Friday, 18 April 2014

Mortality in RPG's

I have recently started following a gentleman that I gamed with (Zounds! game) called +hurdygurdymanna (John) and today he came out with a blog that prompted a little bit of thought from me.  You see, he is embarking on his first game as a DM soon and he was thinking about how he would handle death in game of characters.  He found the "glossing" over of a character death a little underwhelming and wanted to incorporate some role playing around the event (gasp!).  Now, this is not the first mortality post that I have read recently as I also read a blog from a video game designer (Robot Loves Kitty read article here) about how they want to make death much more a final event in their video games than it is across the industry as a whole and so in combination these two posts have got my neurons firing and I am going to subject you to the result of that weird chemistry!

First of all, I am loving John's take on this.  If the character dies perhaps there should be a service for them in the manner of the god they worship.  Plus, should the loot of the character not go to the character's family?  I know that this would include a lot of people saying right off the starting block "my character is an orphan" but in that regard I take a leaf from Rite Publishing's Lord of Gossamer and Shadow and point out that the family is in the realm of the GM.  After all, you can't choose your family, right?  So therefore it would more than likely be the responsibility of at least Lawfully aligned characters (if you follow alignment rules) to return all of that players goods and chattels to the family as part of the rights.  If you are Neutrally or Chaotically aligned a free for all looting would likely be in order...

Hey buddy, you are wearing my hat!
Image taken from British Public Library public
domain release.
Secondly, the idea of if this is ignored that the character's spirit raises in some way is genius in my mind.  How many times have I read an undead monster in Pathfinder to have it list the circumstances that the spirit rises.  This is the perfect circumstance for a ghost or other type of undead to rise.  Perhaps a revenant!  They would rise and perhaps seek out the other players for retribution or perhaps they just haunt where they died because they were left to rot.  Either way, word should get back to the other characters about the result of their callousness.  Perhaps they hear of a ghost that killed another adventurer in the same spot and they go back to investigate.

Taking this idea one step further though, this comes back to the idea that death is an impermanent thing in fantasy RPG's.  Though there is the consequence of having devoted time and love to a character and they die there are few other consequences to the death.  The GM says roll up another character and they slot in to the party and the game continues.  The GM rarely bats an eyelid if the player then acts on a bit of information the previous character knew, and not the new one.  This combined with the ideas bought on by the details of Robot Loves Kitty's new game ideas has me thinking about how I could make death matter in an RPG.

So, I have come up with an idea.  It is an idea that I want to test very soon.  I want to run a game where death matters, and here is how I propose to do this.

Each player will start at low level, Pathfinder or one of the OSR D&D clones.  The characters will be part of a group with several NPC party members.  If the player's character dies then they do not get to "roll up a new character", they will have to take on the role of one of the NPC's who are likely to be hired hands and so on.  If the party dies out, adventure ends.  If that means that they don't solve the mystery, kill the dragon, save the princess, whatever it may be then so be it.  In fact, this would be an interesting way to build a campaign.  The next game could be run with the new characters after the threat that was not stopped has its effect on the game world.

I am interested to hear from anyone out there that may have run a game in this vain before.  Did it work?  What happened when the party "ran out" of NPC's to play?  Obviously this is a game where if things go poorly there will be attrition of characters and players when the NPC pool runs out.  Did this anger anyone or was it something that you put up front and said that this may occur?  If so, or you have a comment on what you think, let me know in the comments!

By the way, when I said I was interested in running something soon, keep your eyes peeled for an event in the next few days.  I intend to run the game in an intense series of events and will likely be more suitable for an American audience as I will be running in the A.M. Australian time for three hours at a pop.  If you are interested, keep an eye on my feed or the G+ Tabletop Roleplaying Games community!  until then, keep rolling :)

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Some Really Exciting Reviews On Their Way

I have been a little on the quiet side this week and here is why.  I am reviewing three products that I am super excited to tell you all about.  I am lining up interviews with the developers as I type (awaiting replies from two of them and still looking at the third product currently).  I don't normally do teaser posts but I feel that these products deserve a bit of build up!
Reviewing new tools is always fun :)

With my main job going on holidays for a couple of weeks I hope that I will have at least two of the three reviews done in the first week after Easter and the third in the following week.

So, what can you expect to read about?

The 1st review will likely be over a new option for campaign management.  Keeping your details up to date and accessible is something I always try to do but have pretty much failed to do it in nearly every medium.  I have tried

  • online campaign management software
  • Microsoft OneNote
  • Evernote
  • Databases
  • Spreadsheets
  • Notebooks
Each of them have failed me so I had very little hope that this product would work any different for me but I said I would look it over and I did.  Last weekend I sat down with it in the quiet moments of my part time job and started to play.  I am still playing and am very excited about this particular product so if you are like me and want to keep organised but just can't seem to keep it together, look for that first review.

Following that I am likely to be reviewing something that will be revolutionising my in person game and hopefully my online games too.  I have played around with this particular idea in game before but never really taken it to any great length.

