Portrait generator by Losing Games

This Portrait generator by Isaac Williams will create a simple portrait. Could also be useful as an avatar creator. Nice work sir.

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a story tidbit

The man runs quickly down a muddy overgrown track. Branches whip as he races and behind him the sun drops below the tree line. He pants and scrambles as he moves through the scrub. A dishevelled beard, ratty clothes, and a scrawny collection of old furs cover his body. A fur bundle clutched to his panting chest. Clearly afraid, he runs. It must be saved.

In the distance a bell sounds, the tone warping strangely as it peals over the trees. Everything here is discordant.

When the man pauses his running it becomes clear how thin his frame is and how malnourished he must be. The fear in his eyes explaining why the ice and snow underfoot hardly slow him. He is breathing hard even while standing still, chest heaving.

The bell tones again, it’s tone becoming dull and flat far too soon. Is it dull or is his mind now addled? He stretches his back, breathes in deeply, then begins running again. As he moves his breath makes streams of fog behind him. He runs.

The bell tones a final time, the sound faint now but still ending shortly, like a hand has muffled the vibrations, like silencing the bark of an errant dog.

As he moves from the track into the proper woods the brush thins and the trees spread themselves sparsely so that the tepid moonlight teases down into the leaves, but does not reach enough of the ground below. His tired eyes gain nothing from the light except the realisation that almost any other night would have been better than the washed out light he has chosen tonight. Did he even choose? A slow hiss spoken far away reaches his ears. He runs faster.

His fear slides to dread, they know he has escaped. It knows too, and the safety of the border is well too far.

Reluctantly he stops running and then searches the trees around him. He reaches into the fur bundle to the small crucifix pecked from rotten wood by his bloody fingernails. It’s surface caked in old blood and the wood is black in the shallow light. Shaking hands bundle scrawled leathers into snow. His hands work to scape away the frost then the old earth so that the bundle can be sunk deep.

The hiss comes again, sounding louder and stronger. He can picture the brown and yellow teeth and thin craggy hands of the owner.

He presses the crucifix atop the replaced snow, and wipes his jittery hands down the sodden rough tunic. Standing still takes determination, he silently prays for a moment. It is all the time he really has left.

Resigned now, he runs again. Any direction, away from the bundle.

The third hiss is so close he can almost hear the chipper chatter of her teeth, her long drawn breath, and imagine the thin unpleasant smile; lips stretched too tight across sharpened teeth and eyes uncaring by design. “Ssss-slow my beautiful sssnow. You make me sssad, so don’t run so.”

Snow. His old name and the hiding place of the only legacy which matters now. His breath puffs between cracked lips as he lets out a grunted laugh. His legs slow him, his back rises, lifting his sweeping limbs from the ground. They have him again. She has him. As she materialises in front of him from the dank air his chin and arms shake, face wet with tears.

“Ahhhh, my beautiful boy. Home sssssnow, we must go.”

A soldier’s kit from 1066

Aside

A quick aside – a soldier’s kit from 1066 has been recreated and photographed as part of a series on the typical kit carried by soldiers across a range of time periods; via Laughing Squid’s post. I find this photo to be very evocative of the period, something about it is right.

credit to photographer Thom Atkinson, and laughing Squid

a play by post game – Tales of Crimson and Gold

the yard in this house always faces the sunWe’re starting up a little play-by-forum game using a harsh cludge of high fantasy and Mythic Europe, based upon Atlas Game’s Ars Magica setting. It’s called the Tales of Crimson and Gold (or ToGC for short). The mash-up is all the huge epic fluff from typical D&D settings pushed into a world that was once Europe.

I know that makes about as much sense as a dyslexic angel with A.D.D. and a heavy-bolter, but I think it will feel good to play.

It will hopefully be like RIFTS meets Ars Magica. A typical AM games have a predilection for the local area to be rather mundane, with the odd hidden gem of mystic stuff, and then the world gets more “fantastic/odd” as the character branch out from their home. It is a “tip of the hat” to the idea that everywhere else in the world is wild and dangerous, so best stay home where it is same. Conversely boilerplate Forgotten Realms-ish makes no apologies about random encounters, huge dragons, lightning swords, monsters with 5 syllable names, and crazy wizards with floppy hats and portable hole generators.

The players and I are hopefully going to see what happens when home is just as wacky as the legendary places far away. Continue reading

How to I step back up to the gaming table?

It’s been a while since I ran an rpg. And then even longer, as in a decade or more since I did it regularly. It is a worrying commitment to make, but I used to be ok so it probably will be ok again.

To start off I’m thinking about a short run game. A few sessions, nothing major, a story on rails, and a very narrow vision. The goal is to start small an bite off chewable problems.

As I thought about What to run I also thought about Who can play in it.

Firstly my old group have lives now so getting us together is a mongrel. But as it’s small the game probably needs only two or three players. It could be a solo game, or if we get all the players and some bonus folks it could be a romp. It wouldn’t affect the story too much.

A play by email or forum game allows for very detailed and creative story, but is downright dull for game mechanics. Pbp also kills acting skill. A table session is better for actual roleplaying; and that is what really appeals.

Secondly some of the group like rolling, others like acting, and only a few like both. Shamefully I’m not the best mechanical gamer at the table, or the best actor, or any role really. So frankly, it is scary.

