Tag Archives: Roleplaying

The Specter Show 032: Ruiner

BuJoRPG2 is the focus, once again, and this time DJ (the Emerald Specter) doesn’t beat around the bush. The idea is to make sure that the “beta” is being done out in the open so immediate feedback is available, which you can download the initial beta release here. References to Kingdom of Loathing, Star Wars Galaxy of Heroes, Wuxia Legends (Wulin Legends), chess, tai chi, Habitica, and more are made as we traverse the means of improving yourself using a bullet journal.

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: Dirk Manning

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!

Hashtags: #TheGreatestShow #Podcasting #TheSpecterShow #chess #kol #KingdomofLoathing #Habitica #HabitRPG #StarWars #StarWarsGalaxyofHeroes #SWGoH #WuxiaLegends #WulinLegends #RPG #roleplaying #TaiChi #ClassCraft #bulletjournal #BuJoRPG #BuJoRPG2 #bujoideas #bujoinspiration #bujo

The Greatest Show 104: Aliens, Man

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DJ is joined by Bob and Metal Jesus as they discuss a great many things… but keep coming back to aliens, man. We want a sponsor and we want you to watch Kevin literally start falling asleep on the air.

The YouTube Page. The Chat.

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

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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.

Game Specter 5 – All About the Story

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I am pretty sure that I’m read for running some Fate. I am also highly interested in running some classic World of Darkness (vampire), too, because of some recent podcasts I’ve listened to… and that makes me confused and depressed because I don’t have anyone to run these things for and I can’t play in my own stories. That’s like gaming masturbation. I don’t want that and you shouldn’t either.

Something I have been thinking a lot about isn’t the system I’m using nor is it the people whom I’m running with… I’ve been thinking about telling a damn story.

If you think about what gaming has been like, things may be different than how I think about gaming. Right now, if you asked me what gaming has been like for the past 20 years of my life, I’d say “competition.” RPGs these days aren’t supposed to be competitive, they’re COLLABORATIVE. Why can’t I find players that share this philosophy?

My primary goal is to tell a story. Like the Knights of the Night, I’d like to get a story across that people can interact with. Those players want to make their own decisions, move towards an end goal, and explore WITHOUT competing with the GM. The GM, too, isn’t looking to screw the players at every turn… they collaboratively tell a story and that is what I’d like to do.

I’ve been told that if I want to tell a specific story, I should just write a book. RPGs aren’t stories, they don’t “survive first contact with the players.” That’s a bunch of bull and I’m tired of that being “the norm.” I have the framework of a great story in mind and I need people to interact with that to flesh that out. Could I write it into a novel? Sure, but that wouldn’t be nearly as interesting as watching how my preconceived notions are torn down as the players do things in this story I can’t possibly prepare for. That’s part of the run of gaming.

When I move away from North Dakota, I plan on finding myself a playing group that is interested in what I’m interested in. There should be a bigger pool of players available and I am even open to including Google+ Hangout games, widening the field even more. I’m even hoping I can be a player now and then… even though I really have a lot of stories to get out of me.

Right now, though, I want to tell an original story in an original universe with players who don’t see me as the competition. I want to make sure that there is something interesting going on at all times and I want to see what the players do with the direction and story that I wouldn’t have considered being a possibility. Why can’t I have that where I am?

Thanks for stopping by and I’ll try to be getting this going more regularly than I have been… with this being Christmas, though, I have a lot of work to do. Some of you will know why.

Roll on.

Game Specter 4 – All These Stories

I am going to be running a Fate game as soon as I have the time. If you’ve read any of my other columns, like Fitness Specter (particularly the 13th one), you’ll know that I am in the process of moving from one place to another. No, I do not know when that is going to happen. No, I am not able to get a time for that as of writing this. Yes, the move WILL happen. That just means I need to hang on a while before I can gather together my players.

GameSpecter300I’ve read through the Fate guide online. I have listened to the Knights of the Night actual play podcast, especially the episodes where they’re playing Fate. I want to really dig in and start playing this system because the only system I’ve played for the past decade is World of Darkness. Well, there’s one other thing I realized while wanting all of this: I have a lot of stories bumping around in my noggin.

I want to be a writer. An author, actually, and there is a difference. This means that I’ve got a bunch of stories rolling around in my head, anyway, but I have come to realize that some of those stories will never be novels or movies or plays because those are gaming stories. I don’t mean “Joe and I were sitting around when he rolled a 5.” I mean the stuff “Joe and I” would be playing. The battle against Cthulhu or the epic leap over the moving car… not the mechanics or the meta-gaming. THE game.

There are, of course, vampire ideas that involve things like running around and politically trying to win a city. Werewolves fighting to save this or that… even Geists doing things. But I also have super hero ideas (more like Heroes and less like DC). What about an investigative idea that leads into a series of murder mysteries that can be solved by the group (a la Numbers or Scorpion or etc)? How about episodic adventures on a spaceship or something in a computer system? I’ve got these things in my head, I’d like to novelize them, but I know now that these are gaming stories.

I used to have an actual play podcast. Dark Green: The Blackwood Chronicles, for anyone wondering, and no you can’t find it in iTunes anymore because I moved everything and closed the feeds down. When I get back to gaming, though, I’d like to have another one and I’d love for that to be what my friend Bob and I have come up with: a rotating group of GMs running different genres in a rotation of sorts. Everyone included, telling stories, and telling them so that you can all hear them. Doesn’t that sound lovely?

Well, what I’ve described is what the Knights of the Night are already doing. I’d like to go into different areas than they have (genre/game-wise) but I’d also like to tell the quality stories they are. We all aspire to something.

Game it.