With a brilliant interface and a fantastic range of options this has got my players and I very excited.  I intend to actually video a bit of our next game and put it up to show how effective this particular product will be in game!  It literally made me laugh out loud to see this in operation and I can not wait to see what the response from the review will be on the blog.  This review will likely be on Friday of next week.

The final review I have lined up is on a virtual tabletop.  I seem to always be finding new and surprising interfaces for this so keep an eye out for this as well.

I also want to throw this offer out wide to the community.  If you have a product and want it reviewed I am always happy to hear what the product is and let you know if I have the time to review it!  Anyhow, until next time, keep rolling!

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Creating Your Character : Incremental or Immediate?

I am an old school role player.  I played in the eighties through to now and my base in the eighties have inured me to a certain style of gaming.  But I am curious of the new school style of game and how that has changed to reflect the newer gamers and also the older gamers who have little time to grind through levels to get what they want to play.  In particular I am looking at character generation systems today and how they differ in the older style game to the newer (and still largely indie) style games available today.

Nowhere was this difference in mindset highlighted to me than in the game of Zounds! that I have started playing.  When we got together and made our characters the GM ( +Cameron Corniuk ) told me he loved this system as it created characters that the player wanted to play.  I had made myself a thief style character that acted as a "face" for the party.  He knew people who knew people and could always find that special bit of information.  I thought about the character and the concept came out well but I realised that I had created a character thinking of a low-level thief with room to grow.  This is something that is logical to me.  You role-play, gain experience and grow from a pleb to a powerful character.
Image taken from DriveThruRPG

Then the GM's wife ( +Jennifer Corniuk ) made her character.  She had a clear idea in her head of playing a powerful elementalist with a wild accent on her magic.  She put together her powers and schticks in the system to create exactly that.  She had an elemental shield that encompassed her party constantly protecting them from elemental harm whilst being able to manipulate the four elements with power.  The character was fantastic!  The genius of it did not really hit home until the game yesterday though.

We were moving through a cultist temple and came across a room of guards "off duty" that we needed to get past to make it up to the top of the temple.  I asked Jen's character if she could do anything silently to fix the problem which got her thinking.  While she was thinking we were talking about sneaking in and taking them by surprise.  The GM had a combat planned but then Jen piped up and said she had an idea.

"I'll suck all of the air out of the room and they will fall unconscious!" Brilliant idea.  Powerful and eloquent so I waited for the GM to knock it down and tell her she did not have that level of power yet.  but he didn't and we ran with the plan.  It was then that I realised I had undersold myself.  I had, by trusting on my own background, focussed on making a character who was "low-level" and thus outclassed by others in the game.

+Cameron Corniuk describes Zounds! as his favourite system at the moment and part of the reason for that is the character generation.  He tells me "What system allows the player to decide their powers?".  He is right as the powers section is like the FATE system aspects.  From the start you can be what youy want to be.  You come up with the concept and then play it from the start.  +Jennifer Corniuk always gives great thought to her characters and their concepts.

Traditional games like Pathfinder, EarthdawnVampire, 13th Age and so on work on a system where you start out as a basic character and if you want to be the best swordsman in the land you have to level up and prove it.  You do not start as Conan but you may end there.  it is a curious idea in fact that I find this the typical way to game.  Surely gaming should be about playing the type of character you want to, not having to earn the privilege and then retire the character.

I know that Jen has tried at least one game of Pathfinder with me and I also know that character creation frustrated her.  She wants to play a specific style of character that had certain powers in place but could not as the rules would not allow it in the format I was looking at.  I could have started them at higher level but I it was to give them a taste of the game and I did not want to overcomplicate characters at the start.
 Some of my Pathfinder material

I am tormented by this discrepancy.  I like to work a character from basic level up in power and build as the progress of the characters story moves on.  It gives them a history and a reasoning for their powers and abilities that are selected as they advance.  But why shouldn't I be able to play Mad Mardegan the greatest swordsman of all time right from the start?  I suppose that is why so many different systems exist, each giving the ability to play the similar genre but in different ways.

Nowhere has this been more evident to me than super hero games.  I have played a lot of systems for supers over my time and still my favourite is the overly complex ruleset of Super Squadron where character creation is random and you may come out with a Superman-esque super hero or you may be playing the guy out of Kick-Ass.  In most supers game I want to play Peter Parker or Doctor Strange but when I am faced with the generation rules at best I can come up with is a guy who can sense danger and fight a little or a parlour magician and I need to build those powers up to reach those heights.

You have to use experience to build your super up to be a power and that frustrates me.  In most comics I read (my favourites were Doctor Strange and Cloak and Dagger if you are interested) my super hero began with major powers or gained them in a single, calamitous event.  In other words, nothing like what we see in most systems for supers.

This style though is beginning to change.  Many of the game designers out there (especially the indie ones) are older gamers that do not have a lot of time to work their way through twenty levels to get the character they want.  They just want to explore a character concept and advancement can come and go, as long as they get to play the character they want.  They have families and work that they have to attend to and so they want to get the good stuff up from and escape for a while.  the new generation of players have lived with computer games all their lives so they need their rewards to be instantaneous.  there can be a little bit of a power scramble at the start but once the "tutorial" is over they want something with a bit of oomph to it!

