#RPGaDay2018 Day13

Describe how your play has evolved

In my video today I talk about learning to be less serious, a bit more tolerant of people breaking immersion. We can still have games that are predominately In-Character, have fun, but also allow players to relax when they play as well; appreciating each persons reasons for playing are varied, never mind as a group.

I didn’t mention that I strive to keep evolving, like many players I enjoy researching new ideas and re-evaluating my own opinions about gaming. The impact of studying art and science upon my thoughts.


#RPGaDay2018 Day07

How can a GM make the stakes important?

On the surface this is quite a straightforward question and therefore I could give a simple answer, but as like most of things in role-playing there are a lot subtleties lurking beneath the surface. I think the easy answer is personal, a perfectly valid answer. I just happened to take it a step further, since what is personal? Why do people care? Why is someone motivated or invested? I go in to more depth of my #PieChartofIndecision in my video, plus touching on my L5R and Aberrant campaigns.

#RPGaDay2018 Day07 graph

Following on from the time pressure point, when I was working at KJC Games running role-playing Play By Mail games (PBM) for a lot of customers, one of the big issues was players had a limited amount of things they could do each turn. Yep that sounds quite obvious, but since the players had in-game friends and enemies also trying to achieve things, gather resources, uncover mysteries, improve their alliance, undermine their enemies, time pressure really stood out. Thus the relationship between time and choice was emphasised.

A quick short story about being an NPC at the Lorien Trust LARP. As an NPC I created and ran out plots, potentially hundreds of players could interact with or at least hear about the plot; plots at the Gathering could affect thousands. Some of the players chatted with me about how surprised they were with my style of GMing, that I didn’t just run out big deadly plots that I also did several small things, or rather they seemed small to them, but then they wondered. Thus the players didn’t know whether somebody coming in to the guild was actually a threat or not. Then they had to determine what was important, made harder because there were so many things happening, which resulted in some plot being given to other players. Not that everyone was happy, nor everyone was involved, but a bunch of compliments was still great 😉

A common thing that I found at LARP, particularly festival LARP, is that a few proactive players were regularly resolving plots, whilst less physically capable or newer, less well-known/connected players struggled to be involved. This is partly a result of competency, understandably established characters had proven themselves.

The large scale LARP problems mentioned above are rarely a problem in tabletop, mostly because the players can discuss things directly with the GM; so much easier and appropriate to freeze game time than at LARP.

I think another thing to think about is with ComputerRPG (CRPG/JRPG), they are quite different than tabletop. Overwhelmingly with CRPG is that time is not an issue, with the main plots being put on indefinite hold whilst side-quests are carried out; daft when the main quest keeps emphasising how urgent something is. Elder Scrolls and Fallout in particular do this, but it is a core CRPG approach. Whilst I like the games the ignoring of time undermine my character and story immersion, time doesn’t really matter.

Coming back to this fusion of the #PieChartofIndecision, plus other things I’ve not mentioned, we are mortal players playing a game, time matters, time is our stake, the fact we are playing the game itself is part of our choice in life; any game is a stake of our life force.

Impressive Reboot of Trinity

I love so many role-playing games and in particular the old Trinity universe. So I was ecstatic when the Kickstarter for a new version was announced, it’s called Trinity Continuum, from Onyx Path Publishing. The old White Wolf Game Studio published the original Æon Trinity in 1997; the game became known as Trinity due to a lawsuit with MTV due to their Aeon Flux, something that I recall helped spread word about the game at the local games shop I worked at. Set in the 22nd century Trinity was about humanity rebuilding after the Aberrant wars, with the game focusing on psychic humans call Psions. Over the years the Trinity Universe was expanded over the years to include Aberrant (Supes) and then Adventure! (Pulp) A d20 version in 2004. There was also a Trinity Battleground wargame (see end for poster collection). Then it was gone…

