Tag Archives: Role Playing

Journal of the Emerald Specter 60: The Big Roundup Edition

If you woke up this morning wondering where the Journal of the Emerald Specter was, you’d be right in thinking you just can’t find it. Well, here it is, and it wasn’t prewritten for a number of reasons.

I normally write the Journal on the same day I record the Specter Show, which is Sunday. Every once in a while I’ll write the Journal earlier, giving me less “rush” to record the podcast (knowing I also have a column to write). This week has been a bit of a hectic push to get things going and I’ve had to dump a truckload of stuff out of the way to make way for everything else coming in.

Along with the issue of the podcasts not downloading (the backup server we are using from the server crash last week was being temperamental, so we had to finagle some things), having multiple appointments for my foot (I have been cleared for full duty at work, finally, so the appointments will cease and I can have a little bit more free time without having an appointment to worry about), and TV season kicking back into full swing, I’ve been a bit overwhelmed.

Enough about me whining, though, let’s get to some decent content, shall we?

On October 28, from 8:00 AM Pacific until sometime around 3:00 PM Pacific, the PRO Chess League will be holding their qualifying tournament to kick off Season 2. I don’t believe the event will have much to do with team play, which is confusing for a team based league, but once the event is over, we should know the teams competing in the 2018 PRO Chess League season (which I’ll be covering on the PRO Chess League Podcast).

When I woke up this morning, the PRO Chess League had it’s very own website (where it was using a Group Page on Chess.com before). The site is still fairly sparse, though, that is going to change with us coming into a new season.

I’m excited for the chance to see the season happen instead of finding out about results well after the season is over (like I did for season 1).

On a personal chess note, a podcast that I recently listened to inspired me to work on my own chess development in the way that the guest suggested. The podcast is the Perpetual Chess Podcast, hosted by Ben Johnson, and the episode in question was episode 44 with GM Jesse Kraai. The way that Kraai teaches is by deep diving on the analysis of a student’s games. The way he explained how he does his own development is that he replays the game, analyzing every move, as to understand what both sides were thinking and seeing what could be improved upon. He said “write it down,” which I’ve taken to mean on a “standard sized sheet of notebook paper” and said that when some people start out, they have a hard time filling a couple of pages. Kraai makes it sound like you should be writing a small book for each game.

Knowing this, and knowing that I’m starting back into my bullet journaling again, I’m going to start deep diving on my own games. My rating on Chess.com has slipped from around 1150-1250 to under 1100, which was not making me very happy. I won’t ever be a Grandmaster, or most likely never even be a titled player, but I’d like to be playing at 1600 or better.

Doing this will also help me beef up my pages in the bullet journal, since I had a hope to start a new journal at the beginning of the year. Maybe a 15 page game analysis would be beneficial to eating up those pages a little faster.

If you weren’t aware that I love professional sumo then you must be new here. The Banzuke (pre-tournament rankings) for the November tournament comes out on October 30, and for the first time, I’ll be playing in the Sumo Game to try to see how good my sumo knowledge is and picking winners.

I bring this up because I’d like to see others participate, as well as putting my own skills on notice as I embark on a “pick ’em” style quest to become the Sumo Game’s 4th Yokozuna. When you sign up you have to pick a Shikona (fighting name), so I’ve combined my last name (Allen) with my favorite rikishi’s Shikona (Ura)… that makes me Allenura.

I’ll post updates here to see how I do, since my time zone is in a wonky location for daily picks (because the matchups are made following the day’s activities), we’ll see how well I can keep up with this and see how far I can go.

Remember above when I said that I was cleared for full duty at work? Well, there is a caveat to that (in that I am not quite brave enough to start running again, yet), but I’m going to start back up on the road to fitness and nutrition.

I say that after having eaten six Krispy Kreme donuts in the past 12 hours.

When I injured my foot, my weight had been on a down trend with me seeing a good possibility of not only dipping under the 270 mark but remaining there… then the injury happened and my weight went up (albeit slowly) up to 290. I’ve been hovering around the 288 mark for the last couple of weeks and since I can do my job again without restriction, the weight should once again start coming back off.

