oath of the Brotherhood, Custom Heroes (from the designer himself), the Captain is Dead, 60 Seconds to Save the World and Cat Lady (better than it sounds, I promises).  Howard and I had our traditional Tuesday night meal in the Ram, which was good but not as good as previous years, which I blame on eating in the lounge rather than the restaurant proper but lesson learned.  Daniel Griego of Inner Kingdom Games dropped by my Shadowfist kickstarter rewards which are much appreciated.

Day 1, Thursday, works begins after some Bee Coffee.  Dashed through the exhibitors’ hall to grab a GenCon dice set for one of the other demo team members. then teaching Istanbul (not Constantinople), oddly, even though They Might Be Giants were performing at GenCon, no one made that comment all con.  During my break, off the get lost in the exhibitors’ hall and try to catch up with some people I know who might be there.  Visited Drew Baker‘s booth and checked out his new art, ended up buying a playmat which I cannot find a picture of at his site but L5Rish in theme.  Honestly, all a bit of a blur, but I did hit up the Catalyst booth for a Maria Mercurial Tour (an iconic rocker from the Shadowrun setting) t-shirt.  Then back to work, general helping then session 2 of Istanbul, yes, expect to see that game mentioned a lot over this. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Plot ideas for the Secret Society Ring

3 May, 2017

I was a little rushed getting the Secret Society Ring out, and some ideas came to me tonight, so some thought on how to use the Secret Society Ring to drive adventure:

What secrets do you hold?Firstly, I was thinking that the identification sensation would vary from society to society: a spider cult would feel the sensation of spider legs along their spine, members of a celestial back conspiracy would see the other member with a halo, and so on.

So someone who is sensitive to magic emanations might still get the sensation that the ring triggers when member exchange handshakes when they touch someone wear one of the rings.  How would they react?  And what might they do to find out why that sensation was triggered?

A flawed ring, one that just requires that it be worn for a day to align it to the wearer, and that wearer would suddenly be treated as a friend and ally by people they had never before met.  How long can they keep up the charade?  What about when other member of the conspiracy start asking them for help and expected that it will be given, what then?

What is the group found a stash of these rings and the ritual to activate them?  What would they use them for?  And if they do use them, how will they react when they start encountering other people who have activated rings of the same type?

How would you use the rings to spark adventure?

Image “Ring” by Celtic via The Metropolitan Museum of Art is licensed under CC0 1.0

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My Advice for Running Convention Games (August Blog Carnival)

29 August, 2015

Creative Mountain Games is hosting this month’s Blog Carnival on Convention Gaming and here is my contribution:

I have been working GenCon for AEG since 2000, missing two years along the way, mostly demoing games, and most recently back to Games Mastering.  I have run per-packaged modules before but for the last three years, I have been creating and GMing the adventures for GenCon.   So, this advice is primarily for GMs.

Be Prepared, have what you need (books, dice, notes) ready, but also have the minimum the players need as well: character sheets, dice, pencils, paper for name tents, and whatever else they may need for the adventure at hand.

For example: Legend of the Five Rings (L5R), which I GM, requires a fair number of D10s, so I have a bag of 30 for my own and the players’ use.  (Though I do usually manage to forget something, this year it was extra pencils.)

Let the Players Make Informed Choices, player do not know your style of play and (in some cases) the setting and rules, so do not be afraid to stop the game to explain the situation, risks and rewards to the players.  Start with making sure that the players are able to make an informed choice as to the characters they are playing, for something like Pathfinder Society where they build their own, this is not so much of a problem but when providing pre-generated characters it can be more of a challenge.

For example: Here are the cover sheets to the characters I used for my introductory L5R game, note especially the “Play this character if” section, that all of the advantages, disadvantages and school techniques are defined (so the player does not need to look at the rulebook), and, lastly, there are brief roleplaying hooks for the other characters.  The “Play this character if section” and defining the Ads/DisAds was new for this year and very well received so I highly recommend a similar build for other GMs as it allows the players to find a character they want to play easily and then have to tools to do so immediately.

Let the Players Set the Tone, now, my default mode for games is drama to action movie, trying to move the plot along and playing a fairly serious game.  But at a convention, you need to adapt to what the players are interested in, I start with my default setting and adjust from there.  If people want something light, play up the absurdities of the situation and let fun coincidences happens.  If they want something dark, the brutal combat system of L5R -for example- will help provide that.  Roll with the mood of the table and the game will be better for it.

Be sure that you have eaten before hand and have drinks to hand, being hungry will throw you off your game, so eat, and not being hydrated will be rough on your body and your voice (which you will be using, a lot, as a GM at GenCon, as it gets noisy), so have water or other drinkable to hand.  Throat drops can also be helpful.

Well, those are the big things that I have learned and that I think have made my games pretty successful over the years.  I hope they prove helpful to you as well.

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