#RPGaDay 15

If you are not familiar with #RPGaDay, then please read this page first. For the 15th day of #RPGaDay the question is:

 Which RPG do you enjoy adapting the most?

My tweeted answer is: #RPGaDay 15 #RPG WoD just a few tweaks. Plus as a toolkit #GURPS #Cryptomancer

I am going to separate my answer in to two:

1) The setting I have enjoyed adapting the most is the classic World of Darkness, after just a few tweaks I was very happy with the game. Once Werewolf came out, and the WoD had two games, I always ran my games as a cohesive world, not as separate games. Those that know the games appreciate that they were not designed with any idea of balancing a mixed party; I ran a few games with a mixed party, so I know they can work. I am referring to the complicated supernatural web that envelopes the WoD, the different factions pulling at strands. I’ll blog about this more another time.

2) Since 2000 the game I’ve drawn from the most is GURPS, it has greatly helped me with other games. The books are a wonderful source of information, and I’ll go as far claiming they are the ultimate RPG toolkit; overstatement aside, GURPS is brilliant.

Following on from GURPS, this year I’ve really taken a shine to Cryptomancer. I think the game has added something missing in the RPG hobby, and it was written with system hacking in mind; I wrote a review. I have already been using it, and I have plans to incorporate it further in other games. So whilst I have not used it as much as GURPS yet, I suspect over the next few years I certainly will.

I have enjoyed adapting every game, even the few I am not keen on. As I mentioned for Day 14, I think it is great to expand our mental RPG tool belt.

#RPGaDay 14

If you are not familiar with #RPGaDay, then please read this page first. For the 14th day of #RPGaDay the question is:

Which RPG do you prefer for open-ended campaign play?

My tweeted answer is: #RPGaDay 14 #RPG try games with lineages #Pendragon #L5R #Birthright #DnD, adapt any game #Vampire #Cyberpunk etc

I give some examples below that I hope will help inspire some role-players, but I’ll start by building upon the answers I gave for Day 8 and Day 9: “Any game can work, don’t feel restricted by setting or system. Use the opportunity…” Since there are so many games available, and many of them have sections written about different types of campaigns, any of them should make a great foundation for an open-ended campaign.

Going back to the early days of RPG, that default stance was that of an open-ended campaign, but this was certainly not a rule, and I am sure there were countless intentionally short games back in the 70s and 80s. Even in game like Call of Cthulhu, were the idea of the party surviving for very long was almost a joke, yet I still met gamers that played the same Cthulhu character for years in the same campaign. Given how many gamers there are, I quickly learned not to be surprised by odd stories; like everything else, RPGs have bell-curve outliers.

Batjutsu RPG dice scene

Pendragon, and its somewhat D&D equivalent of Birthright, practically sets out from the start that the players will build towards a long campaign that covers lifetimes. With this sort of time scale, things like marriage and children are not just important, they are brought to the front of game and character goals. I was introduced to Pendragon with “That campaign really gets going by your 3rd character.”

Given the lethality of Legend of the 5 Rings (L5R), it was no surprise to read a section in the first GM screen booklet about recommending to players about family connections to replace characters. Given the cultural gravitas of family in Rokugan, as well as a setting in which some characters are willing to kill themselves, a player being able to play one of their now dead character’s family, or fellow Clan members helps to take the sting out of death, and keep the campaign momentum. Even in the case of a Total Party Annihilation (TPA (TPK, TPW)) this method can work well.

A setting like the World of Darkness is one that could make for an ideal open-ended campaign, with its vast game options and history to draw upon. Playing an immortal creature, like a Vampire or Spirit, allows for sessions covering many different time periods, which could keep going. Back in the 90s I ran a multiplayer Vampire Methuselah PBM game, the plan being the players would play for years carefully moving against each other. Amusingly one player went to war quickly, and things were gloriously complicated. This led to a second game and longer game, WoD: Night City (I used Cyberpunk’s Night City sourcebook). It was overall great fun, and these games were part of the reason I got a job working at KJC Games.

I am currently running Secret Rage, another PBM game in the cWoD with an epic campaign length planned; the game begins at the dawn of time. I’ll be blogging about that after the #RPGaDay month, along with more on my RPG Game Types series.

I am a firm believer in buying and trying many different RPGs to make my mental tool belt more diverse. The more tools on the belt the better, as well as learning to recognise which RPG tool for which RPG, plus game/group needs.