On the nutrition front, my wife and I decided to start planning out our meals on a weekly basis (for the purposes of grocery shopping as well as getting back into healthy habits). I’ve had a wicked sweet tooth the last two months and I really need to start loading up my diet with healthier snacks. The bullet journal will come in handy here, too, as I start logging what I’ve eaten and how healthy I’ve been with my meal choices.

The bullet journal is coming back!

My wife and I watch a lot of TV together. There are a number of shows that I’m prepared to drop for the sake of not having an overwhelming amount of things to catch up on but we still have quite a few shows that we watch together that we barely keep up with at present. I wanted to comment on a few of the shows, making decisions on whether they are even worth my time anymore.

The first one is Star Trek Discovery. While I’ve been a big Star Trek fan for decades, and I’ve always been big on the “new” rather than dwelling on the legacy aspects, Discovery isn’t hitting the right buttons for me. I’m interested in the arc for this season but the show, in my opinion, isn’t Star Trek. One of the issues, in my opinion, is that the show is struggling to jam in a story without altering the continuity any.

Just like Marvel and DC in the comics world, Star Trek Discovery should be unbound from continuity to tell their stories and not try so hard to fit within the tiny time period they’re trying to in order to appease the assholes… sorry, die hard fans, that can’t accept the fact that trying to remain tied to a TV series from 1966 isn’t the smartest thing to do.

While I’m not the hugest fan of J.J. Abrams’s style on many things, his take on the Star Trek movie franchise was out of this world. I didn’t care for the amazing rank jumping that Kirk did in the movies, but I can let that go because Star Trek was fun to watch! And do you know why that is? Because he wasn’t held down by decades of continuity.

Abrams only misstep, in my opinion, was trying to retell that Khan story. If he’d have left that one alone, I’d say the new trilogy would be unmatched (save only by Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan).

The next show I wanted to discuss was Netflix’s Castlevania. So many people watched this and so many people said this was the greatest thing since sliced bread and I’m just over episode 3 and thinking “um, why is this so mind-blowingly popular?”

Did I play the games? Yeah, I did. Was I a super fan over them? No.

The story of Castlevania is an interesting one but where I’m at in the series, we JUST met Trevor Belmont and I’m not even sure he and Dracula will meet in this first season.

If I had to choose right now, I’m pretty sure I’d drop Castlevania like a bad habit in favor of making time for other things.

Next let’s talk about some of the “standard network programming” that I’ve been watching. On Fox, the Orville is what Discovery should have been… more story, less flair. It’s corny, and I can blatantly see the formula they’re using, but I’d rather watch that than CBS’s offering.

Midnight, Texas is another one that I’m watching, though I’m not really sure why. The concept of a town full of supernaturals is interesting but since Charlaine Harris is the one who created it and I know that, I can see the last couple of seasons of True Blood in the show (the seasons that really ruined things). Stop putting it all out in the open, discovering the supernaturals is part of the fun.

The Exorcist is a refreshing take on the old movie, though I’m already a little annoyed that they’re dragging out the storyline already. I can understand they need to fill up a season, but when will the networks jump on board the “only enough episodes as necessary” instead of their tired old “22 episodes a season” schtick? What worries me with this one is that it’s on Fox, meaning they have a solid premise that they’ll probably ruin by having way too many seasons (like Prison Break, the Following, etc, etc).

Welcome to the section of this that is going to (most likely) take up the most room. What I’m going to talk about here is going to be covered on the Greatest Show on Saturday (assuming any other host shows up), and that’s solo RPGing.

I’ve known for some time that there is a way to play a roleplaying game alone. What has always nagged at me was how to tell a story that would be surprising to me (as a player), but would be planned out enough to be interesting (from a GM standpoint).

How do I surprise myself?

About a week ago, I came up with an idea to tell a long form story about a spaceship tooling around the solar system (ours) while discovering all kinds of new bits and bobs about the way things work. I’ve come up with a few plot ideas that I would like to explore and I even started jotting down a rough timeline of events to arrive where I arrived. The last thing I wrote on my note, three days ago, was “is this worth developing?”

