A neat bit of story telling

Something that struck me as I watched the second last Harry Potter film, in prep for the final – was how darn good the small animation story was in the middle about the fabled Deathly Hallows or the tale of the three brothers.

The character, clarity, and purpose of that small sub-story was so different from the rest of the film, that I wanted to see the film split into that story more than see the rest of the HP thread. It was majestic.

I wanted to know more, and the folks at FX have an interview with Framestore – it was easy to find in a Google search. Framestore themselves have a smacking good site too. Its worth a read if you liked that small sub-story.

oh, how does it relate to story telling or roleplaying? I’m not sure – except that I’d love to see sub-plots in my games be remembered as fondly as I recall those scenes.

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Which RPG are you?

Here is a cute quiz which is much like a FaceBook quiz where you determine which movie star you are like; except this is to assist geeks to know which RPG they are.

Nuts, but cool: http://strategerygames.com/whichrpg/

What I like is that you could use this tool to see which game you’d like to play next. Get the players to all do the quiz (it takes 2 minutes maximum), and then see what the thought is. It can also be used to find similar game to the ones you like now, and are perhaps complementary or have subtle differences.

The material its is based upon is from the RPG flowchart by Inkwell Ideas.

Happy roll/roleplaying.

What would you do with a magic wand?

A strange question that pop’ed into my browser unprovoked when I published another blogpost – it’s something that WordPress does to inspire more posts. Who would have guessed that the WP guys are huge RP geeks – their silly question was:

What would you do with a magic wand?

I’m not sure if the question is meant to be innocuous or not, but its something that seems well related to an rpg blog.

Well firstly I’d do everything I could to self indulge. There is no way I’d let a device with such potential for mischief just be squandered by a lack of time, or by a lack of opportunity. In fact it is just the type of device that could derail all my best plans in a strange direction.

Start with a few new tech toys and a mammoth bundle of money, then add some interesting low maintenance housing in each popular city in the world, pop in a measure of cosmetic adjustment (no more treadmill for me), and close out the initial wish session with some assurance for posterity, like some blackmail material on some influential people. That puts me on square one with a solid foundation.

In a rpg campaign the players might also wish for similar items, as human indulgence is very much the same. A rpg toon might also take action to see if they could break something significant. They might not hesitate to end the lives of a city, or bankrupt an enemy noble, or some other slightly nefarious deed. In real life you’d probably not take risks like this, as the ramifications might be too much guilt to handle.

In both reality and rpg finding out what the wand’s limitations is very important early too. Is this an unlimited power but short use (ala 20 charges), a ring of three wishes (limited wish x3), a harry potter silly phrase toy (useless unless the plot calls for it), or a you-want-you-get deal?

What about making sure that nobody else has a similar device, and if they do – remove them. No point being a being of substantive magical power if another person can just wish it all away (maybe that explains the lack of high level wizards in D&D games – they get to level 15 and somebody removes them). Perhaps that is a reason to keep the benefits low key so you stay below the radar of the other powerful folks. Don’t become an overnight billionaire, but instead manufacturer a lifestyle which is independently maintained and very subtle.

Imagine too the potential to actually do good. Doing a short walk through a hospital could garner some seriously good kudos if you use the device well, and hints to doing good as a positive force, rather than correcting a great injustice by killing a foe.

Again the rpg resolution is different and more direct. In most game you have a great evil, and neutralising that evil (usually though violence) is a standard plot theme. I don’t know what the real life “big bad” is but I can think that it is more based upon perspective than a fixed alignment. What if a game was created where the real driver for fundamental success was through the healing and kindness to mankind? Would anyone actually play that?

I’d aim to make a solid lifestyle, which is not maintained by the wand itself. Build social and capital infrastructure so that even if the wand is gone, you have something to fall back upon. Its something that PCs in rpg games almost never do – they look for a way to end the plot elements, not lock in prosperity. To the player’s credit they probably know the GM will take it all away again though.