Over the years this attitude has helped me more easily adapt rules between games, as well as ways of thinking about different ways to approach and run/play games. For a group that has not played games like those listed above, I am sure they could have a lot of fun incorporating ideas like those of Pendragon in to any game.

With things like Cyberpunk or Cthulhu, were lethality is both in the setting and the mechanics, you could consider using an organisation (Corporation/Secret Society) as the pool for the PCs. This approach would also work well for a Supers game, whether needed due to a more lethal style, or playing a Supers team over different eras, or following a Supers bloodline.

#RPGaDay 13

If you are not familiar with #RPGaDay, then please read this page first. For the 13th day of #RPGaDay the question is:

Describe a game experience that changed how you play.

My tweeted answer is: #RPGaDay 13 #RPG, balancing challenges & avoid being too epic.

I have tried to keep growing over the years, both in relation to myself, and also how I play/GM RPGs, I have often reflected on how fortunate I was to role-play with so many different people. From being 11 and the silly amount of D&D sessions at school, to playing with much older role-players when I was 16, to being mentored by people at my local games shop, and the great influence by gamers at college. Like other gamers, I am sure this question can result in a floodgate of reflecting and cool stories. Thus there were a few different answers that I started writing for this, each competing for the limelight. I also wrote some blog posts last year about some of my early RP experiences that fitted this question:

d6

The first role-playing game I ran greatly influenced how I saw the hobby. It was shortly after my first role-playing session, so I was still extremely new to the whole concept of role-play, and of course an inexperienced 11 year old. I came up with a very simplistic adventure idea, since I was pressed for time to prepare the game. Due to my lack of experience I struggled to balance encounters, and I escalated too quickly to being epic about things!

Thankfully one of the players appreciated that I’d been willing to run the game, since everybody had wanted to play.  Sadly I forget the person’s name now, but this 11 year old gave surprisingly sophisticated feedback, explaining why he thought my session had been clearly run by someone struggling and going overboard. His explanation was roughly:

  • It quickly became obvious to him which were my weak and tough encounters, thus the party acted accordingly. He advised mixing things up, tough goblins and monsters near death, and to give clues to this.
  • The party gained too much loot at the end. If one gold coin is valuable than a hundred is a treasure, whilst thousands is ridiculous.
  • The plot reasons I’d come up with were silly, and it was all to epic, making it even sillier.
  • He added that whilst giving out lots of treasure did make one player happy, who at the time was running around the room bragging, but for him he felt it was worthless, since it was all too easy.

This advice started my journey in thinking about plot, balance, character meaning, value and the near-paradoxes of gaming. In turn I have passed on this advice, along with other ideas, to new players and GM’s:

Explore and enjoy low level things when they are new, don’t be in a rush to throw epic encounters in.

This also led my 11 year old self to try and appreciate what was happening in a game at that moment. Not to fixate on what loot we would find, or when we next levelled/spent XP. This of course applies whether the party are 1st level D&D characters, neonate vampires, poorly equipped Solo/Street Samurai, etc., or  powerful versions of those characters.

During my teenage years this advice led me to appreciating little character details. Whether playing Warhammer or Cyberpunk, etc., that as a player epic-ness is my character’s story, and the decisions I make. That as a GM, to allow players to explore their character details, to make decisions and have an impact, and not just to ram my epic plot down their throats. The big plot event down the line will mean more to players who are invested in their characters.

#RPGaDay 12

If you are not familiar with #RPGaDay, then please read this page first. For the 12th day of #RPGaDay the question is:

Which RPG has the most inspiring interior art?

My tweeted answer is: #RPGaDay 12 #RPG, #Aberrant #Trinity #Adventure due to the wonderful IC pages.

I had so many initial thoughts about this question, and sadly despite the list of honourable shout-outs I have provided, I know I am missing off to many noteworthy games. Many old games came to mind, in part because they had been part of my formative RPing years. Whether staring at the old Monster Manuals for AD&D 1st ed over and over again, or the Warhammer artwork emphasising the dark setting. When I started playing Cyberpunk, the artwork helped to differentiate itself from the fantasy games I had previously played; a game with both style and substance 😉

Cyberpunk Interior artI considered Tales from the Loop, which was built upon a wonderful collection of art. This is also a great example of how modern RPGs can have amazing artwork, and how we can keep being surprised.