I was about to sideline the idea when I decided to start poking around my favorite SIM group (Obsidian Fleet), as well as some of the others I have found in looking around the Internet (Bravo Fleet, Pegasus Fleet, Horizon Fleet, Theta Fleet, and the like). They are all Star Trek-centric SIM fleets, with a few of them having a non-Trek SIM here and there. Whenever I get an itching to seek out a SIM to participate in, I check these and I’m normally looking for a Battlestar Galactica (reimagined) SIM… and never find one. My hope is that someone will take BSG and say “the show premise was wonderful, but let’s SIM in the era before the complete loss of Caprica or maybe the events of the show never happened” or something like that. Nope and nope.

Two days ago, though, I decided to try to find SIMs that were far more generic. I decided to search for something that would be almost identical to what I was looking for but wasn’t necessarily tied to a “fleet.” I popped into Google and looked for “online rpg writing free.”

I discovered a whole slew of stuff I didn’t know existed.

The first thing that really caught my eye was what I thought I was looking for: Storium. Storium is basically a writing exercise for telling a story (and using “cards” to add twists, quirks to the characters, etc) in chapters. After perusing the site for a while, I have decided that the idea, while sound, was not doing what I needed it to do (for me).

I kept looking.

After searching through the results, I came across Die Heart, a blog dedicated to solo roleplaying. The “big list of solo RPG resources” is really what led me to the G+ group and looking into solo roleplaying as my hope for telling stories.

Jackpot.

One of the people who was writing his blog as a means of “instruction” (to improve his own solo RPG experiences) mentioned that he was utilizing the “bullet journal style” in recording his gaming… and that drew my attention, again.

The concentration on using notation of things in the solo RPG, for those folks, is to make notes rather than write down everything (to avoid them slipping into just “writing a story”). I’m interested in turning my solo RPG experience into content for this site, so I’d be looking for taking down information for the entirety of the solo RPG rather than just note taking… which will be the true test of whether I can RPG rather than just “write prose.”

Once again, we return to the fact that I’m getting back into my bullet journal.

Without writing, word for word, exactly what is happening, I’m going to track my solo RPG experience into what these sites are calling “reports” so that I can create longer form content. Learning recently on the latest Greatest Show (the Greatest Boot) that the Expanse was actually just an RPG setting turned into books, I want to make my aforementioned space adventure into an RPG that is basically a story (where I don’t 100% control the outcome).

I also had an epiphany that my “hopeful comic book” creations could also be made from solo RPG sessions. Holy crap, right?

In order to avoid “talking about doing things rather than just doing them” I’m going to stop writing this column for this week. I’m going to do some bullet journal set up and prepare myself for a rocking space adventure that I’ll publish onto this site in installments. I’m picking a game system to use first, then I’ll figure out which GM-less engine I’ll use to run the game for me… and hopefully awesome will then ensue!

Thanks for reading!

The Greatest Show 140: The Greatest Boot

The trio of DJ, Tricia, and special guest Dan from Fear the Boot, the crew talks about RPGs (and a little bit more)… to include volunteering, being an objective reviewer, and the tale of the Drug Tree! There’s so much more!

Hosts: DJ Allen, Tricia Allen, and Dan from Fear the Boot!

Contact:
Website: www.EmeraldSpecter.com
Email: emeraldspecter.com@gmail.com
Twitter: @MadeByTricia @EmeraldSpecter
Instagram: @MadeByTricia @EmeraldSpecter

www.FearTheBoot.com, AP.FearTheBoot.com, www.MorningSkye.com, and www.BloodMoonGoblins.com

Here’s the SHOW!

The Specter Show 037: Eraser

An unexpected server issue held this release up, it is corrected now.

Speaking of server issues, DJ discusses the server getting fried on October 1, talking about doing things that should be done rather than talked about, bullet journaling without the RPG, BuJoRPG 2, and a few other things. He even gets off on a tangent and literally gets lost.

Host: DJ Allen
Intro Music: The Idea of You by Nine Inch Nails (from Not the Actual Events)
Outtro Music: The Perfect Drug by Nine Inch Nails
Intro Lead in: Theo Rossi

Contact:
Email: EmeraldSpecter.com@Gmail.com
Twitter: @EmeraldSpecter
Instagram: @EmeraldSpecter

Support Emerald Specter at Patreon!

