Afterlife: Wandering Souls

Elizabeth Chaipraditkul’s Afterlife: Wandering Souls is an intriguing game about self-rediscovery. The project’s Kickstarter is getting close to finishing and it already has many goals unlocked, so the impressive team of participants has grown. The following two quotes hooked me:

“Afterlife: Wandering Souls is a macabre fantasy game set in surreal plane known as the Tenebris. You take on the role of a Wanderer—someone who died, but didn’t end up in Heaven, Hell, or any other traditional afterlife.  Devoid of any memories of your life on earth, you find yourself in an endless desert filled with gateways. Search different planes of existence for clues of your former life – or a semblance of one. Along the way you’ll encounter strange inhabitants, alien cultures, and other humans who’ve lost all hope and are bent on destroying you.”

“Afterlife is Alice in Wonderland meets What Dreams May Come set in a world inspired by the works of Guillermo del Torro, Hayao Miyazaki, and surrealist artists.”

Please back this project, surely the above information has hooked you. Maybe come back here after you’ve joined in 😉 https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1568822309/afterlife-wandering-souls

On a personal note I’m particularly interested in this project due to my long-time obsession with memories and identity, as well as what those mean to characters in role-playing games. I love the concept of the recently successful Kickstarter: One Child’s Heart, which I previously blogged about, and it was via that project that I came across Afterlife: Wandering Souls. Two quite different games focused on memories, I have a lot to look forward to!

I love many game systems and settings, it is difficult to allocate time to run/play even a fraction of what I already have, but I’ll definitely be running this game. Games that go into any detail about death and the afterlife are rare, for example Wraith: The Oblivion is one the few but I know a few players that refuse to play it. I doubt those players would have an issue with Afterlife: Wandering Souls. This is not to suggest that the Afterlife game could not be run as an ultra-bleak hopeless tale, Wraith can be run as an optimistic struggle to reach the Far Shores or similar, it’s just that Afterlife is designed around the idea of rebuilding. This quote beautifully summarises the game:

Having mentioned time issue, plus the fact that some players dislike certain settings/systems, or are more focused on their favourites, means I’ve run many fusion games over the years. I like to expand my #RPGMentalToolKit; this is my justification for buying too many RPGs. I’m currently running a fusion Mage the Ascension game and I plan on adding Afterlife: Wandering Souls to it. I feel that Afterlife manages to encapsulate the High and Low Umbras 🙂 For those that think the Low Umbra is too dark, then maybe replace it entirely with Tenebris. I’ll blog about this another time 🙂

Whether playing Changeling the Dreaming or the Lost, Mage the Ascension or Awakening, Werewolf the Apocalypse, in fact any of the classic WoD or Chronicles of Darkness games, I’m sure adding Afterlife will help inspire your creativity. Besides the dead soul focus of Afterlife, the surreal aspect of the Limbos could also help encourage groups with regards to the Dreamlands in Cthulhu Mythos.

Afterlife Water Escape

Quickly touching on practically every other game, it is rare to explore anything about the afterlife in say D&D, GURPS, or Champions, and almost unheard of for something like Cyberpunk, Shadowrun, etc. I feel Afterlife would fit what I imagine is the more cinematic playstyle of Ubiquity, FATE, or Savage Worlds.

RPGs, Death Penalties & Afterlife idea

Taking the fusion idea a stage further, maybe if a game has a character or full party death the group could switch to playing Afterlife. Granted the players likely know a fair bit about their PCs, since they’ve likely been playing them for a while, but maybe the Afterlife sessions focus on the unknowns, expanding the character and the party connections. If a PC succeed in restoring their soul’s memories, they are reincarnated; like an extra life system. I understand that PC death is typically seen as final in most games, but I also appreciate that some players do not want a particular character’s story to be over. So instead why not alter a PC death to be a Spirit Quest. Once completed the PCs return to the previous setting, but having undergone a near death experience and all that story potential that entails? Maybe in a game like D&D this is treated as divine intervention and the PCs are fully restored, but if you think that is too powerful/easy there is nothing stopping a DM from giving the PCs just a few extra HP and a tiny 2nd chance. Whatever way this is done, this could allow a PC to reconsider their lives, massively switch things up without losing their story.

Usually you cannot role-play a dead character, with Afterlife you can 😉

I’ll not turn this blog post in to my thoughts about PC deaths, raising issues about XP punishment, board game mechanics in contrast to the obviously important IC threat of PC death, repercussions matter. I think the topic of PC death is fascinating, but any debate how best to end a story needs to also acknowledge that real lives often end abruptly.