I’d also create some really neat toys, as back-up tools.

  • a ring of invulnerability and teleportation,
  • a never ending bottle of fine wine,
  • a wallet which always has at least a $100 in it,
  • a watch that stops and starts time,
  • a handkerchief that cures illness,

Too much? I don’t think so.

There is of course the potential for the wand to be a destructive and subversive force in my life. Like a Twilight Zone episode where the protagonist gets all that they wished for, but also creates unwittingly their own demise and potentially the demise of all around them. Now putting that into an RPG as a campaign closer might be cool – have the PCs struggling to acquire the device thinking it can save the world, but the wand itself is the short term benefactor and long term destructor of the kingdom.

Almost everything on my list above can be “reversed” by a sinister GM to undo the good, and lead the protagonist into a downward spiral.

Sounds kind of fun actually.

Greetings to the Blog Alliance

rpg blog alliance logo

The blog was just accepted into the RPG Blog Alliance, a darn good gathering of content centered around RPGs. Howdy folks, happy to be here. Looking forward to sharing thoughts, and wandering through the fantastically odd posts.

For readers who don’t know about the network, here is a quick overview:

The RPGBA is collection of Role Playing Game related websites that opt-in to be aggreated. Member benefit from having a relationship to each other and by having a unifed place for people to look for RPG material. The RPGBA does not include the entire source material but rather includes the first 100 words and links back to the original source. In this way members get traffic to their respective sites while still getting the benefit of belonging to the Alliance

You see, they’re awesome.

Top 5 RPG Games

When I think of a “top 5 list“, I feel like the main character from High Fidelity, who needs sub-sets of the category to be able to make any head space. There are just too many good options when the net is cast so wide. That said, here goes – my Top 5 Role-playing Games (that is pen and paper RPGs not computer games).

  1. Ars Magica. By far the best magic system I’ve seen implemented. far more flexible than D&D, far more detail than open systems like Mage. The latest edition left me cold, but the 3rd and 4th editions were flourishes of flavour in a rpg landscape that was lacking at the time. I still struggle to understand the way the mundane world (or should I say muggle – oops!) is supposed to exist side by side with the Magi, but won’t have to cover that unless I run another game. Hmm. Now there is a thought.
  2. DeathWatch. A recent arrival to me, and altogether fantastic. Its like riding a speeder-bike through a forest of enemy laser towers, with a limited health, a BFG on your hip, and a deadline measured in seconds. It is a very tightly focused gameplay, high action, and high powered game. If you like space combat, mecha-ish, or really large guns, then you’ll love DeathWatch.
  3. D&D 1st and 2nd Ed. Regardless of incarnation the D&D game has given me years of playing, and I can’t ignore that. 1st and 2nd edition were the ones I enjoyed the most, with 3rd and 4th editions being ill suited to what I was after in terms of a game. If 4th edition had not been such a complete dog in terms of game lore then it would have rated much higher. The computer game-play mechanics also did not help either. Still – it is a cornerstone of my roleplaying history.
  4. GURPS. Such flexibility should be celebrated, and GURPS still has bite. So many settings, and so many variations. I’ve not run a lot of games, but I’ve played a stack of how brew games, and always really enjoyed them. I’m not up on what the GURPS system is doing these days but I’d be surprised if the quality had dropped – it was always high, and I hope it stays that way.
  5. Paranoia. They are out to get you, but the computer is your friend – heh. The original concept has some pretty nasty implications in our modern world, but no less entertaining – monitoring, privacy, govt conspiracy, wikileaks, and an over-mind that must crush and also nurture it’s inhabitants. Even reading the recent rulebook is fun, despite not playing it.
  6. Vampire, the Masquerade. Creepy, lush, and just in time to catch me in a phase of life where being a stylish and evil undead mongrel was ideal. Never has a game implied such sex appeal or created such a ground swell of strange LARP players. For that and the many nights of candle lit fun, I have to thank Vampire.
  7. My Life With Master. A game totally dependent on the team’s ability to play out a scenario, be creeped out, and also resolve an always depressing and gory storyline. Simple and brilliant stuff. If I’d have played more of this game, it would be far higher on the list.