Thanks for checking this out, you can find more at EmeraldSpecter.com!

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Journal of the Emerald Specter 58: Changing the RPG Mentality

I’m going to angle towards writing another single topic column here, I’ve got my topic and I’d like to see where this thing goes. There is possibly a little more at the end but let’s get to the meat of this thing!

Specifically speaking, this one is about roleplaying and roleplaying games. I touched on this in the Specter Show but this is the place I’m going to flesh things out, thinking about exactly what I need to do in order to accomplish what I’m about to explain.

Kevin Couick and I have discussed running roleplaying games before the Greatest Show every week so that we can actually play the games we’re talking about wanting to play but never actually do play. Basically, we’re trying to figure out how to put up or shut up, and I’d rather do the putting up because I think this thing needs to happen.

In a typical gaming session, there is a ton of cross talk, joking around, odd pacing, sometimes there are props, and always a struggle for the game master (GM) to keep the players rolling towards the ultimate goal. Quite often there are also problems like players missing for a session, forcing side quests or just generally playing a different game. With these as the primary hinderances to the cast of the Greatest Show playing an RPG online, it is hard to think we’d be able to come up with a means of getting some gaming in (rather than just talking about all the games we want to play).

Kevin has been reading up on Star Wars: Force and Destiny, using a timeline to choose the era he’d like to run the game in as well as deciding what canon to use as the background. He’d like to see something around the Old Republic era (Sith War type era) and I’m into that as a player. I want to be a Force user in a war time situation where I can explore the gray area of the Force.

I’m exploring running a couple of different things, one being a return to the system that I know the best, being either a Vampire the Masquerade (5th Edition) or Vampire the Requiem (Blood and Smoke)… or starting out in a new system with an excitement that I’ve not felt about a system in a long time, using the Fantasy AGE system (either specifically TitansGrave: Ashes of Valkana or a setting of my own design). In either case (speaking of the broad systems rather than the specific products), I’m going to run something.

This means we need Metal Jesus to run something to be a three person rotation, allowing us options to play. If I had to guess what he’d run, I’m guessing Burning Wheel, which is something I’d be interested in trying. I’m sure he’d be interested in running something, and the rest of us would love to play in that something.

Here is the issue, though: not all of us are present every week for the Greatest Show.

Kevin and I discussed the solution to this on one of our post-show conversations, that’s running episodic stories that may or may not have a longer term arc involved. This would allow us to explain away why one of us is missing without completely ruining what we play. That would mean that the Green Team story I was running would need to be “rejiggered” a bit in order to fit this new format, and that leads to what I wanted to talk about.

My personal storytelling style (in the RPG sense) is epic in scope. I don’t think I’ve ever had a “one shot” or short term story in mind… ever. Thinking episodic, I’d have to make the story into smaller “missions,” allowing for the absence of one of the players and allowing for a larger arc to be referenced for cohesion. This would allow for “seasons,” too, and we could have guest players pop in to play in “character focus” stories, kind of like a real TV show having a character focused episode now and then.

All this use of “episode” allows for another term to get entered into the record: season.

If I run TitansGrave: Ashes of Valkana with the idea that I’m going to have a 13 episode “season one,” that means I can do that and then take a break to become a player for Kevin’s 13 episode “season one” of Star Wars: Force and Destiny. Both of us could then become players for Metal’s 13 episode “season one” of FATE of Us (a use of the FATE system with a random title, no relation to what he’d run).

When we all complete our “season one,” then what? Well, assuming we are the only ones playing/running seasons, then we return to TitansGrave season two, then Star Wars season two, and FATE season two.

Basically, I’m suggesting we become the HBO of RPGs.

Would Bob fit into this rotation? I’d like to think so. I’d see his games being more “one shot” stuff, maybe being more attuned to “feature length” style games, like a two hour one off… or maybe he’d bring in a system and do the 13 episode season and enter the rotation.

This doesn’t mean we wouldn’t try out other systems being thrown into the mix, either. Maybe after Kevin’s season one I run a 13 episode season of Vampire the Requiem before we get to Metal’s FATE of Us. Maybe Metal adds Numenera into the mix after my TitansGrave season. Hell, maybe we even get another new cohost who jumps into the mix with their own game season and we have a bigger option available to play.