Like so many others I’ve been running the same Trinity campaign for many years, linking characters across multiple timelines. A big part of the appeal of the old games is their diverse settings and how they relate to each other, however, the old games were clearly not designed to fit neatly together, which put some people off. The Trinity Continuum Kickstarter has revealed that how Trinity Continuum fits together was a core design, and having read the new manuscripts I am very impressed. The multiverse of Trinity Continuum generates Flux, which besides being a great joke about old lawsuits, very nicely gives a basis to the luck and powers of the people in the different eras. This also makes any Trinity setting cannon, allowing Onyx to publish different products without violating anyone’s campaign deviations. This was never a problem for me, I would buy things and adapt them, but I appreciate many gamers felt the old vast metaplot made new products irrelevant to them.

Trinity Continuum will be using the new Storypath system, which I think is a big improvement on the old Storyteller system. For example: the introduction of the Momentum is a great mechanic that gives failures now add to the Momentum pool, which the party can use to overcome problems later. Momentum can also be used to power skill Tricks. There is more to Storypath system, so definitely check it out. I saw a negative post about somebody not liking the idea of Momentum and “failing forward”, personally I think this is a great addition. As normal for me and my group if we want to tweak things we do, and I already contemplating testing these mechanics in other games like L5R and GURPS; all part of the RPG mental toolkit 😉

The Storypath system is also used by Scion, but each game universe has its own tweaks; I love this because it will enable easy transition between different game universes, whilst allowing each game universe to have specialised mechanics to enhance the gameflow envisioned by the designers.

The core Trinity universe eras have been expanded in the Trinity Continuum. The Kickstarter is for the core rules, with a focus on modern day games. This has been done with foresight, allowing for games ranging from things like the Bourne Identity, Chuck (2007, TV), A Town Called Eureka (2006, TV), Fringe (2008, TV). There is nothing stopping a group from playing less action and super science games, such as focusing on the Æeon Society in the modern day that links to an era spanning campaign about the organisation over time.

A Kickstart add-on is Trinity Continuum: Æon book. This covers the original Trinity 22nd era, but there are a few tweaks, 99% of which I love. What is particularly impressive is how the Unity part of the setting is being given rules to help demonstrate the point, designer Ian Watson explained in an interview about how Psions can empower another Psion, like in Orpheus. One of my players always emphasises reasons for teamwork and they are going to love this tweak.

In a Polyhedron interview there were many gems such as a future settings of Anima, which will be set in 2084 (Total Recall, Remember Me) emphasising Implants and Memory Tech, and focusing on questions of identity. Another focus is people retreating to virtual realities after the Aberrant War, I wonder if full-borg conversions will be an option, or at least remote controlled androids, something like Surrogates. There was also mention of an era set in the ancient world, a Sword & Sandals style game; this was inspired by the Adventure! game notes of Doctor Primoris (who later became Divis Mal).

Another important point discussed in the interview was how diverse the old Trinity games were due to the global scale of the setting; it’s always great to have more game specific material. The new version will be building upon this legacy, which will include an expanded look at Africa, which never got its own sourcebook back in the old days in part due to them having so much to expand on; I’m sure it would have eventually if the games had not been cancelled.

Trinity Aberrant Books

There was such much I wanted to write about this Kickstarter, I had planned on summarising my own games but that would be too big a project and miss the point of highlighting what other people need to know about the Trinity setting. Thankfully lots of information is now available about the Trinity Continuum as well as the Storypath system via the Kickstarter. So before I end I will give a few campaign ideas that I have been pondering.

Psions Lost In Space / ST: Voyager: A Jumpship takes a group of people to a new colony, but they end up lost and so far away they are cut off from Earth. A campaign emphasising survival and testing the Unity ideas of the people aboard.

Paramorph Time War: empowered by the Trinity Continuum’s Flux, and assisted by many books, films as well as my trusty GURPS reference books. A vast Time War. Since leaving my old job games master job running Play-By-Mail games, one of the designs I have part finished is a way of tracking dynamic timelines, but due to how grand the game goal was I had to strip it back, and focus on a smaller project. I also have work from old Suzerain game focusing on time travel in tabletop games. Running a single player campaign would be much easier, imagine playing a character like Max Mercer seeing the sheer scope of the cosmos and trying to figure out how to help our species, add in the complication of other time travellers doing the same thing. This could be done for a group, maybe the group need to combine powers to jump.