Given my interests and my own memory RPG project I started pondering about whether Afterlife will introduce false memories and uncertainty. After all memory is a complex thing and famously unreliable. I’m not suggesting that Afterlife needs false memories and the accompanying character doubt, after all the game is focusing on positive aspects. From what I’ve read I think Afterlife is an example of good game design, focus on what you are primaily trying to achieve, there are enough games already trying to do everything. This is why I’m confident my players and I will be playing Afterlife without needing to fuse it with other things.

Afterlife fragment

I love the art and style I’ve seen so far. Given the quote above, I look forward to seeing the completed project. I’m already trying to imagine art fusing images like: Studio Ghibli, Pan’s Labyrinth, Beetlejuice, Vanilla Sky, Dark City, Salvador Dali, Rene Magritte, Igor Morski, etc.

Afterlife has familiar stats and is a rules lite game, which I am a fan of. The actual play I watched was not bogged down by rule queries 🙂 There is a pay what you want Quickstart for the game, if you are not hooked yet, then that should do the job 🙂

I hope I’ve inspired you enough to back Afterlife: Wandering Souls. With such a strong concept I look forward to seeing how this game progresses and hopefully future expansions for it. I was about to post this blog and I have found that more stretch goals have been unlocked, which includes Satyros of Mage the Ascension fame, so my ponderings about fusing this wonderful game with Mage may prove to be even more interesting.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1568822309/afterlife-wandering-souls

 

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One Child’s Heart – RPG

It is wonderful that there are so many great role-playing games (RPG) available these days, an ever increasing collection of new ideas for settings and mechanics. Like many gamers I have too many games to play, crafting projects and models to paint, yet I was still thrilled when I came across the new Kickstarter https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/camdon/one-childs-heart/

One Child's Heart About

“One Child’s Heart is a tabletop roleplaying game about empathy, hope, and human connection in the face of childhood crisis.”

Quite an intriguing and inspiring summary of the game’s goals, and having listened to several actual plays I think the idea really holds up. The setting has an interesting premise:

 “There are pivotal moments in every child’s life that shape who they become. One Child’s Heart is a tabletop roleplaying game that invites players to take the role of child welfare professionals participating in a new mental health care memory exploration experiment. The Central Limbic Engagement Recovery System (CLERS – pronounced, “clears”) brings characters into the memories of these key moments to give support and guidance to a child who needs both.”

Whilst there are various media that have explored ideas of examining interacting with memories I think a quick mainstream reference to contrast with is this game is that it is not like Inception. The player characters are not invading a person’s mind to plant a memory seed. One Child’s Heart takes a professional and ethical approach to the concept of interacting with a child and their memories:

 “You are playing child welfare professionals who are going into the memories of a traumatised child to try and teach that child resilience and make emotional connections with them.”

One Child's Heart The Team

Camdon Wright, the creator, along with Kate Bullock, project manager, have assembled an impressive team for the game. Plus as multiple stretch goals have been unlocked even more people have joined the project, another reason to look at this games Kickstarter. After being hooked by the game’s premise, looking at the team members and stretch-goals sealed my interest. The Kickstarter has had regular updates, I have particularly appreciated reading about the people involved via the Meet the Team updates.

I’m sure most people would agree that memory is a fascinating and complex subject. For example memory is not a straightforward recording of events; each memory is heavily dependent on our moment to moment state of mind, as well as our beliefs, biases and emotions. Those are all dependent on a multitude of factors, and so on. Interestingly memory seems to be editable, when we recall something we might also alter it, we might not. How memories connect to each other are also important considerations. My own fiction and RPG writing is focused on mental health and memory. Besides studying psychology, I have some experience volunteering with assisting vulnerable youth, I’ve taught a variety of skills to people of all ages, and I used to work as an admin in social services and was studying to be a social worker before my health problems interrupted things. To make it clear I am not attempting an argument from authority, I am far from being an expert, I’m just trying to emphasis why I am so invested in this project and intrigued to see how it develops.