The point of this is that we actually get to play the games. But how would the episodes differ and be as streamlined sounding as I make them?

For the explanation, I’ll be the GM of TitansGrave and I’ll have Kevin, Metal, Tricia, and Bob all as players. Each “episode” would have to be far more focused, as GM I would have to design things to not spend 20 minutes hoping the characters uncover that clue that will lead them to the next stage of the story. The clue would just have to be there, obvious, and lead the characters to the end of the episode so that everything is wrapped up at the end of our session. Cross talk and joking around would have to be minimal, as well as everyone being dedicated to being involved in moving the story forward and utilizing randomization minimally. This might all mean we roll dice less, or that we forego the investigation rolls to get the plot moving forward. We would all have to be very focused on moving forward and telling a story, collaboratively, and getting to the point of each episode… because our time is limited.

This type of gaming lends itself to being recorded, minimally edited, and released as either an “actual play” or the events in story format that are based on the “actual play” (that means I’m eliminating the mechanics and only including the actual story elements for the presentation).

Could we all be that focused? Sure. Would it happen right out of the gate? I wouldn’t expect that to be the case but with each of us being supportive, I think we could definitely get really good at playing episodic adventures.

As the GM, how to I cut up my “formerly epic saga” thinking into smaller chunks? For me, personally, that means taking my “designed as an RPG adventure” story and turning it into a TV drama-like format. Kevin is the mage, Metal is the barbarian, Tricia is the cyborg, and Bob is the half breed tank and each of them has a backstory that I can use to jump to when one of them is missing. Maybe Bob’s erratic appearances mean his tank only shows up in these flashback sessions or maybe he just plays the part of the antagonist in these sessions. If Metal is out at a concert or wedding and can’t make the session, maybe that is the session we see his character’s inability to score a ride to the castle comes out and the others complete the quest without him… or maybe we delve into Kevin’s backstory and tell that one instance where he didn’t save his buddy during a battle.

Basically, what I’m saying is that I can think sage length adventure but I need to have consumable chunks that can be wrapped up relatively quickly while still tying into the overall epic in the background. I’ll have to be more prepared for whatever gets thrown my way as well as being able to improvise the story I’m telling based on who shows up for the session.

That is something I’ve never done before.

Another single topic column in the books. I’m hoping this is a possibility for the future and I’d like to think we could include the full Greatest Show roster to be a part of the adventures… and if we trim down our show time for the Greatest Show to an hour rather than two, we have more time to actually plays these games…

Can I entice Bob to show up for regular gaming sessions? That is the question that plagues me at the moment. We shall see.

Game Specter 11 – Odds and Ends

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There is something going on in the world around you, at all times, and you must really pay attention to catch the nuances that involve these things. Do you do that? I doubt that you do, on most things, but you may catch something now and then. Granted, you are not an investigator, on a job, researching something that may or may not affect you for the near future… but you should still be paying attention. Why? Well, we expect our RPG characters to pay attention, why wouldn’t you want to practice that a little in real life?

This column is going to be all over the place, I’ll be honest. I’m squeezing in writing here and there and I don’t really have a lot to talk about at the moment because I’m between games. I am interested in testing out Fate but I will be running WoD in the near future. I have a potential online group to run with and I’m investigating groups in my NEW local area. Yes, that’s right, I’ve moved. No more terrible winters for me!

I wanted to start out with the “taking notice of things around you” because we often think our characters are always catching the little details that we’d like to think that we are. Think, though. You went grocery shopping this morning and I guarantee you saw at least three people. What were they wearing? How many earrings did the old lady have in her ears? If this were an RPG, you’d be able to roll and figure that out but when you rely on just your memory, I bet you don’t realize how much you’re missing.

As a game master, I shouldn’t be making things too nuanced, either, but I also expect a lot of buy in from my players. That’s why I require backgrounds… and from here on out, failure to provide a background before play will result in said background being created for you… meaning I’m going to create something that you may not like but will serve the story DIRECTLY. Yeah, that’s the whole point of a background.