L5R is one of my favourite games, in part due to its incredible artwork; I tend to buy all the books for a game I like, but at least that means more artwork. Given the game’s emphasis on culture, and how important appearance is in that setting, with so many pieces of art showing character interaction and attire, it was quite easy to show players an example to help inspire them.

I nearly choose Changeling: The Dreaming, I adore that game; I wrote about one of my Changeling campaigns for Day 7. I shouldn’t really single out any of the classic World of Darkness (cWoD) games, as a whole the interior art was diverse and gripping; the walls of my old flats were covered in mostly WoD artwork. The artwork for Wraith really helped to inspire that game’s setting and mood, although I know a few players that were too disturbed by that game to even try it. Changeling’s lovely artwork helped to make that game stand out, and with the diverse races (kith) the pictures felt like a nod at the older games like D&D, whilst being noticeable different to them.

Changeling Interior ArtA special shout-out to Palladium’s: Ninjas & Superspies and Mystic China; whilst I am it, also for Nightbane. Like so many of Palladium books, there is a good mix of artwork. In a hobby dominated by fantasy, then Sci Fi, and then probably Supers, I really appreciated any martial arts artwork.

Although Street Fighter is a big IP, and thus it’s a bit unfair to compare it to non-major-IP games, as I mentioned on Day 5, the artwork was very inspiring. Overall the artwork was vibrant and fitted the style of the game. I’ll admit that anything martial arts related gets a bonus from me, but I really love that game for taking a beat’em up and turning in to something special.

As mentioned above, I finally settled on the books for the Trinity Universe, and in particular Aberrant. Having so many In Character (IC) pages really helped to get the setting across. They were easy to show new players, especially the pages that were comics. Thus the interior art was more than just artwork, they were IC game props. Although the old White Wolf company had done this sort of thing before with the cWoD books, it was taken to a new level with books for the Trinity Universe. Between the timeline, the IC news articles, interviews, wrestling shows, and profiles, the whole collection was both inspiring and highly informative.

Aberrant Interior ArtAs I mentioned yesterday, Onyx Path Publishing are working on rebooting this setting as the Trinity Continuum. Clearly with such a rich heritage to build upon, and the great work and experience of Onyx, Trinity Continuum is obviously going to be amazing. I’d only be surprised if the game was less than stunning to look at. Check out the Trinity Continuum pages.

#RPGaDay 07

If you are not familiar with #RPGaDay, then please read this page first. For the 7th day of #RPGaDay the question is:

What was your most impactful RPG session?

My answer is: #RPGaDay 7, True Love at a fairy cake party for 8 players in Changeling #RPG #WoD

Another tough question; like many role-players I don’t normally try to rate/compare my games, but of course when asked I’ll still spend time pondering 😉 Years ago I ran a Changeling: The Dreaming campaign for roughly a year, often it had 8 players in attendance, and I don’t recall a session with less than 6. I mention this because everyone was very proactive whilst sharing the spotlight, it was a joy to GM, and often felt effortless to run, despite how many players and all the extra work I did (see below). This campaign had several sessions that could each fulfil the criteria of this question.

Despite being a slightly larger group, the game worked well. Feedback from the players during the campaign was that they felt constantly included, and motivated to play. Part of the trick I used was to write a revelation of a past life for each of the characters. Every few sessions I would give all the players a handout each, summarising another glimpse of their past lives via their dreams. This was tied in to events happening in the game, inspiring the characters to overcome great difficulty. This meant in addition to game events, each player also had an internal exploration. All of the characters had known each other in their past life, so the glimpses also worked as a way of expanding the relationships in the group.

Old World of Darkness, Trinity Universe, Exalted, Street Fighter

The session in mind was going to be a big IC celebration, and the players decided that this justified having an OOC fairy cake party. So at the start of the celebration session it was revealed that the collection of fairy cakes was more of a massive spread, like a birthday party, we even had jelly.

In addition to all the different character activities, two characters finally planned a big get together. During the many previous sessions, Limpet (Pooka) and Angel (Satyr) had teased and flirted with each other, and things had been building up.

During the previous two sessions they had started to get serious about each other. I offered regular game maintenance between sessions, as well as PBM aspects. The players of Limpet and Angel wanted to explain their character’s emotional state during a private mini-session. Once I knew what they both planned I was shocked, there was going to be emotional fireworks, and since both players seemed to have no idea that the other was doing this, I made sure to keep neutral.

