Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Making Time For Friendship

When I initially designed Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road, one of my concerns was making sure that the character creation process was quick and painless. If a video game isn't entertaining for the first 10-15 minutes, you're not going to want to play through the 10-20 hours of content it provides. Same basic principle. If this is my first time sitting down to play an RPG, a character creation process that can take hours had better be worth it. But in my desire to streamline that process, I recently realized that I may have done a disservice to one of the game's primary themes.

You see, as part of the character creation process, I instruct the player to simply write down the other characters in the group as their starting Friends List. Simple and easy, right? But it doesn't really answer the question of why those people are on that list. Not just "Why are you traveling together?" but "Why are you all friends?"

One thing that some tables do is hold a "Session 0" for their campaigns, detailing everything that is needed before Session 1 (the first session of the adventure) can begin. In a heavier system, this session might be taken up with character creation. Each player deciding on their character's niche in the party and building toward that. It can also involve the Narrator detailing the world that the characters will adventure in and players deciding the backstory for their characters.

If an AiO Narrator were to run a Session 0 for their campaign, I think the primary activity would be working out the relationships between all of the characters. Who helped who where and how. I'm sort of picturing the first third or so of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz being Session 0, detailing how the characters met and how they all wound up on each other's Friends List with Session 1 beginning with their arrival in the Emerald City and the Wizard ordering the party to kill the Wicked Witch of the West.

Maybe if I do a revised edition of the game, I'll work something out to give this a bit more structure and make it more of a mini-game.

Sunday, June 5, 2016


I mentioned in my last post that a friend of mine had recently passed. Well ,yesterday, they finally got around to holding her memorial service and I attended/ As is normal for me, my eyes were faucets through the whole thing. I can be surprisingly stoic after finding out about a person's passing, but no matter what, the waterworks come out at the service.

In honor of Meghan, I'd like to share a story or two about her here. I met her in around 2002-03 at the local university's gaming club. It's a little surprising that I don't remember the precise moment of our meeting. She was such a powerful presence that you tend to notice when she walks in the room even if you weren't looking at the door.

I think I might have been introduced to her by my friend Jordan. I remember that I was running GURPS Prime Directive (a Star Trek RPG) at the local university's gaming club and the party had roughly modeled themselves on the A-Team. Jordan's Rigellian Marine was our B.A. Baracus (Mr. T's character on that show). But with the school year winding down, we were going to lose access to the classrooms that the gaming club had reserved, as well as some of the players, so we were discussing how and whether we were going to continue gaming over the summer.

It turns out that Meghan's father was a pastor at a local church and she was willing to talk her father into letting us use the church's meeting room for our game. So over that summer, we played a fairly short campaign of Exalted until school started again.

My favorite Meghan story actually comes from the next campaign that I ran, which was in the GURPS Technomancer setting. One thing to keep in mind is that GURPS has a lot of rules, and not all of them are intended to be used at once. Some of them are optional and some of them are deliberately silly and intended for use in very silly campaigns. One of these rules was called "Bulletproof nudity." Basically, the less clothes you wear, the less likely you are to be hit by bad guys.

I had no intention of allowing this rule to be invoked, but this is where Meghan's big personality came in. I knew I would lose any staring contest I tried to engage her in. Also, she totally committed to the nudity thing. She described er character as wearing sarongs or other clothes that could be whipped off in an instant when things got dangerous.

The whole thing came to a climax one day when she stepped out to the bathroom during one session and returned in what can only be described as a "nude suit." A flesh tone bodysuit that didn't reveal anything, but you had to give it a second look to be sure. She topped it off with a red gauze scarf to represent the blood of her enemies. I don't remember if that was a reference to something that had happened in a recent battle, or just something she had come up with.

Needless to say, this had quite an effect on the room. The biggest effect was on my young friend Jordan. He was, as I just said, young. Not quite 18, a bit socially awkward, and I think he had a crush on Meghan to boot. He felt the need to leave the room to cool off for a bit. If this were an anime, there would have been a nosebleed.
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