Wednesday, August 26, 2015

RPGaDay 2015 #26 Favorite Inspiration For Your Game

I'm sure lots of people will tell you how much they plumb their vast collection of novels, TV shows, movies, or conspiracy theory paperbacks for gaming inspiration. My process is a little different. I tend to lean on the games themselves to inform my campaign building.

At least partly because an awesome game is one where the designer successfully communicates what is awesome about their game. So if I'm reading an awesome game, I'm already cooking up ideas of how I want to see it in action. And outside of licensed or historical settings, most of what is true about a setting is between the pages of the book itself.

One of my favorite sorts of inspiration is the No-Prize. I don't know if Marvel still awards No-Prizes, but for a while they gave out No-Prizes to fans who not only pointed continuity flaws in their comics, but also proposed explanations for how it wasn't really a continuity flaw after all. Is that character's energy blast the wrong color? Rather than blame it on the colorist, maybe it's a new application of that character's power and it makes sense for it to be that color.

So I look in my games for interesting questions that the setting proposes, but doesn't really answer.

One of my favorite adventures that I've come up with was for the GURPS Technomancer setting. The main idea of that setting is that magic replaces the atom as the force that changes the latter half of the 20th Century. In the book, they describe the effects of Ambulatory Necrotic Plague (aka zombie-ism), which is spread by an undead bacterium. It explains that zombie brains continually degrade, but that this can be forestalled by eating brains from other people.

But what if someone with a high IQ stat gets turned into a zombie? If their IQ was high enough, they might have several days before they even dropped below average intelligence. They might even be able to plan ahead and ensure a steady brain supply so that their intelligence will last longer.

I decided that this was going to be my villain. He was a doctor researching ANP who became infected and turned into a zombie. He began a program of abducting people both to keep his brain supply up and as test subjects to hopefully cure himself of the condition.

And that's when our heroes step in.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

RPGaDay 2015 #25 Favorite Revolutionary Game Mechanic

Meta-point bribery.

All those little story/drama/whatever points that bribe players into buying into your setting or genre. If the genre or theme you're trying to support with them is clear, they are a great addition. I use them myself to support the theme of friendship in Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road.

Sometimes, I'll award them as "Make the GM Laugh Points." Especially if they're not there for a specific genre or theme, but as a form of "cinematic cushion" to give larger than life heroes an extra leg up.

Monday, August 24, 2015

RPGaDay 2015 #24 Favorite House Rule

I'm not much of a house ruler. I like to at least see what the designer wanted me to get out of the game before I adjust anything. And every designer has an agenda. Even Gary Gygax. If I were to tweak and hack games into shape before trying them out, I think I'd miss half the fun of the games I want to try.

One thing that I will do is award my players a little bonus XP when they give me something to eat. There was a period I did not, because my players were 2 or 3 people who regularly brought food to share during game and 1 guy who was down on his luck. The guy who was down on his luck point out how unfair this could get. I realized the wisdom of it and stopped. Now that I'm not gaming with him, I've handed out a few XP for a cookie here or there.

Not sure if this counts, but one thing I've been doing with my games is keeping a calendar. It started with my old school megadungeon game with notes on graph paper. I've since upgraded to a computerized method which allows me a bit more room for notetaking than those little squares. This is the program I use. While it would be nice to have something that can deal with custom calendars like so many fantasy worlds have, adding notes for month transitions and other details on a numerical timeline is fairly easy.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

RPGaDay 2015 #23 Perfect Game For You

I'm sure there are people who will be surprised and disappointed that I'm not going to say GURPS here. It has seen me through many fun campaigns and there might be even more GURPS fun in the future.

But I also don't really believe that there is a perfect game that will fill all my desires for every campaign ever. There might be a perfect game for a given genre, tone, setting, or any other category. But even that can be subject to debate.

I like to think that I've designed the perfect Oz RPG. At very least, I think it's safe to call it the best Oz RPG currently on the market. It was definitely the first.

I'm tempted to say that some version of Fate might edge into a fairly high place in my list of go-to games for a variety of settings. I like an awful lot of stuff written for Fate, but haven't really had the ability to give it a serious try. Once I do, we'll see how it shakes out.

In the meantime, I've got lots of games on my shelf that have yet to see some use. My ultimate goal is to play them all!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

RPGaDay 2015 #22 Perfect Gaming Environment

I can't say that I've ever encountered my perfect gaming environment. There have been a few very neat setups, sure. But perfect?