Attack of the Titans / Kaiju Planet / Pacific Rim: Maybe set after the Aberrant War in a world that was even more devastated. Maybe beastlike Aberrants are left behind on Earth, but they have mutated further to become giant mindless entities. Can humanity defeat these Kaiju, and if so at what cost in lives and further global devastation?

Nova Terminators: Maybe the Op-net was destroyed not just because two Novas had a war, maybe there was a 3rd Nova that planned on world domination by initiating WW3 and ruling the remains like Skynet (SkyNova). In this world SkyNova succeeded and humans are now fighting a losing battle against Terminators. Maybe this game focuses on Daredevils and Psiads?

Æon Amber: Last year I finally got around to reading the Amber series by Roger Zelazny, Arthurian style court drama on a multiverse scale. Although travelling between every universe fighting other powerful factions is a bit too grand in scale; the TV series Sliders is a good example of this. Given that I am also looking forward to Changeling: The Lost 2nd Ed, maybe I can add this in as well? A nice way of cramming on more epic gaming in to limited playing time.

Lords of Light: Another Roger Zelazny book in which a human crew arrives at a planet but struggles to survive, so they alter themselves becoming vastly powerful entities. The crew masquerade as Hindu Gods subjugating the planet’s native inhabitants. A very interesting story following Sam trying to overthrow the crews control of the planet. This story would likely make a better fit for a Nova/Aberrant style game.

I’m sure many gamers are contemplating other campaign ideas, particularly the classic: Atlantis, Roman era, ancient Egypt dynasties, Aztecs, Mystic China, etc.

Trinity Battleground

At the time of publishing there are 19 hours of the Kickstarter left. There are lots of stretch goals unlocked, so join in and reap the benefits even if just for the new PDFs and the $15 for most of the old 1st Edition Trinity books. I think Trinity Continuum seems to balancing the modern RPG approach of specialised rules whilst not sacrificing a broad ability to run so many games, this alone is a great reason to join in. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/200664283/trinity-continuum-aeon-rpg/description

I dug out my old posters, publisher catalogue from working at Tower Models and the Trinity Battlegrounds wargame.

Trinity and old White Wolf Posters


Kickstarter Sigmata RPG p2

This follows on from Kickstarter Sigmata RPG.

I am currently playing about with campaign ideas for this game, as well as future ideas merging with other games. Chad’s previous game Cryptomancer included a suggestion about a mechanical bolt on approach for other games, hence my thinking along this line for Sigmata. If you’ve not checked out the Sigmata Kickstarter page yet, here is a quick overview. The game is linking together serious and silly ideas, drawing upon numerous political ideas, people movements like the Arab Spring, as well as 80s pop culture. Major influences include things like Synthwave, plus films like Akira along with Saturday morning cartoons like Transformers and G.I. Joe.

Sigmata is an RPG in the Cyberpunk genre of games, joining the likes of famous RPGs like Shadowrun and Cyberpunk. For a few people defining Cyberpunk is an almost religious process. My simple take on the subject is that Cyberpunk is a broad encapsulating term that includes all sorts of products; I agree with the following genre overview:

Cyberpunk is a subgenre of science fiction in a futuristic setting that tends to focus on “a combination of low life and high tech” [1] featuring advanced technological and scientific achievements, such as artificial intelligence and cybernetics, juxtaposed with a degree of breakdown or radical change in the social order.[2]

Sigmata allows players to play as Cybernetic badasses, who have access to diverse and interesting capabilities. Players (receivers) receive their powers via hearing signals, which are broadcast via radio towers. When the players have access to a very strong signal they are akin to superheroes in power level. The game includes a campaign tracking system, which in particular intrigues me.

