RPG Impact 10

Continuing with RPG Impact. For my tenth RPG, I’ve chosen Pendragon. I recall seeing this game at my local games shop when I was still at school. No one I knew played Pendragon, and I thought the idea of King Arthur was boring compared to all the other games, so I didn’t discover this gem for a few years. As I mentioned in my Call of Cthulhu post for RPG Impact 6, I finally played some Chaosium when I was 18, and then was taught a bit about the company and Greg Stafford in particular.

I was impressed when I first read the book, but due to all the other games I was playing, it got put on to a list of games, and for years it was never chosen. When I did return to Pendragon was I surprised at myself, how had I not prioritised this game?

Like many growing up in the UK I’d read and seen lots of Arthurian legends over the years, so I had a basic grasp of variation on the tales. Whilst I still thought as the Knights of Camelot as interesting, but I’d mostly been playing games about super powered entities (Vampires, Changelings, Mages, Supes, Cyborgs, mystic Samurai, etc.), in some cases radically changing society or even reality. I recognise that so many games, such as Middle Earth or Changeling the Dreaming, have Arthurian legends at their core, so to an extent I did get to explore some common themes and character arcs. When we played something more mundane, it was modern day or near future.

I’m one of the many role-players that enjoy research, experimentation, buying new games just to read them. The indie scene is fabulous and rich with new ideas and tweaks. With Chaosium I am reminded of the old games company Looking Glass Studios, makers of many amazing and innovative games, in particular System Shock, which led to the epic Deus Ex and also less impressive but still great Bioshock, as well as the fabulous Thief series. Another quick PC game comparison, Planescape: Torment, which for years was a niche gem, but reviews by the likes of PC Gamer had the score go up every few years. For me Pendragon is like this. An RPG gem that many know about, but sadly most role-players don’t.

Pendragon had a big impact upon me for a few reasons. One being the winter season downtime system, not only is it different from most role-playing games, it is also something that easily fits a Play-by-Email style. The game’s focus on family and lineage is great, plus ties in with the game’s troupe style play. After completing my psychology and writing degree, I also gained a new perspective on the brilliance of Pendragon, specifically in regards to the personality mechanics. It is common for games to build upon the ideas of Freud or Jung, but less common to build upon the more complex science like the Big 5 personality traits, I think Pendragon’s personality traits are sublime. I appreciate that some players hate those sorts of things, feeling they are the tools of punishment by bad GMs, etc., but for any doubters, trust me with Pendragon it works wonderfully, empowering characters, supporting the themes.

There are a few videos about this RPG, such as:

#SecretRage Comic

Huzzah, I’ve just submitted a story for another writing competition; this one was for New Writers North. During my writing breaks I chatted with a few players about game ideas. Some more Play-By-eMail games have been preliminarily arranged. Besides tabletop games, I am currently running PBEM:

  • #FatefulMemories this is a fusion of Dungeons & Dragons, Call of Cthulhu, and the World of Darkness; plus bits from other games. This game has been slow but steady, so far it has been ‘mostly’ set in the Forgotten Realms, but is likely to go full Planescape soon 😀 If the player agrees, maybe in the future I will publish some of the game turns.
  • A Mage the Ascension freeform discovery game.
  • One of the World of Darkness games I had started in 2017 was #SecretRage; I had previously blogged about this as Prelude – Secret Rage PBM 6. This game led to a spin off game, set in modern days, which then metamorphised in World of Darkness Sliders. I am running Sliders primarily as a tabletop, but it still involves PBEM 🙂

I might now also be running

  • A Twin Peaks game, likely another freeform game. Probably using Esoterrorists, Mage and Cosmicism. I saw some recommendations for other games to look at, which focus on providing a Twin Peaks like experience #Lynchcraftian
  • I’ve touched on Satyros’s: Powerchords with a music friend.
  • I have big plans for an epic Reality War game. Sadly I’d need a lot of infrastructure to do that, I’m not healthy enough to tackle so much coding; speech recognition is so annoying with code.

