Friday, 23 August 2019

Disney+

Disney+ launch lineup announced! Featuring The Mandalorian, the live-action Lady And The Tramp, Anna Kendrick and Bill Hader as brother and sister Santa, and a newly-revealed Jeff Goldblum fun documentary series!

The Mandalorian trailer!

Ms. Marvel getting a live-action series on it!

And She-Hulk and Moon Knight!

And The Clone Wars revival!

And Obi-Wan really is getting a series!

And even some Disney-type stuff too!

And... still no word on a UK launch... :/

#RPGaDAY 2019 23: SURPRISE

RPGaDAY 2019

23: SURPRISE

Who likes surprises?

As I noted on Day 8: Obscure, some players like surprises in their games and some don’t. The Watch House didn’t feature a lot of shocking twists, just a few here and there, and some of those came out of the events of the session.

The kind of surprise matters too. How will the players take it?

And players can surprise GMs as well, not just with their reactions to the regularly scheduled plot but with ideas well beyond that. The famous TWH example was the unexpected creation of Captain Rugged, where Matthew’s player dropped an entire Funny Magic Episode plot on top of a session.

Thursday, 22 August 2019

#RPGaDAY 2019 22: LOST

RPGaDAY 2019

22: LOST

A setting with one or more central mystery, and providing a satisfactory solution.

Because that big capitalised LOST inevitably makes me think of...


(I am not alone.)

LOST was one of the biggest things on TV at its height. Here in the UK season one and two were shown on Channel 4 before the rest went behind the Sky paywall, so a lot of people here didn’t see the ending. And some would say “lucky them” as the ending was, inevitably, divisive.

It was partially an ensemble drama about survivors of a plane crash on a desert island, but it was also full of other genre elements - a smoke monster, an out-of-place polar bear, prophetic dreams, conspiracies, symbolic numbers (this is day 22, but should really be 4, 8, 15, 16, 23... or ideally 42) and more. One immediately popular theory was that the island was Purgatory. The fact that we didn’t see any scenes away from the island until the end of the first season certainly supported this. It was all very Bermuda Triangle, and had a far higher Weird Level than a show originally pitched as a scripted version of Survivor would suggest.

The nearly weekly “what the... ?” cliffhangers were one of the main features picked up by other shows, of which Heroes was the most successful. It may have also influenced the 2009 remake of The Prisoner, where the original was an earlier example of a similar premise.

It also got a video game, a board game and two ARGs (and some unofficial miniatures as well as the official six-inch scale figures) but not an RPG, which would have needed either an explanation for the GM to work from or a toolkit to create your own mystery box plots.

So how would you run something like this? The initial castaway premise gives you a great hook, and it’s easy to escalate mysteries (this PVP strip imagining a LOST RPG demonstrates just how easy) but I think a reasonably coherent explanation and finale would be required. Although in RPGs you have the advantage of only having to provide a satisfactory ending for a few people, not millions.

A drama-focused game would fit the show best, even though it does have plenty of adventure elements with the uncharted island and the polar bears and super-science bases and all.

I’ve tried less serialised and more adventure-ish games influenced by Alias and Heroes, but never gone for this.

Flashback mechanics appear in the likes of Leverage there to empower the players, and the Memoriam system in Vampire: The Masquerade fifth edition, where they can reveal unexpected things and the description mentions continuity glitches as a possibility. 3:16 uses them as well, in a looser way.

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Chronicles Of Darkness at 15

Chronicles Of Darkness and Vampire: The Requiem are fifteen today.

In that time, I have run several Vampire: The Requiem games, mostly with the second edition (starting before it came out in hardcover) and some Chronicles mortals adventures here and there, as well as Demon: The Descent. I’ve even gotten to play a couple times! Several have been on my to-do list for years now...

#RPGaDAY 2019 21: VAST

RPGaDAY 2019

21: VAST

Settings with a lot of material and a lot of options, kitchen sinks and more constrained premises.

When I followed my Buffy game The Watch House with a military SF game called The Stars On Fire I purposely focused on one serialised plot, future humanity as multiple nations in space making first contact with a single hostile alien species. And over the course of a year, I had a good dozen adventure ideas that just wouldn’t fit. So I wrote them down as prep for running a Star Trek game next.

I’m currently running Vampire: The Masquerade fifth edition, taking into account some of the setting developments - one of the PCs is a Thin-Blood and another is a formerly rogue Tremere who is now basically ignored because the clan structure has fallen apart, one of the ongoing plots featured Thin-Bloods under threat and another involved refugees from the collapse of Sabbat leadership - while ignoring others - the Beckoning has only been mentioned in passing. And there are various chunks of the overall setting that aren’t being featured, some idea I just don’t like and others that I do like but which don’t fit this particular setting. Over twenty-five years of publication history will do that. And that’s with no more than a couple of non-vampire supernatural manifestations in a year of sessions. I’m deliberately not using the whole kitchen sink. I could run another V5 game next year running on entirely different plot threads.

