Monday, April 25, 2011
Saturday, April 23, 2011
A Look At The Wondrous Joy That Is Writer's Block
All of us have run into it at some point, be it in gaming or that mythical thing known as "real life". You're sitting down to get your next adventure or scenario ready. You've got your drink, a snack, your notebook or computer. Everything you need to just sit down and crank out the next great piece of the story. The last session was a blast with a lot of really close moments in there so its time to add the next chapter to this epic thing that you are a part of! All you have to do is sit down and start writing it up.
It sounds so easy doesn't it? To just tap into that vast sea of creative knowledge and let the inspiration spring forth. The only problem is that sometimes the spring runs dry and you are left with nothing but dust. So now the question is, what do you do?
These words are just as true for you as they are for the average intergalactic hitchhiker. There are lots of sources of inspiration right at your finger tips. All you have to do is look for them.
Looking Backward To Walk Forward
One of the first things to consider is what you've done so far in your game. Was there some point where the party went right instead of left? Some contact that they either dismissed or maybe didn't even encounter? Tapping into one of these ideas does require more work than some of the other options but they have the advantage of already being part of your overall campaign which should make them easier to weave into the story.
Another thing to keep in mind is to keep the adventure hook challenging. Maybe you had this idea jotted down early in the campaign but now your players are more experienced. If this is the case make sure you buff up any encounters they might have so that it isn't a cakewalk for them. An easy encounter every now and then isn't a bad thing but there is such a thing as too easy.
Ripping From The Media
Another great source of inspiration is the one that bombards us on a daily basis. Be it books, movies, TV shows or even current events, there are millions of ideas out there just waiting for you to tap into. The only trick with this one is making sure its not too obvious to your players.
For example, let's say you are playing a World of Darkness game and the latest episode of Supernatural really caught your eye. Wouldn't it be awesome to see what your players would do if they were in that situation? Sure it would... as long as they didn't just watch the same episode you did.
If you are going to rip an idea from the media, it is always a good idea to find some way to tweak it, preferably early on in the session. This will keep the players that might be familiar with your inspiration from zoning out and just following the script of the episode to solve the challenge. By revealing your twist early in the session it lets them know right away that you've not just spitting out exactly the same material which should also keep them from mentally checking out of the session.
Prepackaged Goodness For Your Enjoyment
Yet another option is grab one of the many prepackaged adventures of your shelf and crack it open. Sure, it might not be the Shakespearean level of adventure that your accustomed to running but if you're tapped out at the moment it doesn't mean its a bad idea.
With everything laid out in front of you it gives your creative juices a chance to recharge some and it might even inspire you in new directions. Maybe there's a character in the adventure that really strikes your fancy and you decide to bring him back in again in the future. Could be your characters really like some part of the setting and decide to spend some more time there exploring their options.
Just how easy these are to find really depends on what system you are running but if you search around a bit you might be surprised at what you find.
Hey! I'm Talkin' Ta All Y'all Out There!
By now any miniature gamers who are reading this might be thinking "Man, more RPG stuff?" but these ideas can apply to mini games just as much as role playing games. Most people that I talk to prefer the idea of a story based campaign over just throwing their minis on the board to see who can kill who first. Porting these ideas over to a mini game might require a little more effort but it doesn't mean that it can't be done. One of the big changes would be in the form of prepackaged adventures as most mini games don't have access to these kinds of resources available... or do they?
Instead of looking for an book, look at the minis you own instead. Maybe there's one figure that you've been dying to get onto the table or some piece of terrain that you built but have never had a chance to use. Stop and think about what you already have and you might be surprised at what you can come up with.
The Parting Shot...
Well, that wraps up my post for this week but be sure to come back and see what SpacerGal and I are up to. If you have any comments or questions, feel free to leave them here on the blog or send them to SinCitySnowman@gmail.com. Feedback is always welcome! Until next time...
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
In order to give players control while still holding the carrot-on-a-stick, I place what I call Adventure Hooks into the world, just waiting for an interested nibble to trigger some kind of event or NPC interaction that will lead into a full-blown story. Often these involve some kind of crowd gathered around something, or a flyer being handed out advertising something of exceptional interest. If it's an adventure hook within an adventure, there are usually a few ways to find it, whether that be finding an item that someone will take interest in or simply poking and prodding an NPC until he or she gives in and decides to take you on the next big journey. But what if a journey takes longer than anticipated? What happens to those other hooks? Well, some of them may still be around, but because Leviathos is a living, persistent world, some hooks can literally be completely missed, never to be seen again. Unless the game resets of course...