At the start of the celebration session the players of Limpet and Angel both handed me a final note about how they planned on things. This was partly because there were potential game mechanics involved, and they didn’t want them getting in the way of very emotional dialog.


A quick explanation just for those not familiar with Changeling: The Dreaming. Changelings are divided in to different species (Kith), and each have birthrights and frailties.

  • Pooka have problems with telling the truth, but it’s not as simple as simply saying the opposite, and even when it is, which part is opposite and which is straightforward? They can make a dif 8 Willpower to overcome this, so not easy for many characters.
  • Satyr have Passion’s Curse. They can have wild mood swings, and can also have difficulties resisting temptations.

Angel was desperate for a real relationship. Whilst Limpet felt unloved by the world, since no one understood him, he was so insightful about others. Of course others found him to be too complex, whilst he thought he was simple, and this paradox plus his nature meant discussing anything about himself to be impossible.


So, at the celebration, Angel & Limpet finally had their chance to be honest with each other about their deep feelings. The following is what transpired:

  • The Satyr, Angel, believed she had learned how Limpet tended to speak, and how she could discuss her love for him. The player note stated she would spend WP to pass any frailty rolls, how Angel had been building up to this, it meant the world to her.
  • Meanwhile Limpet also had decided that was the moment, he wanted to know why Angel declared she had feelings for him, but then teased him and went off with other people!  The player note for Limpet stated he would spend WP to pass his initial frailty roll so he could speak like a ‘normal person’, to speak honestly, since he had been building up to this, it meant the world to him!

So Angel asks Limpet to speak with her, it’s important. At this stage, the two players had the spotlight. The rest of the players guessed at what would happen at this moment, and even the Sidhe and Redcap kept quiet. Limpet takes a deep breath and nods that he will go with Angel; he starts to psyche himself up for the difficulty of overcoming his nature. They step out on to a balcony of the wonderful mansion hosting the party, the sun is setting, the weather is perfect, the Redcap is not persecuting anything, the childe Pooka is busy, they look at each other, with their hearts are racing as this is the perfect moment.

The tension builds as seconds tick by, both are too nervous to speak. Finally Limpet declares love for Angel, the delivery is so earnest, Angel freaks out, confused, how could Limpet take the piss out of her!? He was like that with everyone, but she thought she was different, and she tells him this: “You take the piss when you mean the opposite, the more you do so, the more the seriousness. Yet you dismiss me now, you think so little of me?!” Limpet once again earnestly declares his love for Angel. Angel’s anger subsides, maybe he is being truthful, so she asks him this if this time he is being truthful. Limpet has Willpower issues, so the player opts for a dice roll, he succeeds and explains that he is being totally truthful. Angel starts crying, finally they have broken through the communication barrier, and Limpet’s elaborate piss-taking stunts. Limpet is relieved, there is someone for him, she has persevered and understands him. Angel’s emotional rollercoaster gets the better of her, she asks a lot of questions, Limpet is overwhelmed, his frail nature breaks through, he cannot help but take the piss, dismiss and lie about things. Angel runs away crying…

Moments later there is an outcry, the newly crowned High King David is missing. The Redcap takes the opportunity to persuade a young Pooka to get ice cream from the freezer, and then locks her in, whilst her Troll guardian is discussing playing spin the Eshu to find out which is the way to go. Limpet starts telling the Sidhe that are freaking out that he believes David has gone hiking.

The zany ending aside, maybe down to all the sugar that had been eaten, the 30 minute dialog between Angel and Limpet was at first a beautiful encounter, but in the end heart wrenching. The session stands out as being a great example of role-play build-up, delivery, emotional rollercoaster, as well as the fun nature of gaming; the fantastic amount of celebration food also helped to give the session an extra immersive feel. I also love how two players independently decided to implement their plan, at the same time, and how it almost worked out.

#RPGaDay 06

If you are not familiar with #RPGaDay, then please read this page first. For the 6th day of #RPGaDay the question is:

You can game every day for a week. Describe what you’d do!