A constrained setting has advantages like consistency and being relatively safe from premise rejection, but I find it much easier to run a big kitchen sink setting where I can throw in a really random adventure idea from time to time, so my constrained premise games tend to be shorter and it’s one reason (along with most importantly player keenness) that The Watch House is the longest series I’ve ever run.

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

#RPGaDAY 2019 20: NOBLE

RPGaDAY 2019

20: NOBLE

What is a noble action?

That’s in the eye of the beholder, of course. And not having everybody agree on what the right thing to do can make for some interesting conflicts and debates in character. Hopefully it’ll stay there.

The most recent session of my Vampire: The Masquerade chronicle From The Dust brought it up. One of the characters, actively seeking redemption and balance with his inner Beast, wrestled over the idea of putting a rival for the Prince of the city’s throne into torpor to prevent warfare. One of the others felt that wasn’t permanent enough. Who is right? And was the penitent’s anger at the pragmatist going behind his back, with the approval of some of the others, righteous, or proof that he was farther from redemption than he hoped?

Checking in with the GM

Today I was GMing a ttrpg game. The players latched onto a throw away comment (of course they did) and wanted to make it the focus of their session goal.

A player stopped and asked, "Is this ok? If you haven't prepped for it we can focus on something else."

That simple check-in made me feel incredibly cared for. Because it felt like I wasn't "The GM" there to provide a game...I was another player whose enjoyment matters.

We went with the new goal and I think it's going to be a really fun direction. That unexpected creativity is part of what I love about ttrpgs.

But it was 100 times more fun because I knew my players were there to support me + each other.

Cass Kay on Twitter

Monday, 19 August 2019

Marking this down for later

Vampire by Misty Miller.

2019 Hugo Awards

From WorldCon in Dublin (hello organising people I know!) the Hugo Awards include Dramatic Presentation, long and short, going to Into The Spider-Verse and The Good Place.

#RPGaDAY 2019 19: SCARY

RPGaDAY 2019

19: SCARY

How scary can a tabletop game be?

I do a lot of horror games, but they’re really in the genre of horror rather than actually trying to evoke the feeling. Having the PCs lack power in relation to the setting can work, but can also be frustrating and stressful. The narrative reveal in a story is something you can manage and that can work very well, but horror in other media has a lot more tricks.

Dread creates real tension with its Jenga resolution mechanic, but that’s hard to sustain past a one-shot.

(And horror is good for one-shots generally, although it can lead to players expecting a Total Party Kill at the end of the adventure and leaning in to that.)

LARPs are much better for evoking real scares, where you can have actual jumps and noises and things looming out of the dark at the players. They have all the tricks of a haunted attraction, while a tabletop game has the GM’s voice, maybe some music and mood lighting, and that’s it.

But still, a scary story can deliver. Tone goes a long way, and mysterious and ominous events in the adventure can provide a pleasant frisson of creeps.

That atmosphere is a fragile thing, though. Everybody has to be in the mood for it. Horror has a particularly high risk of premise rejection.

You can also drop a scary adventure into a not-normally-scary series, perhaps with a change in the power level of the threat. See my post on the rare horror episodes of Buffy. But again, everybody has to be on board - doubly so if they’re invested in the regular not-scary adventures and their characters.

World Photography Day

To celebrate, World Press Photo at the Parliament. Much like life, a mix of the fascinating, the beautiful, and the I-wish-I-hadn’t-seen-that.

Sunday, 18 August 2019

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. season six

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. season six is done and dusted...

#RPGaDAY 2019 18: PLENTY

RPGaDAY 2019

18: PLENTY

I usually feel like I have nearly enough games.

I almost always have another idea, and another, and another. I have a few complete sets of games I have never run, as well as editions I didn’t get to before the next came out. I already have at least three viable ideas for the new academic year, and GEAS only has three time slots.

And also a note on games where the PCs have a lot of resources.

To put a different spin on the prompt, games where the PCs have access to a lot of resources, equipment and support still benefit from clever applications of those resources, just like games where the PCs have fewer options. Having an I Win button is only fun occasionally.

Saturday, 17 August 2019

#RPGaDAY 2019 17: ONE

RPGaDAY 2019

17: ONE

One-player games.

I’ve only run games for one a few times, and my main observation is that they’re fast. With just one choosing what to do, as well as rolling the dice, a focused player will chew through encounters.

Also, 17 as One? I already made a Star Trek reference so no 1701 joke either...

Axeholes

Coming next from Emily Andras (Lost Girl, Killjoys, Wynonna Earp) is Axeholes:

“Axeholes follows a mismatched bunch of comic convention attendees who inadvertently get transported into the real-life world of their favorite fantasy TV series, Blue Bar’Bara. In the worst role-playing game ever, the unequipped party must learn to navigate a dangerous land of profanity-spewing battle axes, sociopathic fairies, disturbingly sensual dragons and a chainmail-bikini-wearing shield maiden as they struggle to find a way back home.”