Space-Age Roleplay will be an ongoing topic of mine, covering the right and wrong ways to approach MMORPG as sources for RPG outlets, some of the general do's and don'ts of roleplaying in these settings, and some of the best ways to get roleplaying going with a community or even random people out there on the interwebs. I do hope our readers will enjoy a new perspective on the subject, as well as gleaning advice and tips to enjoy their own MMO roleplaying. Of course, more kid games are on the way, one in particular I know most of you have had some interaction with in some form or another, but it requires pictures and my camera is on the fritz. So until next time, this is SpacerGal, signing off. Ya'll come back now, y'hear?
Monday, April 18, 2011
Saturday, April 16, 2011
From Actual Plays To Actually Playing
For the longest time I was getting my RPG fix by listening to various actual plays. Some of them were really good, others... well lets just say not so much and leave it at that. Still it was fun to listen to the shenanigans even if I wasn't actually able to take part in it.
Then I was able to hook up with a gaming group and do the real thing and let me tell you.. serious difference! Don't get me wrong. APs definitely help to scratch the itch but if you're not currently gaming I'd definitely recommend getting out there and doing the real thing.
That's not to say that APs aren't useful to listen to. If there's a game that I want to find out more about, the first thing I do is look for any actual plays that might be out there. It's a great way to hear how the game plays out. In fact there are several podcasts that do APs just for this reason, The Walking Eye and Actual People, Actual Play being two that I've listened to in the past.
Another reason to listen to APs is to see what does and doesn't work, which can be invaluable to new GMs. Maybe there is some aspect of the mechanics that can cause you trouble. Hearing how someone else handled the situation will prepare you to avoid those issues in your own game and keep things running smoothly.
All in all, actual plays are a great way to wrap your head around a system and game vicariously through others but if you have a chance to get into the real thing I say dive in head first and give it a try!
The Paralyzing Perplexity of Polyhedron Performance
In sharp contract to the relative dice-less nature of our previous Pathfinder session, this week the whole thing seemed to revolve around that most commonly used of the more exotic dice, the dreaded d20. Why the sudden change in our game play? How did it go from being a non-existent aspect of the game to a critical cornerstone on which our lives hung in the balance? Easy, this time there were ancient hieroglyphs and traps!
Unlike the social skills, mechanical skills usually still require you take out that die to see how you do and there is nothing wrong with that. Unlike social interactions, it is much harder to recreate these other aspects of the game in real life. That's not to say it's impossible because SpacerGal even has a little bit of experience with that but it does require a lot more work on the part of the GM.
The interesting thing is that while taking the dice out of the social mechanic makes the game better, keeping it in for the challenges that we faced this week made the game that much more intense. Even with some pretty hefty bonuses on the skills that we were using the die rolls simply were not there for the first half of the session which added a definite level of tension. For example, there we were facing a number of obvious traps but with no apparent way to disable them all we could do was try to avoid them which sounds easy enough. At least until you are staring at five giant pendulum blades that are swinging across the hallway with two sword wielding statues on the far side of that and a locked gate behind you leaving you all alone with one way to go... yeah, it can get pretty intense.
So what's the moral of the story? Just because taking the dice out of some things makes the experience better doesn't mean that you should get rid of them completely.
The Parting Shot...
And another one in the books from the Snowman! I know it went strictly role play this week but right now hanging out with SpacerGal has got that front and center in my mind. There is more stuff waiting in the wings from both of us but we'll look at those in the future. If you have any comments or feedback, as always feel free to post them here on the blog or you can shoot us an email at SinCitySnowman@gmail.com. And if you're enjoying what you're reading tell a friend! The more the merrier is always the case here on the interwebs. Until next time...
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Part of removing these dice actually lies heavily in how detailed an environment is, and it does take going an extra couple of miles on the GM's part. Not going to lie to you, I spend hours upon hours developing even the most minor of NPC, delving deep into imagination to forge histories, personalities, quirks, and flourishes for the people my players will be meeting. Creative writing has helped make Leviathos feel more like a living, breathing world, and I have several very lengthy stories about the adventures of my main NPC that I'll probably end up sharing here.
