Friday, 28 January 2011

No Future For You

"Cyberpunk destroyed science fiction.

Science fiction was about man's potential. Science fiction was about how man could reach out and touch the stars. We could be better. We could be worse. All we needed was the technology.

Cyberpunk was not that. Cyberpunk said man would be the same damn bastard he always was, he'd have the same problems he always did, and worst of all? He'd still be happy with it. In those days, cyberpunk was arcologies and AIs. Built-in shades and monomolecular razor-wire.

Seems a little silly now, right? The technology didn't turn out that way. But the world did. Technology is pervasive and invasive and amazing and all it has done is made us more who we were before.

Sound like the World of Darkness? It should."

As of four minutes ago, Mirrors: Bleeding Edge and - edit - Infinite Macabre, Russell's cyberpunk and Chuck Wendig's space opera mini-supplements for The World Of Darkness, are on sale.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Aaagh, it's nine weeks to Conpulsion

Conpulsion. It's nine weeks to it. Aaagh.

So about time to come up with the all-important "hey you, play my adventure" pitch blurbs. They have to be short, pithy, relatively accurate, and for games I'll be able and ideally happy to GM in two months' time.

Compare last year's, including my Doctor Who epic and Buffy Versus Godzilla.

I only have to come up with one game to GM this year, as one of the events this year is IRN GM, in which you get three GURPS setting books at random on Saturday and have to run an adventure using bits of all three on Sunday. So that's my Doctor Who adventure sorted probably...

So I dunno, Buffy or Adventure! or somethin' on Saturday.

While leaving room to play Gar's Primeval demo hopefully. The Laundry game with Charles Stross there will probably be rather busy.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Licensed settings, metaplots, things like that.

This started as a TWH game theory post, became personal and bloggy, and extracted the game theory bit from the personal and bloggy bit...

One of the tricky parts about playing in a dynamic setting like an ongoing licensed universe or a metaplotty RPG is not knowing what the creative types are going to give you next, and whether you'll like it. This leads to a fair number of folks who consider metaplot slightly less appealing than the Black Death, but I've never had a a huge issue with it.

Partially because in The Watch House I cheated.

I didn't start the game until after Buffy had concluded on TV, so I knew all there then was to know. And seeing the mid-season cliffhanger in season seven would throw a big old spanner into my game design, I made the game a period piece... by five years. This meant not referring to movies or music out at the time (with some very occasional cheating) and having five years to run the game until, as I joked, I'd have to hit that mid-season cliffhanger.

And the game promptly ran for six years...

And yes, the influence of the canon setting changed the game a lot, but I'd had years to think about how it would, to decide who the cliffhanger affected, what effect the final Big Bad would have on things, how big and bad my own final Big Bad would have to be to be worth the fighting, and time to connect a PC to something unexpected just to make her player squee.

But wait, there's more.

For the last two of those years, Buffy Season Eight was coming out in comics form. I took it as canon, but not having happened yet. About the only reference ahead I made was that the castle in Scotland was a Watcher fall-back position. Effectively I treated it as a supplement where the metaplot hadn't hit yet. I also joked that I'd only run TWH S8 if I could find a willing illustrator. But, of course, the damn thing went and gave me ideas...

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

New York across the multiverse

Fantasy maps of New York varying from the slightly eccentric to the downright peculiar.

Got a reality-goes-askew game? Try the tourist map of Nieuw Amsterdam as a handout and see how the players react...

Monday, 17 January 2011

Right then. Playing Icons and running Doctor Who, as the brand-new player looked like she'd be keener on something lightish than something darker than the pits of Hell.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Give me an idea...

I just hit 34,500 posts on the RPGnet forum. (In my defence, it's been running for nine years. And that includes play-by-post games.)

This is the post in question, 13 in 1001 Things to Find After the Fantasy Apocalypse.

"Animated skeletons. Who can talk in eerie whispery voices, and remember the apocalypse in greater detail than anyone alive, and are quietly working to prevent it happening again."

Which I rather like. It's really creepy yet at the same time oddly encouraging.

I love these jam sessions in general, of course - people throwing out adventure hooks, visuals, leitmotifs and jokes. My favourite run was Iron Roleplayer where everybody got one ingredient like "Skeletons" or "Cats" or in one case "Rain" and had to make adventure hooks for it. I came up with Adventure! and Buffy ideas for just about all of them, and used the odd one here and there.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

T minus 4 days

So, on Sunday I find out if I can get enough players to outnumber me at the table for the rest of the academic year.