Gaming is about getting out of our normal lives and doing something more interesting… what about doing that more interesting thing just outside our normal lives? For example, Fantasy Flight Games has released a series of apocalyptic adventures designed for you… no, YOU. Not “your character,” you. These would be interesting to play, especially if you were getting someone new involved in the hobby. I think they’d be interesting to get to know your fellow players a little (in a realistic situation where they’re playing themselves) and might also help coalesce a group that has never played together before into a nice little unit.

Now you’re interested in checking those out, aren’t you?

I showed up to write this knowing I didn’t really have a topic. I think you should pay more attention to your surroundings, where you’re going, what you’re doing, and what kinds of things are around you. I also think you should check out those adventures, if for no other reason than to try something a little different.

I’m going to.

Game on.

Game Specter 10 – Stealing Ideas

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If you were a multi-million dollar making film creator, you’d probably not need to worry about running a vampire political intrigue game for your friends. Since you aren’t, or at least if you’re reading this I suspect you aren’t, maybe you want to steal someone else’s idea and put the trappings of whatever game you’re playing over top of it.

Yeah, I’m telling you to steal your ideas.

I want to run a vampire game for my buddy Bob and his two or three friends. We’ve decided on some political intrigue and I really can’t think of anything to use for a game as the backdrop, so I decide we aren’t going to play and we never talk again. Wait, what? No, that doesn’t happen. I go out looking at movies, books, and other games I’ve played and I steal something to put the trappings of vampire on top of that.

Silly you, thinking I’d just pack up and go away.

I go out and I grab the Godfather and say to myself “let’s turn this into a vampire game.” Vito Corleone turns into the Prince of the City, who is fighting for ultimate control against the other four major factions fighting for power. The Prince is Invictus, he’s battling the Carthians, the Dracul, the Crones, and the Sanctum for ultimate control of the city. The Prince has decided that he’s been doing this too long and goes to choose his successor, who will ultimately be the one running the city in the end (Michael Corleone… or maybe the players are each some piece of that successor). If we are going along the Godfather line and one of the players is the chosen, maybe that player is manipulating the other players as well as slowly taking down each of the other groups to leave the Invictus as the only real power left in the city.

Doesn’t that sound like an interesting game?

What about something less “legendary movie” as a source?

The humdrum life of several vampires in the city goes on without much ado. As if by chance, a long time “legend” of the city returns hunting for the lupines that he’s famous for hunting. He brings with him his team, which are slowly taken out by these crafty lupines and your player characters, including his best friend, which spins him into almost a catatonic state. The player characters help trap the lupines as they make their last desperate attempt to “root out the evil of the vampires” from “their” city. The catatonic vampire joins up with the players just in time to get rid of the lupine scourge.

Sound interesting? Yeah, that’s the storyline to Critters 2: The Main Course. I just took a terrible movie and made it into a decent sounding vampire game. There’s stuff everywhere out there, why not look a little?

All in all, you don’t need to come up with something from scratch. Steal the ideas. Critters 2 isn’t a great movie but there are story elements that would make a good vampire game. Hell, you could make a good non-vampire game out of it. Just look around.

Game on.

Game Specter 9 – What Do You Want Out of a Game?

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When you sit at the table and grab your dice and look at a character sheet, what is it (exactly) that you’re looking to get out of a game? I’m here to mention some of the things I see, or think I see, when I sit down at a table and hopefully I can attract the types of players (or GMs) that I’d like to play with in the future by doing so.

First, let me talk about the types of people I see with the types of games that I associate them with. Stereotypes are such for a reason, kids, so don’t hammer me for being stereotypical.

D&D players tend to want to roll as many dice as possible, have very little interaction with each other on a roleplaying basis, and essentially just have a “video game experience” by battling for loot. Warhammer players tend to want to do as much math as possible while pretending to call what they do something other than wargaming… they don’t have any interactions with a roleplaying nature and if they aren’t moving actual pieces around on an actual board (or landscape simulation), then they aren’t really playing. World of Darkness players, the ones I’ve encountered, tend to be D&D players who think that all WoD is can be boiled down to “fill in the blank” superheroes (i.e. Vampire superheroes, Werewolf superheroes, etc). Fate players I don’t have an opinion on because my only experience with Fate is listening to the Knights of the Night.

What are YOU looking out of roleplaying?