I appreciate that trauma and mental health are complex, diverse and sensitive topics, so anyone attempting this subject has an exceptionally difficult task in order to address things respectfully and with consideration. For example: the team has already taken on-board feedback regarding the game term “Permanent Damage Threshold”. I suspect this is a case of building upon the concept of health points, whilst this sort of tracking system is a classic game convention, the label does not quite fit this game’s intent. I do not know any of the designers, yet I still feel confident suggesting that I think the game’s explanation, as well clarifications, communicates the team’s sincerity. This can also been seen with this core game statement:

“This is not a game about trauma or an invitation to tragedy tourism. One Child’s Heart is intended to be an empathy-building experience with a message of hope and human connection. It’s a game where the characters’ only goal is to support and love an imaginary child who is struggling with their life circumstances.”

From a Rules Clarification post:

“At no time can the Professionals deliberately traumatize or harm the child.”

The artwork I’ve seen so far is beautiful. From the cover art, profession symbols, the section headers, to the dice and token examples, I love the aesthetic. Also a special mention for managing to make the heart symbol anatomical correct, but without making them seem shocking/nauseating.

One Child's Heart Art by Serena Verde

Mechanics? I think they nicely follow the idea of minimising tests, I like this nonintrusive approach and think it helps convey the game’s goals. If you really need to know more, then please check out the Kickstarter page.

Even if you are currently sure you are unlikely to play this game in the next few years I think it is still worth investing in. I’m always a fan of expanding my #RPGMentalToolKit. In other blogs posts for various Kickstarters I’ve explained how I approach each project with consideration as to how integrate ideas/mechanics into existing games. Very handy if you have players that prefer to play long campaigns/story arcs, prefer a specific system, etc. Besides playing the game unmixed, I am pondering ideas about adding CLERS to many games, such as Cyberpunk or World of Darkness, in particular Mage the Ascension or Changeling the Dreaming (no Edgelord nonsense of course, Mage 20th nicely emphasised the horror of abusing Mind Magick).

Please check-out this project, I urge you to become a backer as well. I think this another great example of the many innovative creators in #IndieRPG scene doing something thought-provoking and exciting.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/camdon/one-childs-heart/

I’m going to attempt a Vlog about this now. My usual pain and lack of sleep, so should be fun 🙂

One Child's Heart Kickstarter

Beard & Public Declaration

After several years of barely any healing, now I’m finally improving, so it is time to shave the beard. Check out the video below for my public declaration to finish and publish several projects this year. In association with The Bestseller Experiment https://bestsellerexperiment.com

UKSBS at Orion Sphere

I’ve uploaded the 2nd video about Orion Sphere LRP event 1, this time focusing on the wonderful UK Starship Bridge Simulator (UKSBS).

Focusing on the ship missions at Orion Sphere, the combined efforts of the Orion Sphere (Conan Daly, Michael Rees & Nathan McDonald) and UKSBS (Wayne Street, Raymond Toghill & James Balls) teams was very impressive. Like any creative project, creating the ideas for a new game universe can become a black hole, filled with constant research. Add to this the care of managing the inspiration of other universes, whilst giving things your own spin; all of course with the time pressure of: eek the event draws ever closer! It was revealed at the end of the event that the two teams had not worked together before, making things more impressive.

As a coder that has also dabbled with the Unreal Engine and Blender, I have an appreciation of how much effort & time it takes to design assets and populate a map, never mind the tweaking and playtesting that comes after that. This then leads back to the point I mention in the video about being able to moderate ship missions in real time, plus staying In Character (IC), bringing together a collection of ‘a very particular set of skills’ 😉

Of course there were teething problems, I don’t want to misrepresent things and imply perfection. Plus as I mention in the video the learning curve of the players. I think the foundations for this aspect of the LARP has been well established, providing a solid basis for future events. Another important part of both software development and world building is building up a library of assets to help speed up the creation of new assets easier. A quick reality check is that this is being done by small teams, so health, work, etc., can get in the way, so I remind myself not to demand excellence just appreciate it when it is there 🙂

Orion Sphere has been designed to be a living universe, to allow the players to add lore and their own stories, to strive to maximise player agency. The UKSBS has helped create and run a key part of that universe, setting a high bar, which technically was not required to make Orion Sphere event 1 so impressive. To repeat what I say in my video: amazing!

Check out this video for a tour of the system used in event 1:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/UKStarship/permalink/2204873423131460/

Orion Sphere Links

wikki.orionspherelrp.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/orionspherelrp/

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/conan3994/boards/

https://www.facebook.com/SJEganPhotography/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/UKStarship/

http://daid.github.io/EmptyEpsilon/

https://www.facebook.com/WhiteStarClothing/

Orion Sphere LARP

The Live Action Role Playing  (LARP/LRP) event 1 of Orion Sphere was awesome. The next event is on the 21st September, you should join in 😀 (links below).