I plan on running Sigmata by itself first, so I can get a good appreciation for the game and the practical experience of the rules. Additionally the Sigmata Kickstarter already has many goals unlocked, which includes alternate time periods to play in. This alone should keep the majority of gamers engaged for years to come. Lots of game options at launch, most impressive.

Merging with other RPGs

Whilst Sigmata is much more than just resistance tracking and signal towers giving powers, but these two ideas in particular are what I am very keen on exploring in other games. Following on from my previous post and my habit of mentioning RPG mental tool kit/belt, I’ll provide a list of ideas, like I wrote for my Changeling Kickstarter blog.

I love the idea of adding the Signal to a fantasy game, whether a high fantasy setting like D&D’s: Forgotten Realms, Ravenloft, Planescape, etc., or a grim-dark setting like Warhammer. Part of my thinking is that Sigmata could provide Avatar-like potential, as well as an extra level of campaign goals, but with mechanics of how to track such things. Whilst I have run very politically and rebellion focused campaigns in D&D previously, it was a long-time ago, and I didn’t make any mechanics for tracking resistance movements.

Consider how many fantasy settings have tyrannical rulers, but not just mortal monarchs, but also Magocracy or Theocracy, etc. Many magical settings include abilities empowering communication, speed of travel, as well as divination, all of which would really mix things up. However, what if magic cannot be trusted, and the party has to travel to hand deliver importance evidence, trying to avoid a scrying government, relying more on individual power, charm and guile. In a world of rare powerful magic the Signal could provide the party a much needed edge. Whether playing Rokugan with the Legend of the 5 Rings system, or the D20 system, there is interesting potential for Sigmata crossover.

Cthulhu mythos could take the Sigmata into dimensional territory, as well as paranoia and insanity. Imagine a game with cults having infiltrated tyrannical governments, so not only do the players need to resist things, but the fate of the world is at stake. Players (receivers) wondering where the signal comes from, and whether their newfound power cost something like sanity, or worse!

The World of Darkness is a game setting has all sorts of potential. The Signal could be related to any one of the existing supernatural groups, or something new. A Changeling campaign based in the Dreaming could have tyrannical Sidhe ruling commoners with an ‘iron’ fist, maybe the Signal allows a commoner to overcome the increased power of their innate nobility that Sidhe have in the Dreaming. A Werewolf game could have Garou being empowered by the Signal, which could be a new techno-spirit, providing new tools in the fight against the Wyrm. The same applies to a Mage centric game, but the metaphysical debates and paranoia regarding the Signal would be what I would want to focus on. An interesting twist to the Jyhad, such as Anarch vampires fighting Camarilla Elders, or Hunters avoiding Kindred. This could also work with the Chronicle of Darkness games.

Although the Trinity Continuum is about to be relaunched in the near future, the Trinity, Aberrant, Adventure settings of old included a powerful signal altering people. I am currently running Trinity and will be for a while yet, so I may start including things.

GURPS Riverworld, this setting is based upon a great sci-fi novel, which has its own sort of towers and effects on the world. I will avoid spoilers here; I guess most of those that have read it will appreciate where I am going with my thoughts. For me the wonderful GURPS reference books epitomise the RPG mental tool kit, so there is easily infinite scope regarding Sigmata ideas added into the GURPS system.

Shadowrun or R. Talsorian’s Cyberpunk games should be quite easy to merge with Sigmata due to the genre closeness and the typical adversarial nature of Corporations. Since powerful cybernetics already exist in these games, imagine if they were further empowered, which radically alters things. The magic in Shadowrun could also be enhanced, maybe in a way like with the D&D ideas I mention above.

I hope I’ve convinced you to at least check out the Kickstarter page for more information. Join in and #RepeatTheSignal.

PBM Thanks & Secret Rage

A while ago when I was mostly bedridden several of my friends would skype with me. It really helped to have some extra communication, and thankfully with a wireless headset it meant I could rest in bed. One of my long-time friends is Richie; he’s self-employed working from home, and has a young child, so he’s ludicrously busy, yet he still allocated time for me.