As far as game elements are concerned, I find my players open up much more when they have to actually talk down a furious guard captain or frighten a native into telling them about an ancient secret. This opening up leads to better player chemistry, deeper, more interesting characters that players want to come back to time and again, and a fuller world for the GM to dig into.
I ultimately decided to start trying this method out a while ago. I had kind of a falling out with D&D after a very poorly run game, and most of the problems came from the heavy-handed book ruling. After wrestling with myself about what could be done to get away from the rules without completely stripping them away, I decided to do two things. The first was to remove those interaction dice, and the second was to remove alignment (but that's a story for a different time!). I sat down and started collecting all the characters I had ever played, reworked them into a new world of my design, and ran with it. After further developing this place, I thought about all the best roleplaying experiences I had ever played out, and realized they all happened when the players were entirely in control of their path. And that, my friends, is also a story for a later day. More on my style coming soon!
The goal of the game is to make sure your top is the last one standing in the "Bey Stadium," a big plastic bath tub with a bowled bottom and two side pockets in which your tops can get stuck. You and your opponent count down in sync and on the last count, you both launch your tops into the stadium from a launcher powered by a toothed rip-cord. They clash against each other, breaking down each others speed until one falls over. Simple enough, right? Now let's look a little further.
There are three types of tops, and your choice can literally make or break the game before you even launch.
Attack types are super-aggressive, ripping around the beveled stadium at ridiculous speeds, often fast enough to fly out and hit bystanders if they aren't careful. They hit hard enough to knock most tops over or into the pockets, making them lose. But of course, this speed and striking force come at a cost. They have little to no staying power, so if they don't win quick, you're going to be outspun.
Defense types are heavy, wide-bottomed tops designed to withstand the brutality of attackers. It's rare that an attacker will be able to even make a defense top budge further than a few inches before running out of steam, and while these have more staying power than attack types, they still suffer from higher friction due to their bottoms and weight.
Stamina types weigh in at almost nothing, stand very tall compared to other tops, and can spin for upwards of 3-4 minutes when not being hit. The obvious weakness here is the lack of weight and high profile. Attackers will eat them alive, whereas defense tops will be struggling to keep up with the speed of these lighter contenders.
Balance is self-explanatory. They draw from the strengths of each of the other types, but this blending of strategies more often than not ends up in expanding weaknesses or lower performance compared to specialized tops.
So it's kind of a rock-paper-scissors, where Attack beats Stamina, Stamina beats Defense, and Defense beats Attack. Where this can really get interesting is in the customization. Oh, did I not mention all of these tops can be stripped down to five parts and reassembled in whatever configuration you find fits? This is where all of our physics lessons come into play, and savvy players will spend time digging through parts and testing all sorts of combinations to find what works best. There's more to it than this, but I'll get into that next time.
Monday, April 11, 2011
Saturday, April 9, 2011
Constructing An Arcanist Crew
For my next crew I decided to go with one of the natural enemies of the Guild, the Arcanists. Unlike my Guild crew, these "guys" aren't already painted but I really like the minis so it'll be fun to get them to the table. First up is Sasha Dubois, the leader of the crew. Unlike Sonnia, Sasha is a little more effective in regular combat but not as much so with magic. Even so she can still pack a nasty punch with what she can bring with her to the table.
Special abilities: animist (steam), leader, pistol, tough, unique
Being the master of the crew its no surprise to see the leader and tough abilities in there and a pistol is always handy to have. Rounding it out is the animist ability which gives Sasha access to the combat magics and also lets her control Boomer.
Special abilities: artificial (construct), big, heavy armor, sunder, tough
Boomer is Sasha's guard dog, following her onto the field and loyally protecting her from danger. Admittedly he's a giant metal guard dog but it really fits in with the Arcanist feel of using constructs to fill the ranks.
Next up are the vicious guns of Taryn Rose.
Special abilities: gunslinger, pistol, rapid fire, ruthless, stealth, unique
With her pistols in hand she sneaks around the shadows of the battlefield looking for that perfect shot no matter who might be in the way. Nothing really new here as far as abilities other than ones that I've already covered.
Rounding out the crew is Valeria Alvaro.