Unfortunately this review is a bit behind schedule, due to health and other priorities. When I returned to finalising my thoughts I was once again unsure how to condense the emotional high and overall fun that I had at Orion Sphere event 1, so I decided to record a stream of consciousness and see what came out. I also decided to go an extra step for my overview and put on some of my kit for Lucian Thomson; failed surgeon to space docker now scientific explorer. The root of the kit and character idea came from a fellow player’s obsession with dungarees.

As I mention in the video I think the game combines some of the scale of a festival LARP along with a smaller club / convention LARP was impressive. Considering the crew and players I am sure this spirit will be maintained, especially as the game grows.

Having a setting that brings classic Sci Fi like Star Trek, Star Wars, Stargate, Battlestar Galactica, Firefly, and so many others was a great starting point. As I mention in the video the four Factions help set the stage for player plot and tension, building upon a rich and growing lore. Like most people I’ve so many things to do, but I’d like to write some lore and after event 2 I’ll chat with the design team about this.

As mentioned above my kit had a silly root, but turned out okay, in part because of the wonderfully diverse Free Union fashion sense 😉

Orion Sphere E1
Preparing to fight/save the hive.

The variety of NERF designs being made by players was very impressive. I made 3 guns, here is one of them:

Orion Sphere Batjutsu NERF
Orion Sphere Batjutsu NERF

As I mentioned in the video the event was awesome. Besides the usual pre-event apprehension I am super excited for Event 2; although sadly my In Character (IC) nephew cannot attend. I am currently working on kit & prop ideas; given the kit standard at the first event was impressive, I imagine other people are going to be bringing some incredible designs. Lots of great kit can be seen at the Orion Sphere website and their Facebook page, but for example just look at this Reskan (sentient swarm) outfit:

Reclining Reskan Orion Sphere E1

Plus the ever incredible outfits of Tom Roe, owner of WhiteStar Clothing (link below):

Orion Sphere Tom Roe
Free Union NPC, played by Tom Roe of WhiteStar Clothing

The ship simulating setup added a great immersive aspect to the game. I am sure the game would have been good enough without the UK Starship Bridge Simulator (UKSBS), but what Wayne and Raymond brought uplifted the game to cosmic heights 😉  I will go into more detail about them in the next blog.

Orion Sphere UKSBS setup
Orion Sphere computer setup for ship missions, run by UKSBS

Thanks to Orion Sphere, SJEgan Photography and Andrew Forrest for some of the pictures. On the subject of pictures, during the run up to the first event a few of us started making memes. Here’s one of my lame attempts:

Orion Sphere skill choice
Lots of character creation options, including making mega specialists 😉

Orion Sphere Links

wikki.orionspherelrp.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/orionspherelrp/

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/conan3994/boards/

https://www.facebook.com/SJEganPhotography/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/UKStarship/

https://www.facebook.com/WhiteStarClothing/

#RPGaDay2018 Day31 Why Join In

Share why you take part in RPGaDAY

I went with a silly but heartfelt video for today’s question; I clearly need to practice puppet skills, or my dreams of a puppet RPG will never happen. I had pondered mentioning more things, but I decided to save them for a post-RPGaDay analysis, like I did last year.

I’m still a bit tempted to go a bit overboard and carry out a psychology content analysis, but too much TODO and I am trying to stick to Project Overlap 😉 At least taking part and looking at some many tweets, blogs and vlogs means I got a decent overview of answers, which whilst taking a lot of time was very informative and fun.

#RPGaDay2018 Day30 Lessons

Share something you learned about playing your character

When discussing role-playing I typically mention Intent, whether it is about something that is In Character (IC) or Out Of Character (OOC). This approach grew out of my early experiences of being in games with Adversarial stances, both players and person running the game. I like to have clarity of what a person is trying to achieve, not just IC but also OOC. I don’t obsessively ask the question, I let me players know they can clarify something at any time during a game, and just occasionally check with them if I feel I might be missing something. I find this approach has allowed me to empower not just the players but myself as the GM, and ideally the game as a whole.

I’ve learnt a lot more from particular characters and RPG in general. Empathy, culture, history, art, etc. But since we are keeping things short Intent is my main takeaway, which I also use in day-to-day life a lot.

The story of my first regular lunchtime High School gaming group: Role-play Meets Lord of the Flies.

RPG Lord of the Flies