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.


My Reflections on #RPGaDay

Despite how much time I ended up spending on RPGaDay, I don’t regret taking part, it was fun and interesting. If you are not familiar with #RPGaDay, then please read this page first. The full list of my answers for each day can be found in my menu’s RPG section.

Before the event had started I had been unsure about participating. I always have too many projects, and due to the time factor I’ve avoided getting too involved with Twitter. The alternate questions were what sealed my participation, although it’s quirky that I didn’t use any of them in the end; I plan on answering them over the weeks to come.

Whilst I knew I would typically spend too much time over-thinking my answers, a task I thoroughly love/hate, I’d be saved by having a daily deadline. Since a few friends knew I was taking part, I had a nice amount of self-inflicted peer pressure to keep me on target.

For me RPGaDay proved to be an overall interesting experience. I’ve cut some negative points out, to keep things within the spirit of the event. I learned about some new games, and interestingly that Kickstarter is even more important to help with RPG advertising than I’d thought. It was also great to get so many different answers to the same question; I was quite intrigued by this, since it is a rare occurrence.

Due to equipment, time, and health reasons I didn’t record any video answers for the event. I may still record my answers, even though the event has passed and I’d be lucky to get one viewer. I agree with the premise that videos and blogs should be made with viewers/readers in mind, but also with the acceptance that maybe only the maker views them.

For me the RPGaDay event proved to be a great reminder of the different experience levels, and preferences, that the RPG hobby contains. An easy or dull answer for one participant could be hard or exciting for another, some of the answers draw attention to these differences, and the positive spirit of the event helped remind everyone to not be too judgemental. I had been planning on writing about psychology, RPG history and the transient nature of the hobby, but I have lots to write already and Runeslinger’s post does a great job of summarising things, so read that instead. 😉

Dave Chapman and Anthony Boyd (Runeslinger) have made this great video:

#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.

#RPGaDay 29

If you are not familiar with #RPGaDay, then please read this page first. For the 29th day of #RPGaDay the question is:

What has been the best-run RPG Kickstarter (crowd funded) you have backed?

My tweeted answer is: #RPGaDay 29, #RPG #GURPS Dungeon Fantasy @sjgames Looking forward to getting @manticgames #TerrainCrate

I am impressed with how the Kickstarter for Dungeon Fantasy box set by Steve Jackson Games was run. The campaign kept us backers informed, whilst avoiding spamming. The updates were useful, and even included interesting bonus things like a video of a factory visit showing production lines. Since I went for the big bundle, once the campaign was funded I received the PDFs of products that were already available. As new Pyramid magazine issues were released I was promptly sent them. I received the PDFs for the boxset whilst the crew were at GenCon. I now eagerly await the physical products, but that doesn’t feel like an issue since I’ve got so many PDFs to read currently.

This year I finally started playtest part of a big RPG project that I’ve been working on for years; effectively inspired by everything 😉 Due to being programmed my system is exceptionally detailed, but due to health I’ve not been able to code for the last two years, and there is still a lot TODO. Whilst being bedridden I simplified my ideas and adapted them to use GURPS, so when I saw the S. J. Games campaign I was immediately hooked.

Batjutsu GURPS prep
Preparation for my Elemental Masters game, currently using GURPS rules.

Quick tangent: adapting many old ideas has led to some surprising breakthroughs in some of my old designs. By the end of this year I should know whether these breakthroughs are real, or just my enthusiasm at being healthier and playing again.

My project is a bit like a megadungeon, so I decided to playtest the game using models and scenery; I’ve not used models for years for RPG. Years ago a friend introduced me to Mantic Games; they backed many of Mantic’s campaigns, and always raved about the company. We were impressed by the quality of their work plus their cheaper prices, especially when compared to other companies. I currently own Mantic’s Dungeon Furniture Pack, so when the Terrain Crate Kickstarter was launched I backed it, and so far so good.

Mantic Dungeon Furniture Pack

RPG & Crowd Funding

I find it interesting how crowd funding has become a big part of the way of the many RPGs are made nowadays. I appreciated that crowd funding would help with regards to product awareness, but I wasn’t aware of the scale of it until this month, primarily because of RPGaDay answers, and seeing numerous extra comments about the subject.


Today I’ve been setting up hardware to record videos, and learning more about the process. By tomorrow, I’ll finally be joining the people on Youtube with some answers; I will go back and video my previous RPGaDay blogs over the next few weeks.

#RPGaDay 28

If you are not familiar with #RPGaDay, then please read this page first. For the 28th day of #RPGaDay the question is:

What film or series is the most-frequent source of quotes in your group?

My tweeted answer is: #RPGaDay 28, #RPG referencing our own games, also Arnie, Bruce Lee, SF2, Akira, Star Wars/Trek, Izzard, etc.

