Monday, 30 May 2011

I didn't start with D&D and I sure don't want to now.

In fact, I didn't play it for over a decade after starting. By which time I was jaded enough to be baffled by why anyone would want to play it. Classes and levels? THACO? (It was the THACO era.) Armour that makes you dodge rather than, say, reducing damage? Why are people driving Model T Fords?

I'm rather less adamant about that nowadays. But when someone asks how to start on RPGs and some people insist D&D is the only option I can be heard to tut disapprovingly.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

When I Am Through With You There Won't Be Anything Left

... is the theme of Damages, which got more 'mundane' as it went along but was for season one at least a positively nightmarish portrayal of a controlling, manipulative vampire of a boss. There was nothing supernatural about her or the show (although it had some borderline prophetic dreams and a hallucination or possible ghost) but she seemed utterly inhuman at times. It felt like a full-on non-psychological horror story was about to happen.

So, how creepy are your monsters? Would your Vampire prince kill someone he'd treated like a friend to preserve the power of someone more useful who he doesn't like? Do your "cleaners" ever get the shakes as they wait for their prey? How many skeletons do they have in their closets, and what would happen when one surfaces? Who is the real monster?

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Monster As Mystery

Prompted by this, which was prompted by a post elsewhere in turn...

When is a monster not a monster? Is it defined by normal monster stats? "If it has stats, we can kill it..." Or is it made up entirely of special rules and effects? Arm-wrestling a Weeping Angel won't go well for most people, but how about sword-fighting?

Some things are clearly better left off the normal template.

Little Fears takes this in an interesting direction - normal characters have a normal array of stats, but monsters are defined only by how scary and dangerous they are and what their powers can do. That would be a way to go for a game with no canon-fodder monsters where everything is rare and threatening, or for 'unique' monsters in a more regular monster-filled game.

I imagine Of Gods And Men will be pretty directly fighty, but it could have some monsters defined only by what they do as well.

Monday, 16 May 2011

The Universe Is Slightly Different

I see this summer's big DC Comics crossover is about how The Universe Is Slightly Different, complete with one hero being the only real-universe person to know what's wrong and that it must be fixed.

Not the same as The Evil Mirror Universe, The Universe Is Slightly Different lets you rearrange characters, resurrect dead ones (and kill off current ones) with abandon, try out variant power sets and team combinations and costume designs and show a bunch of What If...? ideas all at once and possibly interacting. It lets minor characters take the spotlight in ways they never normally would, allows a bit of experimentation by players and GM, can possibly leave some aftereffects when everything else goes back to normal if an interesting enough idea comes from it, and generally ends with a big battle with not the normal sides fighting each other over the reality-fixing MacGuffin.

It can certainly make for an interesting session or two of a weird enough ongoing game. Players get to play other ideas they had for their characters, or ideas you had for them (which you should discuss with them first) and ideally somebody gets to freak out about how much better their alternate life is. (Last time Marvel did this with House Of M, the trap was that everyone's life was better.)

I admit I love this. Did it in The Watch House as well as a parallel universe and a Days Of Future Past post-apocalypse nightmare world and a fairytale land and a fourth-wall-breaker and a time warp. (And I'll note that Supernatural has done more than half of them since. Nice to know I have fans...)

About the only obvious ones I missed were "the Nazis went back in time and won WWII!" (which would be a bit off-topic and I already got Milli to fight Nazis once) and "the secret magic is out in the open so the heroes are famous!" (which... hmmm...)

Any game with a sufficiently high Weird Level can benefit from occasionally looking sidelong at it, asking what the essentials of the characters and setting are, and what happens if you change some of the details.

For added amusement, the "one hero being the only real-universe person to know what's wrong and that it must be fixed" can be the only player who doesn't get advanced warning of the change, if you trust your players not to mind the temporary bait-and-switch and to go along with the joke.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Of Gods And Men: teaser trailer ideas

A dozen lightning bolts striking the same spot.

Scientists looking at strange atmospheric readings.

A glowing figure emerging.

A group of people running from something monstrous bursting out of the sand.

An army of skeletons marching on New York.

Outdriving a giant on an open highway.

US Army Rangers in a running battle with orc-type archers.

A God standing between a group of humans and a vast lizardy monster.

Of Gods And Men

Dragon versus helicopter.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Of Gods And Men: Odin Versus Zeus

Of Gods And Men has reached the crucial "buying a notebook" stage, still without a rules system or a decision about which pantheon(s) to star.

Of course, I'm holding off partially because so much of it is window dressing - the Norse and Greek/Roman pantheons both have wise white-bearded shapeshifting kind-of-an-asshole father gods, hotheaded superstrong sons who make good superheroes, a race of giant enemies, bloodthirsty undead and lots of monsters in general.

Going Greek would give it a bit more distance from being a straight Thor-if-it-was-a-standalone-setting game, but I like wolves and witches and swords with threats of bodily harm as names a bit more.

I should probably get around to watching the Percy Jackson film.
V20 is out for preorder. Fantasy Heartbreaker Man Russell has things to say on it. I'm awful tempted... but I'm still going back and forth on going to the Grand Masquerade where there'll be a slightly-different-cover edition, and no mondo shipping cost.

Hopefully I will reach a decision before both versions sell out completely.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Though this be madness, yet there is method in't.

Sethra007 asked From Start to Finish: How Do You Design A Campaign? so...

As Giles advises Buffy, we feel our way.

I generally have a length in mind. "Six weeks, like usual" or "an academic year and then I'm done, tops" or occasionally "this could run and run!... probably six weeks like usual but hey." I generally have a beginning, some things to go in the middle, and something resembling a likely end.

An elevator pitch, since this is for a games society where pitching at the start of the academic year is the traditional method of getting new players. Old players will also be consulted / strongarmed. Online contacts will be prodded to comment as and when I blog about my vague forming ideas.

Come up with a grandiose title and some "poster" blurb. Design a poster of some sort.

A system that fits, with or without tweaking, and a setting made up or grabbed from somewhere.

Buy a new A5 notebook which goes in the pocket of my book bag for noting stuff I think of on the bus or hanging around the society rooms.

Doodle. Also prod around Google Images and Deviantart for stuff like the visual references I have in mind.

Arrive ready to accept players, and grit teeth in case such do not materialise. In the event that they do, run game. Adjust throughout based on player input or new dumb ideas that distract me.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

"An accomplished hunter who can shape-shift into a bird of prey."

This idea thread got a couple dozen different takes on a purposely short character concept in a couple days, some impenetrable statblocks but some characterised and flavourful.

And in my case, I kinda want to do something with the character I knocked together, a mildly elfy ranger-wannabe part-time-eagle in a Buffy game.

The Last Province

It was half my lifetime ago now that I had a least a review in every single issue of The Last Province, an RPG magazine started in this very city. It was a brief thing, a year punctuated by going to the editors' flat to type reviews directly into their computer, because after issue 5 there was an attempted deal to get onto newsstands and that fell through.

But I can still point to it and say "I was there".

That my brother illustrated an Over The Edge article by Jonathan Tweet as well as my page on M.R. James, that I got review copies of things which I was more polite about because they were review copies, that I probably would have gotten a proper article into issue 6, that the cover feature for issue 5 actually appeared in Roleplayer Independent issue 8 instead (grr) and that at the launch party I stole a briefcase nuke.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Arcane Magazine. No, not THAT Arcane Magazine.

Sandy Petersen has his own personal Weird Tales.

(Weird Tales is owned by someone else... and obviously Arcane lapsed long enough ago to just be a painful memory for some British gamers.)