Are you interested in a competition between yourself and the GM to see who can “one up” the other in the best way? Are you interested in tons of loot, some number crunching, and a butt ton of dice rolling? Are you interested a skeletal story structure that has little or nothing to do with your background and character? Well, if you answered “yes” to any of these things, then you’re the type of player I seem to run across the most and are NOT the type of player that I’m interested in playing with.

When I craft a game, I include your character’s backgrounds. Why? Because if you’re going to put effort into the backgrounds (and if you’re playing in one of my games, you MUST put effort into it) then I’m going to tie you into the story. How better a game could I present than one that directly involves your character on a deep level? Well… you’d be the first to enjoy that.

I understand that there is a market for Warhammer games. I understand there is a market for D&D games. I don’t really feel like I’m being considered when I want to sit down at a RPG table to play because I can’t seem to find the players I’m interested in playing with.

So, the question comes back to you. What are you looking for when you sit down to play a roleplaying game? Are you looking to war-game? Are you looking to compete with the GM? Or are you looking to actually ROLE play?

Game on.

Game Specter 8 – Railroading, Sandboxing, and Subplotting

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I didn’t know what to title this column, so all of those things might not be contained in this tome of knowledge, but I wanted to give an idea of what was contained within… so let’s just all not really pay attention to that and move on with the column, shall we?

As a game master, or GM, I create a wonderful story that I want my players to interact with to reach the final destination. Using the old saying, though, that story “doesn’t survive first contact with the players.” Normally, that’s true. What I’ve discovered through two decades of playing is that if the players aren’t involved in creating the scenario then you really don’t know what they’re after when they want to play. That’s where a system like Fate is good to use.

Stealing a page out of Fate, I am going to run through a way to get the story I want to tell out with including what the players want from the game. I’m going to use the scenario of World of Darkness.

I, the GM, have come up with the idea of a power grab for the city of Mount Frost, controlled by the Invictus Prince and barely holding on to power. There are three players that will be playing and the first one wants to see combat… well, that turns me off but he lets me know that he just wants to make sure that is SOME combat, not loaded with combat. Okay, I can handle that… the political power grab will be a bloody coup attempt now, rather than just political machinations going on behind the scenes. The second player states they would like to be able to rise through the ranks a little… okay, well, then that means that the players are actually probably the driving force behind the coup OR they’re the ones tasked with taking out the old Prince. I can handle that AND it still gives the combat and political intrigue the first two of us want. The third player states that he wants to be seeing a spy thriller theme, something that will really get everyone’s blood pumping. That one is a little tougher, but I go with the theory that there is a third faction involved in what I had originally envisioned as a faction vs. faction.

So, from the scenario above, the Invictus Prince of Mount Frost is tenuously holding on to power as the Carthian Movement have hired the players to start taking down the Prince’s infrastructure for an easier coup. Cornered with the idea that their personal secrets will be brought out into the open, the Ordo Dracul have entered the picture and have manipulated the players into taking down the Prince AND the Carthian Movement… so the players are either double agents or playing all three sides. Could that work?

One of the things I’ve had a problem with in the past is creating a sandbox world for the players to play in. I don’t want to railroad them on an adventure but when my players want to sandbox, they almost completely forget about what the plot was in the first place doing their own thing. I’d like to tell a story. This almost always leads to me trying to subplot their sandbox adventures while hooking them constantly back into the main plot. The above scenario, the fictional meeting of the minds to plot out the game, would keep everyone interested from the get go… so I’ll actually be trying that when I give Bob and company their Vampire adventure…

Aren’t I a nice guy?

Game on.

Game Specter 7 – Reusing Old Ideas

GameSpecter300How many ideas have you run through other game groups, ages ago, and were just allowing those ideas to collect dust while you toiled over coming up with something new? Tens? Hundreds? Millions? If you said millions, you have too much time on your hands, but I am about to talk about reusing old ideas!

I have run an enormous number of games in my day. I say that as if I’m ancient. However, since my only game playing has been with World of Darkness (both old and new) since 1994, I have run an enormous number of games IN the WoD. That means I’ve got lots of games that I’ve run for lots of players in lots of groups lots of times. While some of those have been “actual play” broadcasts, I believe there are enough threads I can take out of them to reuse them even IF someone were to have listen to them in the past. Yeah, I can even reuse those.