Special abilities: gunslinger, pistol, rapid fire, slippery, steadfast
In sharp contrast to the treacherous Taryn, Valeria is a much more get in your face kind of gal while the slippery ability ensures that she can slide away just as easily. As with Taryn, more familiar abilities with the exception of slippery though this ability really is nothing new. In fact slippery is actually just free disengage under a new name which is an easy way to change the feel for a game.
As with the Guild crew, this crew also really pushes for ranged combat over melee which really does fit with the theme that I've aiming for. This is an alternate wild west after all and the revolver did rule the day for most people then. This also means that you can expect another battle report soon as these two crews hit the table and we see just how well (or not so fell) my special rules work. But more on that later...
"My Eyes Glow Red As My Robe Erupts Into Magical Flames And I Say 'While I live and breath you shall not pass!!!'"
And... I rolled a 23 for my intimidate check. Did it work?
SpacerGal spoils us so. After all the actual plays I've listened to it seems that she has developed a very unique way of running a role playing game; you don't just get to role play, you actually need to if you really want to do anything.
Want to be intimidating? Bust out the angry voice and hit him with it! Diplomacy more your style? In that case do your best to be charming so that you can win her over to your side of the argument.
Our latest session of Pathfinder is a prime example of what I mean. Over the course of a four hour session I rolled my dice less than a half dozen times and at least half of that time was spent interacting with the crew of the ship we were sailing on. By comparison, during one of the actual plays I was recently listening to the players had almost twice as many roll playing die rolls just when they were interacting with two people! No combat at that point, just talking back and forth between the two groups.
This is not to say that having access to these dice mechanics is not useful because I really think it is. For brand new players and GMs it gives them something mechanical to latch onto as they get their head around the system but for any experienced players I definitely recommend that you try putting down the dice and talking it out. You'll be amazed at how much more it adds to entire experience.
The Parting Shot...
That's all for now but be sure to come back soon for more gaming goodness from the Sin City Snowman and SpacerGal. He's told me some of the ideas that are bubbling around in her brain and I can't wait to see what finally comes out! In the meantime if you have any comments feel free to leave them on the blog or you can drop us a line at SinCityDispatch@gmail.com. Until next time...
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Anyways, hello all! The name's SpacerGal, and I'm the one who made the Snowman play Monsterpocalypse, got him to restart Warmachine/Hordes a year or so ago, and am now running his weekly Pathfinder adventures. I was very excited when he invited me to contribute to the blog, and I already have several ideas swirling around in my head for regular programing. Get used to seeing this star-faring gamer!
I'm currently doing a lot of role-playing work, both with maintaining my experimental persistent-world Pathfinder game and trying to grow an RP community within a new MMORPG I am playing called Forsaken World, but more on that later. So for now, expect to see at least a decent chunk about RPG, some occasional TCG talk, miniature gibberish when I get around to painting the ridiculous number of figures on my work desk, and other assorted whatnot as it comes.
So there you have it, a quick "This is your co-pilot speaking" from the newest author on Sin City Dispatch. I'll develop my own little clever quip like the dragon dice thing eventually, so for now, a simple "ya'll come back now, y'hear?" will have to suffice.
Monday, April 4, 2011
Saturday, April 2, 2011
Hey everyone and welcome to the latest installment of the Dispatch!
We just had our first session of Pathfinder this week so I want to share my first impressions on that system but before we do that I thought we'd take a look at one of my crews for Torment's Reach.
Raising The Guild In Torment's Reach
Converting A Guild Crew To Song Of Blades
For my first crew I decided to just go with the Guild crew that I already had for two very good reasons. One: I already own them (always a plus that) and two: they're already painted (an even bigger plus!). First up is Sonnia Criid who I think I took the most liberty with as I made her much less effective in close combat and instead focused on her magic and ranged ability.
Special abilities: channeler, magic shield, leader, pistol, tough, unique
As is fitting, she is a leader and I also gave her tough as well since crew masters are should be harder to kill than your average joe. Finally I also gave her a pistol which is one of the new things I had to add into the system. This give her a +1 to her combat with a short range. Not only does this improve her combat score to an average level it also lets her reach out a touch someone without just relying on her magic. After all, a girl's gotta have options right?
Next up is Sonnia's able cohort in crime busting Samael Hopkins.