My answer is: #RPGaDay 6, discuss with my group: 1) run the week like a convention, or 2) see link

As always whatever I run would be discussed with my group. Since we’ve gamed together for decades I guess the vote would either be:

  1. Running the week like a tabletop convention. I’d have a choice of different games that the players could then vote on what games to fill those slots. Ideal for mixing things up, enabling players to return to old campaigns, start something new and also a chance to try out the latest RPGs.
  2. I am currently playtesting my own game (Elemental Masters (rubbish working title)). I feel it would be best to take breaks from this so I could take on board any feedback, and then tweak designs as necessary. The other 50% of the time I’d go with my answer for day 1 of returning to a long running L5R campaign, but adding in Cryptomancer shards for: “Shadow in the Shardnet”.
  3. Run a multitude of different settings using GURPS. Maybe on the final day the different settings are all linked up.

RPG Reality

I currently only have one group, and we are all too busy. Sadly we wouldn’t have a week we could put aside, and even if we did I would still want to focus on writing and design. Still I appreciated the dream time that the question instigated.

Quick Nostalgia

Like many gamers in their youth, I gamed as much as I could. During the summer holiday of 1990 I played Cyberpunk 2020 practically every day during 10+ hour sessions, for most of the 6 week summer holiday. I had been playing a lot of D&D before then, and World of Darkness once it was released.

Some years later I had less time to due to work, but for a while I did play in many different groups and ran several groups.  So I was gaming 5 days out of 7, mostly classic World of Darkness, but also some Street Fighter, Palladium (Ninja and Superspies) and D&D.

By 2000 when I was working at KJC Games I didn’t get to game as much. I was not gaming in as many groups. I started going to gaming conventions, as well as helping a bit with the local convention TowerCon. I stopped going to tabletop conventions since I returned to playing LARP. More recently I’ve mostly been finalising years of designs.

https://batjutsu.wordpress.com/2015/12/06/street-fighter-rpg-look-back/ and other links to old articles can be read via my RPG post summary page https://batjutsu.wordpress.com/role-playing-game-links/

#RPGaDay 05

If you are not familiar with #RPGaDay, then please read this page first. For the 5th day of #RPGaDay the question is:

Which RPG cover best captures the spirit of the game?

There are so many amazing game covers I contemplated picking, I’ve listed ones I nearly choose below. Since this question has no correct answer, choosing one was quite difficult. I went with:

#RPGaDay 5 Usagi Yojimbo, also the only game I’ve bought simply due to the cover.

Batjutsu RPG IP Covers

Since any RPG using existing intellectual property (IP) brings with it a lot of sentiment, be it: Star Wars, Trek, D.C, Marvel, Middle Earth, Babylon 5, Street Fighter, etc., could be thought of as having a bonus to any dice roll to help capture what the spirit of a game would be; I’d go as far as claiming that it’s an automatic success. This is why I think it puts any RPG cover for such an IP in to a special category. This is not to diminish some of the amazing front covers for any RPG using a big IP setting; I’m just saying that for me I already have an opinion of what the spirit is.

I had no idea what Usagi Yojimbo was when I bought it, so I am ignoring the fact the game used an existing IP; also it’s clearly not as famous as the IPs mentioned above 😉 I vaguely recall thinking it might be a bit like TMNT, but it looked less zany, more serious. Also my first introduction to Greg Stolze, whose varied great work I’ve enjoyed many times over the years.

I almost choose the stunning artwork used for Tales from the Loop. So many are saying it really captures the spirit of the game, but I have not played it yet so I thought in inappropriate to pick. Whilst the game is partly inspired by Stranger Things, but it does not use the title, so I think it is fair to not treat like the big IPs like Star Wars.

Tales from the Loop

Minimalist Front Cover Shout-Outs

It’s hard make a front cover whilst keeping details to a minimum. It makes sense to make epic fantasy/sci-fi pictures for an RPG, since the fan base is usually the sort of people that will plaster their walls with pictures of dragons and spaceships. So it is understandable that the majority of RPGs use an epic scene for their front cover, especially given how important drama is for any RPG.

Two games that deviate from this norm, that I also think use the front cover to capture the spirit of their game are:

  • Traveller’s text on a black background somehow works; maybe because it is a gripping short story, atop the black which represents deep space and vulnerability?
  • Code and Dagger (Cryptomancer) does a great job of encapsulating that game.

CodeDagger

Other Shout-Outs

There are so many other front covers that I nearly choose: Cyberpunk 2020, Warhammer 1st Ed, Shadowrun, L5R, Deadlands. Of special note to me is Aberrant, there is a lot going on in the picture that captures the drama of the setting, without it being too busy.

Batjutsu RPG covers

aberrant

Like many others I have spent too much time on pinterest if you’d like to look at more RPG artwork: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/batjutsu/