In addition to saying thank you to Richie for his support, I have tried to offer small gifts to show my appreciation. Richie and I first role-played together well over twenty years ago. Due to his busy life he’s not able to game regularly, so I thought a Play By Mail (PBM) game would do us both good, neatly sliding in to his hectic life schedule, at whatever pace he could manage. I wrote an introductory series to PBM here.

Roughly a year ago we discussed playing old White Wolf’s Aberrant game, since Richie’s a fan of comics, but he’d not played that setting yet. Aberrant has a rich Supers setting with mature themes, and lots of world changing powers to explore. Sadly this game never quite got going due to how busy Richie always is, and since I was still struggling with my health I didn’t push the subject. I have managed to offer a few other things as thanks, for example I made this small thing a while ago when he was ill:


More recently I returned to the idea of offering a better present by running a PBM game. As we are both writers I considered proposing a classic style Dungeons & Dragons game emphasising the Hero’s Journey arc. Although this may feel a bit too cliché to many role-players, I think it is worth keeping in mind that there is so much you can do with good old D&D, there are so many settings and styles of gameplay. I also considered a Cthulhu game, given the single player nature of this game maybe doing something along the lines of Groundhog Cthulhu: Live, Go Insane, Die, Repeat. Or maybe going a bit over the top and running a GURPS Infinite Worlds game. I went through lists of other RPGs, even games that I’d not tried out yet. Eventually I settled on a game that I thought was the most likely to get Richie to bite, so I suggested the Gift of Werewolf.

We both adore Werewolf: The Apocalypse; well we adore all of the classic World of Darkness (cWoD). Despite how much we played Werewolf, we still want to play more, both feeling the genius game was overlooked by many gamers, and those who did take an interest in the World of Darkness games typically favoured Vampire. Over the years when I’ve been asked to pick to my favourite cWoD game I’ve always picked the World of Darkness as a cohesive whole, since that was how I always ran the setting. So my friend knows that when I suggested Werewolf, I really meant the cWoD with the primary focus being Werewolf.

After some chats I made a list of ideas for the Werewolf PBM for us to discuss further, and things quickly developed; typically I wanted to do something more and a bit different than my previous games. The initial premise was Richie playing a lone Garou, however, role-playing a lone Garou is a bit depressing; they are primarily pack animals after all. So I proposed a game spanning eons, we could use Past Lives to allow for story that covered such a time period, a chance to explore a powerful historical and social background of the Garou, and it could be about preventing the Apocalypse. The new White Wolf Publishing company are working on a new World of Darkness, one that roughly continues from the classic, without the Apocalypse/Gehenna/Ascension ending. Whilst we are waiting for those products I considered this to be an intriguing idea.

Over the course of a few weeks I played about with the premise and kept coming back to wanting to do something more like my Vampire Methuselah and Elder PBM campaigns. Meanwhile Richie wrote a cool short story, things were a go. I then had a more intriguing campaign idea, one that would take the Past Lives plan to an even bigger level, and take the game in a radically different direction. It didn’t involve abandoning what we’d initially set out to do, and Richie’s story would tie-in.

Next time I’ll go in to more detail about my Secret Rage.

You can check out some of Richie’s great designs at http://www.richiedigital.co.uk/

#RPGaDay 31

If you are not familiar with #RPGaDay, then please read this page first. For the 31st day of #RPGaDay the question is:

What do you anticipate most for gaming in 2018?

My tweeted answer is: #RPGaDay 31, #TrinityContinuum #Aberrant @TheOnyxPath & #Cryptomancer @Papa_Shell finally releasing my own #RPG work

I’m greatly anticipating the launch of Trinity Continuum by Onyx Path; previously old White Wolf’s Trinity Universe (Trinity (Æon), Aberrant, Adventure). I’ve mentioned Trinity in several of my answers for RPGaDay, I adore the setting, and I am confident this upcoming version will be a masterpiece.