I had put a lot into the primary #SecretRage chronicle. Originally it focused on Werewolf: the Apocalypse. The idea changed to allow the PC to be a spirit, and I also incorporated some of my designs and code from old PBM games. The game would span the whole World of Darkness, allowing for any time or place to be explored. Despite being quite ill at the time of planning this, I managed to do a lot of preparation. I even made a comic; not bad for a rubbish artist with hand problems. Sadly, #SecretRage faded away, but I kept tinkering with it, making new scenes, hoping it would get going again.

Motivated by various chats, as well as discussion tonight in the Mage the Podcast Discord server, I have tweaked the comic that I made and uploaded as a complete PDF: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1ZKGqsu4Q6q42dvoNlUV7RjzxsI7U9fCH/view?usp=sharing

#SecretRage 0

Batjutsu Secret Rage p1

Prelude – Secret Rage PBM 6

This continues on from part 1 PBM Thanks & Secret Rage.

It has been a while since I blogged about my #SecretRage PBM campaign, Richie and I have been busy so it has been on the back burner. This at least allowed me to explore ways to link ideas about the potential psychology of spirits, something that relates to two other projects. I considered abandoning this campaign and playtesting my new setting, but since I’ve put a lot of preparation in to this campaign, plus Richie and I wanted to play Werewolf, I decided to stick with things. I participated in #RPGaDay again this year, I mentioned #SecretRage on several of the days. For Day 26 I talked about Ambitions.

This urge to keep changing projects is an ongoing problem for me, so I gave myself a deadline; following advice from The Bestseller Experiment. I finished up the comic pages and the introductory turn as well. Finalising everything for this project helped re-inspire my passion for #SecretRage, plus given me inspiration to run something else, Cyberpunk, D&D, Pendragon, Cthulhu, etc.

I won’t be posting the turn data since I’ve added another player, plus I am considering inviting other players to join in, maybe some of the people from the #RPGaDay community. Below are those comic pages, which once again I found the writing of to be an interesting puzzle to figure out, in part due to writing about a messed-up Luna, but also because comic writing is different.

#SecretRage 07#SecretRage 08#SecretRage 09+10#SecretRage 11#SecretRage 12#SecretRage 13#SecretRage 14#SecretRage 15+16

#RPGaDay2018 Day26 RPG Ambition

Gaming ambition for the next 12 months

Lots of people posting information about their quite interesting ambitions for their next 12 months, inspiring to see what people are thinking about. Due to limited time I’ve kept my video short, partly because I plan on more blogs and videos about one of my ambitions for the next 12 months.

I’ve not run an in-depth PBM game since working at KJC Games. I’ve done little bits but nothing major, mostly because I always come back to my main ambition: better GM & Player tools. I am still in the midst of writing a novel, plus a few short stories I keep playing with, too many things, so I decided that 2018 should be the year of Project Overlap. Scaling ideas back, managing health better and better time management are how I plan to achieve my ambition.

Since I touched on D&D and Pendragon in my video, here is Runeslinger talking about his plans. Any similarity between my video and Antony’s is entirely down to me imitating him 😉

So many plans:

Big plans at The GM Table

Plus so many more 🙂

#RPGaDay2018 Day17 Compliments

Describe the best compliment you’ve had while gaming

An awkward question but as this is a positive event I’ve gone for an #RPGDeepDive, but then included some criticism of myself 😉 I didn’t make a #PieChartofIndecision for today, that felt like going too far; isn’t doubt great. I did consider writing about other ways the question could be answered, such as other people being inspired by your games or characters, people being clearly invested in a game, hearing stories about some amazing role-player that turns out to be about me, being reminded that I messed something up but at least improved because of it 😉 Whilst I could add more I think it is worth highlighting:

We play a collaborative hobby, so I appreciate any personal compliments are in that framework.

Please check the video below out for what I do talk about:

 

#RPGaDay2018 Day08 More Players

How can we get more people playing?

