Friday, June 26, 2009

I'm Late! I'm Late! For a Very Important Date!

First late blog entry in quite a while. I also missed last week's art update, too. Things are just slowing to a crawl here at F. Douglas Wall HQ.

The big delay is the Narrator's portion of the book. For one thing, my SneakerNet (JFGI) crashed a while ago, so my time to actually write is somewhat limited. Also, I've never written Narrator advice before. To a degree, it's like writing down how to ride a bicycle. Just because you can do it doesn't mean that you can readily explain it using only words.

The next challenge is that I'm not sure who I'm writing this for. Is it for Bill Walton, who's been running RPGs with his kids for quite a while and just needs a few tips to keep it Ozzy? Or is it for Jared, an Oz fan in long stading who has never played an RPG in his life?

I'm working through it, and I am seeing light at the end of the tunnel. However, it might mean an ultimate delay in the release of the game. My current plan relied on all of my content being generated by the end of June, a deadline that is looming on the horizon. Depending on how fast I can make it up, I might have time to get the book laid out in August, just before my publication goal.

Either way, I'm working on a new YouTube video as a birthday tribute for Ozma. Even if I don't get the game out on her birthday, there will be an Ozma's birthday treat for you all.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

I want my Free RPG!

Just a reminder that June 20th is Free RPG Day and game and comic stores around the country will be stocked with free quickstarts of new games and free adventures for games you might already have. If you've been intimidated by the price of RPGs these days, or just want to try before you buy, here's a great opportunity. Check the store locator to see if a game store in your area is participating. If your favorite game or hobby shop is not participating, tell them "I want my Free RPG!" This is an annual event, so there is a good chance that your retailer will get the message and sign up for next year.

I would love to have participated this year, but I am very much a one-man-band here and can only do so much. I'm going to try to have something for next year.

Yesterday, Oz blogger Jared Davis celebrated his birthday. Happy birthday, Jared!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

What am I supposed to do with all of this?

Well, I've been blogging for over a year now but I haven't really answered one of the most basic questions my readers may have: What the heck is an RPG and how do you play one?

In a roleplaying game, each player controls a single character. This character is defined by a set of stats, traits, or abilities written down on a piece of paper. More modern games typically include personality traits of some kind, giving you an idea of not only how strong or fast a character is, but how they are likely to respond in given situations.

The Game Master (a generic term. Adventures in Oz uses "Narrator") presents the players with a scenario and adjudicates their responses. They do this with a mix of die rolls, judgment and common sense.

For example,

Game Master: Your house has just crashed down after being lifted away by a Kansas twister. You hear some voices outside. What do you do?


Okay, seriously now

Game Master: Your house has just crashed down after being lifted away by a Kansas twister. You hear some voices outside. What do you do?

Player: What are the voices saying?

GM: You can't really tell. Make an Awareness roll.

Player: Let's see. I've got Awareness 3. (rolls dice) 1 and 4. Looks like a regular success to me.

GM: You don't know exactly what they're saying, but there are a few very nervous male voices and a reassuring female voice. It sounds like she's in charge.

Player: Oh good. I'll step out and introduce myself.

GM: There are 3 men and one old woman. At least you think so. Even though two of the men have beards and the woman looks quite old, they're all only about as tall as you. As you approach, the old woman steps forward and says "You are welcome, most noble Sorceress, to the land of the Munchkins. We are so grateful to you for having killed the Wicked Witch of the East, and for setting our people free from bondage."

Player: Woah. First of all, my character's, like, maybe 10 years old, so these people have to be pretty short. And who did I kill? This isn't like the last game you ran where I woke up with amnesia and I found out I was some kind of CIA hitman, is it? I'll tell her, "You are very kind, but there must be some mistake. I have not killed anything."

GM: She replies "Your house did, anyway, and that is the same thing. See! There are her two feet, still sticking out from under a block of wood." She points at something under your house. Sure enough, there are two feet sticking out wearing silver shoes. And it looks like your house squashed the rest of her flat.

Player: Holy crap! So it's not like I can pick up the house and free her, huh?

GM: Nope. Since you're a little girl and only Size 2, and the house is Size 5, that's a -3 penalty to your Athletics skill.

Player: And I've only got Athletics 2. With that penalty, I'm at less than zero. Right, no chance.

(For an embellished Actual Play log of the rest of this session, check it out here.)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Empowering Fantasy

Many people think of RPGs as a form of "power fantasy", in which the goal is to be awesome and powerful. This is an easy assumption to make, since many RPGs allow characters to wield magic, psychic powers or the Force or play with awesome futuristic technology. Sometimes all at once.

But then you get little oddities, typically in horror games. Both Call of Chthulhu and World of Darkness (without splats) feature characters that are remarkably mundane. In CoC, characters can learn magic, but only at the cost of their sanity. Even specific campaigns can create this effect. Over on the Steve Jackson Games forums, William H. Stoddard and one of his players will recount a game they played in the Transhuman Space setting in which the characters were marvelously mundane people and the game was all about the drama of ordinary people living in a very big, scary, technologically advanced world. No heroics, no earth-shattering revelations, just people leading very complicated lives.

Where's the fun in that sort of thing? Where's the epic awesome? You're not going to find it. Because when you get down to it, roleplaying is not "power fantasy", but "empowerment fantasy." Action oriented games allow us to play the hero, letting us be the one who saves the world, slays the dragon, and wins the heart of a princess. In more mundane genres, we might simply acheive a cathartic "safe space" in which we may explore things that we can't do in real life. Much like a horror movie, a horror RPG lets us experience the horror from a safe distance, allowing us to walk away at the end of the show and laugh about it. A dramatic game can also benefit from this, as an unmarried player might try out married life and its trials and tribulations. The player can make all the mistakes he wants in the scenario with the knowledge that he can get up from the gaming table and be his freewheeling, single self again.

Exalted is a game that actually plays both sides of this fence. Characters wield charms and spells that make them quite powerful, playing neatly into power fantasy. But because of this level of power, characters are very much their own masters. Which can make the experience rather empowering, as well.
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