My Vampire idea has sat idle since October, and while I'll offer it, it really needs players who are up for Big Emotional Episodes. And really more than about twelve sessions. Look at me, planning for more than twelve sessions! Maybe I'll let it sit till next year, rather than shelving it like most games I offer that don't get any custom.

Doctor Who in the afternoon. Nothing complicated. Simple episodic adventures, bit of character-background stuff if the players want it, maybe one Big Emotional Episode, end with a big explosion and possibly a funny dance. The Time Lord player from last year is available and keen... although he would also like to run Icons. Fiiiight!

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Dune, the one day RPG

Now 49 pages of the supplement that never was is freely available.

"Buffy in pain, story more interesting. Buffy not in pain, story not interesting."

One thing I like to see in games is emotional responses other than anger, greed, fear and that heroic sense of great responsibility.

The Watch House, like Buffy itself when she fell for Angel, became more than a fun little Monster Of The Week series at around the point when the hero's player offered her up for heartbreak, by suggesting she fall in love with one of the other PCs. We made sure this was cool with the other player, and he further complicated matters by having him kick off a relationship with an NPC who could otherwise have been the hero's best friend. This emotional side ran through the game, creating a whole lot of angst and pain for the characters - which the players by and large gleefully participated in and acted to worsen, resulting in two of the PCs becoming seasonal Big Bads and more. It remained optional - a couple of the PCs were largely romantically untroubled throughout the six-year run of the game - but it informed a whole lot of the game.

Steve Darlington (who I hope isn't having to be evacuated from Brisbane as I type this) once wrote this article on Star Wars and it reflects my thinking on the setting well. One thing mentioned in passing in the section "The Characters Must Be Centre Stage to Everything" is the possible emotional weight of things. Granted, the films only really managed this in The Empire Strikes Back, but "No... I am your father" still packs a massive punch. I'd love to try a Star Wars game with moments like that as well as the more-often-done-in-Star-Wars-games moments of giant spaceships exploding and lightsabre battles. (The lightsabre battles in the original films are all big emotional scenes, something only Revenge Of The Sith really manages.)

I've played and run plenty of Vampire games over the years that didn't really touch on the Kindred's angst, pain, romance or much anything else except the political paranoia, and I was never entirely happy with them.

Of course, it's easy to lay it on too thick. I just watched Star Trek: Generations again last night, and killing Picard's family offscreen to make him feel a bit more vulnerable really sounds a bum note. (And not just because the Nexus as vaguely explained could have let him go back three days to save them, and phone Riker to stop Soren before the story gets started.)

Some games don't fit this. Some gamers don't want this. I wouldn't make it a big thing in an Indiana Jones style Adventure! game, for example, and the main emotional push of the Galactica-style military SF game I followed The Watch House with was "gloom".

Best to check in advance if you're going to do more than a little of this. The new Doctor Who is full of big emotional episodes, but the old wasn't so much, and there are plenty of classic fans who aren't happy about that...

But I wouldn't want to run a Buffy game, for example, that didn't have room for heartbreak as well as awesome fight scenes and one-liners.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Thursday, 6 January 2011


So, I followed an ad link on RPGnet... sometimes that happens.

In this case, it lead to Nightlife - The Series, a mockumentary about gamer geek wannabe vampire hunters. It could potentially be amusing.

"D&D is a perfect vehicle to be able to sit down and train about what you're going to do in high stress situations..."

I knew D&D fans were out to get us. ;)

Not to be confused with NightLife the RPG... about vampires and stuff.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Being Human

Happy New Year!

Now, unlike my last post of last year, there isn't a Being Human game on the way... as far as I know... and I did ask Angus about it...

But anyway, it's a more well represented area in gaming-land anyway, with the second-biggest RPG around being Vampire. I'd probably go with something a bit lighter for a game where there's just the one vampire PC, to follow the show's example. Not much need to differentiate, and not many superhuman powers on display. Pretender maybe, since it doesn't put much emphasis at all on the action side of the genre.

You'd need to think about how the setting works - unassuming vampires, outcast werewolves, an afterlife like an immigration centre where it would be easy to show too much.

And of course, get in now before the American version. Doy.