Today’s video turned into a funny set of failures, since I’m far too sleep deprived. At least my chronic pain helped me overcome a bit of my self-conscious issue and I think the video has a bit comedic value 🙂 Ironically I had been trying to discuss mental health when I eventually gave up and made this version.

Today was odd in seeing some negative posts about gatekeeping. Role-playing is titanic now, there have always been a vast range of people in the hobby, it is great that number of people is going up. Thankfully the events positivity overall shines through, the hobby is for all. Plus as Runeslinger nicely points out we need to be careful with a thought process of Us (in the hobby) vs Them (non-players).

So many things I missed out of the video, although thankfully a lot of it is the obvious: like how the massive growth within the hobby is mostly about D&D, as are the majority of Actual Plays. I had intended to talk about how to help other games, but thankfully others have done so. The power of known Intellectual Properties: Buffy, Star Wars, Star Trek, etc.

I was also planning to talk about my work experiences helping at conventions, games club, LARP events, or working at a games shop roughly come down to the typical things of: be professional & friendly. Likewise discussions at KJC Games about marketing and player retention can be boiled down to professionalism, plus improving standards, being creative with new content, offer something special. Guess I should blog about this another time 😉

#RPGaDay2018 Day08 graph

My conclusion is when talking to new people and trying to hook them, be respectful, use constrained passion and don’t monologue, show a bit of patience and keep it simple. When talking to a potential new player don’t prejudge them, find out what their interests are, at which point you can explain how you can cater the game to them. This can also help you work out system complexity they’d like. From this approach maybe you can hook them. Every individual that joins the community can introduce others, it adds up.

I’m sure there were some other things, but I’m finally feel like I can sleep 🙂

 

Prelude – Secret Rage PBM 5

This continues on from part 1 PBM Thanks & Secret Rage.

I’m off to visit Richie this weekend, and to go to GollanczFest. So there will be plenty of time to discuss the ways I plan on running the Chronicle, and see if Richie has developed or changed any of his ideas. It is also possible we will play a session or two.

Here are the next few pages of the comic prelude that I showed in my last post:

Batjutsu Secret Rage p3

Batjutsu Secret Rage p4

Batjutsu Secret Rage p5

Batjutsu Secret Rage p6

The next part is PBM Prelude 6.

Disclaimer: This is a fan project for a friend, not a commercial product. Vampire, World of Darkness, Vampire the Masquerade, etc., are registered trademarks of White Wolf Publishing, Inc.  “Portions of the materials are the copyrights and trademarks of White Wolf Publishing AB, and are used with permission. All rights reserved. For more information please visit white-wolf.com.”

Prelude – Secret Rage PBM 4

This continues on from part 1 PBM Thanks & Secret Rage.

Where and when to start a game are typically essential questions. When I worked at KJC Games I took the long-time running fantasy game Quest and added in role-play with moderation. Since the game had been running for so long, and some customers knew nothing about role-playing, there was a lot of discussion about the best ways to implement such a dramatic change. In hindsight there are so many things I’d like to have done differently, but given the scale of the operation and time pressure, at least it mostly worked out well. So when I proposed this campaign I knew I would need to treat it as another professional undertaking, and not ignore lessons I had previously learned due to being too caught up with enthusiasm.

Years before when I had run my two big Vampire PBM games I had written out very detailed backgrounds, as well as spent a lot of time discussing things with the players. The Elder Night City PBM game had even more background than the Methesulah game, in part because I was merging R. Talsorian’s Cyberpunk with the World of Darkness (WoD), plus the WoD timeline had moved forward by many years. Although two players were replaced, since they lacked the time to play, surprisingly the final sixteen players eagerly read everything and put a lot of effort in to their turns 🙂

The previous bit of nostalgia was at the forefront of my mind when working on Secret Rage. Since Richie and I know the World of Darkness so well, at least I didn’t need to write a synopsis of the cosmology and numerous powerful organisations. This brought me back to the essential question, instead of having the character be somewhat established, why not set the game before the spirit even existed, or better yet at the birth of the spirit. This was somewhat inspired by a local role-player who decades ago was somewhat infamous for setting his D&D games at level 0. The joke became that in the next campaign the players would be playing the grandparents of their characters, with the goal being to make sure their family got born. Then the next campaign their grandparents’ dogs.