We’ve creating the characters and I’ve sent out a quick teaser, so there is no avoiding it now…but that only helps create more apprehension in my mind about quality and a positive experience.

The prep for this game is far more detailed than I used to do, so that might be a saving grace – the plot has holes in it, but not the huge gaping holes that myy normal “seat of the pants” stories had. I think the worst I ran was an RPG using the Palladium engine and trying to replay the UltimaV pc game storyline. It got weird really quickly.

I guess I’ll just look forward to having a beer on the other side of the games, and seeing if they sucked or not. #holdingmybreath #theEmperorProtects

A quick spell – Ward Against the Common Man

A quick shot new Ars Magica spell, which allows the caster to remain safe from mundane humans. Intended for those times the wizard wishes to sleep safely and soundly.

Ward Against the Common Man

Rego Corpus 20, R: Touch, D: Ring, T: Circle

Creates a circle through which no ordinary (say protected by Parma Magica or otherwise resist the spell) person can cross or affect those within the circle.

(Base 5, R: Touch +1, Ring +2, Circle +0)

You can find the rest of the custom spells in this blog’s Ars Magica spell list. Happy gaming.

Rules for what?

I have this cunning plan to write an RPG system and setting. It’s been a plan for about 20+ years, and never really happened. Due respect to those who have done this, especially if that writing includes actually getting a book into market. Published game writers are Gods among dreamers.

Recently I got interested again and in the pursuit of that lofty and torturous goal I’ve been trying to reconcile the the need for rules light vs rules heavy RPG systems.

It took to me to a question:

In RPGs what do we actually need rules for?

To take a light approach one GM I knew used the rules only for actions directly involving the PCs against each other. All other activity was based upon their stats, but heavily weighed by discussion and story.

In another way – Rules may be used for different purposes according to the system, need, and goals of the group. I think there is a continuance for every mechanics to be written in RPG systems, where rules light discussion and story drives outcomes are in one direction, and the fully calculated results for each proposed micro-action taken within a mock physics engine are hanging in the extreme of the other. Within that range the systems are as complex as the designers felt they needed to be, so that the players are granted the ability to be entertained while role-playing.

That is, the players are supposed to be entertained by the game, and the system helps in that delivery. I am not sure mechanics for the sake of mechanics are beneficial at all, but they sometimes have a place (see desired clunk below)

So to take a more abstract view – I think “the rules” form the basis by which a group of people can resolve and agree the outcome of an action, sequence, or circumstance. Aww, how bloody fluffy.

But then I see rules for which the outcome is slightly divorced from the method, where the method itself is as much part of the elegance (the desired clunk) of the system itself. A mechanic which represents the lore is actually quite a wonderful and rare thing. If you know the horde mechanics in DeathWatch, that is what I’m thinking of. The lore of the game has these huge hordes, and the hordes have their own way of “moving” around the setting, being shot at, and defending. I guess any unit based controls in may systems probably have the same potential (except the old BattleSystem rules which were about as clear as the 1st Ed DnD DMG, after being translated into janglish).

So in amongst the paradigm of events for which rules help, here area few of the classics I thought noteworthy points to be differentiated from a direct answer; which is everything.

(a) Firstly combat. We as players sitting around a table cannot resolve a battle any more than we can experience the weightlessness of space. It is hopefully well beyond the group dynamic to try to really smash heads in.

(b) Inter-player social leverage. Like combat there are times when the characters will interact and behave differently from the players, and the character’s limitations or abilities far exceed our own. That leads to events where players will need to manipulate and interact with each other “inside” the story. Being intimidated by another player is probably not possible often, but two characters might have a relationship based upon intimidation, whereby the players use rules to resolve how often and how well the ongoing manipulation occurs.

It is where many “lite” systems just start having the players act and drop the dice altogether.

(c) Cohesive character generation. A game as a shared experience works best when the goals and expectations of the players match. Mix a bastard lying prick in amongst three noble hearted characters and you’ll have some dramatic tension in the short term , but eventually the nice guys might leave the bastard by the roadside. Or a team full of bastards implodes well before the plot is found.

Keep the toons within a respectable range of similar ethos, power level, and story tone. No point having a silly jokester in a game based in a grim-dark setting.

(d) Wealth, travel, and the burdens of life. This deals more with having parity and consequences.

In the list above I have left the interaction with NPCs off the critical list, as I think they are secondary to the interaction between the players, and also mirror the dynamics that are used between player characters. Once the rules for PCs are resolved the NPCs just re-use them. Yes, the King might be an impressive guy, but he’s no different from any other NPC in the setting – a lever to move the story, and a few stats to support it.

(e) Ignore the rules? As group dictates?

There is also a point at which all the talk of a good or bad, or even the right rule-set becomes irrelevant, which is when the players switch around with it within the game. Deciding to ignore the rules for the benefit of the story is something that I support, but there is also the players who will support the rules as a final arbiter over the story – and either is fine depending on what the players want.

So yes, it is darn tricky. Once those areas as sussed the rest of the mechanics are likely resolved in the same manner with slightly different stats.

When I get around to posting what choices I make, and thrashing them – you’ll see it here.