Forget about those, though. What about the games I’ve run that haven’t been broadcast? How about the games I’ve created for John Doe, Joe Q. Public, Jane Doe, and Mr. X? Their game had nothing to do with the game I created for Luke Warm, Art Work, Justin Credible, and Anne Body, so those are two ideas that have been played (knowing mistakes I’ve made and now knowing how to correct them) that could even be combined into one! Yeah, I’ve got lots of “vampire” chronicle ideas running around in my head but I’d like to actually get some of the old ideas done correctly for once and I might even have a new group to try them on.

Do you watch the Greatest Show? It’s mine and Bob’s YouTube podcast that happens (mostly) weekly. Bob lives in Indiana and can gather together a group of players who are genuinely interested in running through the new (or old) WoD… meaning I can dig up my old ideas and use them on Bob and company! They can live through the game I wanted to tell but they can live through one that has more hooks, more fun, and more in-depth because I have time to BUILD on the idea rather than just reuse the idea.

Wait… you’re going to dig up your old trash for your best friend?

Yes. And he will love it because it’s new to him. And he will love it more because I will be able to fix what broke the first time I used it. Hell, I am introducing a group to WoD, why wouldn’t I go with something that doesn’t need to be built from the very scratch of nothingness? Yeah, that’s right.

So, don’t be scared. Dig up an old idea and retool it. Don’t use the idea with the people that already heard or played it, use it with new people. I haven’t had a steady group since 1997, so I’m pretty solid in reusing things.

Why not? Yeah, I thought so.

Game on.

Game Specter 6 – Creating a Game

GameSpecter300

As I write this, I have had a discussion with my buddy Bob and will begin designing a game for a group of us to play together… online. So, the question then becomes (especially considering the last column’s content): what am I going to run?

While the subject of this column is sort of up in the air, there is a list of game ideas that I really want to run for the group. I’ll be more than happy to be the first GM, and that game will come AFTER the Christmas holiday is over for the USPS, so I want to lay out some ideas that I think that the group might like… and I haven’t even met the group yet!

One of the ideas that I want to run is a classic World of Darkness game… specifically the Vampire the Masquerade line. Bob and I used to run in a group that ran oWoD and that makes this the perfect “get back into the swing of things” game. The VtM setting would be modified from the “metaplot” that was running in the background, mainly because the metaplot had the ending of the world happen back in 2003. Yeah, that kind of puts a damper on a game set in 2014 or 2015. Definitely. I am thinking that the setting would contain bits and pieces of the metaplot, being geared towards more of a one shot adventure in a city no one is super familiar with, and leave open the possibility of extending the adventures of this group beyond this one shot but not mandating that.

There is also (sticking with WoD) the possibility of using the new Blood & Smoke rules for Vampire the Requiem and running a game set in the nWoD. While these two games could definitely be linked, or similar, I have two separate ideas for each one. The VtR game is less geared towards clan politics and more towards a “nothing exists outside this city” type setting. There would be a mystery with both but those mysteries would be completely different. If anyone of my potential players are reading this, maybe they want me to run BOTH games… which I would be happy to do, just not close together.

Moving towards Fate, I was thinking of running the “Green Team” game that I wanted to run for a group of players a few months back. Towards the end of the Echoes Darkly podcast run, I had gathered together a group of players to play through a WoD-style military/mystery scenario I was calling Green Team. Now that I’ve read up on Fate, I think that the Fate system fits better with what I wanted to do, and I think that Bob (being ex-military along with myself) would be a good “team leader” in the scenario I have written down. I still have all the notes, folks, and yes, I’d even give the original players a spot if they wanted one.

I have also decided to consider the opportunity to run a game that may not involve dice at all. There is a story that I’ve been dying to tell that really doesn’t need a game system to run. In fact, as long as all the players are on board with exploring the characters they create, we wouldn’t need dice at all… we could just tell the story that needs to be told.

With any luck, there is enough I have listed above to get anyone interested. Why not let the players decide, right? Now I just need to get them together to decide. Bob?

Game on.