Since Richie is an artist, and a lover of comics, I had the idea of making the prelude a comic. I am not much of an artist, and I need to be careful about my ever present wrist RSI, so I accepted that I could not make it high quality. As spirits are more abstract than mortals, I thought this simpler approach could even turn out to be something distinct. Whilst I cannot use speech recognition software to draw, I can use things like https://pixabay.com/ for free artwork, and a few minutes with GIMP https://www.gimp.org/ isn’t a problem. Apart from using a few Werewolf glyphs I decided it was best to avoid using any official artwork, which is a shame since the WoD has some amazing art.

#SecretRage 0

Batjutsu Secret Rage p1

Batjutsu Secret Rage p2

Next time, more of the prelude.

Disclaimer: This is a fan project for a friend, not a commercial product. Vampire, World of Darkness, Vampire the Masquerade, etc., are registered trademarks of White Wolf Publishing, Inc.  “Portions of the materials are the copyrights and trademarks of White Wolf Publishing AB, and are used with permission. All rights reserved. For more information please visit white-wolf.com.”

Spirit Choice for Secret Rage

This continues on from part 1 PBM Thanks & Secret Rage, the 2nd part is Spirit Game – Secret Rage.

Further to what I wrote previously about the scale of any game that includes something as vast as D&D’s Planescape, L5R’s spirit realms, or World of Darkness’s three Umbras, etc., I appreciated I was giving myself a ludicrous amount of work. Powerful characters tend to have a lot of lore and cultural understanding that would be a key factor in any character choices, and typically large networks of others to manage. This applies to all sorts of high-end campaigns:

  • Epic level character in D&D, GURPS, etc.
  • Methuselah in Vampire, or Archmage in Mage, Deathlord in Wraith
  • Clan Daimyo in L5R
  • Epic level Superteam member like one of the Justice League
  • Daemon Prince in Warhammer’s Slave to Darkness and Lost & Damned
  • Eldar Farseer in Warhammer 40,000

In 1995 I ran a Warhammer Chaos Champions RPG, with the goal of one of the party becoming Daemon Princes. Despite how much we all enjoyed it, two of the players left the area and the game was put on hold. Cue reminiscing about one of those cool campaigns that got away…

Whilst this chronicle is very much set in the World of Darkness, games like D&D’s Planescape, L5R and GURPS have been great aids in working out ideas. All part of my RPG mental-toolbelt belief.

Since an ancient spirit would have vast knowledge of many subjects and treaties with many other spirits, I decided to go with the easy solution of starting the game with the birth of the spirit. This way the player and I will develop a better understanding of the character’s development, and as I’ve written about before PBM is particularly good at handling Time. The time between turns allows for all sorts of details to be pondered, worked out, and dramatic character development.

I made a big list of story/chronicle ideas for Richie to choose from. The idea being that by playing a unique spirit, the spirit’s nature and goals can be designed to cater to the type of game he wants to play. The following is part of the list I sent to him:

  • An Ancestral Incarna, this could be ancient Spirit that goes back to the dawn of the Garou Tribes; these types of spirits are heavily linked to Past Life. They might be closely linked to the dead, maybe even formed by long-dead Garou, or they could be epherma (Spirit matter awakened by a Tribe’s actions), or maybe they came from the Tribe’s Totem but gained importance and independence. This sort of Incarna would be focused on members of a single Tribe.
  • Incarna of Historical Big Moment, this Spirit embodies the idea that big moments are guaranteed/inevitable, and that an individual plays a pivotal role; humans tend to fixate on the ‘big-movers of history’, but this Spirit understands things are more complicated, and it figures out what domino to knock over. Maybe it’s an Ancestral spirit, maybe more linked to the dream realm and Chimera’s brood, maybe this is linked to Storytelling Spirits given its narrative nature, maybe a Past Life Spirit, or maybe it is a manifestation of the Fates.
  • A Wyrm healing Incarna that has hidden itself away and wants to heal the Wyrm by re-joining it! This is likely a super-hard mode campaign, which is saying something given the standard hard mode of the Apocalypse. Maybe the Wyrm is insane because this Incarna spirit escaped, maybe with this piece the Wyrm could heal, sounds like a crazy plan, but the Hydra is crazy 😉
  • A tiny spark of the Balance Wyrm, this Incarna focuses on figuring out how free its parent. However, how to fight a Triat? Especially given the scope of the task. Can the Weaver be persuaded? Can the Wyld be slowed enough to talk to? Could the Wyrm reveal a secret even in its current insane state? As above, super-hard mode, and crazy Hydra.
  • A Weaver Spirit that is a hybrid with either Wyld or Wyrm. In the Wenn Diagram of the Triat there is cross-over, albeit normally in smaller ways and only briefly, cosmologically speaking.
  • Maybe a Spirit explicitly dedicated to a different Supernatural race, maybe in regards to healing, communication, monitoring, or maybe the race’s total annihilation.
  • A lesser Incarna that is a sub-part of the Phoenix Incarna, this would be a big secret since the Garou nation does not know about it. It reveals itself only to Garou who must walk a lonely path to carry out a quest associated to a concept like redemption, rebirth, transformation, etc.
  • The Carer of Gaia’s Word, a spirit that has a secret quest, to protect a secret of Gaia, one that was whispered to her sister Luna. What that secret is, how it relates to the Triat, or to the Apocalypse would be a key part for focusing the chronicle’s theme.
  • Crazy Outsider Spirit Pretending to be a Wyld Incarna: This crazy suggestion could be that the spirit is basically one of Cthulhu Mythos in disguise trying to usurp Gaia, or simply get a place at the buffet of gnosis.
  • Trickster Incarna, super-mega-turbo-hard campaign. It claims to have this big secret, and travels about distracting everything so a subtle plan can be implemented. Likely results in many dead Garou, and other Fera. Maybe the secret is even real!
  • Ninja Spirit, because well ninjas.
  • <Insert TODO Incarna>. The ultimate trick of the Weaver, the Procrastination Planning Spirit. Somehow it will resolve the Apocalypse via a night of cramming. This sounds like the most powerful thing ever! 😉

After a lot of discussion we worked out another spirit idea, which will be revealed in a later blog. Once this was done we were able to determine the chronicle’s focus. I also mentioned that once the game is established I will consider adding new players to the game, partly depending on health, partly workload, and also whether I program some of the game aspects to make it easier to run something even bigger.

There had been a good few minutes spent discussing the <Insert TODO Incarna>. I love this idea, and I’ve added it to my vast list of comedy RP ideas to develop; I’ve made a few already for my forever in development role-playing guide, since it previously read like a monotone academic volume.

Next time I will introduce the prelude.

Spirit Game – Secret Rage

This continues on from PBM Thanks & Secret Rage.

I developed the Secret Rage idea by changing the player character from that of following a lineage of Garou, to that of playing a powerful spirit. Making the game about a powerful spirit, something effectively immortal, which can guide Garou, who the player can also play, gave me the idea: “A chronicle to prevent the Apocalypse”. This idea links to the forthcoming new World of Darkness that is in development, which builds upon the old World of Darkness (oWoD), but the end days (Gehenna, Apocalypse, or Ascension) never happened.

The scale of this spirit game is even bigger than my old Vampire Methuselah and Elder PBM games, more like the professional games I ran at KJC Games. Whilst the spirit has vast powers and epic plans, the key is to treat the character like any other, to be propelled by motivations and personal drama. An added benefit with this project is it also allows me to playtest ideas from a commercial PBM project that I’ve been working on for years: Elemental Masters. This game is about the building blocks of reality and the plots of pantheons; I seriously need a better name than this working title, meh.