Special abilities: entangle, hunter, pistol, scout, tough
I basically boiled down the special rules for Samael's huntin' tools by giving his the entangle ability. This lets him pin a target down (at least temporarily) and really keeps the feel of the character. He also has hunter and scout, both of which are new abilities I created. Hunter lets him choose an enemy personality mini before the game starts and Samael gains a +1 to his combat against it plus an extra victory point if he kills it in single combat while scout lets him ignore the movement penalties from ruins and woods. This makes him a very mobile mini in some situations and a potent personality killer as well.
Next up are the two Guild guards, Kyle Swift and Jacob Weaver.
Special abilities: gregarious, pistol
These guys are really quite straight forward in my opinion. One thing of note is the fact that these guards are not actually personalities. Yes, they both have names but that is purely for fluff reasons and has no effect on the game mechanics.
Last but not least is the convict gunslinger Jeremiah Smythe just to round things out. Like the guild guards, he is not actually a personality but I wanted it there for flavor.
Special abilities: gunslinger, pistol, rapid fire
Of the whole crew this one took the most creative license on my part for his special abilities. The gunfighter ability lets the mini use his pistols in hand-to-hand combat, giving him an effective combat score of 4 all the time. The important thing about this ability is that it is tied to the pistol ability and no other type of ranged weapon. If you've got a rifle then you're out of luck but with a pistol you're all set. Next is the rapid fire ability. Normally a mini can only make one combat per turn but this ability lets the mini make two ranged attacks for one action. This is a pretty potent ability but I tried to offset it by giving them a penalty of -1 to its combat score when it does this.
And there you have it! I haven't had a chance to try them in a game to see just how balanced (or unbalanced) the new special rules are but I'll be doing that soon and I'll be sure to pass along the experience. I also have a few more crews in the works as well so y'all come back now and we'll see how they're shaping up.
Trying To Find The Path
First Impressions Of The Pathfinder RPG
This week my role playing group set aside Mutants and Masterminds and we delved into the world of Pathfinder. This was the first of several sessions in our GMs custom world of Leviathos, a world that has been devastated by a magical disaster (caused by the elves... go figure) that flooded large portions of the world. There are still large islands scattered around and our adventure opened with us arriving on Corvaysa, a very large island (bigger than New Zealand but smaller than Austailia to give some perspective) that is the home to the strongest of the human kingdoms.
So what about Pathfinder? Overall, it seems very much like the D&D of old which isn't that surprising since that is effectively what it is. I never played 3.5 but from everything I've heard it is basically the same thing. We haven't actually had any real combat yet so I can't comment on that but other than that it seems like a pretty good system. I can see how character creation can get kind of crunch especially when you are picking your feats. There are no where near as many as 4e but there are still a pretty hefty helping of them to choose from but I had a very specific concept in mind so I was able to just skim the lists and pick what fit my character. Equipment was another story as Pat is being quite specific about this part but that is more his style and I can see a GM playing this aspect either strictly or loosely depending on preference.
So overall, it looks pretty good so far. Not a raving review but so far the system hasn't struck me as anything innovative which I really don't expect it to. Then again that familiarity also makes it very easy to get into and the Pathfinder books are beautifully done and come in pdf as well as hardcovers. If you really want the physical copy of the core book you can plunk down the $50 and get a gorgeous looking full color hard bound book or you can spend $10 and get a pdf of the same thing, all depends on your preference which is a really nice option in my opinion. Don't get me wrong; I love the book but being able to get all the info for $10 sold me on the pdf instantly.
So if you like 3.5 Dungeons and Dragons, are an old time gamer from earlier editions, or you just want to try something different from 4e for a while I definitely recommend checking this one out. The production qualities are great and having the pdf option makes it extremely affordable plus Paizo (and a good number of other companies)is coming out with new stuff for the line all the time. Well supported, high quality production, and affordable price; ya can't really ask for more can you?
The Parting Shot...
And there's another one in the books! I had wanted to put in pictures of the various models for the Guild but I'll have to add that later. Be sure to come back again as we look at some of the other crews that I'm working on (think I've got three more in the works right now...) plus I'm going to get a battle report up for Torment's Reach as well. If you have any comments or questions, feel free to leave them here on the blog or you can email me at SinCitySnowman@gmail.com. Until next time...
Friday, April 1, 2011
Are they fluffy and sweet? Cute and cuddly as they go hippity hopping along? Or perhaps it is all an illusion designed to lull us into a false sense of security. Perhaps they are something much... much... worse.
Beware. The Month Of The Bunny Starts Now...