I am quite intrigued to see what happens with Cryptomancer, especially as more people are getting involved. I’ll review the recent release of Code & Dagger volume 2 in September. Cryptomancer’s Chad is also writing for the recently funded Spire RPG, so that’s on my TODO list.

If multiple playtests and edits go well, then I’ll be publishing some connected RPG products next year; I have several near finished. I’ll not waffle about my own work, since if my players hate my projects, or more likely think they are weak, then I may have a lot of rethinking to do.

This month’s RPGaDay has certainly helped highlight several games I’d like to play. I plan on changing from my normal long campaigns, and running very short campaigns, plus maybe a few one-shots. My current TODO games list goes back years, I guess like many other role-players. Whether as a player, GM, or writer/designer, I always enjoy exploring other people’s work; besides fun it’s also research 😉

#RPGaDay 30

If you are not familiar with #RPGaDay, then please read this page first. For the 30th day of #RPGaDay the question is:

What is an RPG genre-mashup you would most like to see?

My tweeted answer is: #RPGaDay 30, #RPG inspired by many systems, and my old job, a Mafia Time Extortion game.

Like many role-players, I have a collection of ideas that I’ve been adding to for years. It can be argued that so many genre-mashups have been done, that there is nothing left. I almost agree with that sentiment, particularly with so many systems and settings allowing for easy adaptation of anything.

  • Whether it’s GURPs in general, or the Banestorm setting in particular.
  • The wondrously detailed Heroes system.
  • Palladium’s Rifts, and the Megaverse in general.
  • Technically the World of Darkness has everything within its vast Tellurian.
  • Dungeons & Dragons has mentions of links to other realities, so there is nothing preventing mash-ups with that system.
  • Or other systems that work well as a launching platform such as Savage Worlds or Fate.

Keeping to the spirit of RPGaDay, and having fun with the question, I’ll get hung-up on whether my idea is silly, or already been done. I am sure people will mention all sorts of ideas that may actually in a few groups giving it a bash, so I am quite looking forward to scouring the Web for answers.

When I worked at KJC Games back in the 2000s, there a few ideas that Mica, my boss, and I discussed as potential for a commercial PBM RPG. Mica worked on some details for an interesting flashback vampire game. Since he knew I was a fan of supernatural myths and many game systems, in particular World of Darkness, he used me as an example of the target customer. Sadly that game never happened, too many other things to do. Years later I contemplated doing something with the idea, but decided against it since it was originally Mica’s, instead I got obsessed with coding software to support role-playing a time travel game.


There are many games that touch on time travel, and of course GURPS explores the subject in quite some depth. In the 90s and early 00s I had run the Vampire Giovanni Chronicles with a few groups, and my main group had gotten up to book 4. The PCs start out as mortals in the 1920s working for the Mafia. The chronicle explores their lives being drawn in to the World of Darkness, eventually being Ghouls, and eventually embraced by Giovanni. My players, however, decided they were really happy playing a mortal Mafia game, since they were having such fun they even requested I delay any supernatural aspects indefinitely. Since I was still working on the time travel game ideas, I got the idea of doing a setting that was a mash-up of a Mafia Time Extortion game. Years later Looper was made, which is somewhat of a Mafia time travel story.

In 1999 I spent a year working on time travel ideas after meeting Martin and Damian of the original Suzerain team. After writing them a detailed essay about the game, I was invited to become more involved with the game, and so I became a freelance writer. I later helped with Suzerain’s GenCon UK launch, demonstrating games and helping to run the two LARP events that weekend. Suzerain was an interesting RPG, that reminded me of Quantum Leap. I’ll write about my Suzerain interest another time.

Although I’ve not playtested the designs I have for my Mafia Time Extortion game, I did adapt a few things for the Trinity Verse game I ran. What started out as a typical Aberrant campaign became about tracking down Max Mercer’s time travel. Typically for me the game got complicated, and required a database to track all the Novas, as well as Adventure and Trinity era NPCs. That game is on hold awaiting the release of the Trinity Continuum.