A few RPGs go in to some detail about spirits, particularly several of the World of Darkness (old WoD & Chronicles) as well GURPS Spirits. Sadly despite the numerous details they present, I still wanted more depth. To be fair to those books, I do tend to go overboard with my ideas, plus the Spirit label is so all-encompassing, so it is no surprise that a collection of predominately enigmatic entities are described in vague terms. One of the strengths of the WoD books is how many ideas they present, whilst not creating a rigid structure to limit possibility. As normal for any GURPS book, GURPS Spirits is filled with a plethora of thought provoking ideas, and plenty of rules options, plus plug-ins to such a powerful system.

When I first read the Werewolf I was reminded of how the game brilliantly compares with Dungeons & Dragons; I’ll justify that statement another time. Manual of the Planes was my favourite D&D book, and Planescape is my favourite setting, so it is no surprise to reveal that Umbra is my favourite WoD book, my second favourite is the Mage Book of Madness.

Spirit Scale

Given the cosmological scale of any spirit world to its setting, any decision made can have far reaching impacts upon said setting. It is common to declare that the ephemeral nature of spirits makes them mysterious to mortals/beings of flesh, which is understandable given that Spirits are not player characters (PCs). The three tiered Umbra (High, Middle and Low) in the old World of Darkness effectively contains every idea and its spiritual impact, so detailing literally everything would be an impossible task. It is up to each group as to the scale of any Umbral impact they want to explore, there is certainly enough information for any Storyteller to launch all manner of games.

Given how many different games I’ve played for extended periods, I’ve gotten to explore the core setting of each game. This is another reason for my obsession with all RPG cosmologies, to explore. For example a very long running game of Legend of the 5 Rings slowly became about the setting’s cosmology; I am quite looking forward to the forthcoming 5th Edition and to see what more they add. As a Star Trek fan, I did consider another name for this campaign:

Tellurian Trek!

Spirit Courts

Another important consideration is the complexity of any Spirit Courts, powerful gatherings that surely would have connections to each other. A design dilemma is how best to present such entities, especially if they are long-lived, and thus would have many ancient relationships to work out; never mind the historical events they could discuss.  The Dungeons & Dragons setting Planescape went in to a lot of detail about the Blood War, which I think really added depth to the D&D cosmology; the machinations of ludicrously powerful entities and Gods is better presented in that setting. Werewolf did a good job of summarising many Spirit Totems and their relationships, and the setting itself is based around the Triat and Gaia.

I believe the vast cosmological scale of is one of the key reasons so many players of the World of Darkness setting preferred Vampire over Werewolf or Mage, and to a lesser extent Wraith, Changeling and Demon. Vampire is a rich enough game; it has plenty of characters, depth and history, without needing the Umbra to be brought out of the shadows. When Dirty Secrets of the Black Hand came out, a few players I chatted with explained that they didn’t like the new layers of plots, and some said they disliked the Umbral tie-ins; there were of course forum posts debating this point. Several players I’ve chatted with who love Werewolf or Mage typically list the vast cosmology as a reason why they do. Of course plenty of players, like myself, appreciate the different games for different reasons.

Spirit Psychology

Years ago I had written a collection of ideas about spirits for Elemental Masters setting, but I had not fleshed my ideas out enough. Typically for me I had avoided finalising ideas due to constantly feeling that I needed to research more. Finally with years of research and this idea for Secret Rage I was able to finalise ideas. I had been working on detailing the psychology of different types of spirits, also drawing upon computing and philosophical ideas. Exploring ideas such as compartmentalised minds, how an Incarna’s brood relationship works, how I think slumber works, more about a spirit’s relationship with Gnosis, Gaia, etc. My spirit work is not ready for public release, but things are at a good playtesting stage, which Richie and I will explore.

I’ve considered whether to develop this work in to a commercial product, so it is interesting to note that the new White Wolf have the Storytellers Vault.

Next time I go over the spirit choice for the game.