Considering this I am interested to find out how this affects the other gamers out there.  What style of generation do you prefer?  The instantaneous character is not a new concept (Classic Traveller in essence allowed you to generate a powerful character up front if you survived) but it is growing in popularity.  Hit me up in the comments and let me know what you think!  Keep rolling.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Hero Sheets are Looking to Implement GM Tools

I see the value in the Hero Sheets setup and have featured them on the blog a couple of times before.  Well, I need to put this out there again!  It appears that Hero Sheets are looking to add some GM Tools by raising $1500.  They are about halfway there and there is four weeks to go so let us see if we can help them get there.
One of the rewards is a T-Shirt.  Everyone needs a T-Shirt
or they would be topless.  Don't want to be topless do you?

If they make the $1500 we are looking at a searchable spell compendium, an NPC Generator and a Bestiary to be added to the site.  Anything past that has some great stretch goals like Macros and a bunch of other material that looks very intriguing.  Have a look at the Kickstarter page here and consider backing the team to add some flexibility to this growing tool.  Even the lowest level backer gets a free four month subscription to the site and that is well worth a $5 investment.

Don't forget that if you just want to sign up to the Kickstarter but would like to check it out then the reader of www.thepathfinderchronicles.com can get a 25% discount off your first month OR year if you take up that subscription on an annual basis.  A very generous offer that I have to thank Jordan for.  If you do want to sign up after reading this review all you have to do is enter PCHRONICLES in the coupon code section when signing up and that discount will be applied.  Hero Sheets can be located via this link!

Hope you are in for the support!  I am heading over to Kickstarter to do my bit right now :)  Keep rolling!

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Sometimes You Just Need To Let The Pictures Do the Talking

Last nights game of Skull and Shackles was much fun.  Several naval battles and some costuming.  Here are the photos.  Please enjoy!

The last battle involved three ships

Another pirate had just disabled a galleon

And the players decided to take them both out

I love our props

My daughter did not want in so she took the photos

Having fun with our costumes

In nearly every photo I did not know it was being taken

Nor that the other players were having a ball!

My well organised screen

There were rumours that there was going to be an attempt to crack the rock

Ready to start

This game keeps getting better

Even Missy the dog was trying out the Tengu mask!

She loved it (NOT!)

Very cute though!

Monday, 7 April 2014

Dungeonslayers

I was reading the free fantasy RPG Dungeonslayers yesterday and was having a great time of it.  It is a very simplistic system that has a large amount of customisation about it.  It is well worth a good look at this game as the simplicity of the system hides a breadth and depth of game as good as most fantasy offerings out there.

The cover of the Dungeonslayers book depicting
 an elven mage, a human scout and a dwarven
fighter.  Image from the Chronicle Cities site
There are some limitations of course.  For example, there are only three races to choose from being a human, elf or dwarf.  As a starting character there are really only three classes (five really) that you can choose.  The fighter and scout are the first two and then there is the magician but that gets broken into three styles of magician - the healer, the wizard and the sorcerer as basic classes.  Now when I say basic classes that is a little bit of a fib as the classes have talents that they can build with and there is a level of multiple talent selection customisation that works really well.  Just because two players take a fighter at first level certainly does NOT mean they will look the same.

The characters, on reaching 10th level can continue on with their selected classes or they can choose a hero class, of which there are three selections per base class.  For the fighter the options are beserker, paladin or weaponmaster.  The scout has assassin, ranger, rogue.  Healers get to choose from cleric, druid or monk.  Wizards selections are archmage, battle mage, elementalist and finally the sorcerer can choose from blood mage, demonologist and necromancer.  Each of these offers a unique path and also a longevity to the game with a great level of depth to the characters.

The characters are made up of 3 main statistics with two sub statistics that stem from these.  From this collection of statistics there are a bunch of derived chances that are applied giving the player the numbers they need for in game play.  The rolling convention centres around a d20 but not in the way that most people would expect a d20 to be used.  The system is swift, simple to use and very easy to understand.

The system portion of the game is a small section of the book and does not cover character details or generations.  It just shows how the game runs.  I have not finished all of the book as of yet but I am excited to keep reading through it!  Oh, and did I mention it is free and comes with some great free source books.  They also have some nifty one page adventures that I am keen to look at too!

I am liking this game so much that I am actually going to purchase a print copy of the rules.  I was playing with the idea of printing one myself but it is available at Chronicle City for $24.99 USD plus postage and handling.  The PDF and cover look fantastic so I can not wait to get my greedy little hands on a copy to use at a table or a Google+ hangout.

Quite seriously, I think Dungeonslayers is one of the best fantasy RPG's out there.  I often lament not finding a simple elegant system when my players open up the Advanced Race Guide while perusing Ultimate Magic for a variant archetype on the druid class in Pathfinder!  I understand the player desire to build something unique and I think that this game offers that up in a nice tight package.  Sure, there is some restrictions like races but the build of a character can be quite dynamic.

If you are looking for a break from your normal game and want a quick, easy to use system to play with, look no further.  It will cost you nothing and you may just enjoy it so much that the one off game becomes something regular!  Until next time, keep rolling!