Monday, 20 August 2018

RPG a Day 2018: 20. inspiring game mechanic

RPG a Day 2018

20. Which game mechanic inspires your play the most?

I generally tend to prefer rules that fade into the background, but I like them to have some interesting effects here and there. What those are vary from game to game, from the Drama Points in Buffy to the initiative ordered by who’s doing what (so Fighting is always last) in C7’s Doctor Who.

If I were to pick one thing I generally like, it’s an option to bump something up to a success before or after rolling when you really want to succeed. It shows what really matters to the players.

Sunday, 19 August 2018

Happy anniversary Vampire: The Requiem!

First launched fourteen years ago tonight.

RPG a Day 2018: 19. Music that enhances your game

RPG a Day 2018

19. Music that enhances your game.

I mentioned music as a source of inspiration along with other artforms yesterday, notably lyrics more than tunes in the case of the Episodes Based On Song Titles posts - really a way of getting a list of short evocative phrases to take ideas from, with or without connections to the music or lyrics.

I hardly ever use music at the table, as I’m often running games in public and I’m too quiet already.

I will sometimes play one theme track, that’s about it. I may mention specific tracks, perhaps link to them in emails, so players can listen as and when they choose. Even when not playing in public I tend not to do more.

If I have time I’ll edit together a title sequence or teaser trailer cut to the theme tune. When I do they’re usually pretty short, both for ease of finding material and editing together and for playing them in-session without taking up much time.

More often I use music as inspiration or play it to myself when I’m preparing a game. My playlist for one game will be pretty different to that for another - soundtracks for Star Wars or Star Trek, punky uptempo and a few sad ballads for Buffy, thunderously gloomy for Vampire: The Masquerade and more wistful for Vampire: The Requiem...

(The soundtrack for The Watch House was only mostly Britpop.)

Scores that aren’t from anything I know well can help here, as they evoke a mood rather than a specific moment. Video games produce a lot - Excerpt From The Ecstasy from Destiny would make a great Star Trek theme. Likewise, there are companies dedicated to making trailer music - the 2009 Star Trek trailer featured one. And listening to the same composers can help too - the John Williams score for the 1979 Dracula provides a perfect Star Wars villain theme... called To Scarborough.

Saturday, 18 August 2018

RPG a Day 2018: 18. Art that inspires your game

RPG a Day 2018

18. Art that inspires your game.

I look at a lot, from visual art in the games, “this is cool” art threads on general and game-specific forums and social media, official art books, comics, and the like. Sometimes I’ll get an idea for a scene or character from something in a gallery as well.

But also music, as demonstrated by the various Episodes Based On Song Titles threads, as well as more directly narrative inspirations like books, movies, TV, video games, streaming game sessions...

For some specific examples:

I’ve swiped a bunch of Buffy monsters from the SyFy Channel makeup challenge show Face Off, as well as sites for effects and mask companies like The Scream Team whose designs have a suitably Buffyish look. Others have ended up in Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who and other games.

On the subject of Doctor Who, I once spun up an adventure about wolves made of ice after seeing an ice sculpture awards gallery, a few years before The Snowmen.

I’ve run superhero games based on grabbing character ideas from artists like Storn Cook and David Bednarski.

One of these days I’ll run a Warhammer game based on Bruegel’s The Triumph Of Death. (And I’m tempted to buy the miniatures army that a designer based on it!)

And a particularly odd one: I lifted the character from the I Am A Crisis Red Cross fundraising advert for my first V20 game. It wasn’t even about giving blood.

Friday, 17 August 2018

Star Wars Resistance

The first trailer and main character details for Star Wars Resistance, the new animated series about a pilot and spy in the run-up to The Force Awakens.

RPG a Day 2018: 17. the best compliment you’ve had gaming

RPG a Day 2018

17. Describe the best compliment you’ve had gaming.

Having new players brought to my table at the games society. That shows a lot of trust.

Meeting someone at a convention who knew my name from The Watch House was pretty cool too.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Happy 60th birthday, Madonna

First famous for Like A Virgin, she completed the triple as the Crone in the Chris Cunningham video for Frozen.

Aretha Franklin


Buffy at Dark Horse Comics, 1998-2018

Joss Whedon confirms that the four-issue mini-season The Reckoning is the final Buffy The Vampire Slayer comic from Dark Horse, with Fox taking it in-house after twenty years with DH. They also took Firefly to BOOM! Studios. This is also why he has a new Dr. Horrible miniseries at DH soon.

RPG a Day 2018: 16. plans for your next game

RPG a Day 2018

16. Describe your plans for your next game.

We’re getting close to the start of the academic year, so probably time to get the notebooks in order.

Likely candidates:

Vampire: The Masquerade Fifth Edition. I’d like to try it, but it really depends if my Vampire-liking friends want to give it a go, and if the book arrives at my FLGS in time. Probably set in a major city that has been hit by the upheavals in the setting. (Probably not LA as I would be tempted to steal from the Geek & Sundry game run by Jason Carl, and there’s a danger I’d get players who also watched it.)

Vampire: The Requiem Second Edition. Because No Man’s Land was hit by the common problems of trying to game over summer, give it another shot. If not, expect certain unused background elements to drift to V5...

Star Wars D6. Because there’s reliable demand. But which era? I dunno...

Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Because I am me. And with a new series in early development, there might be something different about the universe this time next year.

Icons. (Maybe.) For WWII superheroes. (Maybe.)

Wednesday, 15 August 2018


After all the times I made sure the language in the APs for The Watch House was PG-friendly, I started watching the first episode of a Buffy AP streaming game and the Slayer’s fourth word in character was an F-bomb. Which I was fine with in the Chronicles Of Darkness stream from the same people I watched first, but not in a Buffy game. Is that totally weird of me? The use of language, in and out of character, can really affect how a game feels.

The Return Of Un-Shirtless Conan

I just discovered that Oxford University Press adapted a second Conan story for their educational series Dominoes, The Jewels of Gwahlur, complete with an audio version!

RPG a Day 2018: 15. a tricky experience you enjoyed

RPG a Day 2018

15. Describe a tricky RPG experience you enjoyed.

Well, there was the time I ran a Buffy game at Conpulsion with the series cast as PCs, and the role of Giles, the Watcher, was taken by one of the guests, game writer Phil Masters, who I’ve been reading work by since I was eleven - and who literally wrote the book about Watchers for the game line. As you can perhaps imagine that gave me some stage fright, which he was very nice about.

Monday, 13 August 2018

RPG a Day 2018: 13. How your play has evolved

RPG a Day 2018

13. Describe how your play has evolved.

Hopefully it’s changed quite a bit in the previous decades... but I’ve always leaned towards genre emulation, and of late I’ve pushed that further in mechanical and meta ways.

I’ve also adjusted regular game features like the average amount of combat per session - notably the time I ran Buffy in the afternoon and V20 in the evening and threw pretty much all the combat into the Buffy game.

Having gone totally kitchen-sink with Buffy for six years, I now tend to alternate between games with similarly high Weird Levels and ones with much lower ones, like Buffy and V20 again. I often end up saving ideas that won’t fit one for the other - after a year running a military SF game about facing one alien culture, I had half a dozen ideas for adventures too weird for it that went into my plans for a Star Trek game.