At DunDraCon, each scheduled game takes place in a semi-private room with a nice large round table. It's up to individual GMs to provide props, such as maps and minis. That's pretty sweet.

The gaming store I go to is also nice, with a room off to the side of the main gaming area with a large table and a very large battlemat. But I haven't used it since they decided to charge for the space.

To get better than that is going to require personal attention. Like the First Edition DM that I know who collects miniatures. Mostly the cheap plastic prepainted kind, but he's got a ton of them. If you ever need a monster, he's very likely got it. If not, it's something close.

As I'm actually learning to accept technology, it's being incorporated into my gaming. So my ideal gaming setup should include at least power, and maybe wi-fi for my laptop. While some people may swear by wi-fi, I am willing to admit that it's as much a distraction to me as anything else. Unless I start adopting that whole "cloud" idea. We'll see.

Though I do also enjoy physical books, so my perfect game space would necessarily include bookshelves. Books are also easier to share with players during game if they need to lookup rules for any reason. This also means that I can limit the books that players can reference at my table without limiting myself (Keeping PDFs of bestiaries and setting notes on my laptop).

Dice towers and projectors aimed at my table are totally optional, but might be fun to have.

Friday, August 21, 2015

RPGaDay 2015 #21 Favorite RPG Setting

One thing that irks me about the modern RPG publishing industry is how often they say "setting," but actually mean "campaign."

To clarify, a "setting" is a place for adventures to happen. A "campaign" is the answer to the question: "Who are the characters and what do they do?" The Discworld novels are a great example of this. The Discworld as a whole is a setting. But the series has not one, but several story threads running through it. Each with a unique set of characters who live in different places in the world and do different things. So even though all the stories take place in the same setting, Rincewind, Granny Weatherwax, and Moist von Lipwig are all effectively playing in separate campaigns.

I don't know how long this trend has been going on, but I started noticing it a few years ago. The first time I spotted it was the FantasyCraft Adventure Companion. It promised 3 settings, but all it really offered was campaigns. Sure each campaign took place in its own setting, but the opening paragraphs of each section were from some sort of in-setting mentor figure giving you the Big Speech about how you're going off into the big bad world to do X. While the X was usually pretty broad, and in one case was simply the wandering adventurer as respected social role, the rest of the material was presented in such a way as to support that specific campaign.

But what if I don't want to be a wandering adventurer? What if I want to be a merchant? Or establish a homestead out of the frontier of the world? If I want to use this so-called setting as an actual setting, I'm going to have to do at least half the work that buying a packaged setting was supposed to save.

Fate Worlds has this sort of problem as well. It promises settings, but delivers campaigns. And the majority of those campaigns are simply hacks. Rather than offering anything resembling a setting, we get mechanics to support a given campaign style. So rather than telling us a little story about Jack and Diane, we are instead given different rules to detail how Jack and Diane (for any given value of Jack or Diane), can interact or relate to one another.

Please note that I am not calling these products out as flawed designs or bad products. I simply feel that they are mistakenly marketed. If something calls itself a setting, I am presuming that it will be well-written enough to support multiple campaign types. If all you are offering is a campaign, please do not call it a setting.

I think it also sets a bad precedent. A while back on Facebook, I saw an established publisher of third-party Pathfinder material post in a Pathfinder group "Help! I'm writing a setting, but my playtesters have just figured out that it's really just a campaign!" I am paraphrasing, but that's pretty much what he said. Needless to say, that guy's not getting my money.

Maybe I'm just spoiled on the way GURPS does their setting books. They have a reputation for being bland, but thorough. And I think that a portion of this is that they do not assume a campaign. There are suggestions and ideas for different campaigns and adventures throughout the book, but it doesn't assume you'll follow any of them. (Considering my Discworld example above, it makes remarkable sense that GURPS Discworld is a thing.)

(I do have lots of cool settings on my shelf, as well as a few campaigns. But this rant has been brewing for some time and I thought I'd take the opportunity to get it out.)

Thursday, August 20, 2015

RPGaDay #20 Favorite Horror RPG

Unfortunately, I am not a horror gamer. It's not an experience I particularly enjoy.

The Mythos Trek scenarios that I've played in at DunDraCon the last couple of years are inspired by the Chthulhu Mythos (hence the name) and sometimes other horror films. But they've generally been great fun. I might be the one derailing the horror experience with my humor and nerd references, but the guy who runs them has never complained about having me there. He's also a fan of AiO, which might give me some slack.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...