For the main group I play with, quotes are a rarity, but they do still occur. When I was a young GM I used to have mixed feelings regarding quotes, since they often brought the focus from the game to a burst of chatter about the movie. I did appreciate that most players loved quotes, crucially when I was a player a quick one-liner is a treat, so as a GM I did not try to ban them, and ruin some of the fun of a session. Thankfully as we all got more experience at role-playing, quotes became a rarity, and when they did they didn’t cause much of a break in a scene.

At high school I played in a Cyberpunk 2013 campaign set in the Aliens universe; this was part of Pete’s group, who I wrote about in 5 Positive Role-Play Lessons. As preparation for the campaign, we rewatched Aliens, partially to help with quotes. The game went well, and for me this is a good example of when movie quotes are not just fun, but also help to make a game work.

Nowadays there are a lot of major intellectual property (IP) RPGs. I think today’s question highlights an area of gaming that is fun for many players, in moderation of course 😉 but maybe a good reason why major IPs are so popular with some gamers. I suspect a survey would reveal a correlation between players that love using a lot of quotes and also love RPing in a particular IP.

For years I played with a GM/player who liked to quote random movies, and plenty of comedy like Monty Python, Eddie Izzard, etc. In particular was the outcry of “Tetsuo!” and “Kaneda!” from Akira:

Over the years I guess Arnold Schwarzenegger movies have been quoted the most, Conan, Total Recall, Commando, Predator, etc., so many classics. Other quotes that popped up were: Die Hard, Ghostbusters, Princess Bride, Star Wars, Star Trek, Twilight Zone, maybe a cheesy line from Nightmare on Elm Street, or similar. Numerous Hong Kong martial arts movies would also be quoted. Street Fighter anime in 1994 got quoted a bit when we played the Storyteller Street Fighter RPG.

By our 30s my main group and I would were more likely to reference our own games. But overall quotes are not a big part of our sessions. These days I view a few quotes as a normal part of role-playing; a bit like salt, we all have our own preference, and a bit can add to a session, a lot can spoil things.

#RPGaDay 27

If you are not familiar with #RPGaDay, then please read this page first. For the 27th day of #RPGaDay the question is:

 What are your essential tools for good gaming?

My tweeted answer is: #RPGaDay 27, #RPG imagination, time, health, space, players; good mood helps.

This is another one of those questions that I feel I want to answer in many different ways, depending on which word I focus on. I am not trying to give an imaginary perfect answer, just overthinking things. Since I’ve mentioned imagination, I’d say that’s an essential tool. I am sure we’ve all played with people that say the weirdest things, so imagination alone does not necessarily lead to good gaming.

Since ‘tools’ is plural, I’ll add that other people as essential to me; whilst I can role-play by myself, it really isn’t the same. I was apprehensive about correlating people with tools, but I’m going with the positive spirit of RPGaDay questions 😉 Since other people are involved, then communication is essential.

Having the time to play is crucial, and of course so is health; something I’ve had problems with not too long ago. I’ve gamed in awful places, but at least we had a location to play in, so I’d include space as important.

Players who are proactive, and ideally in a good mood, really help to make a good game; although I’ve still had good games with players that weren’t. Having played a lot of sessions with no dice being rolled, or cards, etc., and with the existence of Amber and other games, technically dice are not essential for good gaming for me. Nor are notes or character sheets vital for me. I appreciate for many players, these tactile things are a core part of the gaming experience, but with some of my players they aren’t. These days I do prefer to use them, since they make things flow easier.

The same goes for other approaches to role-playing, there are so many extra things that I like to do, but I don’t recognise them as essential, even for good gaming. Whilst I could talk about downtime, PBM support, good notes to help with recapping plot and double-checking details, I don’t feel they are essential.

This question had me overthinking it for a while, was the meaning more along the lines of: What tools are essential to elevate a game from okay to good? I am sure that would have been the question, if that was actually the question. I do actually like this type of questions, even though at first I tend to find them irritating 😉 Even if that was the question I’d still give the same core answers, since to maintain a constant high level I think the players need to be invested all the time. With minimal non-game distractions, then the players will find it easier to stay in character, and with a gripping relevant to them plot, to be proactive. Having run different games in different ways, and been told they were good sessions, it’s hard to pin down what was essential about them, beyond my list above.

The main game that I am currently running is designed to utilise software I have been working on. As the game is still in the early stages, it all works easily without computer support. I am sure I could still run it in the later stages without software, so I am sure if this would count as essential, but it will certainly be easier to run. I have been working on this for years, and this has partly come about because I want something substantially more complicated than even the long-term games I normally run.

I suspect I’ll keep pondering this question, as well as rereading the answers of other people in the future 🙂