Yes, I know there are 7 items on a top 5 list. It is my list and I could not leave the last two out without feeling the list was junked. You could do a top 5 D&D settings list (Ebberon hehe), and still need more than 5 entries, so this was a tad of a hard task to complete within the rules. Screw the rules.

On reflection the first 5 are really solid games, with a stack of hours spent in them, the last two are games where the setting was so tactile that I needed to mention them just to feel like the list reflects how important a great setting is to me.

Happy gaming folks.

Alas the table routed

Our “game table” was routed a few months back by fear inspiring foes – work, family, life, and fatigue. Like an odd re-hash of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, this quartet of anti-roleplaying horrors took our group to pieces (well to individuals really, but hey). Here is a rambling post of thoughts.

All the players have challenging situations to incorporate into our rpg lives, and while I’m mad keen to get some face to face roleplaying done, I find it nigh on impossible to get a consistent day per week or fortnight where I can play guilt free. The other players all have children added into the mix, so their lives are doubly complex.

How do regular gamers do it?

Negotiation seems to be the order of the day. If we can get consistency amongst the group for a regular game, then we might get some value. There are a lot of barriers.

Playing too infrequently means that we spend most of the session socialising rather than gaming. It also means that we have such a long break between sessions that only the most dedicated can remember the details of the game. Who did what to the NPC? Why are we on the ship? Which toon is the creepy guy playing in this game? Bleeerk, its all lost if we go 2-3 weeks between sessions. I think you really need to be playing regularly to get a consistently good result.

The (not so) funny thing is that I see this in online games too. You need a consistent set of players to make substantial progress in raiding games. Every change in the line-up, each switch in player means something is lost and the group has to re-learn the interaction. In a computer game this has less impact, as the characters are “hired” for a particular set of roles, and we have distinctive tools to measure performance.

In an RPG though there is the added twist to the change of line-up of the personal face time. A new person is an unknown. Nobody will play the same when fresh meat is added to the table. The group has to normalise again, the balance is shifted, and the power dynamics change significantly – so that it can turn the game itself into a different game. The feel can be greatly changed overnight.

I guess the solution for us is to wait until the Horsemen ride on to other tables, and we can regroup. You can’t force time where there is none. We can’t ignore family to entertain ourselves, and we should never sacrifice work for a neat rpg session. Damn it.

Till then, I’ll ponder all sorts of things slowly changing in the rpg world. It is a quiet news month in terms of impact of the industry changes affecting my rpg hobbies. Not much released, and nothing substantive changing at the moment. It feels like the in-between stretch of the year where we are re-grouping from financial year’s end; and not quite ready for the malarky of the holiday seasons.

Happy gaming

Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld is good reading

At the moment I’m reading the second book in the Leviathan series, called Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld. The style is described as steampunk, and its good once you get into it.

Initially I was totally uninterested in the book, as it appeared to be another re-hash of “young teen hero saves the day”, and since Harry Potter and all the similar stories since I’m kind of burnt out on that plotline. Yes, yes, novels have always had a good child star every few years since forever, I get that. It is just that HP just turned the frenzy up twenty five notches, to where anything with 13 year old, a wizard, or a pet magic rock makes my skin crawl. But that is not why the book is blog-worthy, actually its the direct opposite which makes me write about it.

The series is worth a read as they are aimed at a young audience, but have something for adult readers to appreciate. Unlike the Harry Potter series, which bluntly projects the plot, and assumes the reader is a dim-whit; Westerfield gives you a story where you cannot see around the corners. I like that. The story can evolve in a manner which is logical to the setting, but also not lope from scene to scene until the final dialog draws out from the box text you read on the back cover.*

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