Posts Tagged ‘Roleplaying’

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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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My ‘What are you good at’ GM Challenge

29 May, 2015

From the devious mind of Barking Alien comes the ‘What are you good at’ GM Challenge.  It is pretty simple, five systems/genres you do well, three you do not, five GM skills you excel at and three that need improvement.  For me:

What genres, settings, or games in general do you GM best? Which ones do you think you totally rock?

  1. Traditional (as in D&Desque) Fantasy, fantasy is a good standby and the central pillar of my gaming experience, by now I am pretty good at juggling the needs of it as a genre.
  2. Silver Age Superheroes, when heroes were heroes and villains had themes (“Not this day, Comet Master!“).
  3. Cyberpunk/Shadowrun, the dark future is a surprisingly fun place to play games.
  4. Legend of the Five Rings, the Empire of Rokugan has always proven to be a good place to run games.  Everyone likes magical samurai, right?
  5. Action/Adventure, as a general rule, this is my strength.

Which games could you use to work on? That is, if your group wants to play one of these games, you yourself would probably recommend a different GM.

  1. Politics, I have real trouble tracking the vast number of NPCs and plots required for a really solid political game.
  2. Horror, never sure how to get player buy in for this.
  3. Comedy, while I have run games with lots of humor, a pure comedy game I suspect would collapse with me as a GM.

What elements of Gamemastering do you do best? What aspects do you nail more often than not?

  1. Flexibility, I can adapt quickly to whatever craziness the players throw at me.
  2. Making Players Awesome, I want everyone to be awesome!  So, letting players and their be cool is what it is about.
  3. Imagination, I like to think that I present an exciting and interesting world.
  4. Action/Adventure (again!), presenting high action really does seem to be one of my strong suites.
  5. NPCs that help without getting in the way, this is a skill that took me sometime to learn as a GM but I think I have it down now.

Which elements are still a work in progress? Name some things that you don’t do as well as you’d like.

  1. Organization/Note-taking, not as careful or as complete as I should be on either of these (linked) GM duties.
  2. Politics/large number of required NPCs, as mentioned above, the organization and tracking needed for large scale politics and intrigue seem beyond me.
  3. Player Commitment, not as good as inspiring this as I would like, no one seems to be willing to do more than the minimum needed to play.  Which can be understandable but to build a strong campaign some additional interaction and support is needed.

An interesting exercise and food for thought.

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Domestic Animals in the Sea of Stars

12 August, 2011

Like many things in the Sea of Stars, there are a huge variety of domesticated animals.  From the usual creatures of dogs and cats, goats and sheep, cows and horses to stranger things such as chimeric beasts and creatures blessed (or cursed) with distant dragon-blood.  There are islands were giant insects are used a work breasts and pack animals, others where riding birds and pack lizards dominate the landscape.  There are giant goats and miniature ponies, variations on variations as befits the theme of the Sea of Stars (“infinite variety in infinite combination”).

Nor can even normal seeming creatures be taken at face value, one group of venturers in my campaign caught a cow reading a book which it promptly hid, cleared her throat and said, “Moo”.  (Though this scene was inspired by James Branch Cabell’s writing.)

One of the more common of the domesticated (though still dangerous) animals are the dragon dogs, which are dogs with the dragon descendant template, though some of them have enhanced natural armor and others a breath weapon as well.  They make excellent guardians when they feel loyalty to those that they are guarding but they can be greedy and petulant.

This is, of course, part of this month’s RPG Blog Carnival: Animals in RPGs.

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My Non-GenCon gaming experiences this Weekend

8 August, 2011

I was not able to make it to GenCon this year, but a group of my gaming friends got together from all over (from as far away as Orlando and North Carolina) for some gaming of our own.   Over the last four days, I have played: Thunderstone, Family Business, two RPGs in playtest, Unknown Armies (with muppets, er, poppets to avoid copyright issues and to see a brief clip of our brave GM playing a Beaker-esque cop), Shab-al-Hiri Roach, AGON and Old School Hack

The characters that have flittered across my mind over this time have been:

Abhal Tesh, spacefaring tech (playtest 1).  ‘Mitch’, drunken failure (Unknown Armies).  Indigo Ecstasy, master of disguise and trans-dimensional agent of the Ascendant Radial Path (playtest 2).   Assistance Professor Arlington Jackson-Smythe, demon-roach possessed drama professor.   Xanthos the Argive, Greek hero and money man.  Raven, now evil-mutated elfin archer.

While not as gaming intensive as GenCon, it was a blast to hang out and game with old friends.

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Pathfinder ‘Wyvern Hunt’ Cast

20 December, 2010

The cast of my current short pathfinder game, originally titled ‘Wyvern Hunt’ and now Embassy to the Barbarians:

The ‘leader’ of the expedition, is a young sorcerer-prince Touched by Golden Scales Zhuang Tae Boe, hereditary Commander Third Horn of The Emperor’s Own Red Cloud Wyvern Riders of the Jade Pillar Dynasty and now Light of Civilization, Benevolence to Barbarians – His Most Excellent Imperial Ambassador, Grand Nephew of Heaven and High Admiral of the Second Exploratory Fleet.  He is a wastrel and rake but incredibly charming and -potentially- a powerful sorcerer.  (4th level Dragon-blooded Sorcerer, played by B, a long time roleplayer but his first time with Pathfinder.)

The guardian, the former knight Lorrend Littlehelm of Eosiant, recently a weaponsmith and arms trainer in the Zhuang House, and given the choice of escorting Tae Boe or being executed.  He resignedly chooses to accompany the young prince.  Breaking his armor out of storage and accompanied by his faithful warhorse Tulip, he carefully prepared and faced his new mission philosophically.  (4th level Cavalier of the Shield, played by J1,  also a long time roleplayer but new to Pathfinder.)

The scholar, Sagacious Lieu, knowledgeable about many things, including -hopefully- wyverns.  His attempts to teach Tae Boe have mostly failed due to the willfulness of his student but hopefully this time will be different.  Sadly, Lieu ends up as wyvern food at the conclusion of the wyvern hunt. (1st level Inquisitor / 1st level Monk, played by J2, who has had some experience with Pathfinder before.)
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